Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Happy Pascha!

I will be away for a fortnight, so probably won't be posting in a while. Thank you to everyone for commenting on my blog. I sometimes get the impression that the small number of people who leave messages are my only readers, but I encourage any lurkers to comment if they would like to contribute.


Let us pray for peace in the world and especially for the Muscovites at this time!

Friday, 26 March 2010

One Generation of Tlonists4: Liberalism: Back to the Future





I. Liberal Stance

I am a liberal. It’s painful to admit in this day when a liberal can mean someone who wants to sell children (Rothbard), a drivelling neo-liberal oaf (Timothy Garton Ash), someone who thinks it’s sexist to laugh at Sarah Palin for thinking Africa is a country (Bidisha) or someone who writes self-help disguised as political discourse (uh, practically every liberal journalist I can think of).

Yet I define myself as a liberal the way that I define the term liberal: someone who is sceptical of corporatism whilst appreciating the benefits of a capitalist society, someone who is sceptical of the government as a militaristic force whilst appreciating its role in creating infrastructure and protecting its citizens and someone who reveres religion as a spiritual force whilst disliking theocratic forms of government.

However, using this form of definition, very few ‘liberals’ are in any way liberal. In fact the chief characteristic of our dominant ideology ‘neo-liberalism’ is an open-mouthed awe of business combined with an open-mouthed awe of the big brother state and an ambiguous attitude towards religion: turning a blind eye to fundamentalists in Bosnia, 'Kosovo', Israel and the USA whilst being highly critical of Apostolic Christianity.

Yet who am I to deny that they are liberal?

II: Madness gone Politically Correct

One area where I disagree with the mainstream left/liberals is political correctness. It does exist. It is annoying. And we have to get rid of it if we want to live in a free country.

Ironically enough, two East European friends of this blog, Bogdan and Leos, would entirely agree with me, and are very careful to separate British culture of hospitality for immigrants from the brutal ideology of political correctness.

Don’t worry. I’m not one of those people who leaves comments under ‘Love thy Neighbour’ clips on youtube, saying that there is a barbaric leftist conspiracy to keep this work of Chekhovian brilliance from our TV screens (though admittedly I have come close to saying ‘I can’t be homophobic, I love Mr Humphries and Liberace’). Yet I do think leftists have to stop supporting measures like all-women shortlists, and using the state to force B&B owners and Churches to accommodate gays (whilst at the same time I think that the state should never discriminate against homosexuals and have signed Avaaz letters to this effect). Furthermore, I dislike the way that some on the blogosphere try to shut down debate on immigration by saying that this is racist. I do support large immigration, but this is not the same thing as uncontrolled, unregulated immigration which often affects the poorest people in Britain and the USA.

However, I would point out that political correctness (which I would define as calling someone bigoted based on inference) is far from being uniquely left-wing. The smearing of Israel’s critics as anti-Semitic is equally an example of political correctness. As is accusing people of ‘Anti-Americanism’ for not liking neo-cons.

The French generally do not have a ‘political correctness’ movement and their country is not only more robustly intellectual but it also has a stronger left-wing movement, which is currently giving Sarko a kick in the derriere.

Maybe this is partially a heritage from their 9th Century liberals, especially Alexis De Tocqueville who introduced a kind of liberalism that was founded in scepticism rather than awe for institutions. Modern liberalism has come to disguise awe as scepticism. We need unregulated corporations to protect us from the state. But we also need a surveillance state to protect us from terrorism.

III: Protests not Prozac

Another more institutionalised problem with modern liberalism is that it has become a branch of the self-help industry. Many liberals don’t raise awareness of issues due to genuine scepticism and concern, but because they want to see themselves in a positive light.

Subsequently they will beat their chests in agony at the fate of the third world and join in condemning anyone who stands up to the corporations and sweatshops. Just look at Te Graun’s coverage of Venezuela and Russia and The Independent’s coverage of Russia. Avaaz's blog wrote a disgraceful apologetic response to Saakashvilli's bombing his own people: some countries are too big and white to get much support from the human rights community.

