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Discordians don't join groups


I attended the protests at St Paul's last weekend, after blogging about the meeting held to organise it the week before.

As I've said previously, I have a lot of sympathy with rage directed towards the financial system. I think probably most people do. Here's an earlier entry which touches on my personal views regarding lending money with interest. However, I'm unsure I like the tone of a lot of the protesters. They seem naive and more than a little half witted. Perhaps this is just down to the nature of big groups of people. There's not much you can do if someone sticks up a sign telling everyone what you, as a member of the crowd, advocate.

I wandered about talking to people for quite some time on Sunday night having already done a radio show where I think it probably came across that I had no sympathy whatsoever for them. The truth of the matter is slightly more complex. I am both supporting and criticising them.

I disagree that "Capitalism IS Crisis" or that "The People Are Too Big To Fail" or even that they are "The 99%". However, I agree that it's beyond mad that we bailed out the banks with our own money so they could then refuse to lend us it back. That's clearly insane. Furthermore I agree that politicians need to take more responsibility for such decisions. It's no good just looking at us forlornly and acting as if there was no alternative course of action.

Finally, and without reservation, it's good to see people doing something which expresses the entirely fair anger most people feel about the situation. Banks have one job: look after our money. That's it. They failed. Not us.



NM

Occupy the London stock exchange

The #ows (occupy wall street) meme has arrived in London. I know this because yesterday I was part of an "amorphous horizontal non-hierarchical collective" having a "mutually beneficial shared discourse" about how we can really "sort those f*ckers out". It was a bit of fun.

The 'occupy the London stock exchange general meeting' was on Westminster bridge during the "block the bridge" protest designed to highlight a Government bill which critics say is aimed at selling off parts of the NHS. As a result there were about 800 or so mostly NHS employees all stood on Westminster Bridge chanting earnestly "Whose NHS? Our NHS". On either side of them were rows of police with nightsticks looking ready for a bit of hippy bashing if necessary...


I'd read on twitter that there was to be a meeting there, to organise the occupation which will take place on Saturday the 15th of October, Paternoster Square London. At first the people involved were a bit tricky to locate amongst this big crowd of leftys, despite someone handing out leaflets advertising the occupation itself. I took a leaflet off someone wearing an anonymous mask and got the impression he didn't realise there was a meeting about it going on there at all. He was too busy telling me "we are all anonymous, everyone here". Frankly, people like that get right up my nose. You're wearing a mask, get over yourself, I don't want to join your silly cult*.

We eventually located them by their chant: "We are the 99%, we are the 99%!". At core this is the idea which lies behind both the 'occupy wall street' campaign and now the forthcoming situation in London. It's not clear if this has always been the case but as the movement gathers pace it has slowly found a voice. The history of the wall street occuptation is more a story of inarticulate rage directed at the financial system. The protest there was organised by an advert in a leftwing magazine. The people who posted that advert are influenced by the French situationists in that their aim was only really to give people a "situation" which would act as a lightning rod for those who want "change". What that "change" is comes once the metaphorical snowball has begun rolling.

By the time we arrived where this meeting was, within the crowd, they'd divided up into groups. The intent was to talk about "society and how we should move forward," explained a nice middle class bloke who was very friendly and keen to help us fit in. There were three sets of hand signals the groups were using: "jazz hands, limp wrists and crossed arms". The first meant you agreed with the speaker and the other two seemed to mean you didn't or were not sure.


We sat down under a banner (you tube clip above) and listened to lots of student types talking mostly utter b*ll*cks.

Once that was over people fed their thoughts back to the main group using a megaphone and the "human mic" technique where the crowd repeats the sentences uttered by the speaker. This provided a reference to the original protests where the human mic technique was used out of necessity because the wall street protestors were not allowed megaphones or amplification devices**.

I can't pretend I'm not excited about the forthcoming occupation. I'm not saying I support it but I am very sympathetic to inarticulate rage directed at the financial system. I am reminded of the famous chinese curse which runs "may you live in interesting times".

NM


Previous blog entries which might be interesting and relate to this:

Rule by Terror revolution in France and the human rights act.

The Awakening.

*Years ago I used to post on the forum 4chan. Anonymous, the idea, formed there. It's very influenced by, Discordianism, but I doubt the self rightious moralist who was wearing a mask and trying to impress me with his imagined mystique knows that.

**Human mic technique in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8Q73yjRVhE

Beware the poiticians and their celebrity friends who want you to "blame the media".

