Imagine going to Sainsbury’s or Tesco every week for years, handing over fifty quid each time, and those organisation never having what you’re looking for. The problem would only be with the supermarket for a ‘certain’ amount of time before ‘questions could be asked’ about the intelligence of the shopper. So on that note… Continue reading
What a man takes for granted, what he offers almost as an aside, is where you’ll find the things he thinks but doesn’t state openly. Then again, perhaps I’m reading too closely?
In his most recent Sunday column, Peter Hitchens writes that:
It is, beyond doubt, the case that our treatment of the mentally ill is a terrible mess. It is also beyond doubt that much mental illness appears to be linked to legal or illegal mind-altering drugs, now far more common than they were 30 years ago. This long predates the era of Islamic terror. One of the first cases was in 1992 when Jonathan Zito was stabbed to death by Christopher Clunis, a total stranger (and longstanding drug-abuser) who was severely mentally ill. This horror, oddly enough, took place at Finsbury Park.
How does a 1992 case of violence pre date ‘the era of Islamic terror’?
What ‘era’ is that?
On August 3 1989 Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh blew himself up in a hotel in Paddington, becoming the first ‘martyr’ in the plot to murder Salman Rushdie and anyone else involved in the hideous crime of publishing a novel.
In 1983 a truck stuffed with TNT was used by a group – called, oddly enough, ‘Islamic Jihad’ – to murder 241 US Marines in Beirut. Continue reading
Certainly there is some rage against the idea of God, but the idea that theists are stupid because they’re theists is a stupid idea. Anyone who cares to could find out in about five seconds that there have been many theists who were frighteningly intelligent. There are many now. I don’t think belief in God is a question of intelligence to begin with, but I do think it’s a question of values. This isn’t a criticism. In the amusing documentary, Religulous, Bill Maher said to a few trucker-Christians that he considered atheism a luxury. He was right. Atheism is a luxury.
This is why atheism is a luxury: Continue reading
Peter Hitchens has written a lengthy piece in response to the latest islamist attack. It is a predictably thoughtful and eloquent article. It’s the most intelligent response I’ve seen. There is much in it to agree with. It is a shame our so-called ‘leaders’ can’t offer responses of this standard. Instead they call the terrorists ‘cowards’ and ‘losers’ when the killers haven’t lost anything and cowardice stifles action. It is our so-called ‘leaders’ who are the cowards.
Mr Hitchens asks on the question of the killers’ enthusiasm when stabbing:
‘I was struck by a particular report in ‘the Guardian’ on Tuesday, in which a London surgeon, sadly used to dealing with stab wounds, remarked on the unusual force of the wounds inflicted by these merciless human horrors on Saturday night. This seemed to me to suggest a level of cruelty and ruthlessness way beyond the ability of a normal person, even a normal criminal. What is the source of this? Some people will say ‘fanaticism’, and I will agree with them that it is a necessary condition in this kind of killing. But is it a sufficient one? Well, how capable are you, or how capable do you think you would be, of real, homicidal violence, even in a cause to which you were committed? I am a former fanatic. I espoused a set of beliefs with homicidal implications. I am not a pacifist, and am ready to defend myself with force. But I was as incapable then, as I am now, of driving a steel blade into a human being.’
This passage is interesting because it is an example of Mr Hitchens abandoning reason just at the moment he was about to arrive at truth. His speculation begins promisingly, but the conclusion is drawn from a data-set of one. Himself. This is not how reason works. Does he miss the point because he doesn’t want to see it? Mr Hitchens is in good company in missing the point.
Orwell missed a similar point when trying to attack Auden for the phrase ‘necessary murder’ in his poem ‘Spain’. The stanza in question:
To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of death,
The consious acceptance of guilt in the necessary murder;
To-day the expending of powers
On the flat ephemeral pamphlet and the boring meeting.
In the essay ‘Inside the Whale’ Orwell states:
‘…notice the phrase “necessary murder”. It could only be written by a person to whom murder is at most a word. Personally I would not speak so lightly of murder. [..] To me, murder is something to be avoided. So it is to any ordinary person.’
Auden had it right. That little phrase demonstrates the breezy ease with which those infected with absolutist ideologies murder their enemies. And that’s if they’re just in the way. If your ideology also tells you to hate them and their way of life then what’s so mysterious about enthusiastically stabbing some infidel scum?
(Read Maajid Nawaz’s evidence to the US Senate’s security committee on the Bolshevik-like political absolutism of ISIS ideology.)