Modern liberal third-worldism can roughly be defined thus: We want the third world to break free of Western exploitation, but don’t want ‘burgeoning dictators’ like Hugo Chavez to save them because some rich well-dressed cool people like us don’t like him so it wouldn’t give us such a great narcissistic hit. We’re waiting for the good fairy to come along and stop third-world exploitation. Until then we'll attack poor people for not wearing tailored clothes but garments made in sweatshops, using the phrase ‘high street fashion’ to imply they buy clothes in Primark because they think it’s so much cooler than M&S.

Subsequently whilst many people regard themselves as liberals, they are considerably less liberal in practice than they are in theory. It seems whenever the USA supports ‘humanitarian intervention’ a chunk of the left will always break off like ice from a melting glacier to praise the bombing of a foreign nation. Not because they have had some conversion experience, but precisely because supporting a military campaign provides an easy source of flattery that will satisfy their pre-existing narcissistic desire to be seen as 'muscular' defenders of liberty, bursting with 'moral courage'.

Another way in which this manifests itself is a curious attitude towards religion: Bosnians and Albanians can be as fanatical as they want (as can Israelis for many liberals). But Apostolic Christianity is attacked as backwards and 'right wing'.

This is most evident from how much of the modern left frames the abortion debate. I have not seen a single credible argument why an unborn child should not be regarded as a human being with full rights. Yet if you express these views, it is taken for granted this is a sign that you are 'right wing' and 'misogynist'. I don't think a lot of left-liberals realise how unpleasant the pro-abortion debate actually is in many countries. Roe v Wade was passed during Nixon's time and the Republicans have been in power almost constantly since then. Yet they tolerate abortion because most of the children aborted are (sotto voce) black. Similarly in Europe the argument is often put forward that crime is reduced by abortion. And let's not get started on the BNP's attitude as to who should and should not be born.

Yet this simplistic left/right liberalism has infected even Christianity in Britain. Just look at Ekklesia's coverage of the BNP. Does it mention that the BNP is diametrically opposed to Apostolic Christianity not just because racism is contradictory to the Bible but because the BNP take a Malthusian and bigoted approach to bio-ethics and support eugenics? Why, no. They are afraid that the BNP might try to make cause with pro-life groups and 'conservative' Christians. After all five (get that, FIVE) Reverends were on the BNP's member list.

Whilst this is a low number it probably seems gigantic to Ekklesia for a simple reason. Reverends are (sotto voce again) middle class, and surely that type have no place in the BNP which every smug liberal knows is about to be elected by tens of millions of working class voters?

That Malthus was himself an upper-middle-class theological liberal will probably not seem too ironic to them.

IV: What is to be Done

If Tlonists regard themselves as liberal then ironically enough the collapse of many ‘liberal’ newspapers is ironically great news. It is unfortunate that we cannot send torpedoes into the sinking wreck that is The Independent and laugh at those asking for a bail out (Indy journalist Johann Hari criticised Israel for praising ‘Vladimir Putin's approach to Chechnya in the 1990s. One third of the civilian population died’ and also thinks that the state should be subsidising him for writing this dishonest Russophobe drivel).

Instead we have to look forward to the internet and backwards towards great liberal writers such as Herzen and Tocqueville.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Columbo Blog2: Now You See Him




What's the best course of action if you're a Nazi war criminal seeking refuge from justice in the USA (if you don't have the qualifications to work for NASA that is)? If you're Stefan Muller the answer's pretty simple: cultivate a military haircut and moustache, strut around wearing a Tyrolean hat and go in for a career in showbusiness. But change your name to 'The Great Santini' to really throw them.

This seems to have worked for Muller, alias Santini the magician(Jack Cassidy in brilliant form) at the opening of this episode. However, he reckoned without sweaty, moneygrubbing git Mr Jerome, who blackmails him. Using the alibi of being trapped in a metal box, Santini throws the forces of law and order and murders Jerome. But Columbo has a few questions to ask.

