Wednesday, 14 November 2018

BE MY BABY: BOURGEOIS PRIORITIES

I'm crying for the planet. And it's my fucking fault.



Wandering the cracked and desolate boulevards of the internet recently, looking for yet more examples of human wickedness and folly, I came across something which seemed to be both, and I could not decide which was the stronger, the dominant element in the mix.
A woman had given birth to a baby. What times do we live in, when even such a simple and basic statement is a sign and a wonder? It wasn’t a modified man adding to the stock of human population, and the baby wasn’t born transgender, or already a crack addict, or crapped out onto cardboard at the back of a supermarket in the rain. No, it was simply a baby, born unto a mother and father, and white to boot. The mother had taken to social media. And why not?
If I had children – of which more later – I suspect I too would have posted the fact for all the world to see. The pride in creating a little ball of cells, a tiny anlage (that’s the clinical term for a ball of cells, know-nothings), a scrunched-face little poppet, slimy and full of potential, must be immense, and why shouldn’t you paste its little face across the wind-blown hoardings of Facebook or Twitter?
But it was what the mother wrote.
Along with a picture of her little sproglet, she announced that she was feeling guilty for ‘bringing another little carbon emitter into the world’.
Right. A couple of actions which should be taken immediately. Firstly, in a sane and responsible world, social services would take the child away and gift it to a mother who wasn’t fucking nuts. That child will turn out to be utterly useless, you can tell it from one sentence from her mother, who is already an excellent advertisement for forced sterilisation. When you look at what the new police state of Europe is doing to people who post harmless candyfloss online, this is genuinely a reason to take action.
Secondly, once the child is in a sane environment, the mother needs to be taken out onto a plot of waste land and slapped about a bit until she sees sense. There is no argument against this in an egalitarian age in which the genders are absolutely equal. Just bring the child up, you stupid bitch, don’t try to warp its mind while it is still hanging off your tit.
Bringing a child into the world and then stigmatising it with your secular, internet-constructed version of original sin proves you are not fit to be a parent. In the times when I mixed with people, I was occasionally asked why I never had children. There are two aspects to my answer.
One, I never needed them. The usual form is, I realise, that one never wanted children, but that is to miss the point. Children are a biological imperative, hard-wired into mammalian DNA over billions of years. Saying you never wanted children is like saying you never wanted gravity. Some of us are immune to the dictates of DNA, just as some of us are albinoes or have rare blood groups or, like some white Europeans, are naturally immune to infection by HIV.
Two, I would have made a lousy father. I’ve lost count of the number of party people – usually women – who have told me what a great dad I would make. Funny, witty, educated, tall, good-looking. They sounded like eugenicists. Whether or not you think eugenics is a good idea (I do), you have to factor in personality type, and mine rings every alarm bell going when it comes to fatherhood. Fickle, a sporadic heavy drinker, selfish, rootless, usually poor, self-absorbed and incapable of love, or at least uninterested in it. What kind of father material is that?
So, no carbon emitters for me. In fact, I would even have failed miserably in teaching my child how to emit carbon and kill whales and cause forest fires in the first place. I lived for 10 years on a canal boat in England. Once, in idle hour, I used an online government resource to work out my carbon footprint. Compared with the national average for one person living in a house or apartment, and taking that average to be 100%, mine worked out at 7%. And I lived that way for a decade. I wrote about it here for Standpoint magazine. No matter what you might say about me, I’m greener than you. I have never driven a car. I was a vegetarian for 10 years. I deserve a fucking medal and, as it is, I’m wondering if the pigs will arrest me at the airport for hate speech next time I go back to the old country.
So, back to our little carbon-emitter. I have the solution. Drown it. Don’t burn it. Fossil fuels, see? No, drown it and let the body rot down. You can use it as compost for your home-grown, pesticide-free vegetables. Drown it, because, to go by its mother, it’s going to be no fucking use to the rest of us.

Monday, 12 November 2018

THE NEW WRECKERS

He dropped a wrench, you say?
Take him out the back.


