Friday, 25 November 2016

Over Sensitive Little Flowers

What we are seeing this year, be it Trump or Brexit, is not only a rejection of the mainstream, it's a rejection of the climate of political correctness and risk averse mentality that makes every controversial topic out of bounds. God forbid a person should be critical of Islam, or aggressive feminism, or dare to make a joke of a sexist or racist nature. You might hurt someone's feelings! You might send them into spasm. Quick, get them to a safe space and get out the smelling salts.
Fuck you. Quite simply, fuck you. If you genuinely cannot tell the difference between bonafide racism or sexism then you are quite simply a colossal cunt. And a fairly dim one, too. And worse, you actually piss all over the graves of the enlightened campaigners of free speech that fought so hard, and whom often paid in blood, Just so vacuous little nothings like you can enjoy the freedoms you are now so intent on curtailing. People, we have existing laws on hate speech, and broadly speaking they work. We don't need some pre pubescent college graduate going ballistic every time someone makes a statement that might cause offence. On many US college campuses there is now such a culture of fear, and such enthusiasm for shutting down difficult debates that people are too afraid to have important discussions on issues that pose genuine societal challenges. It's obscene. It's cowardly. So don't be surprised when Bufoons like Trump rise to power. For all his inadequacies he dared to verbalize the concerns of a silent majority. He tapped into genuine threads of concern and successfully ripped the liberal elite a proverbial new one. If Clinton had been more courageous, and less risk adverse I do not think the world would have found itself in this ridiculous situation. We truly have created a monster, and we've only ourselves to blame. We need to have these difficult and awkward discussions about race and gender and religion. We need to push back against this climate of politically correct non thinking. We need to be confrontational. Confrontational in the right way. And if a few insensitive little flowers become perturbed during the process then I don't care. They can go do one. Perhaps they could spend a little time reflecting on their own fragility, their own glass egos. Or to put it plainly, they could simply grow a pair. If, upon reading this you are offended, then I'd like you to know that I'm entirely indifferent to your indignation. Your soft underbelly isn't my problem. I'm not here to appease you, or to give you a safe space.
The world isn't a safe space. And thank God it isn't. It's a seething swarm of risks and threats, and to lack the balls to confront this simply makes the problem worse. Grow up, look outward. Or just get out of my way.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

10 Years On

It is almost 10 years since I abandoned religious belief. The time since has been a story of intellectual recovery, of reviewing much of what I previously held to be true about reality. I can honestly say that despite the loss of several close friendships, I do not regret taking the hard road rather than the easy one. I have been on a journey, a voyage of the mind and I have visited realms previously alien to me. I consider myself a freethinker, an atheist, and remain critical of the value of religious belief. I genuinely hold that it hinders more than helps, stultifies more than it advances, and I worry that it continues to hold humanity captive to notions and modes of behaviour that we should have jettisoned a long time ago. Take morality for example. Morality isn’t complicated in its basic form. If you want to lead a moral life then you need do little more than seek to minimise harm. Seek not to harm others, and see how far that gets you. You’ll be surprised. Religion, I put to you, is good for absolutely nothing. The central claims of all religions are largely nonsensical and disproving the pitiful claims of Islam or Christianity is trivially easy. Better instead to stand with a free mind and appraise this remarkable vista we call existence. Taste it, reflect upon it, be open to the myriad experiences this life offers you. Don’t be held captive by turgid ancient ideology, but plough your own furrow and live a life of experiment and open mindedness. Belief in God is absurd. It is pure Monty Python. Other than making the concept of death more palatable I really cannot for the life of me see what it brings. The amount of time people commit to it continues to leave me open mouthed. And if you want to tell me that sans religion we would have no basis to be good, then I suggest that holding such view says something quite unpleasant about you. I don’t think for a second that the average believer would go on a rampage if they woke up tomorrow faithless. They would probably continue to live broadly similar lives, and if they did suddenly undertake a Viking style rampage of raping and pillaging then I’d have to suspect that they were only reigning it in to begin with. Oh to be sure I am more blunt these days. I don’t suffer fools. And nor do I extend one iota of respect to the kindly majority whom want to believe that Jesus or the Prophet are the only way to true goodness. Plain silliness, people. Use reason as your primary arbiter, as this will help you assess your impulses. I worry that we continue to give such respect to religious belief, and that we continue to give these binary and ancient ideas such credibility. We could jettison the whole religious shit show and we would still have every capacity to build upon the values that have evolved through the course of our ancestral journey. We are better than religion. Better than our tiny Gods. Better than the stupid rituals and dictates and bronze age infantilism. Humanity needs to grow up and grow out of such lowly, anti rational thinking. We can do better. We can be more. We owe it to ourselves to do so.