According to some people "the media" has either caused or magnified every problem in this country. I've heard it blamed for the obesity epidemic, the rise in anoerexia, the war in Iraq, the strong anti war sentiment in the UK, the rise of political correctness, the fact people rubbish political correctness, etc, etc, etc. In fact I honestly can't think of a problem our nation faces which hasn't at some point or other had some chuff bumble on about how they "blame the media".

This culture of blame is damaging to those who indulge in it and feeds the power of the people who it is intended to attack. Think of the final scene in, The Wizard Of Oz. "The media" is, at its worst, the machine which distracts Dorothy and her friends. When used by the likes of politicians or big business it allows them, the real villains, to hide behind a curtain of confusion. Furthermore once your focus is upon that machine, there's an all powerful version of these characters being projected at you which will frighten anyone but Toto the dog. Thus the media is here, at worst, a distraction made more powerful by your attention. However, that is not the full picture and those who think it is have merely been successfully distracted. If you remember the story, the dog pulls aside the magician's curtain to reveal the truth. What is Toto the dog here, if not a fearless newshound who sniffs out the truth?

This is the inherent problem with blaming "the media" as a collective. It conflates a massive group of people who do not have the same agenda or act as one on any issue. It ignores the benefits of a free press, which without question we have in this country. It pretends that those who speak about the expenses scandal, the WMD scandal and even the phone hacking scandal found out about such things by virtue of their own ingenuity. They didn't, they heard about it through "the media".

However, and here's the bit many people do not seem to understand, although Toto the dog and the Wizard of Oz's media machine are not the same thing you cannot have one without the other. Why? Because no one wants to watch Toto the dog being worthy all the time. He's boring. That big machine over there in the corner of the room is proper cool man, look at it! There's smoke coming off it and stuff, it's ace. The fact it gets an audience means it can make money and it also means when Toto runs over to it, they're looking in the right direction and give a toss about his "scoop".

This brings me to the "phone hacking scandal" which has, without question, not gone away. There's an article about it in this morning's Telegraph. It's being pushed by incredibly powerful people who are frankly sick of Toto the dog. They're trying to make you think they're attacking The Wizard's all powerful celebrity machine but only an idiot (or a celebrity) would buy that. In fact that machine is so big and profitable you can easily slice a few bits off it and throw them to the baying crowd without much worry.

In this vein they brought you the head of, The News Of The World, to help frame the debate in their favour. The crowd cheered this spectacle in much the same way as they might have first greeted the guillotine during the French revolution. Like those crowds, who got a thrill watching the "great and the good" of France meet a grizly end, those who parrot the mantra of "I blame the media" are also driven on by jealousy, I suspect. Celebrity culture and jealousy walk hand in hand. The lungs of those who "blame the media" usually belong to bitter and disgruntled media studies students, unfamous wannabies and tarnished celebrities. Those of them with the sense to realise what has happened will find their cheers ring hollow later on, I think, when Toto gets a taste and the inevitable consequence of "blaming the media" asserts itself.

How about this mantra, it's one that is far more fruitful but weirdly less fashionable: I blame the politicians?

Make no mistake, the real criminals in all of this are WITHOUT QUESTION the politicians who right now are rolling out their guillotines. They want to licence journalists. This is a dreadful idea. We are told it is designed to make journalists more 'trustworthy'. Ask yourself this, from whose perspective? Trustworthy from the perspective of those behind the curtain, the poiticians. I say you should NEVER trust a politician. Allowing them to choose who you can trust is equally absurd. The public already licence their journalists, thank you very much. We CHOOSE to pay attention to them or not. Our attention gives them a licence to communicate with us. If they lose it their licence is revoked.

Some politicians do not understand this because they think people are so stupid that they're actually controlled by the media. The media machine pays lip service to this idea because it gives them access to real power. Power which is granted to them by people who are at core incredibly vain and arrogant. Politics has been described as 'showbusiness for ugly people' and the truth is that a flattering media profile or two can make them appear from a distance to be less repulsive than they actually are.

I'll leave the final word to, John Kampfner, the Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, as reported by "the media":

“If we look over the past decade – from Iraq, to the behaviour of bankers - journalists have found out too little about those with power because of our restrictive libel and privacy laws. Journalism is too weak, not too strong.”

Quote from The Telegraph article linked to.

"Life is but a dream"

"As sunlight obscures the stars by day so does wakefullness blind us to the fact that we are still dreaming."

- Liber Kaos, Peter J Carroll.

Everything you have ever experienced had to pass from the outside world to your internal one. The body acts as an instrument through which reality must pass if it is to become part of someone's life experience. The brain is the final part of the filtration process and more than anything else it ignores information sent to it. Right now, in order to focus, you will be excluding more than you are taking in and if this blog entry has your full attention it will necessarily be at the expense of other things. Just as you hear someone speaking in a pub by ignoring background noise, reality can only be ordered from the chaos of the universe if your mind can negate what it believes is irrelevant.

