Showing posts with label essays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label essays. Show all posts

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Illusionary World of the Professional Politician (PP)


'He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.'
George Bernard Shaw

Imagine that a group of friends or lovers or, heaven forbid, relatives arrive at your home unannounced. Do you welcome them with a lie, or tell the truth? "Frankly, I'm tired and exhausted, and each and every one of you love and hate yourselves, and each other, with equal veracity. You dishonour and threaten the rest of society with your insincerity, cynicism, virtuous morality and false judgments."

Mind you, I could be talking about professional politicians (PPs). They do tend to speak unnaturally, and make fools of themselves with their endless meaningless speeches and rabbit-hole opinions, which I find imperceptible, and avoid at all cost. Their eternal scrambling for status, one-upmanship and hierarchy comes at the cost of gaining an enlarged sallow or salmon coloured face. Furthermore, they grow capacious emotional armpits which can, if permitted, shower each living creature within a hundred metres with dark tepid perspiration: 'water' and 'excreta' to you and me.

When PPs are not being driven to God-knows-where (in a vehicle with tinted windows which gives the 'deluded occupant' time to practice the art of the sudden teardrop) I have, on occasion, seen the odd PP dreamily flying past on a bicycle. When it happens, however, as one is seated at the bedside of an ailing relative one tends to feel distressed, even shocked, at the state of democratic socialism. It means cracks are starting to show. And growing bigger by the day, I might add. And by night, for all I know.

I condemn and absolve no one. You see - well, I hope you see - most PPs (when not engaged in fiddling their expenses, strolling on Clapham Common looking for badgers in the middle of the night, wearing gimp masks to house parties, junketeering at public expense, head-butting fellow PPs, conducting 'drunken brawls' over interns) are transfixed by human torment: usually their own. Don't be surprised if the following attributes remind you of some people who 'spend their time' in government departments or the legal professions ... in short, within the dazzling diversity of delicate society.

Do you believe no person exists in this world as talented as you? Have you an insatiable desire for praise and recognition? Have you an irresistible urge to judge others? Can you notice a person's one weakness and forget their many strengths? Do you enjoy rushing your opponents: putting them under pressure to affect their judgment? Are you devoted to endless meetings? Television and radio interviews? Press conferences and photo ops? Have you perpetrated or sanctioned: intimidation, bribery, burglary, oppressive surveillance, kidnapping, interrogation, torture, severe hunger or starvation, death threats, assassinations, killing or murder? Does your blinkered ideological cocktail contain a litany of nonsensical beliefs? Are you prone to verbosity when you are alone? Are you unable to resist the temptation to flatter? to gossip? to pontificate? to browbeat? to upstage others? to lie under oath? Are you ...? Is your life a fraud?

An intriguing, but manageable list, you'll agree. Whether the election laws are democratic or undemocratic you may have the attributes required of a professional politician. A day may come, however, when you are unable to stand the 'meat grinder' no longer: the lies; the jibes; the false accusations; the feigned smiles and handshakes; the doctored speeches.

Unfortunately, a day may come when you may open yourself to 'substantiated' accusations. The abrupt leap from academic achievements, political and diplomatic successes, to a hoarse shout from behind prison bars may seem austere, but apt.

Some professional politicians believe they are above the law. They're wrong. This comforting illusion which they create, and in which they exist, can vanish as swift as it has begun.


(2013)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writing with Courage, Truth and Integrity: The Bravery and Determination of Malala Yousafzai


Sometimes for a writer to resonate in modern culture the narrative requires courage, truth and integrity; a commitment to freedom and justice. Many writers, bloggers and journalists throughout the world have been murdered, or brutally beaten, because they wrote about crime, corruption and the right to freedom of expression. 

What about the acts of suffering and violence occurring in the world at this moment orchestrated by those in power and in control of information, knowledge and the media? What is their agenda? One of their many objectives is to distort the truth about those who do not have power.

