Google+ A Tangled Rope: 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Poem: How to Begin

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.



How to Begin



There are ways of beginning.

Take a handful of nothing

and breathe a living breath

all over it, as you shape

and create a new meaning.



There are ways of beginning.

Take her hand in yours and walk

slowly through your young lives

along the beaches and dark streets

creating a new meaning.



There are ways of beginning.

Take a paintbrush in your hand

and all the colours of a lifetime

across bare paper or canvas

to create a new meaning.



There are ways of beginning.

Put your hand on her stomach

and feel the kicking moment

take hold of its own life

to create a new meaning.



There are ways of beginning.

Take a handful of these words

and scatter them across the page

to turn a story into living

and create a new meaning.



There are ways of beginning.

Take a small hand in yours

then crouch down to see

how big this strange world can seem

as it creates a new meaning.



There are ways of beginning.

shape a note from silence

and let it fly on the open air

to echo around this stillness

while it creates a new meaning.



There are ways of beginning.

pause at the school gates

as your child walks on, away,

not looking back, but forward

to creating her own new meaning.





Friday, June 27, 2008

From The Archive: Feminine Mystique

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).

Feminine Mystique - 04/04/05

New States(wo)man cover story.


This bit:

Whenever there is any announcement concerning the family, a woman is fielded; it would be unthinkable to have a minister for women who was actually a man. This is rooted in the idea that matters of policy concerning women can be addressed only by people who have a born understanding of what it is to be a woman. But what issues are actually specific to women?

Seems to be at odds with this bit:

If Westminster is overwhelmingly male, that is a problem, because it is bald under-representation, and nothing to do with men caterwauling at one another.

If there is nothing unique or 'special' about a women's point of view - and to me it seems 'sexist' to say that there is - then why is 'representation' necessary?


As a househusband of around twenty-years standing, it never occurred to me to worry about the under-representation of fathers at the playgroups and nurseries I took our children to, neither did I worry that the lack of males made the places 'over-feminine.'


If - as the sensible of us know - there are no really important differences between the sexes apart from the difference itself, then why does the over-preponderance of one in one particular place matter?


If a male MP - for example - dismisses something as 'only a women's matter' then that is because he is stupid, not because he is male (just because the two are, so often, linked doesn't make stupidity an exclusively male trait either). As we have seen women MPs are no better or worse than males.


All of which means that this comparable numbers between the sexes shibboleth is - like having the 'correct racial mix' in places of employment, etc - is all about perception - how it looks to outsiders - rather than of intrinsic worth.


True equality between the sexes, races, shoe-sizes, hair-colours and each and every one of the real and perceived differences between people will only come about when such juggling of numbers to achieve some - entirely aesthetic - 'balance' is seen for the tokenistic nonsense it is.


Complete Control

Here are two threads on the BBC’s Have Your Say. Firstly on Gordon Brown’s 1st year record, and secondly on the Civitas report on over-zealous child protection laws, which lead to situations like this.


There is a connection between the two because Gordon Brown is almost the personification of why (New) Labour has failed yet again, and the child protection laws are a good example of this failure. It starts off in good intentions, the government trying to rectify certain social situations; in this case, trying to make sure that children do not become victims of abuse, which we – as parents – of course naturally fear.


However, the left’s solution to problems is always a top-down bureaucratic approach, where the government intervenes whenever it detects any kind of problem. Back in the 1970s we saw the – to say the least – difficulties which this approach caused in the economic sphere. It took a long time for the UK to recover from the various disasters caused by this approach, and caused a lot of pain and problems, which – maybe – could have been avoided.


Labour did learn, however, a few lessons from this debacle and its long period out of power due to its complete lack of economic credibility. ‘New’ Labour’s claimed adoption of non-leftwing economic policies was probably one of the reasons why they got back into power. Even though, once in power, they reverted to many of their old bad economic-centralisation habits when Gordon fell out with Prudence.


Left-wing, socialism, liberal* (call it what you will), of course grew out of the post WWII situation to become the current conventional wisdom and dominant ideology in government, the universities, the law industry, education, the health and social services and elsewhere, remaining relatively untouched even by Thatcherism. It has grown, mostly – but not exclusively – in power and influence through the public sector, and it is voters from here, not the traditional working class, which now provide the Labour party with most of its support. It is a place, a constituency, where Brown feels at home.