One of the main weapons in Stalin’s war against Trotsky and his followers was the concept of ‘wrecking’ (разрушение) and ‘the wrecker’. Anything deemed to be sabotage was called wrecking, and so-called counter-revolutionaries who practiced it were wreckers.
Wrecking was a neat concept for Stalin as there was no defence against it. Every missed target, every faulty tractor transmission, periods of slowed production, poor-quality construction, any of the factors that affect any business and defray slightly from profits were not seen by Stalin as an affair of accounting but as proof of ideological, anti-revolutionary insurrection.
Many of Stalin and Lenin’s enemies were disposed of using this spurious method. Anonymous ‘professors’ were accused of poisoning cattle. Engineers and technicians were accused of damaging power stations. The smallest production error was seen as evidence of a Troskyist plot to destroy the Revolution. Show trials abounded, the gulags swelled. The gibbets creaked.
Does it remind you of anything today? It does me, only instead of the State accusing ordinary people of wrecking a revolution when they had most likely done nothing, the elites of the modern West have instigated their own revolution by wrecking the lives of ordinary people. And they have done much. The carry monstrous guilt, for this is not just a misguided revolution. This is a world.
These are a few of the initial stratagems used by the Western elites to wreck the lives of ordinary people, those people who have provided those elites with tax revenue to fund the very stratagems which will undo them. In no particular order, then:
The importation of Islam, transgenderism, hate speech and hate crimes, cultural Marxism, affirmative action, white privilege, historical revisionism, the emasculation of the police and army, feminism, safe spaces, the policing of language, micro-aggressions, selective anti-Semitism, big tech. social media censorship, anti-white media propaganda, aggressive promotion of homosexual culture, the EU, massive financial mismanagement. Let us dwell on this last stratagem for a moment.
The sheer size of contemporary Western economies reveal one fact above all others, and it is a truth which should make you reach for your pitchfork, your length of rope tied in a hangman’s noose with its traditional thirteen wraps, or your grandfather’s trusty service revolver. The formula is simple; if the money were spent properly, the West would be a paradise.
What Kevin McDonald terms ‘our hostile elites’ are the wreckers now. Instead of responsible, cost-effective spending on governance which would benefit the working class of the West, and instead of being particularly harsh on financial waste, the elites have put into place stratagems – for this is what they are rather than policies – intended to achieve the exact opposite.
Anyone who has worked in the public sector in the West has seen the appalling profligacy with which budgets are wasted, with money sprayed around on worthless management positions, non-jobs, unnecessary assessment and measurement of performance, inappropriately expensive office space and headquarters and much more. If you have worked in such circumstances, and either failed to notice the egregious waste of money they represent, you are either a fool or a Socialist, quite possibly both.
Then there is immigration. To concentrate merely on Muslim immigration into Europe, if this exodus had been organized to squander the wealth of nations, everything that has so far happened in terms of Muslim migration would have happened just as it has happened. Behind this monumental, world-historical dislocation of people there is, of course, a malevolent inventory of lies told to the populace by the elites and their media acting-masks, the mouth-pieces worn by Ancient Greek actors to amplify their voices in the hugeness of the auditorium.
Immigrants, we are told, are necessary to do the work the indigenous population won't do. This is a lie. Something like 90% of Muslim immigrants to Germany are on benefits, and I don’t imagine the figures differ wildly across Europe. Islam is a financial drain, not a financial benefit.
Immigrants, we are told, are necessary to replenish the ageing populations of Europe. This is a lie. Not only are they not necessary demographically, their very presence threatens what demographics European countries still have. Muslims don’t integrate and will do absolutely nothing to help a host country do anything but assist them and boost their religion.
Immigrants, we are told, are fleeing war-torn homelands. This is a lie, in all but a few cases. This Trojan horse has been used to infiltrate Europe with the advance guard of a new caliphate, the one for which the Muslim world has been hungering for a millennium. Those who are fleeing war-torn homelands are doing so because the Western military-industrial complex is as hungry for arms sales as ever. And wars cost a lot of money. These wars are pointless. They cannot improve the lot of backward people, and they cannot be won, nor do they protect the countries waging them. The army would be better off at home cleaning up places like Detroit, Malmö and the Parisian banlieues.
So, the public sector and immigration, both a waste of money. They work in tandem, of course, as health services, education, social services, housing and all the other props and splints provided by the state are primarily for immigrants, with the host population entitled to whatever is left. The media often talk about a ‘strain’ on public services, but they don’t mean from immigration. They mean from the ordinary people who pay for this abused potlach handed out to people who largely hate them.
All of this grotesque, freakish goblin market is overseen by government, of course, a bloated, elitist, expensive cadre of talking heads and a backroom of hundreds of triangulators, media fixers, special advisers, policy manipulators, lobbyists of lobbyists, optics experts, speech-writers and other hangers-on and courtiers. They all cost money, more and more of it.
Brussels, Holyrood. Islam. Extra policing for Leftist demonstrations. Security for Antifa. Court cases designed to bring down designated ideological targets. Political advertising at election time. Political advertising at all other times. Foreign aid to countries out-performing the donors. Anti-terrorist intelligence, anti-terrorist street decoration, anti-terrorist court cases, money for mosques. Diversity training for the police, for the army, for nurses, traffic wardens, recycling officers, housing inspectors, canteen staff in state care homes, council gardeners, for anyone employed by the government who is white.
All of this represents money spent in the wrong places at the wrong time for the wrong reasons and tending towards the wrong outcome. Any single country, all of them, could be as close to utopia as it is possible to get at this moment in history.
Stalin made a good point about wrecking in a speech given in March 1937. It was only the identity and the intent of the wreckers he got wrong;
First, the wrecking… has touched to this or to that extent all or almost all of our organizations, both economic and administrative or party.’