This episode is one of the best, and by best I mean best Columbo. Sure, it's a bit camp, focmulaic and a lot of the magical tricks are pretty obvious. But as is often the case, the killer is humanised and the murder victim is an unsympathetic loser. Columbo fans could ask for nothing more.

And 'Now You See Him' is very good Columbo. The diminutive detective gets lots of cleverly worded insinuations 'I knew you could do it'/ 'no, we don't have a motive for you') and the ending is very cleverly staged. Columbo becomes certain of who the criminal is due to Santini's own ego (he can't resist demonstrating his genius for picking locks).

I'd give this a 10 on the Columbometre.

Imagine





Today I read two articles roughly themed on atheism.

First was ubercreep Ed West, quoted by David Lindsay, the second was by Rachel Holkner on an atheist convention in Melbourne.

Holkner’s article was the first I read, and gave me a gut reaction that I suppose was predictable. The atheists flew to Melbourne (situated in a country that is burning up), paid a high price for entrance fees (working classes need not apply) and listened to horror stories about people with religious upbringings and about how wonderful atheists are and a load of twaddle from Peter Singer about ethical differences in Christian charity and others.

That’s the rise. Declining birth rates, vast growth of Christianity in the third world, cultural stagnation of the secular West and the increasing role of religion in the West were all ignored.

It just annoys me that atheists speak with effortless moral superiority when it comes to secularism and religious tyranny. I find that secularists go from a false and deeply unscientific liberal hypothesis ‘all religion is stupid and evil, all religions are equally stupid and evil’ to fairly aggressive counter-reactions when this unscientific ‘rationalism’ isn’t vindicated.

Subsequently they tend to produce people like Geert Wilders or Pym Fortyn or the English Defence League when they find that some religions are more equally unpleasant to the atheist than other religions. Even the BNP has decided that some difrnt people are more difrtun than other difrunt people: Muslims namely.

The traditionally Christian areas of Yugoslavia were (and are) amongst the most secular regions of the world, but when Izetbegovic (who favoured a theocracy) and the Albanian terrorists launched a war against them, the overwhelmingly secular Serbs didn’t play nice.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I see no paradox in saying that I am very devout, have considered helping in a mission and that I am anti-religious in many ways. Protopresbyter John Romanides said that ‘religion is a disease and Orthodoxy is the cure’, a phrase that I often think of.

Now, atheists and the non-Orthodox could certainly take issue with that statement. But I feel that it is true: I don’t like ‘religion’ if it means theological tyrants ordering each other what to do, what to watch, what to eat, what to read, who to be friends with, who to marry, when to get on a high horse, when to feel superior, and what they think of scientific questions they aren’t qualified to answer*.

Eastern Orthodoxy very deeply contains the spirit of ‘he that would be first will be last and he that would be last will be first’; though dare I say some Evangelical converts don’t really get it. And of course, Eastern Orthodox Christians have close relationships with their spiritual fathers, but this does not involve the law or force. I am currently undertaking a vegan fast; no-one is forcing me to. My major disagreement with mainstream atheists concerns unborn children and my belief that abortion is deeply wrong. Yet it seems to me they never give logically or scientifically arguments against this.

It was in this tone that my mood shifted upon reading the second article: the theme of which was the greater fecundity of stupid people who belong to fanatical religions. Personally, I would rather that Richard Dawkins managed to populate the world with clones of himself than believe that there will be over 200,000,000 Mormons later in the century.

West does seem to be using some fairly dubious Mark Steyn style correlations to panic people. Determining numbers of evangelicals is also difficult based on their role in speeding up immigration applications (I remembered reading one article in which an evangelical organisation converted lots of Russians who immigrated to America and were never heard of again). Furthermore, secular Britain, France, Argentina, and Albania are far more fecund than devout Poland and Greece. In Latin America, population growth is largely unrelated to Church attendance. Iran is still a theocracy even though its birth rate has shrunk below replacement level. And finally, looking at history demonstrates how thankless projections are: Russia and France have both gone from having the highest to the lowest European birthrates (France apparently rebounding, and hopefully Russia is as well).

However, sadly, we Eastern Orthodox do seem to be plummeting in numbers. Many secular countries are also declining.