Gordon Brown, though, has been the main instigator of Labour’s social policy which is still based around this idea that the government knows best and should – must – intervene to make sure that society always moves in the right direction, towards what they conceive of as ‘social justice’. This fits in with what we know of Brown’s almost pathological need to micro-manage everything, which is why it is possible to see Brown as the personification of Labour’s inherent bureaucratic hyper-managerialism, which verges on – and sometimes teeters over into - the dictatorial.


Because what Labour claims to stand for – social justice, fairness, equality are all fairly un-contentiously ‘good things’, people are often lulled into giving them from either wholehearted support right through to the benefit of the doubt. At least, people feel, their hearts are in the wrong place, especially compared to the ‘nasty’ Tory party, which are still seen as the party of the privileged, the toffs and the hang ‘em and flog ‘em brigade of swivel-eyed loons. But, such promises cannot be fulfilled by Labour without this recourse to heavy-handed, draconian legislation that is – at best – ineffective, counter-productive, intrusive and resulting in many unforeseen consequences. This authoritarianism is not an accident, unfortunate by-product or a matter of temporary expediency that will wither away once socialist utopia is reached, if anything it can only get more authoritarian, more intrusive, more dictatorial as the number of unforeseen consequences, cock-ups and all the other failings such schemes are heir to come about.


That too is why Brown now seems to be ineffectively flailing about as the whole edifice he - mainly Рcreated starts to now tumble down about his ears. He is the horror-film clich̩ mad scientist who is destroyed in his own laboratory by the very monster he created.



*although, not liberal at all in the original sense of liberal, which is – coincidentally - about where I would place myself - more or less - on the political spectrum.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Discrimination

Consider the following:


  1. A Boris Johnson aid fired because of alleged ‘racist’ remarks, which were not so.
  2. Complaints about a Heinz Mayonnaise ad for ‘gay’ kiss that wasn’t, and the response of gay pressure groups.
  3. Some new government laws on discrimination. The BBC report later says:

But it means, for example, women or people from minorities could be hired ahead of others in order to create a more balanced workforce.

Some employers argue they already do this, while others may say these policies will need careful handling to reduce the risk of causing resentment amongst existing staff.


Contemporary conventional wisdom assumes that discrimination is – of necessity – a bad thing and therefore when people insist on discriminating then the only option is to create laws to end that discrimination. Of course, the biggest problem is that people can be endlessly discriminating, and quite good at spotting where they themselves are unfairly discriminated against. So, once you start creating such laws there will never be an end to them.


But what such laws do is define people into groups: blacks, Asians, gays, women, one-legged underwater pole-vaulters and so on, each group becoming a victim group, creating a victim culture where each group attempts to outbid all other groups for the available resources. This means that often self-appointed spokespeople for these victim groups use such laws to self-promote themselves and their own pet projects and concerns, sometimes at the expense of the very groups they purport to represent. This division of society into competing groups exacerbates the group mentality (us and them) thus inevitably increasing tensions between competing groups who feel the other groups are getting benefits, attention, etc that they are not. Other groups demand such things as anti-hate speech laws for themselves, i.e. religions demanding hate-speech protection and the recent invention of ‘Islamophobia’.


Not only that these laws bring no end of unintended consequences with them, such as firms avoiding employing women of a childbearing age because of the cost of maternity leave, and other such costs placed upon businesses by such legislation.


The law should not be used attempt to control attitudes and behaviour as a form of social engineering. In the case of a job the only discrimination that should matter is the ability to do the job and that should be solely at the discretion of those doing the hiring – subject, of course, to any professional requirements necessary for the job.


It should also be up to any business, club or whatever to decide who they want as customers, members or whatever. If they are stupid about it and ban people for arbitrary reasons, then it will be their loss.


Making discrimination illegal doesn’t stop people from being prejudiced; it just forces them to hide their true feelings. It would be better if such discrimination could be allowed to be openly displayed, so that the rest of us can ignore, shun and deride those – quite frankly – stupid enough to judge people by their race, sexuality, sex or whatever.


Another unintended consequence seems to be that such laws help perpetuate the attitudes they are attempting to combat because people see such things resulting in tokenism and other forms of reverse discrimination. Reverse discrimination is, of course, just as bad as the discrimination it attempts to combat by being just as unfair but to a different subset of people.


