Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ahoy Facebook #5

Here are my most recent rants on Facebook, starting from late January. Enjoy. Or not.

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What bothers me about the US is that, even at its sanest, it sees itself as being exceptional. It is exceptionally democratic, free etc. etc. It is 'the best country in the world.' That arrogant superiority complex has always been there, the only difference is that it has now turned into psychosis.
It is patently clear that there is something inherently undemocratic in your system when a developmentally challenged demagogue is elected having lost the popular vote by a margin of three million ballots. Part of a representative democracy is that you elect representatives so that they can actually represent you and hopefully pass legislation. There is also something inherently undemocratic when a president is elected with with a strong mandate and all of his proposed laws are quashed.
There is something adolescent and, again, a tad psychotic, about disliking government for the sake of it. There are so many Americans, even to the left of the Democratic party, who say 'government takes power away from you.' Well, I don't mind paying more tax knowing full well that, if I get run over by a car, that I won't be confronted with an exorbitantly high bill. In Europe, we pay more taxes, regulate our industry a lot more, yet we are still perfectly happy and, yes, perfectly free. We still value freedom, the only difference is that we have a more grown-up attitude about it. And few people in Europe are insular enough to say that their country is somehow better than anyone else's.
Not to mention, we actually have some wonderful institutions. Again, we are grown-up enough to realise that they have great value and we don't say 'these institutions are taking power away from us.' I already mentioned the NHS, but the BBC has produced some wonderful, enriching programs about culture and science. It has also produced some top-notch popular entertainment. We are not constantly barraged by stupid, shouty, condescending billboard all the time. I think that we are all the better for not having the debased side of capitalism shoved in our faces on a daily basis.
A psychotic lives in a world where he thinks that he is unique, exceptional and harbours special powers. This is the USA right now and it's pretty pathetic.

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The following rant isn't directed it at the concept of 'collectivism.' I'm well aware that a concept like 'society' is a collectivist idea and concepts that I approve of, like progressive taxes, the NHS, welfare etc., are collectivist concepts. This rant is directed at people who devote their entire lives to 'collective action.'
People who believe in collective action emphasise that they believe in 'the majority.' Most of the time they impose their own will onto people who just want to get on with their own lives. Individualists believe in the will of the majority in the true sense. We believe that its true manifestation lies in the ballot box, not in blood-splattered revolution. Many collectivists claim to speak for classes of people without consulting them, nor understanding their real needs. Individualists realise that human nature is not a single organism. We recognise that humans are diverse and we recognise that our lives are much more interesting and colourful when everyone is different.
A lot of these people defend the abominable atrocities committed by people like Lenin, Stalin and Pol Pot. Any action, no matter how immoral or disgusting, is justifiable so long as the idea is a noble one. For them, the Holocaust wasn't a horrible event because of its consequences, it was horrible because they find the idea of fascism to be repellent. They are actually perfectly content with killing another person to defend their own depraved ideals. In many cases, they are repressed sociopaths. They harbour fantasies about marching over to the house of commons and shooting everyone there. Given the chance, they would actually do it.
These people believe that solitude, introspection and self-realisation are wastes of time. They rarely read widely. They rarely read the whole spectrum of literature, philosophy, history, science and art. Instead, they read Marxist thinkers who write anachronistic jargon-laden tripe. All this does is reinforce their own skewed view of the world. The whole notion of self-development, of growing and developing as a person, is laughable to them. Instead, in their spare time they play video games (often to live up their fantasies of blood-splattered revolution) and get drunk with their mates. The rest of their time is devoted to 'collective action,' which rarely changes their environment.
These people are obsessed with making changes to their environment, but they hardly ever do so. Most of the time, they get together with people who think exactly the same way they do, wave placards and manically shout platitudes and meaningless slogans into a megaphone. Individualists often make much more pronounced changes to their environment, often in infinitely more interesting ways. Such a person spends long periods of time on his own, introspecting, and creating something interesting. They often create books, symphonies etc. which communicate interesting ideas. These ideas are consumed by people and their lives are enriched. In fact, monks and ascetics who never communicate with other people often live much more fulfilling and meaningful lives than such people who believe in collective action.
And in the end, they actually fetishise the cult of personality they claim to abhor. Their figures become so beatified that they end up being totally exempt from scrutiny. They will completely overlook the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is actually an incompetent leader, for instance. They rarely value the needs of the community, who actually bear the brunt of these horrible regimes. Instead, they are sycophantic towards Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che Guevara, etc.
Ultimately, the whole thing is just a whole load of posturing. They are disappointed when they learn that they 'you are not that left-wing.' This isn't because of the substance behind your politics, it's because you are not that extreme and 'cool.'
They join fringe causes and movements. Now, joining a mainstream party like Labour will actually make concrete changes. Prior to Corbyn these people wouldn't be seen dead anywhere near the Labour party.
Rant over.