Monday, 3 October 2016

A Girl And Her Donut

Not a euphemism, by the way. The following is a true story of a little encounter I had a couple of days ago. I was sat next to a young girl when somebody else placed several bags of donuts on the table to her left. Her eyes flashed with desire, and she commented on the smell. I assumed she was referring to the food rather than any unsavoury odour I was permeating, so I enquired as to whether she intended to partake?
"Oh no!" She exclaimed, "I'm going on holiday in November."
Please note that it was October 1st. Showing uncharacteristic restraint I resisted encouraging her to seek medical advice. But let's be honest if it takes your metabolism that long to break down a jam donut then clearly something isn't working as it should. Being the true gentleman I am I scoffed one right beside her, licking my lips and slobbering like Jimmy Saville in a deserted mortuary. I also did my best to lead her astray but must confess to singularly failing in this project. I have to hand it to the girl; she'd got self control. Beyond the comic value of this episode I did find myself contemplating what such vanity says about someone? But then is it vanity? Could she simply be a reflection of the disproportionate value we place on physical appearance these days? If yes then how sad. How tragic that we have reduced ourselves to this. One day this fresh faced young thing will have wrinkles, cellulite, and sagging in all kinds of unwanted places. I can't help but wonder if she's making a rod for her own back. But then perhaps I'm just jealous? Perhaps this flagging arthritic 45 year old secretly yearns for his younger, more finally tuned days. . .
Actually no. I don't want to turn back the clock. Physical afflictions aside I like who I am. I'm way past any desire to fit some pre ordained mould, and if it's all the same to you I shall plod on in my own weary, occasionally cynical way. I'm unconcerned how this world perceives me, and my hope for our donut phobic fair maiden is that she reaches a similar equilibrium. I hope she comes to recognise that being good is far less fun than being real.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Pinocchio Index

The Washington Post has something called the Pinocchio Index, a means by which the truthfulness or falsity of any given claim can be measured. It goes from 1 to 4. Donald Trump has a lot of 4's. This blog isn't about him because he's a wanker, but it is about whether we, as individuals, are actually interested in truth. By truth I refer to measurable and falsifiable facts, not religious truths, which are self evidently made up. The way social media works is often an impediment to getting to the heart of a thing, and it's all my fault. And yours. Well everybody's. We tend to gravitate towards the opinions we want to hear, the one's that reinforce our own biases. That's human nature, but it is also not great for truth seeking. Back when I was a Christian, I read loads of Christian books and listened to loads of Christian speakers and surrounded myself with lots of Christian friends. I loved my life and the people around me and it all kind of made sense. I was pressing all the buttons to hear the messages I already wanted to hear, and in so doing got caught up in a perpetual feedback loop of ignorance. Now ignorance isn't a crime, and I remain ignorant about a vast ocean of things. But the difference between now and then is that my pursuit of truth is done, as much as I can, without stacking the deck before hand. Now there is a German saying that refers to "Finding the hair in the soup", which is to refer to the kind of person who always tries to seek the negative. This isn't me either. I don't set out to be negative, but I'm not interested in what makes me feel good, or secure, or better able to cope, either. I'm just interested in what is true. In where the facts lead. I try to remain emotionally neutral as I do this. Which isn't always easy. Case in point, I'm awaiting confirmation that a have a degenerative condition which, in all probability, is going to require some lifestyle modification. Of the two hundred variants of arthritis on the market I strongly suspect that I'm host to one of its more enthusiastic brands. But I don't know for sure. I'm waiting on the evidence. So whilst I do that I don't see much point in trying to fill the gaps. The facts aren't in, and it is the facts that I am interested in. So to wind things up, I'm a big fan of being open to new information. Of living in an evidence based manner. Perhaps this is why I'm so hostile to the priest's and the imams of the world who claim to know things that they cannot possibly know. The get straight 4's on the Pinocchio Index in my book.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Just A Woman?

The title could be perceived as insulting if the motivation for choosing it is not explained. So explain I shall. Just the other day my older sister used this quote to describe a social situation she had found herself in. The very words bothered me straight off the bat; their implication being that she accepted herself as somehow less. I told her to cut that shit out. I told her she didn't get to play that card anymore. Now please do not misunderstand me. I know in the battle for equality we still have a way to go, but for a woman to self define in such negative terms is hardly going to move the project forward. I think it is so important that the prevailing mood music continues to change, and my particular gender has a massive part to play in this. I respect and admire the female gender, in many ways more so than I do my own. I see the contribution made to the planet by women and it seems overwhelmingly positive. Compare this with the erosion and destruction wrought by men, and it only adds to the urgent need to speed up the global trend of female empowerment. Parents need to be instiling in their daughters that they are powerhouses, forces to be reckoned with. And we need to be teaching our sons that they must have the deepest respect for the females in their lives. Mutual respect breeds mutual empowerment. Now of course I understand that individual relationship dynamics may differ; lets face it and acknowledge that there is usually a dominant partner within a relationship. Coup!es have to be free to choose how their respective dynamics work, but that's a separate issue from the wider panorama. I'm just saying that a society that cherishes women, that releases them to reach the highest personal altitude is going to be a better society for all. If I was going to venture one critique towards my fellow denizens with the two X chromosomes, it would be that you could sometimes be braver when it comes to expressing expectations and enforcing standards. A cursory glance at my Facebook feed will regularly contain the tearful complaints of women wronged, women who's partners have walked away, or failed them. All too often I read updates that evoke the victim mentality, and I quietly wonder whether these women have allowed themselves to be dictated to? Or just plain disrespected? I think ladies that you need to own that shit and take it upon yourself to impose yourselves more. You can be both feminine and powerful; in fact you might actually find that you become more beguiling to a smarter breed of partner. If you keep adopting the same behaviours you're going to be getting the same outcomes. Understand this. More than that, learn to harness and focus your own strengths. Don't be a victim. And don't adopt a victim mentality. To me that's plain self harm.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Beguiling