Forcing people together – women into a formerly all-male environment, other ethnicities into a former homogeneous area or so on, creates tension, resentment and exacerbates minor differences into major stumbling-blocks. These things can only happen slowly over time which allows people to gradually adapt to each other. Nowadays, there isn’t any trouble between Saxons and Normans, but it took a long time for that to come about. In most parts of the country -apart from a few notorious exceptions – there is little or no conflict between Protestants and Catholics.


Such laws lead inevitably to politically-correct thought control with people masking their true feelings, which leads to hidden tensions and prejudices. It also gives succour to the delusions and fantasies of racists and similar unreflectively prejudiced people by exacerbating differences – real or not real – between these mostly artificial groupings, and any advantage perceived to reward a particular group is seized upon and used as evidence by such bigots. The same happens in reverse with – often – self-proclaimed spokespeople for minority groups claiming and manipulating the slightest of ‘incidents’ as evidence of widespread - and sometimes even the mythical ‘institutional’ - prejudice.

Quite simply, such social engineering does not work and we end of with situations like this.


So adding even more of these laws is bound to make the situation worse, leading to even more legal cases brought by disgruntled workers, or putative workers, more time lost for businesses, many more small businesses being hamstrung by even more red-tape.


In an ideal world, we would look towards a Conservative government to come along and repeal such nonsense, but the Tories are terrified of how Labour would spin this as the nasty party having it in for women, gays, ethnic minorities and so forth. So it is unlikely that once laws like this get on the statute book, that any government would have the courage to remove them, leaving everyone to have to step gingerly on through this legal minefield, instead of getting on with their jobs and lives.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Writing Life

Kit Reed on why we writers have no time to get around to doing any actual writing these days:


The Internet does not necessarily make us dumber, but it does split concentration. Can I really write as well as I did before I started checking Facebook friends' updates or Googling or skimming blogs instead of staring out the window when I get stuck? It's too soon to tell. I just can't blog about it. I have a novel to write.


There is some truth in it I think. I’ve just spent a few days setting up a Facebook page, a Myspace page and a Live space page, none of which I’m entirely happy with yet. So I will have to spend more time on getting them working correctly and keeping them going, instead of doing any real worthwhile writing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Edge Of Things

I saw her over there. She was the person who stood alone at the edge of things: Alone, but not lonely. She looked as though she didn't need anyone. Everyone could see it and everybody knew.



Even the arrogant ones with the leather coats and shining hair knew she would spurn them. Even the confident ones knew they would not be able to reach her. She was beyond all of them, and they knew it.



They knew too that she would be the one to decide. That she would only bridge the gap between them and her. It was a chasm they would never have the courage to jump, but she, she could step across it at any time, at the moment of her own choosing.



I turned away, left the party behind me. I walked out into the garden. The music became a dull thudding in the background. The noise of the party flowed like the muted roar of a busy sea heard from a high cliff top.



I looked up at the stars. I did not turn when I heard someone approach from behind. She spoke, and then I turned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Poem: Refugee

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.



Refugee



Loose hands fall by her sides.

She stands, expecting nothing,

except more of this world's pain

to fall on her narrowed shoulders.



Defeated by the weight of a life

of enduring, unending,

lacking in all the promises

that princesses always disdain.



She has a world only to survive,

only to live through, to endure,

while we walk in through spring green

and hear only promise in the birdsong.





Saturday, June 21, 2008

Come, Let Us Ignore Him

A quote from Stephen Law’s blog article The Meaning of Life:

Personally, I'd find it pretty dreadful to discover my purpose is endlessly to adore, worship and obey someone that designed me - be it an alien or God. Certainly, the discovery wouldn't make me feel that my life was now more meaningful. If anything, it'd make me feel it was now rather less meaningful.


This reminds me of the when I decided I didn’t believe in God – if I had believed before, which I’m not certain about. Anyway, I was six years old and we had just come back to school after the Christmas holiday. Sometime during one of those first few days they decided to teach us about Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus fleeing Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents (2:16).


My immediate thought was that if I had been a baby boy at the time, then I would have been slaughtered too. My next thought was that how could a God -which we are told love us all - allow something like that to happen? My third and last thought on that matter was that this meant that either this God did not exist, or that such a cruel and heartless God who would allow this slaughter of children was not worth worshipping.


So that’s when I stopped believing, and as the cruel and heartless god didn’t strike me down for being an unbeliever I could therefore only presume ‘He’ did not exist. I have come across nothing in the 40-odd intervening years that has even come close to convincing me I was mistaken. In fact, the more I live, learn, and explore this subject, the more I’m convinced that I was right then and am still right now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

From The Archive: Lies, Damn Lies and Vote for Me

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).