I greatly admire the bravery and determination of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl, who committed no crime, but was shot at point-blank range in the head by a Taliban gunman for her campaign for girls' education in Pakistan and for speaking out against 'Taliban oppression'. I hope she makes a full recovery. Given the extent of her injuries, however, it will be a long, complex and tortuous journey. I hope that the 'Taliban cowards' who ordered, planned, and carried out the attempted murder of Malala, are caught and receive sentences befitting their crime.

Writing with conviction and truth is not without danger. Sometimes police and employees of local administrations are implicated in the attacks on writers, bloggers and journalists. 

No police force in the world is above the law. Any alleged acts of corruption, racism, torture, incompetence, indifference and collusion must be investigated, and individuals arrested and brought before a court, where necessary. People must be convicted for the crimes they commit on writers, irrespective of the perpetrator's position in society.

It follows that this should apply with respect to all violence wherever it is perpetrated on this earth. No one should remain unpunished for senseless acts of violence no matter how deluded their motives may be: patriotism; loyalty; nationalism; religion; economic and political power; money; drugs; greed.

We live in society. But to say we all live in communities gives a sense of false security. This not only stretches an acknowledgment of reality, but demeans the law and the life and memory of those people who have been murdered. Meanwhile their attackers bask in freedom, go unpunished, and in some quarters, are hailed as people of distinguished courage, and are rewarded for their despicable actions. 

Indeed, some perpetrators of violence no longer seek anonymity, but live with impunity, and are constantly in search of the limelight. Just don't expect some individuals to voice contrition for their criminality, for many carry a bitterness towards humankind which endorses their deluded sense of superiority.

Some people in positions of great political power rarely want the truth to be made readily available to citizens. They are on a collision course with death and destruction, and look upon fellow human beings as insignificant, dispensable, a meaningless statistic.  A serious and harrowing situation; criminal in itself.


(2012)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Deceit of Labelling: Bigotry and Prejudice

The Conversion of St. Paul - Rubens

It is a sad fact that bigotry and prejudice appears to be the norm, rather than the exception, in an increasingly complex world. Most people seem satisfied to offer, or seek, simple-minded explanations to complicated matters affecting different peoples around the world who have their own grievances, views and aspirations. There will always be extremists and radicals who seek to subvert peace efforts and continue to perpetuate hatred and distrust. It is part of the nature of humankind. 

Many Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other believers in the supernatural, may know what they believe, but not why. Some accept creed without scrutiny which may have been inherited, rather than arrived at, and consequently are unable to articulate the foundation of their faith in the face of open minded discussion and critique.

Agreement on the meaning of the term religion is a Herculean task: the answer dependent on who one asks. The theologian, secularist, sociologist, psychologist, cosmologist, philosopher, writer, sports enthusiast et al., may each proffer a different explanation.

The arts and nature provide activities through which individuals achieve contentment, and which they may pursue with intense passion and devotion, for example: music; literature; poetry; painting; philosophy; wildlife preservation. An 'unbeliever' may admire religious paintings: The Conversion of St Paul by Rubens is a prime exemplar. The meaning to an individual of a work of art may be philosophical, inexplicable, provoke wonderment, or engender a spiritual sensibility.

This may also be true of 'falling in love', viewing a beautiful landscape, listening to the gentle murmur of a brook, or the lapping of ocean waves. Language cannot always express such experiences, as there may be, and usually is, an 'indefinable something more' about them.

Those who believe in the supernatural, and those who do not, may get pleasure from the same phenomenon - the difference being interpretation. The super-naturalist may interpret these experiences with reference to a deity; those who do not, regard these as manifestations of nature.

How many times have you heard an individual replicate a headline from a newspaper, or other media source, or quote verbatim from a sacred text, regarding an issue they patently haven’t thought through themselves? Some people are only too eager to offer their opinion on a myriad of issues without knowledge of the facts, which can be verified as sound or unsound.