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I don't wholly agree, I think that the canon and our body of knowledge grows exponentially and that new material should be added. However, I do agree that universities and schools are obsessed with 'usefulness' and with churning out students to the workforce. They are also teeming with shops and clubs that sell you overpriced crap. If I were prime minister, I would remove all business departments from universities and would make it illegal for anything to be sold on campus. Imagine how well that would go down.

http://www.futuresymphony.org/the-virtue-of-irrelevance/

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For many people on the left, the term 'neo-liberal' a lot of the time just seems to be a synonym for 'bad'.

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Taking the most positive and optimistic outlook, I think that we'll only have another Labour government by the time I'm forty.
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This is very, very nice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1ZpWQbU2wA

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I hate identity politics.
For one thing, your race, your class and your gender are completely arbitrary. You were born into them. Identity is surely something that is willed. Being a computer technician, a writer, a chess player, a pianist etc. are tangible identities. Going around and accusing people of oppression just because of their 'privilege' isn't a very constructive thing to do. To state the bleeding obvious, it's surely much more sound to criticise people for what they say and do, not for where they come from.
And all this is very rich considering who it comes from. These accusations are usually levelled by graduate students, who have had their PHDs funded by their wealthy parents. They get the best of both worlds - they get privilege and they get to be oppressed.
The fact is that there are no nations and no races that don't have blood on their hands. If you want to take this specious argument to its logical conclusion, then not only am I a psychopathic murderer for having British heritage - Africans, Asians, etc. etc. are too.
There is a whole school of thought that actively misreads texts just so that they can propagate their ideological propaganda. A lot of these people start with preconceived notions, read a text by a dead white author - say, Dickens or Shakespeare - and shout 'that racist!' This creates an atmosphere where everyone neurotically self-censors themselves, because it is not very nice to be falsely accused of racism.
It is true that certain races and classes are born into a disadvantaged position. If you want to be constructive about it, you should join a political campaign or join a think-tank that constructs policy, because falsely accusing people of racism, sexism etc. won't do anything to change it.
I remember thinking as an undergraduate how lucky how I was to be able to sit at a desk at a university library and read about the history of thought. Most people had been excluded from even reading about all this for centuries - and I would have been excluded, too. That's why it's so angering to see these pampered twits complain about their oppression.

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People often complain about the obscene wages that football players receive. Granted, it is completely obscene. But what about bankers? Why are people who work in the city meritocratic exemplars whilst football players are berated for being greedy?
There is a tinge of classism to these complaints. The fact is that many football players come from working class backgrounds and work awfully hard to reach the top. Many people who work in the city, meanwhile, are Eton-educated and have reached their cushy positions after walking out of Oxbridge.
The fact remains that football players are very skilled at what they do. They don't 'just kick a ball.' A lot of tactics, athleticism and drive go into those performances. In many countries, football is one of the few sectors that allows working class people to rise in social class. In a country like PerĂº, football is one of the few opportunities that working class black people have to rise to the highest social class.
It's really smug how intellectual types look down on football. Even George Orwell, who often challenged the hypocrisy of these types, complained about football fans. Watching Real Madrid vs. Barcelona is somehow beneath them after wading through a copy of 'Critique of Pure Reason.' Football is one of the few opportunities that many driven working-class people get to go as far as they can.
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Last night I dreamed about a Bill Gates conference. He was giving the conference in front of the business world's creme-of-the-creme. He was talking about how the Labour party should reinstitute Clause IV. The clause committed the Labour party to 'the common ownership of the means of production.' It was controversial for a long time until it was eventually amended by Tony Blair. Bill Gates, meanwhile, is the greatest success story of unbridled capitalism. So, yeah, that definitely was a very weird dream.