Lies, Damn Lies and Vote for Me - 01/04/05


From Open Democracy (30 - 03 – 2005) (may need registration), this could be the best article about the impending election, and the official campaigns haven't even started yet.

I think that one of the biggest turnoffs from politics for us ordinary folk is how politics through the fault of politicians, their minions and the media have reduced political debate to this petty playground bickering:


My spending cut is bigger than yours!

No, it isn't!

Yes, it is, and my Home Secretary is a control freak! So there - with knobs on!


And anyone who dares utter a single original syllable, or shows that they may have a single free brain cell of their own that is not under direct control from central office, is immediately hounded from the party like some free-thinking heretic, or some small boy who dares to point out the Emperor's sartorial inadequacy.


I used to watch Question Time, at one time, many years ago. I gave it all up when I realised I could recite that particular party's mantra on the subject under discussion almost word for word along with whatever subdivision of the party's hive mind that had been dispatched to appear on that evening's programme.


I remember - several years ago - in Interzone, the SF magazine, their TV reviewer (I forget his name, sorry) once saying that all TV programmes eventually tend towards Soap Opera. Now, with politics mostly a game played out on our TV screens, it too seems to be little more than a soap opera itself: Westminster-Enders, CoronaDowning Street. A place where what Gordon thinks about Tony, or what Howard said when Michael's back was turned, or Charlie's drinking problem, Peter's money troubles, John's affair with Edwina and so on and so forth are all pored over endlessly like the particularly fascinating entrails of a recently-slaughtered chicken, while the rest of the stuff, mere trivia like the fate of this and other nations, our freedom, our duties, crime, disorder, Ikea's world-domination and the price of fish are all ignored, or glossed-over.


Now, more than ever, we need to heed the words of one of the 20th centuries greatest philosophers - Don't vote, it only encourages them - Billy Connolly.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Police & Thieves

There’s an article on crime and public perception of it at The Grauniad’s CiF, by Ian Loader, who thinks we worry about nothing too serious, apparently:

There is, in fact, good evidence to the contrary - evidence that the majority of citizens go about their lives without being affected by or thinking about crime; that they feel ambivalent towards punishment;


The problem more so is that in almost everything we do, every moment of the day, seems to reinforce the idea that ‘out there’ there is a world of crime and disorder much worse than it ever used to be ‘back in the good old days’.


Burglar alarms on our houses, locks on our windows, bolts on our doors. CCTV cameras on the streets we walk down, police in stab-proof vests and in pairs, police helicopters overhead through the day and night, car alarms, immobilisers, removable in-car entertainments systems, ‘don’t leave your valuables on display, lock all the doors when stopped at the traffic lights, bouncers on the doors of ordinary pubs, kids so scared they carry knives and guns, security guards in shops with shop-lifting detectors on the doors, and so on and on and on.


Yet I am only 48 and I can remember a time when there was none of this stuff, at all. Pubs, shops, car-makers, the police, the armed kids and us ordinary folk would not go through all this hassle and expense if we didn’t think there was any reason for it, would we? That is why people’s ‘perception’ of crime seems to be so high, despite whatever dubious statistics are produced to say otherwise. We all feel that yes, there MUST be something happening out there, something new and something no-one seems to be facing up to, otherwise why would we feel as though we are the ones living inside some high-security prison every moment of our lives.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Notes and Comments: 18/06/2008

NOTES:

A splendid article by Simon Jenkins at The Grauniad showing just why the politicians are right to ignore the way the electorate seem intent on buggering about with the politician’s already decided courses of action.

We all know schemes like the government’s ID card nonsense will not work. Cory Doctorow explains one of the reasons why.

The problem of sifting through vast amounts of data was highlighted by the US 9/11 Commission, which concluded that the American intelligence community knew in advance that the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were in the offing, they just didn't know they knew it. The pieces were all there for anyone who knew to look for them, needles buried in a haystack of irrelevancies.

The answer in both America and Britain has been to collect more haystacks: useless, indiscriminately acquired information on
people who've done nothing to arouse suspicion. We even inveigle our citizens to become amateur curtain-twitchers and pecksniffs, demanding that they report "suspicious" activity to the authorities.

COMMENTS:

God-botherers and other people’s sexuality – yet again.