Dreams are just a combination of your memory and imagination. While sleeping your brain has a chance to invent fantastic narratives by ignoring almost all sense data and letting both memory and imagination run wild. However, while awake, you still need both facilities to decode the world around you. On the one hand your comprehension of these words is built upon the memory of their previous meanings. On the other, that which is either lost by my poor communication skills or your lack of understanding or attention will be necessarily explained by an imagination. The combination of both factors allows these words to fit into and become part of a personal mythology which only you can really control.

This blog entry now rests inside your mind where everything you've ever known has been, part of a waking dream in a mind which is not my own.

Personally speaking I find it useful to sometimes consider that I do not in fact "know" anything at all. I simply dream.

PREVIOUS ENTRY ABOUT PETER J CARROLL
THE ABOVE IS VERY INFLUENCED BY BOTH HIM AND ANOTHER WRITER CALLED ROBERT ANTON WILSON.

Rule by terror, revolution in France and the human rights act.

My fascination with The French Revolution began a few months ago. It's evident in this blog entry here. It's a period of history I know about only thanks to the internet, wikipedia and YouTube. I strongly suggest you look into it.

I'm still digesting the details but it's amazing to me how much of the world we currently live in is unlocked by only a surface knowledge of this historical period. It helps to explain conspiracy theorists and their views about occultism a bit. It reveals what is really going on with this debate between us and Europe regarding the "yuman rights act," which was clearly, in my opinion now, a declaration of revolutionary intent. It helps explain why the media is always at its best when it attacks authority without mercy. It shows you where the internet might lead us, as I wrote about in the linked to blog entry. In fact, there's very little it doesn't throw new light upon. The detail regarding it was mostly new to me but each piece of it set off a new thought process in my mind.

Firstly, here's an excellent introduction, breathlessly told by an exciting sound track and an enthusiastic American voice over:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EvakM9Waus


Secondly, a slightly more analytical walk through made by the BBC. Although that sounds like this is the therefore better of the two I suggest you go with the above first if you're like me and knew nothing about this era of history.

http://youtu.be/9Ef_43oW7Qg

What's wrong with Global Warming?

Although it might sound otherwise I don't disbelieve in man made global warming. However, I don't believe in it either. On this one I'm prepared to admit my ignorance. One thing which does make me a little inclined to think that the case for it might be flawed is the fact that the noxious stench of politicians has become inextricably woven into the mix. Their odd solution to the problem seems to be something of an empty meal, with "more taxes" and crappy lightbulbs being top of the menu. Another thing which makes me doubt the scientific consensus is the fact it's a menu that seems to chiefly consist of porkie pies. The latest is detailed in The Guardian here.

The outline of the story is approximately this, The Times Atlas recently launched in a blaze of publicity claiming to show proof of the evil influence of humans on Greenland. 15% of the ice cover has been destroyed since 1999! How terrifying. Better get those carbon taxes sorted before the next election. Then, oops a daisy, pesky facts go and trip the bandwagon up a bit. Turns out glaciologists say that although the ice cover is melting it's nowhere near the 'misleading' 15% rate represented by the Times Atlas cartographers. And so there we are, yet another bandwagon thunders off course with EVEN the Guardian being forced to cover the embarrasing story.

Science is supposed to be about facts. This thing surely either is or is not happening. Not so. Welcome the the world of "post normal science". There is a branch of science where it is argued that scientists can and should go where the data does not. From wikipedia:

Detractors of post-normal science, conversely, see it as a method of trying to argue for a given set of actions despite a lack of evidence for them, and as a method of trying to stifle opposing voices calling for caution by accusing them of hidden biases. Many consider post-normal science an attempt to ignore proper scientific methods in an attempt to substitute inferior methodology in service of political goals.

An article for The Telegraph about it is here.

Makes you wonder eh?

Earlier article on Global War and Global Warming

Occultism/Discordianism

One of the consequences of going on Facebook quite a lot at the moment is that listeners have been asking me questions. The most common one is about my "religion" Discordianism. I'm a bit confused by this as previously (despite often mentioning it) people didn't seem to be that interested in what is sort of a joke religion. I mention it less on LBC 97.3 but get asked about it more ... there's something about human psychology in that I think.

Anyway, it's a big topic and not all of it makes much sense. This blog entry is for those who are interested. If you post a comment/question at the bottom I'll try and answer it.