So, can’t atheists realise that they have common cause with secular religious people? Dare I even say that Apostolic Christianity could be supported by atheists in the future? After all, someone in the church may see them as closer to them than they feel they are from outside. Ironically enough, this happened in a sense previously.

Now all we hear about the USSR is that it was a cold dystopia full of broken machinery. Whilst it was certainly repressive and inhumane, we cannot forget that it was also a very advanced and well-educated nation. I think it is for this reason that despite its anti-religious measures, it treated Orthodox hierarchs with a degree of respect and patronage. I don’t think that the nation that put the first man into space could really have good relations with many faiths outside Apostolic Christianity.

Perhaps many of the more enlightened Russians may think that letting creationist fundamentalists proselytise in their country was a bad idea.

*Incidentally, with all my usual disclaimers against ID and creationism, where does the redneck population explosion fit into the whole Darwinian schema? The beautiful, educated Orthodox people of the Balkans are dying out and the beautiful, educated atheists of the Baltic are dying out but inbred fat thickoes in Utah and Mississippi are procreating like bunnies. Just asking? And whilst I'm generally an opponent of the NWO, I have attempted to read a book by Tim LaHaye (who's sold sover 40,000,000 copies) and if the NWO Mekons are really planning a compulsory sterilisation program for Red State Americans... well, I do sort of think we could come to some kind of a compromise on that one.

Monday, 15 March 2010

In Safe Hands




The Guardian now seems to be pretty openly backing David Cameron. Or as much as they can without alienating the remnant of their readership. First this. It is sad, in a sense, that it was up to Peter Hitchens to point out that reporting opinion polls is not neutral. The way that they are spinning the closing gap is a sign that they want people to vote Tory.

Then this. George Osborne has authored a column with 'leading US economist Jeffrey Sachs'.

Yes, that Jeffrey Sachs. The guy who oversaw the shock therapy in Russia. the guy who impoverished millions of Russians, created vast unemployment, saw Russian life expectancy collapse and infanticide increase vastly and turned Russia into an oligarchy with a plummeting GDP is a 'leading US economist', who is deigning to endorse the Tories' plans for the Brit economy.

Whilst an open society depends on freedom and expression of conflicting ideas, modern Britain has no real free media. Just numerous people who agree on practically everything. Gordon Brown did a lot to support the bankers and neo-cons, but he just simply isn't one of them. And they won't settle for anyone else. (Though I suppose, Gordy can have a chuckle at Guardian.co.uk for offering signed copies of Andrew 'Mr Nobody' Rawnsley's book of dubious gossip)

The excellent thriller writer Robert Harris wrote a book about a Prime Minister, based on Tony Blair, who turns out to be an American agent. Whilst I can't say what truth there could be in this, unless a Brit politician is so fanatically neo-liberal they could pass for an American spy, then they will not have any chance of election.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Misc





I

Is the liberal left dead? Well, it would certainly seem to be reading this article by Johann Hari in an essay that could be summarised as: I've been spitting the dummy out for almost a decade when it comes to the West's treatment of the Palestinians. Now it's time really spit the dummy out. I'm sure that the leaders will agree with me this time.

Which is all nonsense of course. By all means, write about the suffering of the Palestinians. It's a good cause. But please, let's not pretend that any leaders in the West actually care in the least bit or will do anything at all whatsoever to change things. I also love the high moral tone when saying that the Palestinians use 'unacceptable' measures targeting civilians. So they've been brutalised, shot at and herded into camps. But we comfy Western liberals must never resist the temptation to patronise them for being unsporting in fighting back. Also loved the sheer kitsch of 'It may make you see the ghost of your murderer even in your victims: Adolf Hitler in a Gazan child'. Uhm, no, that's obvious bullshit. Young men with guns in the Israeli army do to Gazans pretty much what young men with guns in the British army did to Northern Irish Catholics and young American men with guns did to Iraqis: treat them savagely. Maybe I'm detecting a pattern here, but it's not a pattern that liberal hawks are comfortable with.