Sunday, 11 November 2018

THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE by GUY DEBORD


Visionary



I have seen the future, brother.

It is murder.



Leonard Cohen, The Future

I have been spending far too much time preparing these little essays, and it is time to catch up with reading. Guy Debord's book is well worth an inspection, and these are just some scrappy notes on it.
There are books of a certain grain which aim at prescience but, although many are called, few are chosen. Writing which bears fruit years after its coming into being carries with it a haunted charm. The Camp of the Saints, The Clash of Civilisations, 1984, The Antichrist, Brave New World. Our world is made up of fragments of these literary worlds, whole cloth sewn from patches and scraps. So it is with Guy Debord’s 1967 work of political and social theory, The Society of the Spectacle.

The date and country of its publication is, of course, crucial to its range of effects in our Western world, a world it both pre-empts and describes. 1967 was just a year before soixante-huit, the now mythical and infamous rioting and insurrection of the student class in Paris which came close to bringing down the government of de Gaulle.

Theory underpinned the revolution, as it always must, and it was predictable Marxist/Leninist fodder. I will avoid discussion of Marxist/Leninist theory here. It too often resembles one of those children’s toys which diverts the small mind for a little while and then forces the child to lose interest as it repeats its motions again and again. Instead, we will concentrate on the central and prophetic theme of the book; the transformation of society into spectacle.

The great paradox of Debord’s theory of society as spectacle is that it represents a criticism of Western culture which both Left and Right have pointed out and espoused. Today’s dissident Right are keenly aware that the trash that passes for culture is a distraction while the elites go about their business of mining the bridges and tearing up the tracks. But, of course, the Left got there first, as Jamie Glazov explains, with specific reference to Noam Chomsky, in United in Hate;

‘The capitalist oppressors used all forms of entertainment, therefore, including televised sports and movies, to distract the masses from their victimization and make the unwilling or unable to revolt’.

Debord’s book is worth your time. The reduction of human interaction and its replacement by the spectacle couldn’t be more accurate for today’s nihilistic, screen-grab culture.

‘The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images’.

‘The spectacle, as a tendency to make one see the world by means of specialized mediations (it can no longer be grasped directly) naturally finds vision to be the privileged human sense which the sense of touch was for other epochs; the most abstract, the most mystifiable sense corresponds to the generalized abstraction of modern-day society’.

The spectacle is ‘the opposite of dialogue’. Here, we are reminded of Plato’s Protagoras, in which what holds the attention is not the abstract bickering over virtue, but the fact that Socrates breaks Protagoras’ hold over the situation be forcing him to abandon monologue for dialogue, which is laced with Socratic dialectic.