--

Occultism literally means, hidden from view. Ocular, meaning roughly your eyes, as in "binoculars". This means occultism is in fact the study of things which are not currently understood. Conspiracy theorists often think it means the study of things which have been deliberately covered up, I'd argue that was profoundly wrong these days. That's only really a description which applies to occultism as it was during the time when not being a Christian seriously harmed your life prospects. Around the 60's-70's the need for secrecy largely vanished and is, in my opinion, only maintained by some who get a kick out of 'understanding' things that others haven't really thought about. There's also a certain allure to pretending you know a secret which I think some self styled occult gurus clearly indulge in. The truth is this, good occultists don't claim to "know" anything. They're guessing. Furthermore a good Discordian doesn't claim to "believe".

I have written about it numerous times in this blog, here are my more popular articles on the subject:

Aleister Crowley - This article is the biggie. It gets all the readers and is now linked to by various other people.

Blame Alan Moore - This is the better article I think, it gets less attention these days.


My Polytheism Defence
- This is an example of how occultism applies to my day to day life with surprising consequences.

Then this entry provides you with a short conclusion.

Hope that helps.

NM

Staring blankly at my own Facebook

I've done pretty well in resisting Facebook. It's only recently that I've been drawn into its sticky web. I have two accounts, one for people I know in real life and another for my radio show stuff. There's a very blurred line that sepearates the two. I'm not sure how long I'm going to keep either of them going. I don't think it's a website that's good for me.

My life's pretty medicore in terms of socialising and travel. In fact I do very little that could be described as 'cool'. I watch daytime telly, play on my 'puter, read a lot of books and every Thursday I go to a pub quiz. That's it. All my life I've had a weird nagging suspicion that I wasn't normal in this respect and that everyone else is having an amazing time, all the time. Facebook seems to give me photographic proof that this suspicion is not just typical insecure paranoia but is in fact true. Judging by a flick through Facebook it seems most of the people I know spend all their time at parties or on holiday doing amazing things.

I'm not much of a pictures person. Amature photographs generally depress me. They make the world look so ordinary. Furthermore I'm of the opinion that you can't go right with a picture of yourself. It's either going to look good and therefore depress you with the passage of time or it'll look bad and depress you in the here and now. Despite this I got drawn into looking at people's pictures this morning. I had a bit of time to kill in the office. I had no idea what an overall downer the experience would be.

It left me feeling boring, ordinary and nosy. Is that the sort of thing other people feel when they log onto Facebook? Am I doing something wrong? I'm puzzled by the appeal of it. Someone once told me it was "all about the pictures". Maybe that's why I'm just not really "getting it".

I've tried commenting on things as well. I like that a bit more but the site seems to lack the depth of twitter. Most of it seems to be incredibly inconsequential and inane. Pages and pages of "polite chatter". The sort of conversations I loathe in real life.

I must be doing something wrong.

Why do people like that website?

Taxi drivers are ace...

Recently I was sat in a taxi and as usual I got drawn into a conversation. This particular driver had a very strong Indian accent. He was sort of rambling away to himself about the immorality of the city. It was hard to make out what he said but there was one part which I either misheard or was perhaps one of the most poetic turns of phrase I've heard in a while:

"Some of these women, they are there, with their drugs. They speak like no one would ever be speaking to you. Oh! It is awful. They have a debasement of language. They soil the English language. They make it so as after you have heard them you want that no more you will have a conversation again. With anyone. That is how bad they are."

I think he was talking about prostitutes. It was hard to be sure if he meant prostitutes or just some of the tourists you get from abroad in the back of his cab. What struck me was the idea that in his mind it was possible to have a conversation that was so bad it would put you off ever speaking to anyone, ever again! What a fantastic insult!

I've said it before, I'll say it again, no matter where you are in the UK, taxi drivers are ace!

PREVIOUS POST ABOUT TAXI DRIVERS.

Ask me anything about sharks and Nazis.

I love watching documentaries. Ricky Gervais in his awesome first stand up set practically outlined the life many blokes in the digital TV age have ended up living. Flicking between the different documentary channels:

Ask me anything about sharks and Nazis. Not as bad as a lot of people make out, actually. Sharks I mean, not Nazis. Sharks, brilliant. Nazis, rubbish.

My two favourite series at the moment are "How The Universe Works" and "Elegance and Decadence". Both go well with the sound system pumped up in the background. The former features massive planets colliding with each other alongside an epic sound ambient soundtrack. The latter has a pretty groovy rock soundscape to it.

Anyway, during my time in documentary world I've noticed certain cliches popping up from time to time. Here's some of the ones I've noticed alongside others suggested by the Margerrison twitterarti ...

HISTORY DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #1

"They were very much the, ah, Posh and Becks, of the period," person saying it pulls face a bit or rolls their eyes...