My comment:

I don't really know which is the more ridiculous the whole idea of a god, or the notion that it is any of any one else's business what people (over the age of consent and of their own free will) do with their genitals.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Notes and Comments: 17/06/2008

NOTES:

Professor Christie Davies at The Social Affairs Unit blog has an excellent article, which argues that:

the pressure to prosecute the customers of prostitutes is yet another stupid suggestion - yet the ideological thinking on which it is based has been central to many other policies

The rather good and always interesting Burning Our Money on the great failure of international aid.

A Very British Dude with some interesting comments on the David Davis thing and all that surrounds it.

COMMENTS:

Polly in The Grauniad says: ‘Labour in the 60s and 70s is best celebrated now as a liberal champion of freedoms and equalities.’

My comment:

Nope, Labour of the 60s & 70s will be remembered for demonstrating that bureaucratic central control of the economy was a complete and utter failure.

The New Laborg collective will be remembered for demonstrating that bureaucratic central control of society was a complete and utter failure.

Terrence Blacker in The Indy on those spurious PR surveys, ‘academic theories’ and so forth that get in the way of the real news.

My comment:

Ah, yes and how do we - the great unwashed - come to learn of these shallowly-disguised blurbs for books, spurious bits of PR dressed up as research and all the other attention-seeking bits of flummery?

From the media, of course, ever-desperate for something to fill the ever-expanding bits between the real news will grab at anything a lazy journalist can fill the space with, rather than going out looking for the real news. And from columnists eager to find anything they can spin out into the necessary few thousand words that will give them their column for the day.


Justice Should Be Seen To Be Done

David Howarth at The Grauniad’s CiF seems to think there is something wrong with the public humiliation of criminals.

My comment:

Just hang on a moment. Have you ever wondered why most people do not commit crimes? For most of them, the middle-classes and what used to be called the respectable working class, it is less a fear of being caught than a fear of ‘what the neighbour’s might think’. Fear of public shame is a very strong deterrent, especially in a tight community.

This is probably why punishments always used to be public and had a fair amount of humiliation – public shaming – as an element to them, such things as the stocks and so forth.

Not only was the miscreant punished it was also a chance for the wider society to show their disapproval of the criminal’s actions. It also clearly demonstrated to the rest of the society what would happen to them if they overstepped the mark too.

There is that oft-quoted remark by Lord Hewart: “…is of fundamental importance, that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

That this should also apply to the punishment of the offender, not only to the court proceedings, seems to be an important point. A point which seems to have been lost over recent decades where prison and other forms of punishment have become – as in the case of Fletcher in Porridge – just an occupational hazard of being in the criminal classes, rather than a deeply shaming, humiliating and humbling experience that one ought to attempt to avoid repeating at all costs.


On Liberty

Excellent - and well-worth reading – article from Frank Fisher in The Grauniad at CiF on the David Davis stand and the MSM's failure to make sense of it.

My Comment:

It's funny you should mention the motoons business. I strongly agree with Davis and his stance, but I was thinking that the last time I got this worked up about events in the Westminster soap opera it was my sheer anger at Jack Straw’s craven cowardly surrender to the attempts at blackmail from the fundamentalists and their threats to our civil liberties over the Danish cartoons..

It seems that now the remnants of the Left philosophy – its social policies – have collapsed as badly as its economic ones did in the 70s we are left with only the battle between us freedom-lovers and the authoritarians. Whether anyone now calls themselves ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ no longer matters – if it has ever really done. What matters now is whether you support liberty or authoritarianism.

So maybe – just maybe – David Davis is starting a new – and real – and long overdue paradigm-shift in British politics and society back towards what we always hoped it would be.

As for the ineptness of the journalists I remember a long time ago the TV critic in the SF mag Interzone once saying that all TV programmes eventually become soap operas. It seems the same applies to the Westminster Village show too, and the journalists get so involved with the various plotlines of the show that they cannot understand it when something real rather than scripted happens there.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Poem: Downpour

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.



Downpour



The rain is always falling down so fast

as though we live so deep below, submerged

far underwater, never coming up

for air and seeing how blue sky can be.



We live beneath low roofs of cloud above,

our shoulders hunched and heavy heads bowed down

under the weight of far too many days

of life endured instead of living free.



We live with the cold knowledge that this life

will always still defeat our every move

no matter how we try to break away

into another brighter, better, world.