‘The spectacle is the material reconstruction of the religious illusion’.

In 1994, Guy Debord shot himself. He was 62, and had seen the future.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

THIS IS A MAN’S WORLD: CROSSING THE JORDAN

The eyes! For the love of God, don't look into the eyes!



Still they come. Ever since Jordan B Peterson first showed the unfashionable habits of incisive male intelligence and a willingness to be combative with women in an interview situation, media shills are lining up to be the one to take home his scalp. Sadly for them, you shall know him by the trail of dead. Rumour has it that he will be appearing on Question Time. One can imagine the Leftist usual suspects clamouring not to be on that edition. A shame. Can you imagine Peterson versus Diane Abbott?
Helen Lewis, who interviewed Peterson for GQ, is not someone I know anything about. She gave some personal details in the course of the 100-minute interview, some in self-defence and seemingly intended to mark out her territory lest Peterson’s burgeoning reputation encroach on her too much. She is an academic, a feminist (imagine if she had said she was not a feminist. That would have sparked interest), a wife – although I would be leery of being the husband – and an articulate and reasonably relaxed interviewer. She had none of the nervous tics and reflexive ideological spasms of Cathy Newman, although her Leftist beliefs simmered always beneath the calm surface.
Paradoxically, although it was a more even-tempered interview than the infamous Newman massacre, Peterson was a lot spikier and dismissive with Lewis than he was with Newman. With Newman he was the ice-man, with Lewis he had a dash of Norman Mailer. He laughed at some of Lewis’s assumptions and the fact that she delved into tired territory such as the Pepe flag incident. When she attempted to revert everything to the over-arching notion of ‘patriarchal tyranny’, he either scolded her or laughed at her. She took both well.
Peterson’s power in an interview situation is that he can wrest the reins from the interviewer. Cathy Newman famously littered her side of the interview with the phrase ‘so you’re saying that’ in a vain attempt to tell Peterson what it was that he was saying. This is fine as a coercive technique with a politician, who is keen to agree with everyone and to be seen doing so, and it is standard practice with other lackeys of the ruined palace of Western culture, actors, musicians, journalists and so on, as these ciphers, interchangeable as they are, can be allowed to seem as though they were directing operations while in fact a tightly organised shooting script has been prepared for them which they will, wittingly or unwittingly, follow.
This model simply fails to work on Peterson. His prehensile intelligence is forever probing for ulteriority, for motive, for the secret cogs and levers of ideology. He stated elsewhere that Cathy Newman had been extremely pleasant to him before the interview before transforming herself into an ideological avatar for Channel 4 once proceedings were underway.
As mutually agreeable as the interview was, Lewis still came armed with the weaponry of the modern Left, the dogmatic sense that certain opinions are enshrined in some sort of cosmic law and that to gainsay them is heresy, and heresy to be recanted. There were one or two moments when Peterson took so long to answer searching questions that I think Lewis might have thought he was either having a petit mal, or that he had just gone to sleep.
Peterson also has a phenomenal range of reference, and this usually hobbles any Leftist interlocutor, whose intellectual stomping ground, such as it is, tends to be restricted to the 20th century and the first two decades of the present one, and will usually comprise of texts about texts, laudatory if on the side of Leftist ideology, suspect and defunct if too dead and white and male.
Peterson is just as at home with Jungian psychology as pop culture, just as au fait with Freud, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche as he is with clinical psychology. He has mentioned music once that I can remember, making my jaw drop as he recounted a recent revisiting of Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare. He can be a little naughty with this Renaissance man act, as he is well aware that he can canter into fields and pastures where his inquisitors may not follow, but it does not invalidate the fact that he has put in the man hours. At one point, when Lewis was attempting to get him to toe the line on climate change, he casually mentions having ‘read 200 books’ on climate. I believe him. Honesty is big with Peterson.
Incidentally, I was pleased to see Peterson take a sword to one of the most popular Leftist misconceptions concerning Nietzsche, that the philosopher was a favourite of Hitler. Peterson pointed out Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth’s role in the false Nietzsche myth, although did not note the role that Peter Gast played in producing a Bowdlerised version of Nietzschean sayings for distribution in the trenches. Anyone who has read Nietzsche will be familiar with the philosopher’s sneering attitude towards his fellow Germans, and will be aware of how he prized his statelessness, as well as his retreating into his – probably spurious – Polish heritage.
It is on the subject of men and women that Peterson is both at his most fascinating and his most contentious. The Left demand absolute orthodoxy when it comes to male oppression and female repression although, of course, this orthodoxy turns its face to the wall when the Islamic gentlemen ride by.
Peterson is having none of it. He sees men and women as needing to work together to make it through the ropewalk of life, and has no truck with patriarchies or natural hierarchies. Of course, it is easy to agree with someone who already agrees with you, but this is exactly my position. Men are not better than women per se, nor vice versa. That is like saying a cube is better than a sphere. In certain situations, one will be better than another. Difficult to build a wall using spherical brickwork, and cubic ball bearings would not tend towards efficient machinery.
Curiously, Lewis felt the need to write a ‘post-interview article’ about her encounter with Peterson, as though she had gone 12 rounds with the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, or climbed the Eiger, and someone felt the need to print it. This is, presumably, the mark of the man. Surviving Peterson with one’s journalistic integrity intact may soon become a tribal mark of rite of passage.
Peterson’s star is till in the ascendant, and the Left are starting to realise that crossing swords with him on his own ground is futile, whereas smearing him by association with the Alt. Right just makes him appear more dangerous and appealing. At one point in the interview, he dwells on the importance of being dangerous. Lewis had nothing to say, and just looked as though she were in the same room as a grenade with the pin removed.
The cool kids on the Right are already starting to sneer at Peterson in the same way as last week’s hip new band becomes this week’s passé bore. But I feel we finally have an intellectual who will not be stored in mothballs and allowed out for a stroll to stretch the legs when the media feel like it. In the meantime, to paraphrase Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman on guitarist Geordie Walker, may he continue to strike fear into the heart of every journalist on the planet.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