HISTORY DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #2

"Back then they didn't have 'email' or 'blackberrys'," said with a bit of a sneer.

NATURE DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #1

"And that's right, these lovely creatures are all going to die, because of you and your greed".

HISTORY DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #3

"This period was one of dramatic change, it was a little like the 60's, sort of," cue rock music montage.

POP MUSIC DOCUMENTARY ABOUT A DEAD ROCKSTAR CLICHE #1

"In many ways they looked to be on the verge of an artistic comeback".

SCIENCE DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #1

"Weighs as much as whales" By @MargoJMilne

SCIENCE DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #2

"...is as tall as of double decker buses". @KeithTrue

NATURE DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #2

"An area size of Wales deforrested every X weeks." @odaviesnh

SCIENCE DOCUMENTARY CLICHE #3

"Until one man in [insert place] had an idea" @simmoski

"Who's upset you this time Alan?"

"I don't fink enuff people realise how clever Einstein's ideas are actually, really. I mean it's just so amazing how good his mind was. Like E=MC2 that just changed everything right, see," says the bloke opposite me to a woman who has just been talking about Shakespeare to him. She explained to him that she likes Shakespeare because she's an actress and as part of her job she researches the era in which he lived whenever she does one of his plays. Apparently, much to my irritation, she incorrectly thought he lived in Victorian times. I think they were sort of chatting each other up but her love of Shakespeare has really put his nose out of joint so now he's explaining why he likes Einstien and why that's better than "all that art farty stuff right?".

"The thing is right, it's like, what it means is, it's like, if you were to smoke loads of cigarettes right ...?"

He's revealing to her and everyone else on the train that he knows nothing about Einstein's famous equation. I don't either but I'm confident I know more than him. I'm also one hundred percent sure that it didn't involve an experiement where an aeroplane went at "exactly the speed of light and when the people got off right, they were all older because of that, so it's like time travel is possible but only slightly."

I don't know why his ignorance is annoying me so much. I'm fighting the urge to say "it's got something to do with energy being equal to light and motion, that's what it's about you idiot, it's not a fair comparison with Shakespeare because you've misunderstood the word 'genius'".

"The thing is though, he doesn't really get as much credit for his ideas," he says and she finishes off his sentence with "well, Shakespeare's more relatable I guess".

"And, about time travel, Shakespeare predicted that in one of his plays," she announces. "It's like this quote about how time changes but stays the same".

Fortunately the woman's stop has arrived and she's off.

How old do you imagine these two were?

I'd say they looked like they were touching 40 at least!

NM

The Awakening

I'm sure you've heard the comparison made between the internet and the printing press. It's one which sticks because it's so damn accurate. So, with that in mind, if the past provides an approximate roadmap of the future you can be in no doubt that we're about to be in for a very interesting ride.

"What gunpowder did for war the printing press has done for the mind."
- Wendell Phillips, abolitionist and orator, 1811AD-1884AD

The Enlightenment (18th Century, sometimes called "The Age of Reason")is looked back upon as an age of almost unbridled intellectual development and progress. It is largely seen to have been powered by the existence of the printing press which allowed mass communication on a scale previously impossible to imagine. It also made the free flow of information and accurate exchange of scientific discoveries possible like never before. Sound familliar?

This ability to spread and build upon useful information helped to cause the exagerration of something known in esoteric circles as, The Jumping Jesus Phenomenon:

"Our psychic universe is expanding even more rapidly than the physical universe. Let us define the measurement of known scientific facts in the year 1 A.D. as "one jesus," using the name of the celebrated philosopher born that year.

Before going any further, let us ask how long it took to arrive at one jesus. One way of estimating is to take the estimated age of homo sapiens, in which case it took 40,000 to 100,000 years.

How long did it take to double this accumulation of knowledge, to achieve two jesuses? It required 1500 years - until 1500 A.D. How long did it take to double again and obtain four jesuses? It required 250 years, and we had four jesuses in our larder by 1750.

The next doubling took 150 years, and by 1900 A.D. humanity had eight jesuses in our information account. The next doubling took 50 years, and by 1950 we had 16 jesuses. The next, ten years, and by 1960 we had 32 jesuses. The next doubling took seven years, and by 1967 we had 64 jesuses. And the next doubling took 6 years; by 1973 we have 128 jesuses.

There is no reason to imagine that the acceleration has stopped. Thus, we almost certainly reached 256 j around 1978-79 and 512 j in 1982.