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This track really is an overlooked gem. It is experimental in a really subtle, understated way (often the most interesting type of experimentation). This is probably my favourite Miles Davis line-up, when he was transitioning from an adventurous acoustic sound to an electric/fusion one. The albums from this period (Nefertiti, In a Silent Way, Filles De Kilimanjaro) are just superb.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FczM2eSdTLU
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I hope that this isn't true for two reasons: 1) I want to write a short story about Ted Heath that more or less sees him in a sympathetic light (selfish reason) and 2) I feel profoundly sorry for all victims of paedophilic abuse (unselfish reason).
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This is my Amazon shopping basket. All items have been 'saved for later.'
End This Depression Now! - Paul Krugman
The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy by Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy) by Tim Maudlin
Averroes by Majid Fakhri
A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful 2/e (Oxford World's Classics) by Edmund Burke
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Philosophy of Science: Very Short Introduction 2/e (Very Short Introductions) by Samir Okasha
Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium (Classics) by Seneca
Meditations (Penguin Classics) by Marcus Aurelius
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization by Lars Brownworth
From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel C Dennett
Thomas Becket by Frank Barlow
Borges and Memory: Encounters with the Human Brain by Rodrigo Quian Quiroga
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics by O'Rourke, P. J. New edition (1999) by P. J. O'Rourke
The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
The Canterbury Tales (Wordsworth Poetry Library) by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory by Glenn Watkins
A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics) by Kingsley Amis
The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
Whatever it Takes: The Real Story of Gordon Brown and New Labour
Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalisation by Gordon Brown
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
Edward Heath: A Singular Life by Michael McManus
The Destruction of European Jews by Raoul Hilberg
Roy Jenkins by John Campbell
The Bible: Authorized King James Version (Oxford World's Classics) by Robert Carroll
The Origins of Totalitarianism... by Arendt Hannah
Eichmann in Jerusalem (Penguin Classics) by Hannah Arendt
Kant's 'Critique of Aesthetic Judgement': A Reader's Guide (A Reader's Guides) by Fiona Hughes
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (World History) by R. H. Tawney
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
The Glorious Revolution: 1688 - Britain's Fight for Liberty by Edward Vallance
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu
Royal Family, The by William T. Vollmann
Europe Central by William T Vollmann
The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield
How to be a conservative by Roger Scruton
Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan
The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War by Professor Margaret MacMillan
Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa by Pauline Butcher
The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (Penguin History) by C L R James
David Boring by Daniel Clowes
Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer by Scott H. Hendrix
Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) by David Kynaston
God's Fury, England's Fire: A New History of the English Civil Wars by Michael Braddick
Thomas Cromwell: The untold story of Henry VIII's most faithful servant by Tracy Borman
Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government (O'Rourke, P. J.) by P. J. O'Rourke
Constantine: Unconquered emperor, Christian victor by Paul Stephenson
Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction (Cambridge Introductions to Key Philosophical Texts) by Jill Vance
Hermits: Insights of Solitude by Peter France
Cultivating Humanity: Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education by Martha Craven Nussbaum
The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
The Fragility of Goodness: Luck And Ethics In Greek Tragedy And Philosophy by Martha C. Nussbaum
Hegel's 'Phenomenology of Spirit': A Reader's Guide (Reader's Guides) by Stephen Houlgate
Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) by Arthur Schopenhauer
Harry Partch: A Biography by Bob Gilmore
Keynes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Robert Skidelsky
The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering by Norman G. Finkelstein