I regard myself as liberal if that means being sceptical of the free market fanatics, statism and ideological fanaticism (either religious or secular). Yet I find that these are the very things modern liberalism is most tolerant of.

Liberalism seems to have turned into a branch of the self-help industry. I just wonder when they'll start saying 'it would be good if we found a cure for cancer'.

II

Interesting all this news about dangerous dogs. One whacky view I have for a Brit is that I'm entirely in support of handgun ownership. Yet most Brit politicians take the view that people aren't responsible enough to have guns.

Meanwhile savage dogs walk around with impunity. The message being that a carnivorous quadruped in a fur coat is credited with more powers of discretion as to who deserves a bit of GBH than an average Brit is?

Given our leaders, this may not seem totally ridiculous (at least there are no dogs calling for Georgian NATO membership) but in terms of rights and the state I've long found it interesting.

III

The 'news' has been churning out Tory propaganda. Modern Britain is such a fabulous country because even the children of African immigrants can feel at home in a party aimed at brutalising the poor, slashing cultural projects, helping the rich pay less tax and spilling blood for American hegemony. Horay for Britain!

Of course, te Graun has long been closer to Cameron than Brown and their coverage of the Tories today really shows how desperately they need a Tory win. This is yet more evidence of the failure of liberalism.

IV

The greatest tragedy to befall Haiti was that it wasn't run by a tyrant who killed and tortured thousands of people to impose neo-liberal reforms on the nation. After all, 'alternative Chile' where the Chileans weren't saved from their own irresponsibility by General Pinochet would be just like Hawaii, or worse. 80% of the population would have starved to death and the remainder would be living in straw huts.

You might ask how anyone could know that, but Conservatives just do know exactly what 'alternative Chile' would be like. Just look at the CIF commenter of the year pulling the rug from under Naomi Klein's feet.

Given that the very point of neo-liberalism is the 'thin edge of the wedge' 'the government starts by being nice then massacres people' arguments, I wouldn't have thought Pinochet would be such an enduring poster-boy for neo-liberals. Yet one cannot underestimate the appeal of a podgy uniformed generalissimo to the tax-bore mind.

V

Came across another Protestant Latino with a vaguely liberationist theology. Could it be the case that Protestantism will become a force for third-worldism against neo-liberalism? We'll see.

VI

I think he was initially employed as a token Tory, but neo-liberal crassness has moved so quickly in the past few years that Simon Jenkins is now to the left of Te Graun's centre. And his recent article is essential reading.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

One Generation of Tlonists2: The Labyrinth of Kronos




I: If I could Turn Back Time


I love the internet. Okay, I hate the minutes of my life I’ve irretrievably lost reading the idiotic threads at CiF. But I really like it for one thing: it gives me so much content and so few adverts.

Now, maybe advertising has moved on since I last watched TV/ listened to radio, but I couldn’t help noticing that there was a trend in adverts. A lot of them were based on the idea that if something’s crap and knows its crap then it’s good. It shows how sophisticated you are if you appreciate the irony of something being crap on purpose.

And that pretty much seems to be it, as far as Western culture goes: we have two major commodities. One is second hand debt, which Scotland and Greece possess in abundance. The other is that we have such a rich heritage of art and culture that the only way ahead is to make stuff that’s crap and cleverly knows it’s crap.

I chose the illustration above because I’ve got a warped mind and it illustrates the ravages of time and because Saturn was the Roman counterpart of Greek Kronos which gives us the word for ‘time’. However, Goya’s paintings illustrate my points. One of the most ‘ingenious’ artworks of recent times was the Chapman brothers’ astoundingly clever idea to deface Goya prints and add silly faces to them. The idea being that their installation was crap and knew it was crap and was therefore very, very good.

Don’t ask me how many thousands of pounds they got for that. Some people would say that buying something that's intentionally crap just makes you look stupid, but they would be stuffy oafs with no idea of innovation.

A literary counterpart is modernism where a text is ‘good’ purely because another text exists.


II: A new refutation of time

So, my friends, we Westerners are up the proverbial creek. So, what is to be done? Should we come up with a new theory of time that would be no more or less logical but less intuitive than our own concept of linear time?