Of course, Orwell was writing pre-Nuremburg, pre-Milgram, pre-Zimbardo and so on, but Mr Hitchens isn’t. The ‘sufficient condition’ is being an adult human, all else is refinement to the madness and savagery.
Is there a block in Mr Hitchens’s thinking? Could it be that he can’t (or won’t) see the true nature of the human because to do so will lead to the conclusion that humans were not created, but evolved?
Milgram’s famous switches are the least of it: he had people pushing arms down onto what they thought was an electrified plate. There is no excuse for not knowing that so long as the person thinks he has permission from his ‘authority’ he’s off to the races, and with terrifying and depressing ease do persons become ‘hands on’.
All it takes to get someone to fry another human with electricity is a white coat. What would they do if they thought they had God on their side?
There is no mystery.
In reaction to the result of the 1975 EC referendum, Mr Enoch Powell described the ‘yes’ victory as a ‘provisional result’ which would require ‘the continuing assent of parliament’. He said of those who had voted in favour: ‘the people do not mean it,’ ‘they are mistaken,’ and ‘they have still not been able to credit the implications of being in the Common Market.’ Those who try to dismiss the result of the ‘brexit’ referendum – by saying the same things of those who voted ‘leave’ – should feel a strong sympathy with Mr Enoch Powell. This might be a sympathy they were unaware of. It might take a disaster such as an earthquake to draw from a person their heroic qualities; of course, not everyone has a hero hiding under the surface. The person who told me about Enoch Powell’s comments said
‘If you agree with Mr Powell’s comments and many on the Leave side regard him as a hero, you cannot object to Remain supporting MPs using those arguments in reverse. Why can’t they try and frustrate Brexit in parliament and also question the wisdom of the people?’
I voted ‘leave’ and I told him Powell’s comments were a disgrace. The question is one of principle. Do you believe in the basic democratic principle that something gets ‘put to the vote’ and the side with the most votes wins? This is a yes or no question. Enoch Powell would have to answer ‘no’ to that; those who are trying to ignore the ‘leave’ result would have to answer ‘no’ to that; many ‘celebrities’ and business ‘leaders’ and academics would have to answer ‘no’ to that. Facebook allowed billions of persons to show each other daily they have boring and empty lives, devoid of physical or intellectual adventure, and the EU referendum has allowed many humans to reveal of themselves they have a creepy disregard for basic democratic principles. These consequences were possibly unintended.
A singer, Damon Albarn, (pick any ‘celebrity’, there’s plenty to choose from) stood on a stage and told a crowd that those who voted ‘leave’ were ill-informed. How could he know that? Persons in their millions voted for ‘brexit’. It is unlikely Albarn could read one mind: the likelihood he could read millions is less likely still. A man in my office told me exactly the same thing the day after the vote. He said of the ‘leave’ voters ‘I don’t think they really understood what they were doing.’ This attitude, one which implies the holder of it does understand the implications of leaving the EU, and is therefore better educated and in position of a more refined mind, is in equal measure snobbish and sinister and infantile. (One thinks of a foot-stamping, lispy school boy, marching off to throw stones at birds in frustration at not getting his way.)
When someone claims to know something they don’t know, that is one thing; but when someone claims to know something they cannot know, well, that is quite a different thing. Claiming those who voted a different way to you are mentally deficient is the sign of an extraordinarily unpleasant individual. The question I think interesting is how much more unpleasant, anti-democratic impulses lie under the surface of those who would happily re-run the referendum – or ignore the result outright – and refuse to implement a genuine ‘brexit’? If they were given the political circumstances which allowed them to express themselves fully, what kind of political figure would they most resemble? Ghandi doesn’t come to mind.
Men such as Stalin were not ‘monsters’ but ordinary humans who, if their circumstances had been different, would have been working in offices and factories and would not have done the things which made them famous. This view is unpopular with some, for reasons which are understandable. Many of us dislike the truth about our lowly origins and have no wish to know we are mammals: animals about which the universe cares not. Not everything is a matter of opinion.
The person who used Powell’s comments to justify the behaviour of the ‘remain’ crowd revealed more than his simple opinion about post-result conduct; in addition, he made a very sickly and servile appeal to ‘authority’:
‘We people do not always get it right. MPs are surely slightly better educated than the average man or woman in the street.’