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Very interesting conversation about the nature and history of music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5qeouQwb1w
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I wish my brain wasn't chemically imbalanced.
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I find it somewhat mystifying why certain politicians are considered 'principled' when they steadfastly refuse to compromise. Somehow politicians who compromise, make some accomplishments and get their hands dirty aren't.
For instance, Tony Benn was a national treasure for precisely this reason. As minister of industry, however, he wanted to create a planned economy which rationed all goods. He wanted to nationalise 80% of industry. He wanted to impose high tariffs and import controls. Now, not only is that politically suicidal, it's scary.
Criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn are always prefixed with 'he's principled' and 'says what he thinks.' Well, at the cost of Labour losing seats, I don't think that amounts to much.
There are other principled politicians who compromised their beliefs but managed to get a lot done. Gordon Brown, I would say, is principled and did a lot of good as chancellor by investing in public services, creating jobs and getting many people out of poverty.
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I found this lovely puzzle of Raphael's 'The Academy' in a charity shop that I am volunteering in. It consists of 3.000 pieces, so it will be a mammoth task. It is one of my favourite paintings. It includes all of the major Greek philosophers, with Plato and Aristotle at the forefront. Raphael also features Michelangelo, his contemporary.
I've never done puzzles before, but I just had to buy this. I can add puzzles to the list of unfocused interests that currently occupy my scattered mind: current affairs, British economic history in the 40s-70s, football, classical records, arty films, literary novels and obscure/esoteric philosophy.

Friday, 19 May 2017

My problems with women #2

I wrote a post called 'My Problems With Women' almost three years ago. Well, I'm now reprising it.

When I wrote this post three years ago, I detailed my inadequacies and frustrations. Well, three years later I haven't made all that much progress and I doubt if I ever will. I am now almost twenty-seven.

I have reached the point where I don't know if I really care all that much. A therapist I had even told me that I wasn't suited for a relationship. I found this remark slightly puzzling - isn't the desire to find a partner and to settle down universal?

Sexually, I'm frustrated. In other domains, I wouldn't mind having a relationship. I don't get why it should have to be such a big commitment. Starry-eyed mystics wax lyrical as to how love is ineffable and that it is difficult to define. Well, if it simply involves an individual really liking another person, and having these feelings reciprocated, I don't get why it should be such a big investment.

But I don't know if I really care anymore because, the few tentative times that I have tried starting a relationship, it has gone nowhere. I tried speed dating and online dating, but nothing has happened.

I am aware that I am awkward and that I struggle to connect to others easily. I think that many girls just find it inordinately difficult to talk to me in the first place and couldn't possibly fathom the idea of taking it any further. What annoys me is that over the years I have made several friends, all of whom are male. They all appreciate my quirks and like me as a person. It annoys me that I can connect to these people as friends, but I haven't been able to with a woman.

I don't really understand social cues all that well. I am told that I should try to be more sexual and forthright. Well, the few times I have tried to be sexual it has been humiliating and embarrassing. I am quite handsome, so I do get girls looking at me on the street from time to time, but I don't really know how to act on it.

It's also frustrating that I didn't act on this whilst at university. I was there for five years, a really long time. There were some girls there with similar behaviour and interests, most of whom were postgrads. Now that I am - hopefully - about to enter the work force, if I met women now I would probably find their personalities to be a bit plain.

I value my independence. I like to have a lot of time to read, write, listen to music, watch films and so on. I probably find it a lot easier than others to be single because I don't have to depend on others so much. However, I also like the idea of really liking someone and appreciating that person - and vice versa.

So yeah, I will probably be perpetually single.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Job search

I cannot find work. I have been job-searching for about eight months. This has been my primary activity, so much so that the things I really want to do have been side-lined to the periphery. I have signed a 'social contract,' so to speak, so I understand that I have to make these sacrifices. However, my lack of progress makes this incredibly frustrating.

My own background just makes me bitter about the entire thing. When I was in my late teens I was completely isolated from 'society.' By 'society' - yeah, very loose, very vague, I know - I mean standard forms of behaviour and activities. I was very messed up. I wasn't in mainstream education, I didn't have friends, I was rabid and I was angry.

And, ultimately, I exploded. I really did. Because of the lack of external and social stimulation, and because I was manic and inside my head all the time, I lost it. I was paranoid, delusional and manic.

Thankfully, after this explosion I reformed myself. I went back into mainstream education, made friends and engaged more with what other people were doing. And I did well at education - I graduated with a first class degree and I stayed on for postgraduate studies.

I remember when I collected one of my essays, the lecturer left all of the essays outside of her office. There were maybe 70 essays there. I leafed through all the other assignments. I received the highest mark - 85% - the closest to that was 72%.