I’m not a mathematician and (being honest) not much of a philosopher. But if this idea would stop people admiring Quentin Tarantino for being derivative, then I can see the beauty of it.

Furthermore, I can’t help noticing that being a ‘goodie’ these days opens you to accusations of being trite, because people have been acting like a-holes for so long that we’ve ran out of fresh things to say. For example just listen to the longsuffering sneering way that right wingers say ‘yes, yes, we know: one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. It’s absolutely correct. And it’s trite because they keep calling people ‘terrorists’ for not having the technological capacity to kill civilians by accident.

Yet, the sad thing is, that it probably works.

III: In Search of Lost Time

Where I live, there are derelict yet beautiful buildings that were created in the 19th Century based on Bronze Age designs. Yet these are falling apart whilst metal and concrete cubes spring up to host public works.

I find this very unfortunate, yet the idea is that we can no longer have ornate buildings because it is old fashioned and so we have to pretend that because ‘modern architecture’ is new that it isn’t ugly.

What can we do about this ‘logic’? Should we have to invent increasingly intricate reasons why beautiful buildings are beautiful? Or should we just reinvent time?

IV: Et Cetera

In conclusion:

Should we make calendars unavailable to anyone but the Archons? Should we tell people that ionic columns, the paintings of Goya and the writing of Dostoyevsky were all created last week?

Is it remotely possible that it is only by accident that architecture has stagnated and declined in the last 1,000 years? Are there lots of wonderful innovations to be made but just coincidentally, we haven’t discovered them?

Are people waking up to how crap Tarantino films are? If so, does this vindicate linear time?


V: PS

I’ve been a complete hypocrite throughout this. I do like a lot of really naff stuff because it is so naff. I also like post-war concrete buildings as a symbol of a time when Britain was strapped, but everyone was equally strapped. However, I do not reject the aesthetics of kitsch or concrete, but the aesthetics of arguments in favour of their aesthetics based on time.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

One Generation of Tlonists1: As the World Falls Down




(Hopefully part of a series on my generation trapped in a philosophical cul de sac)

I: We could be Heroes

Ours is a hero generation, at least according to Laurie Penny. We are similar to our grandparents apparently. OK, we haven’t had dogfights with Stuka divebombers or ME109s or gone mano a mano with the Waffen SS, but more of us are becoming young conservatives. Conservative Future, according to Penny 'appear to believe in equality'.

Whilst I cannot really share Laurie Penny’s ability to bask in the glory of the swelling membership of this group, I do share her view that ours is a generation that faces a lot of problems and is perhaps notable for lacking an intellectual mooring. Also quite liked the Bowiesque conclusion:
'My generation's ambitions, like our pop stars, are ambitious, bland and bourgeois. But with the world falling down around our ears, can anyone blame us?'


II: Plastic boots and Plastic Hats and you think you know where it’s at

Ms Penny’s pride in our generation for supporting the Tories is swelled even more because a friend gave up on being a priestess of the church of England and decided to become a climate change protestor. Presumably becoming one of those insufferable self-righteous spoilt brats who go around annoying people rather than engaging in intelligent debate about reducing carbon.

Speaking of environmentalism brings me onto a considerably more trenchant and intelligent thinker than Penny, Anatoly Karlin, who thinks that the way ahead should be even more radical.

III: The sleep of reason produces monsters (which many find more interesting)

Anatoly is an advocate of Green Communism, wants to create a collapse party, and thinks that we should adopt a combination of grass-roots activism and a system of government: 'in which promotion and honors are to be based on the judgments of peers on one's competence and commitment to the cause'.

Very commendable and best of luck. But whilst I support a lot of his ideas, I’m quite certain they will fail to gain support as long as we delude ourselves that 'rationality' itself is something that wins popularity. Please, read Anatoly's thoughts for yourselves but I will give reasons why I am sceptical of how successful such a movement would be.