Can you see it? Can you perceive it? No image has effected me as much as this one for a very long time. Look at how they relate to each other. The eye contact, the acceptance, the inate way one perceives the other. As I appraise them the first word that comes to me is fortress. Their relationship is a stronghold, a bastion, a lighthouse facing an immense ocean. Beneath those lines, those etchings of timeless experience is something strong. Something deep and enduring. In their gaze I see victory, experience, deep knowledge and connection. More than that it inspires me, makes me dare to dream that a day may come in the deep distance when I can share such a glance with my Joy. What must it feel like to reach such an age having weathered life's slings and arrows? Emerging connected, bound, effectively a single organism comprising two parts. I do not fear death, but the men in my family are not particularly long lived. As such I may not be privileged enough to enter deep old age with my faculties intact. God forbid, I've spent most of this year coming to terms with the limitations of my own body. I'm struggling, to be quite honest, and there's some repairs needed to the hull. As Christopher Hitchins observed, it is only when it rebels against you that one learns that you don't so much as have a body, but rather that you are a body. Still, a man can dare to hope, can't he? And my hope is that Joy and I move into our vintage with a sustained desire to create and innovate when it comes to our relationship. We're good at discovering new elements within each other, and we're not afraid to step outside convention when we know it will make us richer. Isn't it the case that in any relationship the goal should be to seek to become the truest versions of ourselves? To shed the fear and hesitancy? To dare to be vulnerable?
As a man, being vulnerable before my lady hasn't always come naturally to me, yet when I do the rewards outweigh the risks so massively as to render trepidation sheer folly. Joy knows things about me that give her tremendous power, and I've had to trust her with this. But trust is the lifeblood of any relationship isn't it? Is it even possible to sustain a relationship without it? I don't see how? But as always I digress. When you finish reading this just look at that old couple again. They were young once, with appetites and inner conflicts and all the rest. Can you sense how far they've come? Can you comprehend the epic, sweeping scope of such a journey? I'm awestruck. I'm captivated. The image has seized me by the collar and it keeps drawing me in. And here's the thing; the more I look the more vibrant it becomes. Its sheer humanity compels me towards seeking to emulate it. At least to try. See the warmth, sense the enduring connection. And dare to dream.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Koran And Fireman Sam

Seriously! Apparently the producers of Fireman Sam have offended the religion of peace by showing an episode during which a character appears to step on a page of the Koran. This has apparently caused "offence" in some circles, and has led to the episode itself being pulled from the schedules along with suitably groveling apologies ventured. Do you know what offends me? Jet aircraft being flown into skyscrapers. Trucks being driven through crowds. Mass shootings. Executions of innocent clergy members. Those things offend me deeply. By way of contrast, if our beloved firefighter was captured on film slipping on a copy of Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, as an atheist I would take no offence. I would likely chuckle. Not so some adherents of the religion of peace, which incidentally continues to tread all over modern culture like a child that has trodden in dog shit. You see, denying a woman basic human rights is seemingly ok, as is murdering homosexuals whom dare to live out their true natures. But tread on their comic book, or speak of it with anything other than deference and the consequences can be startling. You can rest assured the production company in question will currently be undergoing various safety briefings, and the Metropolitan police have probably already attended to give appropriate safety advice. That we have allowed the vapid ideology of Islam to have such an automatic respect in modern culture is astonishing to me, as is how we pander and bow the knee all in the idea of not offending certain sensibilities. Now here's the thing; not all ideas are created equal. Not all ideas are worthy of respect. And I happen to think its high time we actually stood up to this creeping erosion of our personal liberty. Dear Muslims, please believe as you see fit and cherish those beliefs if that is what inspires you. But do not seek to impose your ideology on those who want no part of it. And if you really want respect then a good start would be to develop markedly thicker skin, and quit playing the religious hurt feelings card. It makes you look like a schoolchild scowling in the playground, bottom lip protruding and pony tails flapping in the breeze. Let's just say its not an impressive sight.