STRANGE WEATHER: BRINGING THE WAR HOME


Here is the weather forecast.
A hard rain's gonna fall.





You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows.

Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues


Everywhere you go,
Always take the weather with you.

Crowded House, Weather with You


And you know that it’s beginning
And you know that it’s the end
Once again we are strangers
As the fog comes rolling in.

Tom Waits, Strange Weather




I just watched a good, solid documentary on YouTube about the Weather Underground. This group of north American radical anti-establishment domestic terrorists – very similar to Germany’s Baader-Meinhof Complex – were born from a student organization called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and, in an informal alliance with The Black Panthers, were responsible for a wave of bombings in the 1970s. They always called in bomb warnings so that the authorities could clear the area of civilians, and only casualties appear to be three of the group itself who blew themselves up assembling a bomb.
The main protagonists, like Baader, Meinhof and their associates, came from solid middle-class backgrounds, much like many from today’s Antifa movement. They were a mixture of radical activists and hippies, experimenting with drugs and group sex just as much as with domestic terrorism. One of their greatest copus would be busting drug guru Timothy Leary from jail.
The SDS, and later the Weather Underground – named after the line in the Dylan song quoted above – were formed in direct response to the Vietnam war. They wanted to, in their own words, ‘bring the war home’, and they certainly gave it a try.
I am woefully uninformed about the Vietnam conflict. All I can see for sure is that it was a thankless task carried out with horrible brutality. It was also the first real-time war. Ordinary Americans were not reading about the fighting in a newspaper several times removed from the action, they were watching the horror unfold from the comfort of their living-rooms. The body count could not be hidden, a dangerous transparency for any powerful nation.
The organization began its life as a splinter group of the SDS, who simply did not go far enough for some of its more radical members. The new movement took immediately to ideas of violence perpetrated against the state, reasoning that state violence in Vietnam, as well as perceived oppression at home against blacks and other minorities, justified their catastrophic plans. They planned to bomb an army event, but succeeded only in blowing up three of their own members when their device short-circuited in a townhouse while they were assembling it.
This led to a different strategy, and a chain of successful explosions which killed no civilians because effective warnings were telephoned in before each blast.
There were two moments in this twitchy, jump-cut (but no worse for it) documentary which were interesting for the reversals they showed between the time of the Weathermen and the time of Antifa. They are small details commensurate with, say, the fact that the University of Berkeley was, at that time, the scene of demonstrations to protect free speech, whereas Berkeley is now at the eye of the storm aimed at destroying and denying the right to free speech if it contradicts the neo-Marxist line. Let us chart the polarization of certain moments that link the time of Vietnam to the time of Trump.
In 1969, SDS held its annual convention at Chicago’s Coliseum. The organisers were not keen on having what was then the mainstream media, or what they called the ‘bourgeois media’, present at the event. They wanted $25 per journalist as an entry fee. Bernardine Dorn, one of the leaders of the organization, said she ‘wanted no vultures inside’, referring to the press. It was made clear that registration was free for what Dorn called ‘underground, revolutionary press’. Note that at similar events today, the status of the MSM and the underground press would be exactly reversed. Now, revolutionary student groups actively want the mainstream media to broadcast their message, and distrust and despise the dissident media birthed by the internet.