I wished he’d had the wit to say we ‘the’ people, but never mind. The best one could say about the way he reveals his class-based inferiority complex is that he does it by making an unsafe assumption. I am going to assume this person can read minds with the same skill as Damon Albarn. What constitutes the ‘average’ man or woman?
Here is where language reveals more about the person than they might wish to reveal. He chose to use ‘surely’ rather than, say, ‘perhaps’ – which would have admitted a little doubt. Why is he sure MPs are ‘better educated’ than…well, we’re back to defining ‘average’ again. A person could say that, look, it was a ‘throwaway comment’ and therefore one shouldn’t ‘read into’ it more than is there. I say bet the other way. If you wish to know what a person really thinks, consider what their language presupposes – what do they already assume is true? One can find a person’s presuppositions very often in their ‘asides’ or their ‘throwaway comments.’
The journalist, Peter Hitchens, has suggested here and there that Philip Larkin might not have been quite as atheistic as some (presumably even Larkin himself) thought. One doesn’t need to read minds to make this claim, for there is textual evidence to suggest Hitchens might have a point. For my own little contribution to this idea, consider the second stanza from Aubade:
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
The three words ‘be lost in’ seem to presuppose our continued existence after death. Larkin cannot hide the pea of hope under those mattresses of misery. Unless we exist, we cannot, in any sense ‘be’. Perhaps what we presupposes finds expression unconsciously, and we don’t see it to edit it out because we deny what we truly believe, thereby rendering these subtle clues to our unconscious invisible to ourselves? If this ‘sounds a bit Freudian’ then why not have some Freud? Consider this splendid paragraph from ‘The Future of an Illusion’. Here, Freud reasons that, if a person feels it certain that God exists, these internal feelings don’t necessarily impress someone who doesn’t feel them; therefore these feelings are not the basis on which to build a society. He says that
‘There is no authority higher than reason. If the truth of religious teachings depends upon an inward experience attesting that truth, what about the many people who do not have so rare an experience? Everyone can be required to use the gift of reason that they possess, but an obligation to all cannot be based on a motive that exists only for very few. If an individual has drawn from a deeply personal state of ecstasy the unshakeable conviction that the teachings of religion represent the real truth, what is that to the next man?’
There’s nothing wrong with his reasoning, but one wonders why, hiding in plain sight in the middle of the paragraph is the word ‘gift’. A gift from whom? Maybe the translator had a sense of humour?
If some silly humans get their way, the Colston Hall in Bristol will be renamed. The excuse for this that the name, Colston, has ‘become toxic’ and because Colston was a slave-trader, the music venue needs a different name. Changing the name doesn’t benefit anyone, but it will give some single-issue merchants a rush of blood to the head for a few moments.
Changing the name doesn’t change the facts.
One of the defenders of this pointless excercise is David Olusoga. He says in the idea’s ‘defence’ that
‘Those who want to rename Colston Hall, like the students who want to topple Cecil Rhodes (not that I agree completely with them or their tactics), are campaigners for a fuller, more honest remembrance of history, not its erasure.’
That paragraph shows its typer simply doesn’t care. You do not get a ‘fuller, more honest remembrance of history’ by erasing the names of historical figures from public buildings.
In addition, you help nobody.
I promise you that, in removing the Colston name, no hungry children will be fed; no murderer will be caught; no teenage girl, trafficked from Eastern Europe and locked into sex-slavery, will be freed from her misery.
These campaigners are people without a grievance, looking to make themselves feel happier about their lives by claiming they did something good. They will have done nothing good. Nobody alive in Bristol suffered because of Colston’s business. Nobody alive in Bristol should apologise for the slave-trade because nobody alive in Bristol was responsible for the slave trade.
To campaign for the removal of the name is a form of narcissism, and I suspect these silly people are just a bit bored.
The musician, ‘Daddy G’ from ‘Massive Attack,’ was quite pleased with the name change. I have no idea why.
That ‘Massive Attack’ have for years ‘refused to play at Colston Hall’ is to fall for posing and gesture politics of the shallowest kind. If it were the case that ‘Massive Attack’ – upon learning of their city’s history – left the city in protest, refusing to spend their money here, or even enter the city because of it’s links with slavery, then I might believe they had principles. They are simply posing by picking an easy topic to decide to have principles about, one which causes them no inconvenience.
Muslim pirates enslaved white Europeans for centuries. As a white man, I managed to get the fuck over it about half a second after finding out about it.
Julius Caesar enslaved over a million white Europeans during his time in Gaul, helping to make Rome massively wealthy. I wonder if ‘Massive Attack’ has ever played a show in Rome?