We only need look at one of Anatoly’s central justifications for the system: Anthropogenic Global Warming. However, the Anthropogenic Global Warming view is collapsing in the population because (frankly) they don’t have the most interesting story. The counter-story: that there is an evil and patronising cabal of science-priests who are using ‘global warming’ to control the economy and possibly tax air is the more interesting story. It can even make some people feel good about being ignorant.

The pro-AGW groups will protest that 90% of peer reviewed research supports the view that AGW is real and it’s ridiculous to think that scientists would conspire against petroleum groups.

But that’s politically irrelevant frankly. If faced with the dilemma of the most rational or most interesting narrative, people will go for the second. Especially if it means that they get to play at being tough dissidents against the forces of conformity. And this especially if they personify the forces of conformity. Call it the SUV paradox: SUVs are astoundingly ugly and expensive vehicles that people only buy to keep up with the Joneses. But due to the AGW theory, many Americans and Brits like to think they are showing Promethean defiance and individuality by owning one.

IV: What is to be Done?

Depends on whom you ask. I suppose for Ms Penny it means being increasingly shrill and self-righteous. According to Anatoly we need to reclaim ‘old left’ traditions of strong rationality (albeit more culturally liberal and more economically conservative). As a long time supporter of lefty causes (though who generally hates British left wing culture and papers), I'm afraid I think that rationality is a cul de sac.

I suspect that the left has lost many democratic arguments because the right has been a lot more cunning about exploiting gullibility and idiocy. Just look at how the Christian coalition were faced with the choice of 1) Accepting that they were astoundingly stupid for putting their trust in Hal Lindsey (who ‘prophesised’ that the USSR would bring about Armageddon) or 2) Deciding they were wise for listening to Hal (despite his little booboo, as it were) and that Iraq was the new enemy mentioned in Bible prophecy.

Some Western leftists might whinge that were right all along about the Iraqis not especially wanting to be bombed and the potential of Bush/Cheney to act as nation builders. They are right, but they are missing the point that no-one listened to them the first time so why do they think anyone will in future?

Look at how they failed to mine the rich seam of stupidity and gullibility in the militia movements? Surely they could have asked if Abu Ghraib was a blueprint for Big Government plans in Wisconsin? Surely they could have used the 'thin edge of the wedge' argument so favoured by conservatives to block healthcare to say that Washington would start by bombing Baghdad and then Boulder and Baton Rouge?

Maybe they could have pointed out that the Cheney/Bush junta bore an uncanny resemblance to the Corporate Fascism in Total Recall? But no, the new ethical issues only gave mainstream liberal-leftists new excuses for stabbing each other in the back ('I don't support Bush, but my friend X should not imply moral equivalence...') and pointing quaking J’accuse fingers at leftists with guts like Gore Vidal, George Galloway, Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky.

In truth, if people have rational plans they will have to dress them up in interesting clothes. Politics is a blend of the rational and romantic. This may not be a pleasant truism to all. But it is one we have to acknowledge if we are to achieve anything.

However, I think that concepts of left and right/ environmentalist and AGW-sceptic are like most 20th Century ideas, just like an ourboros biting its tail. The problem with most ideals of the modern era is that they are reactions to specific problems and when a counter-theory is proposed then they stagnate intellectually whilst getting increasingly savage. We only need look at what left and right have become in Britain: how savage the Tories and New Labour are towards each other, when their differences are so insignificant.


V: I Got Another Idea

I named this series ‘Generation of Tlonists’ as a quote from Jorge Louis Borges. This story is about a plan to reform the world drastically by firstly inventing a more beautiful world and then gently incorporating this world into our own. All the sciences and humanities are re-invented. My own view is that only a change of this magnitude can stop our society from stagnating and collapsing. Only this could really bring about a system ruled by any kind of rationality.

In the epilogue Borges mentions Nazism and Bolshevism to demonstrate how people have a craving for a system that has order and symmetry, though implies that these have both been overtaken by Tlonism.

This only seems natural: Fascism and Communism were both reactions to industrialisation and the erosion of feudalism. That they both claimed millions of lives is not to deny that philosophically they were fairly minor variations on Western industrial societies. This in itself may be why they are monstrous.