Another reversal is the brandishing of a flag at the abortive Days of Rage demonstration in the Autumn of 1969. Bill Ayers expected thousands of kids. 250 showed up. One of them brandished a flag with a now-familiar coiled snake as its device and bearing the legend; Don’t tread on me. Another symbol to have crossed the political floor in the last 50 years.
After the destructive rioting at Days of Rage, the smartest person interviewed was a spokesman for the Black Panthers.
One of the ex-Underground women stated that in a time of violence, doing nothing was itself a form of violence. All around her, of course, in 1969, violence was in the air like the smell of burning rubber. This was the year the decade of peace and love turned sour, the year of Altamont and the Manson family. It is worth noting, as violence bore the Weather Underground along on its shoulders, that the organization itself was statedly anti-white. It is comforting to know that there is at least some consistency between then and now.
Nowadays, we are used to the mangling of rationality, of false equivalence, of tortured and beaten logic, inductive moves which pay no heed to Enlightenment reason or first principles. In the 1960s, this must have been new and, more importantly, it sounded new. The post-modernes have always had an almost erotic yearning for shiny new things, bright and twinkling non-concepts and anti-ideas, nihilism wrapped in tinsel and birthday wrapping paper.
But this nihilism is not so new now, it just has further outreach. Bill Ayers, one of the leading lights and bomb-makers of the Underground, is a much-admired friend of the Obamas. Antifa are protected by the police, not hunted. The press are not on the side of those who oppose destructive and restrictive student rhetoric, they are against them.
More violence along the lines of the Weather Underground seems inevitable. If what is fondly remembered as a decade of peace, love and freedom could throw up such toxic avengers, what might our own times, times of strife, hatred and creeping totalitarianism produce? The grandchildren of the 1960s may be crippled and twisted, mutated and hideous, but they may also be far more deadly.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

SCENES FROM CHILDHOOD: BEING AND LUCK


The Game of Chance by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman, 1885





My mind

It ain’t so open

That anything

Could crawl right in.

Howard Devoto, My Mind Ain’t So Open



When it comes to luck you make your own.

Bruce Springsteen, Lucky Town





I’m sure all of you reading this can remember pearls of wisdom, gnomic sayings, weathered and well-worn injunctions habitual to your parents when you were little. They exercised these informal rules and regulations on you and your siblings with such metronomic regularity they became a part of family lore.



Hoy. Stop that. Your brother can behave himself. Why can’t you?



Subtly co-ercive. You risk your brother gaining a momentary advantage should something desirable be at stake in the near future which he might get at your cost.



Hoy! How many times have I got to tell you?



Again, ingenious. This straightforward question invited a glib answer -  Twenty! - which you dared not give.



Come on. That’s enough now.



Not a rebuke, but a mild and friendly reminder that behaviour was quantifiable as well as qualifiable. What you are doing is not bad in and of itself until you have reiterated it a certain amount of times or for a certain period of time.