In short, we are living in a mental transformation space; that is, an omnidimensional halo expanding toward infinity in all directions. And the electronic center of this halo of mentation is possibly everywhere. It is all available to you right where you are sitting now. Just plug in a terminal. The machine doesn't care who or what you are."
-Robert Anton Wilson

The point is this; our technology is advancing now at speeds we can't measure effectively anymore. These massive upsurges in the technology of communication usually mean our intellectual abilities should be about due another massive boost. However, the New Age of Enlightenment will be different from the first in that last time what happened was essentially an elite cultural movement in the minds of a small group of European intellectuals. This time round, the modern mental equivalent of what happened to them in the 18th century, may well be about to take place in the consciousness of a worldwide audience.

To put this into context, at the start of Louis XV's reign it was thought that The King's touch could cure diseases such as scrofula. This was because The King of France was put there by God in accordance with The Divine Right Of Kings. By the end of, The Enlightenment, his son was being put to death as a common criminal. That's quite a dramatic turnaround and frankly a huge change in how people saw the world.

Imagine something like that happening to you in your lifetime. A core belief, which is so obvious to you it's taken for granted, being totally reversed and turned upon its head. It's almost impossible to think what ideas it might be without feeling a little silly but if you've agreed with this article so far that's what it looks like we're collectively heading for.

"Do we presently live in an enlightened age?" the answer is, "No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment."

-Immanuel Kant ("What Is Enlightenment?" 1784)

The thing about living in the wake of The Enlightenment, particularly if you happened to be French, is that it was pretty bloody and violent. I suspect that many of the changes on the way will seem awful at the time. My recent experiences in the riots were pretty scary, both reporting on and getting caught up in them. They were an event which seemed to almost take the internet and mass communication for granted. I personally believe that the way people reacted to them are an early expression of the double edged power that technology has given us. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not under the impression that they were caused by the net, just of the opinion that it acted like a magnifying glass on the already hot rays of a summer sun.

This medium acts as a non-specific amplifier able to squeeze every last drop of psychic energy out of even the most inconsequential of moments. A panda sneezing, a boy getting his finger bitten, a mad comedian being all racist. It's no surprise that grievences both legitimate and otherwise can find an audience online and bubble over into acts of violence. It's also no surprise that hysteria moves through it like an electric current as people brag about the free stuff they got the previous night.

During the time of the French revolution there was a character called, Jean-Paul Marat, who used the new media opportunities provided by the printing press to stir up revolutionaries and attack people in power. Nowadays characters like him probably spit their bile into blogs and YouTube videos and are, as we speak, busy plotting world domination.

There's something quite exciting about all this. I think it's the smell of inevitable change.

There's something Great about America...

I've had a big head change as regards America. It's very strange but I felt it again in my thinking today regarding this absurd battle between the Archbishop Of Canterbury and our PM. I'd always thought that there was a clear 'seperation between church and state' in this country but of course that turn of phrase is not ours. It comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson back in 1802:
"..I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State".

Compare that to the UK where we still have unelected Bishops sitting in the House Of Lords! The so called, Lords Spiritual and you'll see which nation Nick The Atheist agrees with. The idea of splitting the Church away from The Government may have its roots in England but, as with most of the things I admire about the culture I've emerged from, it has only ever really been done properly in America.

The penny really dropped during two big recent events: the Royal Wedding and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The latter which filled me with a sense of almost unreserved admiration for a great nation and the former only provided a deep sense of detachment from a people who appeared to be mindless zombies driven by raw unquestioning patriotism celebrating something which did not benefit them at all.

My views are becoming unfashionable and I am in this respect out of step with the broad consensus of my nation. Here it is the norm to hate the "stupid" Yanks. It has been for a long time and is almost a form of dogma. There's even a presumption among Royalists that American fascination with the Royal Wedding was proof our system is better! I suspect they watched it in the same way we might watch a documentary about the quaint customs of a tribe in the Amazonian jungle who have drifted culturally in a 'different direction' and still worship fire.

This blog post is my attempt to push you, a fellow Brit, into the realms of unpopular thought. Beware, these opinions will confuse those around you.

Firstly it's important to clarify that, like many of their citizens, I'm not blind to the often damaging effects of the realities of American foreign policy. Self awareness is key to my argument and it's one of the reasons I admire that nation. The term "military industrial complex" was coined as a prescient warning by one of their own, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his "farewell address". You'll often hear critics of the nation use it, apparently unaware of this. Anti-war sentiment played a huge part in the electoral success of President Obama. To think Americans love war as much as the big companies who sometimes pull its Government's strings is absurd. Mechanised mass murder isn't popular anywhere in the world. Just as the war in Iraq wasn't here.