It seems to me that Liberal Democracy has been eating itself both intellectually and spiritually. Whilst we do not have a totalitarian system banning/ burning books, it seems that our heritage could be lost through ignorance rather than through totalitarianism.

Unfortunately the drivel produced by the 19th Century, about the awful and shallow rich, continues to be published and read, whilst the real intellectual golden age of Ancient Athens has been forgotten. The ethical and aesthetic standard of the Ancient Greeks reflects our age of spin-doctors and X-factor very badly. Which is especially bad news for a nation sustained on the myth of progress.

Ancient Greece would be a good model for a Tlonist takeover of the modern age. But this will have to be the end of my first post.

Everything I've written was bullshit by the way. But my very point is that we need to speak bullshit to redefine rationality. We must free ourselves from the delusion that rationality will win without the crutch of dreams.

.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Columbo Blog1: Murder by the Book





This is the first in my instalment of ‘blogging Columbo’ articles.


A writer called Jim Ferris types away in his office, and opens his door to reveal a nutter with platinum blond sideburns and wearing a cream sports-jacket over a chocolate-brown jumper is pointing a gun at him. Still, Ferris is unperturbed because the practical joker (Ken Franklin) doesn’t have his finger on the trigger and anyway, they are pals who co-wrote several books. It was all a clever joke to show just how ridiculous the idea that Franklin would shoot his buddy is. I guess it won't surprise anyone that Franklin does shoot his partner within minutes, but this episode was filmed in 1971, which might have been before this had become a cliché.


Franklin, convinces his erstwhile collaborator to come to his holiday cabin and shoots him. This all leaves out a clever plot device about alibis and telephone calls, but it would probably take more time to write it than watch it.


Ferris’s wife then calls the police and we are introduced to Columbo who takes her home and makes her an omelette (no, it doesn’t really work better on the screen). Once there he meets Franklin who acts shocked at the murder.


Ken relies on his white teeth, cheesy grin and ‘perfect’ alibi to divert suspicion. Things aren’t quite that easy however. Firstly a drivelling tart has designs on him and saw Ferris in his car on the day of the murder. Secondly, Lieutenant Columbo is on his trail.


Aforementioned drivelling tart quickly succumbs to the charms of Ken’s white teeth and mean line in golden cravats (as well as his $15,000 payout). However, she turns down his romantic offer of a midnight trip in a rowing boat. With the help of an empty champagne bottle, he sorts out the troublesome witness and takes her for a boat trip anyway. A boat trip which ends with her being plonked into the lake.


Columbo is however, on his trail and eventually captures him. Except that he doesn’t really have evidence to convict him. However, Ken confesses anyway.


Whilst this episode was preceded by two pilots (which I haven’t watched yet, which is all the fault of whoever designed my boxset) I would not have said from this episode that it really had the signs of being the great series it would become. Peter Falk is (naturally) superb though less likable than he is in following episodes. Jack Cassidy is a brilliant baddie who latches onto the humour of the script without mugging. He later appeared in two more Columbo episodes possibly because his puffed-up arrogance that borders self-parody was a perfect compliment to Falk’s self-depracating, shambling detective.


However, the script isn’t the best. Columbo gets suspicious upon hearing that Franklin drove two hours after hearing of the murder instead of getting an aeroplane, which doesn’t seem especially suspicious. Maybe even worse, whilst he proves that the murderer of Ferris was well acquainted with him, he doesn’t prove it was Franklin. Even the very motive is a bit dubious: Franklin hardly wrote anything so he is afraid that he will be shown up by his friend's solo career. But why would Ferris give him the royalties and credit anyway?


This episode is notable by some for being made by the genius director of Minority Report and Jurassic Park II. I actually don’t see that as a plus: directors are always the most over-rated crew members and aside from a sentimentality in the portrayal of the lonely widower, I can't see any contribution he would have made.


If you think this sounds like a negative review, then you’d be wrong. I think I'd be incapable of not enjoying a 1970s cop show, and the very fact that it’s Columbo makes it great television for all its shortcomings.