With the help of this arsenal of directive instruction, parents were amateur psychologists as well as gate-keepers, guardians of behaviour who used prototypical markers of social propriety to be recalled in adulthood and either obeyed or disobeyed. Later, though, the consequences were likely to be more serious than Mummy’s disapproval or early bed as sanctioned by Daddy. The stakes were not high then. They become higher once the playpen is open and closed with its former occupant now on the outside.

One runic pronouncement beloved of my mother has stayed with me over the years, and will be familiar perhaps to those of you of a certain age. If I failed to finish a meal – I have never had a big appetite, for food anyway, and once quipped to my French then-stepmother that I put the petit in appetit – my mother would invariably say something along the lines of the following;

‘You know there are children in Africa who would be grateful for that’.

Now, if you really wanted to raise your father’s eyebrows – my dad was not a hitter and only ever struck me once – you would rejoinder with;

‘Well, send it to them then’.

Very funny. Now, though, as the decades have rolled past and I always finish my meals because I am poor, I think of the African children who would have liked my leavings but never got them in the post or dropped on their village in a UN crate on a parachute.

What my mother, in her alter ego role as domestic psychologist, seemed to be implying was that I was lucky to be here and not lying in an African desert with a pot belly and flies on my gummy eyelids. As we know, at the end of this ball of twine, if we follow it to the present day, is the spurious notion of ‘white privilege’, the biggest non-concept since ‘we wuz kangz’.

For a long time, I could not accept the argument that we were fortunate to be who and where we were, and that we should consider ourselves lucky not to be among the disadvantaged of the earth. The argument was too metaphysical for me, as though being born were a lottery ball falling through a particular hole in a random device, a ball which could have fallen very differently. How can it be lucky to have been who you are? It could scarcely have been any other way.

Oh, we have great good fortune, but that is not luck. I have lived, for example, through the richest phase of human history, materially speaking. Even as poor as I am, in the context of those around me, I can still command goods and services the most powerful Renaissance prince would be aghast at. But I am not lucky that I am not a sub-Saharan African with a life expectancy in the 30s, nothing to eat, nothing on my feet and AIDS, any more than I am lucky not to be scuttling around in a Brazilian favela and searching for scraps of rotting food on a giant, Himalayan rubbish pile. To say I should feel lucky to be who and where I am makes no sense. It is like saying all triangles are green. It makes sense as a sentence but it contains a category mistake.

And yet, as a principle which can be used towards a meaningful existence, like a voucher cut from a magazine and used to defray part of the price of a product, it has some existential market value. That I do not find myself washed up on life’s shores in some desperate backwater should make me aware enough of my being in a certain way that I can extract meaning from that realization and work towards an existence that has facticity rather than ephemeral adherence to a worthless, plasticated consumer culture that offers nothing but synthetic pleasures and shallow indulgence in cosmeticised nihilism.

All that you are is the sum total of the manner in which you have experienced the train of moments that have led you here, to this moment, this point in the journey. You can never be anyone else, just as no one can ever be you, not even for a moment. So, just as there are lots of children in Africa who would be grateful for what you have left on your plate, that doesn’t matter because it is a meaningless desire in an experience void of meaning.

Realise the debt you owe to yourself, and that that debt is also a credit, and you can never be alone.

The artist Paul Klée described drawing as ‘taking a line for a walk’, and the type of conceptual rambling I enjoy from time to time is a similar enterprise. I am aware that the above is half-formed and fails to make a cogent point, but I think that what I am getting at is that your life has to be reflexive, and that ability to be actively introspective is not luck, although to be bereft of it is certainly unlucky.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

FOLLOWING ARIADNE'S THREAD - A NOTE ON MEANING


Don't lose the thread.
Ariadne and Theseus
by Nicolo Bambini, 18th century.