To me though it's the ideas which America represents which are more important than the reality. The death of Osama Bin Laden represented the death of an evil man. He qualified as such not because of the identity given to him at birth but instead the one which he earned for himself in life. His actions and deeds defined him in the minds of Americans. On the other hand their birthplace defined them in his twisted brain. He hated them because they were born in America, that was more than enough for him. It didn't matter what they did with their lives, they would always be defined by their birthright. So we have two contrasting mindsets which, in my opinion, the Royal Family's state sponsored knees up falls down clearly onto the wrong side of.

"All men are created equal," Thomas Jefferson's still radical phrase from the Declaration of Independence is a direct attack on this idea of defining someone by birthright. A refusal to accept the so called "Divine Right of Kings". It is clearly not believed, understood or accepted in my country. Some seem to make the mistake of thinking that this idea is the same as the significantly less nuanced feeling that 'everybody is equal'. On the surface this seems just as good, if not better. However, give it a moment's thought: should people all be treated equally when their behaviour marks them out for a unique response? Should, for example, child murderer, Ian Huntley, be treated by society as you would a scientist who discovers a cure for cancer? Of course not. Should the workshy and hardworking members of society be paid in equal measure? Some think so, I do not*.

The Americans in Times Square were celebrating the death of a man who opposed their idea that "all men are created equal". The English in London (and around the UK) were, whether they knew it or not, celebrating the exact opposite of that. Furthermore, the Americans looked across the pond at us and did so with respect for our quaint traditions and way of life. Many of us looked at them while holding our noses with contempt at their "stupidity" and gullibility.

Perhaps this is partly down to the recent rise of conspiracy theory in the UK. Conspiracy theorists like to think they look behind the veil of what is going on in the world by not believing the "official story". It's a very American idea. It has been allowed to incubate over there so much because of their commitment to the notion of "freedom of speech". Again, something which we started here but do not have any firm commitment to. Certainly it's not enshrined in our law. I'm not saying I'd want to burn a Koran but if I did want to express myself like that I'd have to go over to the US to do so, otherwise I might face prosecution. In the US their commitment to "freedom of speech" is like ours to the Queen, quasi religious.

Yeah, but what about slavery? They had all that bad racism in the US, the UK wins there right?

Well, I'm not so sure. As I said before what I love about the US is their self awareness, their ability to change direction and correct things when they feel they've done wrong. They did abolish slavery and their policies of racial segregation when they realised the error of their ways and now, like him or not, a black man is their President. Not likely to happen in the UK any time soon.

In truth, our mindset would have plodded on with segregation I think. Just as we have with the Royal Family. There's no intent to change here in the UK, we've become stagnant. Clinging to past glories. "Ooh, lets put the Great back into Great Britain," people parrot to each other as my mind shouts back: "OH JUST F--- OFF!".

Yeah but what about their policy on gun control? Michael Moore made that film and it proves what idiots they all are, with their guns.

I used to think their gun policy was absurd. Then someone from America explained it to me thus:
having a gun is a sign that the Government trusts the people to behave as citizens rather than slaves. A nobleman carried a sword. A peasant was not allowed one. The peasants might revolt, a nobleman will only do so if his cause is just. In short, an armed populace provides a final defence against tyranny.

I remember 2001, it proved to me that America is not superman and can be wounded. Things change - America might not always be a world power. That won't concern the Royals. They can do business with China just as easily as they can the Americans. Perhaps their Kingdom will be more adapted to fit that style of Government, when the economic tide turns. It concerns me that if that happens those who come after us will stuggle to find anyone of any note who thinks they were created equal. It also worries me that no one will be allowed to to voice that concern and their last defence against tyranny will have gone.

NM

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*Meh, actually that's a tricker question than I make out in this blog entry. I used to think people should all be paid the same for the work they do. However these days I'm swayed by an economist friend of mine who pointed out that incentives to not work and penalties for those who do generate the remarkably predictable consequence of putting people off working altogether. That said, the huge distance financially between the rich and poor in the UK is absurd. I'm still at heart a bit of a lefty and I can't swallow the full pill of rampant capitalism. Meh, maybe reform of the banking system is where it's at?

I'd forgotten how good Oasis were

I'm currently wedged deep into a massive Oasis period. I had my podcasts blazin' away on iTunes as I was conquering the world on Civ4. Next thing I know on comes some random tune I'd not heard in ages. I was using the iTunes DJ thingy which, when you run out of preselected audio, picks something at random from your library. I didn't know what it was at first but I instantly thought it was good.

Then Liam started singing the opening words "How many special people change..." and I recognised it as Champagne Supernova. What a crackin' tune!

That was about a month ago and I am now considering getting some form of psychological help.