I don't mean to hold a grudge against the other students, but a lot of them weren't that bothered about studying. A lot of them were into clubbing etc. I don't mean to assume that they haven't had problems, but I'm sure they didn't have an episode and I'm sure - judging by their body language alone - that they were a lot more well-adjusted than I was.

Out of curiosity, I checked what a lot of them are up to on Facebook. A lot of them have the exact jobs that I have applied to - I can't even make it to the interview stage. When I saw this, I threw my laptop at the wall and broke the hard-drive.

I know that it isn't healthy to compare yourselves to others, but I can't help but get bitter at all this. I have played the game for a long time and I can't make much head-way. Other people - and, again I shouldn't generalise nor make assumptions - don't go through all this trauma and find work easily.

So, yes, it is rather dispiriting. I really don't want to return to any further education - I lost motivation with that during postgraduate studies. I've been told that I shouldn't pursue a PGCE (a qualification to become a school teacher). When I try other options, employers throw my application away. It's really frustrating.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The general election

So we have upon us a new general election. Most progressives and moderates like myself just wait for it with dread. It was announced two months in advance and caught everyone by surprise.

You could argue that it was long overdue. Theresa May has zealously pursued a Hard Brexit with no mandate from the electorate. And still, however life-defining it might be, it just seems boring. There is no substance in anything the parties are saying. It's almost like May knows she doesn't have to try, so she just parrots empty phrases about 'stable and strong government.' Corbyn has never said anything of any substance, beyond extremely vague statements about 'a better society.' Our parliamentary system is devised to enable a strong opposition to hold the government to account. With no opposition - Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party are a shambles - we just have a one party state. This is a farcical election, as everyone already knows the outcome in advance. Yet, paradoxically, it should be the most important post-war election since Brexit is a defining moment.

This is the most horrendous and authoritarian government I have ever had to endure in my life time. There is the 'snooper's charter,' which infringes on your data protections rights. May and the right of the Tory party want to impose their will on others. They want to control immigration at all costs, even when this will obviously have detrimental effects on the economy. May wants to tear apart all the progressive values that Britain has held for years - diversity, toleration, openness...

It is also annoying how Theresa May appropriates policies from Ed Miliband - and no-one bats an eye-lid about it. When Miliband proposes a cap on energy prices, talks about stronger state intervention in the economy, he is chastised for it. When Miliband wants to ease austerity and scrap a surplus target, he is berated for it. When May does it, she is a sensible woman.

But the current climate,we are told, is rife with 'populism'. Populism can be defined as a distrust of the elites and a desire to overturn them. No mainstream party in their right mind should pander to these sentiments. May panders to xenophobic sentiments. Instead of being congenial with Europe, May panders to popular paranoia by lashing out against the EU and its lifeless bureaucrats.

Which is why in normal times, this government would really get a beating. In normal times, this would not be tolerated. Why on earth does Corbyn not bring up Brexit? If the opposition were properly organised and called the government out on all this, they would trash them.

But now is the time that the Labour left finally took control of the party. They have waited 120 years for this moment. This country is a constitutional parliamentary monarchy. The Labour party was founded to form part of parliamentary democracy. When outside interests and pressure groups have tried to hijack it - most notoriously in the 1980s - it has breached the constitution of the country and the party. But Corbyn doesn't care - his little tribe finally has power. To be fair, there is nothing particularly 'hard left' about his proposals. However, there is nothing at all imaginative about them. Renationalising the railways, pumping money into the economy - this is old stale Keynesian stuff. Labour are in desperate need of a strong leader with imaginative ideas.

Why have we done this? This is the legacy bequeathed to us by David Cameron, who vowed to unite the country and modernise his party. He achieved the opposite - the country is the most divided it has ever been and his party atavistically pines for the halcyon days of the 1950s.

This is a nightmare scenario. The EU has many faults. By imposing harsh austerity, in its own way it has helped to foment these xenophobic and populist sentiments. However, the ideals of the EU have been met, as this is the longest period of peace in the history of Europe. That really trumps all other arguments. Whenever the UK has distanced itself from Europe, it has put that in jeopardy.