Selective principlals are always fake principals.
What does it actually mean when a person says that so and so was ‘born into the wrong body’? I’ve heard the expression several times and, strangely, always on the topic of sex-change surgery, never any other topic.
I’ve never heard a fat person say they were ‘born into the wrong body’, or the parents of a child racked with cancer.
Is it possible to be ‘born into the wrong body’?
I think it is impossible.
The expression presupposes that consciousness can exist independent of the brain. There is no reason to think this is true, though there are many reasons to hope it is true.
The topic of sex-change surgery is not a religious or spiritual topic, yet the idea a person could be born into the wrong body probably reveals more about the person who says it than it does about the person who wants the surgery.
Society is where the problem is. Every person who has ever been born, whether transgender, or disabled – or anything else – was born exactly as they were ‘meant’ to be born; which is to say they are a product of their genes, their DNA, and not everyone born will fit into a little societal box, ready for labelling.
A teenage boy who says he’d be happier being a girl might well be right. He could easily be much happier after all the surgery and the rest, and I would hope he was. But a simple point needs to be made. That the boy would be happier as a girl doesn’t mean he is biologically faulty. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with him; the reason he might feel different is that society creates boxes for people and somebody who doesn’t fit is said to be ‘different’ but this is really a euphemism for ‘faulty’. The only thing ‘faulty’ in this context is the logic behind the idea.
Children should not be given this surgery. Let them wait until they are adults. Some men don’t realise they are gay until their thirties, for example. All through their teens and twenties they think they’re heterosexual, then realise they were wrong about that.
Imagine the teenage boy who thinks he shoud be a girl, has the surgery in his teens, then realises in his thirties he was wrong about that, and realises nature had things right all along.
The idea of being ‘born’ into the correct body is garbage; the idea of the ‘wrong’ body assumes more than the God-created soul-making machinery in the soul-packing factory exists, it assumes that equipment is malfunctioning.
Think about it.
NOTE: ‘The right to be ourselves’ means something other than what it says. Being ourselves isn’t a right. We have no choice but to be ourselves, because we cannot ‘be’ anyone else. I wonder what Theroux really means? We all have the ‘right’ to demand surgery to make us happier? I can’t read his mind, alas.
It was interesting listening to Peter Hitchens and Ken Livingstone discuss Fidel Castro. Their brief discussion strongly suggested that people will see clearly what they are looking for. Mr Livingstone’s and Mr Hitchens’s views might be the rehearsed, stock responses demanded by their political religions, but which of the gentleman is the more deceived?
Dictators get a ‘bad press’ because the public live in a condition of mass denial.
Hitler, Stalin, Castro – pick any one you want: none of these human beings could have had their way without the help of their own civil services and tens of thousands of humans helping them. Why do we make a fetish out of the pyramid’s top stone?
Having your genitals punctured doesn’t sound like fun, and the person that actually *did it* is no doubt less than a gentleman, but was that person Castro himself?
If the local council force you to knock down your garage because it lurched an inch too far to the left, do you blame the Theresa May ‘regime’? Do you think Mrs May even knows you exist?
It’s easy to imagine a person being tortured in prison while the dictator is told by his courtiers and flatterers that nothing of the kind is going on.
Here’s a fact many persons dislike for some reason: bureaucracy brings out a person’s inner sadist. The mask of anonymity allows may people to be themselves.
Dictators get blamed for everything that happens, yet they can’t possibly be responsible for everything which happens, and that means many others are in possession of the wickedness attributed to the leader. It is humans generally which are naturally bloodthirsty and cruel, not only the recognisable figureheads we’ve all learned to hate.
It’s easy for us to look at humans like Castro and Stalin and the rest and point our fingers and say ‘monster’. This is the denial in action.
There’s no such thing as ‘monsters’. It’s more comfortable for us to pretend we are not imperfectly evolved, savage animals, because to accept this fact means we might be more like Stalin and Castro than is comfortable to know. Most of us will never have the circumstances to draw the characteristics out of us.
If we want to be honest we should begin by being honest with ourselves. Which is more likely, that Castro was ‘inhuman’ and a ‘monster’, or that he did what people do when they have absolute power, or something close to it?