I've consumed loads of YouTube videos, listened to the first two albums back to back and have even tried to listen to their newer stuff. Some of it's actually alright. Even the infamously bad album Be Here Now is partly alright. It's just badly produced. Listen to the acoustic version of its opening track on YouTube and you'll know what I mean.

Oasis were not my generation's Beatles. If you were determined to put that crown on someone it'd have to be Blur, they were far more musically creative. Oasis are my generation's Rolling Stones. Just as The Stones took old blues riffs and re-worked them Oasis plundered old glam rock tunes and Coca Cola adverts. However, in step with the intellectual "post-modern" culture of the 90's they went further in admitting their influences. The most amusing instance being the piano opener on "Don't Look Back in Anger". There's no need for it, it's clearly exactly the same as John Lennon's Imagine and it's obviously been stuck on as a little afterthought. A sort of in-joke, a musical wink. Like I said, they're quintiessentially postmodern.

See what I mean? I need help! I'm loving Oasis music without any sign of an end in sight.

Link to the acoustic version of D'You Know What I Mean

Definition of postmoderism for any readers who didn't waste three years mucking about at University doing English and European Literature.

The Royal Wedding vs Celebrity Culture

Years ago my ancestors will have been confronted with the following drama. As they picked turnips and slop up from the fields of the North of England, or wherever it was they lived, some bloke from The London will have rode up on horseback and demanded money in tribute to his mighty mate. The penalty for not meeting his demands will have been death on the end of this psycopath's sword. "He's already killed Dave," one of the villagers will have warned breathlessly, "he reckons we've got to give him tribute or some guy called King will burn the village down".

Terrified villagers will have in the main relented and those that didn't would have gained a fascinating insight into pain.

Over time this arrangement will has turned into "taxes" instead of tribute and the concept of "some guy called King" will have evolved into a Royal family. The world in which we live has many events like this propping it up.

You, unless you are bloodline royalty, will have ancestors with similar experiences. Doesn't matter where they were from in the UK that's what, approximately, will have happened. Some people have ignored this obvious fact regarding the institution of Monarchy and over time come to love their servitude. These people are called Royalists.

From what I can work out there are two kinds of thinking Royalist. One lot who believe it's a conduit for nationalism and another lot who think they might get something in return at some point.

Firstly, as regards nationalism, if a monarch is intrinsic to our national character then no one ever informed me. Ever. I grew up in this country. I've hardly ever left it. If we didn't have a Queen I reckon we'd still be living in England.

Secondly, with regard to attempting to curry favour, I often wonder if people with access to the media have an OBE in the back of their mind when they support the monarch.

Let me make myself clear: without reservation the oncoming spectre of a royal wedding does nothing other than turn my stomach.

I'm therefore heartened to read a story in The Daily Mail which reacts with a level of horror at the news "We’d rather watch X Factor! Schoolchildren are more excited by reality TV than the Royal Wedding".

"The Royal Wedding may be just six weeks away - but most British schoolchildren would prefer to watch the X Factor, according to [...] Chris Rojek, Professor of Sociology at Brunel University [...]

Professor Rojek says that school-age children do not view the Royals as exciting as their chart-topping favourite acts, as he told the Daily Mail: ‘Getting to be famous by being born into the right bed, like Prince William, is now seen as somewhat dubious, in a way that it wasn’t at the time of Princess Diana and Charles’ wedding."

The tone of the article is (possibly intentionally) amusing but speaks to something I've always argued in the past: reality TV "stars" are actually more worthy of respect than the Royal Family.

Unlike The Royals they've had to make an effort for their fame. Unlike The Royals they are there because they're liked. Unlike the Royals if you ignore them they will go away. And finally, most importantly, unlike the Royals they do not demand tribute from you every month.

Here are a few of the counter arguments to my stance which I've come across:

They're good for tourism and earn more money than we pay in.


RESPONSE: Great, lets stop funding them and allow the institution to become self sufficient.

Who would you replace them with, the likes of Tony Blair?


RESPONSE: Yes, because at least he got voted out. Years from now as 'king Charles takes to the throne Blair will be an unpleasant memory. However, 'king Charles will never get voted out. He'll die in that job regardless of how well or badly he performs.

It's tradition.

RESPONSE So was burning Catholics, denying women the vote, serfdom, jokes about the Irish, etc etc etc.

In the unlikely event that you are a monarchist I'd be interested to hear any other arguments in their favour. Pop them in the comments section. Post anonymously if you like.

Further reading:

Royal wedding could be damp squib for tourism, says official

Visit Britain research chief warns that evidence from previous events points to visitors steering clear of UK around 29 April

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