I was writing about Jordan Peterson a little before he became almost a household name, and certainly before he put Cathy Newman back in her basket. I have followed him with interest ever since, although poverty has kept me from buying his best-selling book. I have seen a small backlash against him, as there will be against any public figure who attains that extra level of fame, particularly if he is politically heterodox, but those trying to rock the pedestal are dullards, and they have not impeded Peterson’s stellar progress, despite a lame attempt to tar him with the Alt. Right brush.
Something he said recently interested me with reference to my own case, if a life can be referred to as a case. He said, in the context of a seminar, that the three most important things for a person were their family, their relationships, and their children. It left me wondering what came in from number four down.
What remains of my family, my mother and one brother, are 7,000 mile away. There is another brother in Sweden, so even further away. Plus, he rarely gets in touch with anyone, and we had a falling out. I told him what I thought about what was happening in Sweden – he is in Gothenburg – with reference to Islam, and he really didn’t like it. At first, he claimed that most of the trouble was caused by biker gangs. When even he couldn’t deny the evidence on his own streets, he told me I was just being negative. I have written recently that if those I know are that steeped in politically correct bullshit, they have to go. Family is not exempt.
Relationships. I am not sure whether that means with anyone or simply with a significant other. It makes no difference to me. I have neither. Ditto children. Childless people usually say they ‘never wanted children’. It is slightly different in my case. I never needed them.
So, the three most important things in life, according to Peterson, I haven’t got. At this point – and I am sure this gesture is not necessary – I should point out that this is not a sob story or an exercise in nihilism or a tale of failure and woe. I am still in touch with my family, and I have had a lot of friendships and intimate relationships in my life. But I have done all that now. A few years ago, I was moving apartments – something I am a past master at – and trying to throw out unwanted and unnecessary detritus rather than drag it all to my next abode. I unearthed a pair of football boots – Gary Lineker football boots, in fact – and was about to pack them when I thought; I’m 49 years old. When am I going to play fucking football again? In the rubbish bin they went. Same with people. As I say, I’ve done all that. It’s just me, books, my guitars and the cat now.
And that brings me on to my next point, still with Mr. Peterson in attendance. It is always gratifying when one reads or hears something expressed which crystallises an inchoate idea one has had for some time but has been unable to articulate. I had felt for some time that ‘happiness’ as in ‘the pursuit of happiness’ is, while a desirable thing or state in itself for small periods of contented time, not the primary game for the lonely hunter.
Undoubtedly under the potent spell of Martin Heidegger, for years I considered ‘Authenticity’ to be the grail of being. To avoid the life of lies that the Western consumerist lifestyle offered, to live in a reality forged as much as possible by oneself, to exist in such a way that one’s fate or destiny was in one’s own hands to the extent that is possible, and to escape and avoid the clutches of corporations, banks and government, that seemed a worthwhile escapade. I went off the grid as far as I could. For ten years, while I lived on a canal boat, no one who knew where I was knew who I was, and no one who knew who I was knew where I was.
But I was missing something. Authenticity was simply the seal for something else, in the same way that a royal or papal seal was the imprimatur of the great import within the envelope it sealed. The meaning of life, it transpired was simply that.
Meaning.
Peterson says as much. It may not sound earth-shattering or ground-breaking, but neither do E=MC² or Newton’s three laws of thermodynamics considered in the simplicity of their language. For me, understanding that meaning was not what the Ancient Greeks would have called telos, or an ultimate aim or goal to be striven towards and hopefully attained, but instead an always-present process by which life could be altered pseudo-genetically from the mere procession of a personal history into a set of interconnected experiences and interpretation of experiences which enriched the host of that process was like seeing in three dimensions after years of having been locked into a two-dimensional world.
This is all personal. I am not about to take my epiphany and write a self-help book. I don’t understand how other people order their lives, nor do I care. I am my own project and, besides, people like me are not big on empathy. But meaning is not a £20,000 kitchen or a £50,000 car. Meaning is not television or the mainstream media. Meaning is not your job you hate or your co-workers you hate even more. Meaning is going into the cave of yourself with the dimmest of lights and hoping you remembered to take and unravel the spool of thread, like the twine given by Ariadne to Theseus before the warrior entered the Minotaur's cave, so that you can find your way out again in a hurry if you don’t like what you see.
All I can say is, for those of you who, like me, don’t have the inventory of valuable things Peterson lists – family, relationships, children – you will always have yourself. To have something and not to know what it means to have it is a betrayal. So, remember the oracle at Delphi, and what it said to Socrates.
Know thyself.
Everything in moderation.
To understand what those two injunctions mean, read them as though they were one.
Now you have meaning.