I’m always amused when the next human is described as a monster, be that human a famous dictator or a killer on trial. There are so many monsters one hears about: Brady and Hindley; Huntley; Hitler; Stalin; Mao; loads of tanned, sweaty blokes wearing sunglasses and medals running rape-factories down in Latin and South America; all those IRA torturers and the other lot from the other side who ripped each others’ teeth out with pliars: apparently these people were ‘psychopaths’ or something else.
So long as they’re never described as ‘human beings’ we’ll all be okay and can maintain our delusion that these dictators and killers are exceptional. They are not.
The paradox the religious talk themselves into is darkly amusing on this. They demand we are created, yet argue that without God, belief and so on, humans would suddenly drop their morals and behave like savage animals. They do this while rejecting the theory which shows humans are barely civilised animals. Evolution via natural selection.
It is not a world of men, Machine.
Some of us really – and I mean really – dislike the idea that we exist due to the laws of physics, chemistry and biology and a few hundred million years of imperfect evolution. Religion has lied to us, and we pass that lie down the generations by continuing to think we are created, not evolved, that we are seperate from nature, that we are not actually *animals*. On the materialist world view (that’ll be the one that’s almost certainly true) there are no ‘monsters’ – there are only human animals, naked apes. Most of us have our natures under control.
Who will state that, given the freedom of behaviour that comes with dictatorship and absolute power, they wouldn’t knock-off at least one opponent by easy-memo or give the nod to the bloke in the corner?
Or would nobody knock-off an enemy behind the chemical sheds because they’d be too busy being ‘shocked’ when they heard swear words to find the time?
Most people are preening, posing, paw-licking prats who refuse to see themselves for what they are.
That Fidel and his comrades overthrew Batista was a beautiful thing. Who would not think so? I’m not talking about the ‘regime’ which came after. Fidel might have been Cuban by birth, but he was Roman by nature.
Castro had himself a tyranny. It is justified, certainly, to say that, although it’s probably a good thing for all of us not to gaze into the abyss for too long. On tyranny, one thinks of a passage from ‘An Open Letter to Fidel Castro’ by Norman Mailer:
“We live in a country very different from Cuba. We have had a tyranny here, but it did not have the features of Batista; it was a tyranny one breathed but could not define; it was felt as no more than a slow deadening of the best of our possibilities, a tension we could not name which was the sum of our frustrations. [..] By law we had a free press; almost no one spoke his thoughts. By custom we had a free ballot; was there ever a choice? [..] In silence we gave you our support. You were aiding us, you were giving us psychic ammunition, you were aiding us in that desperate silent struggle we have been fighting with sick dead hearts against the cold insidious cancer of the power that governs us, you were giving us new blood to fight our mass communications, our police, our secret police, our corporations, our empty politicians, our clergymen, our editors, our cold frightened bewildered bullies who govern a machine made out of people they no longer understand, you were giving us hope they would not always win. That is why America persecuted you.”
Many of us thinks that the ‘I’ they use to refer to themselves is separate from their physical self, and perhaps takes the form of a little person who sits inside our head, looking through our eyes the way Captain Kirk looks through the screens of the Enterprise. Those who think this way are likely to be mistaken, but the mistake is a common one, and many people make it without knowing they’re doing so.
Many persons are more religious than they realise.
A person said to me recently, on the topic of what some call ‘gender reassignment’, that some of us are ‘born into the wrong body’. This is a common expression, used by persons to explain what causes a person to want to change their gender.
The idea that a person can be ‘born into the wrong body’ is physically, chemically, biologically, and philosophically illiterate. What makes the expression an interesting one has nothing to do with the ‘truth’ it contains, but rather what the expression presupposes.
The following isn’t perfect, but it will do. Imagine a factory, in which bodies are on a conveyor belt: robot arms insert the conscious mind into each head. Now imagine a fault in the celestial software which makes the belt lurch forward, throwing the bodies out of synch to their mind-inserting arms, and what is presupposed becomes clear.
Persons are not ‘born into’ their bodies at all. It is impossible, therefore, for a person to have been born into the wrong body. Every person is as nature ‘intended’.
(I marked the word out because I’m aware that ‘intention’ presupposes agency – which is obviously nonsense – but the expression is another good example of how our thoughts are saturated with the idea that consciousness can exist without the brain.)
Under ‘born into the wrong body’ is that very idea – that consciousness can exist without the brain.
What is under that idea?
Under that is the belief that we survive death.
And what is under that?
Under that, motivating everything else, is the fear of death.
Could it be that, a person can make a ‘throwaway’ remark on a topic about gender surgery, and what motivates it is a fear of death – something we weren’t talking about?