Some parents consciously instill nationalistic, racial and religious ideological dogmatism in their children: hatred of other races and religious groups other than their own; belief in a class based superiority to others. Until a child forms associations outside their home the attitudes articulated by their parents can remain sacrosanct.

The same moral views and behaviour instilled at an early age may remain embedded in the memory for many years or a lifetime. Our knowledge of right and wrong may be obtained from a variety of sources: parents; society; peers; the law; God; our conscience. The values held by people and groups we associate with - family, friends, work colleagues, church or political organisations - influence the views we express as are own. Indeed, individuals may change their values and views dependent on whom they are talking to, and as a result conflict may arise.

Ultimately most people reach a position where their view on moral issues is lucid, but may change in light of new experiences, the way they perceive things, and when the issues arise.

How many times have you heard the quotation, 'Let your conscience be your guide?' History is littered with appalling acts which have been, and still are, carried out with a clear conscience. The consequence of conscientious differences of opinion can be catastrophic.

During the Reformation, Protestants and Catholics tortured and murdered each other; the mass hysteria of the witch trials in Europe resulted in the executions of tens of thousands of men, women and children. Today, throughout the world, individuals are still being imprisoned without trial, and tortured and executed by those blinded by ignorance and intolerance.

Altitude assists significantly when dropping bombs on other people as evidenced by the U.S. military on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. From an airplane houses below resemble minuscule dots. If you can’t recognise people, see their faces, and are not familiar with their name, it seems to be relatively easy to push the button, if deemed to be in a good cause by 'those in power'.

How easy it slips of the tongue to say one abhors violence, fabrication, and indoctrination in all its forms. No more so when 'religion' is used as a label by those perpetrating murder and violence. Nietzsche turned this observation into a principle, 'In individuals insanity is rare: in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule'.

The control of information and knowledge, and the capability to influence the way people believe and perceive the world, are important to those who aspire to exercise and preserve authority. The mass media - nationally, and worldwide - has a powerful incentive to sell newspapers and attract television viewers (the battle for commercial survival), and can be relied upon to change facts and distort truth as and when directed by their 'wealthy' owners.

The mass media may 'intentionally' portray those who do not have power in dehumanizing terms: parasites; scroungers; wasters; animals; and by using degrading terms: the poor, the underclass, the drop out, when in fact the individuals are genuinely homeless, penniless, unemployed, asylum seekers, mentally and physically ill.

The deceit of 'labeling' individuals distorts the truth, and the victim(s) may be portrayed as responsible for their circumstances, not the state, or society. The media can be used to great effect by those wishing to use power for political, military, religious, business and monetary purposes. Also, with modern technology, globalisation, the internet and faster means of communication, localised conflicts can swiftly become internationalised.

It is not difficult to understand the intentions of those who openly engage in activities to denigrate and destroy the lives and memories of other human beings. However that may be, individuals should aspire to learn more and to think for themselves, to attack prejudice and ignorance, and help to eradicate hatred, violence and racism in all its manifestations. 

Each human being on this earth should be free to live in dignity, to be treated with dignity, and respect the dignity and rights of others. 

(2010)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trying to Live an Authentic Life


Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot identified the fear of being forgotten as possibly one of the greatest anxieties which humankind face. Conscious of the fact of death and annihilation; conceivably preceded by protracted and painful suffering and illness, it is not uncommon for individuals to wish they had never been born in the first place. However, as Mark Twain remarked, ‘In religion and politics, people’s beliefs are, in almost every case, acquired second hand and without examination’. Acceptance without questioning leads to ignorance and prejudice, and the failure by individual’s to seek enlightenment concerning other people’s ideas, beliefs and culture.

Any study of anthropology will illustrate, while variable from tribe to tribe, some form of religious belief has persisted; a durability. It must be acknowledged, that similar to other words in daily use, the term ‘religion’ is open to a wide range of interpretations. What does the word ‘God’ mean? It can't represent anything the average individual can comprehend if God is identified as a supernatural being. To the anxiety-riddled individual the belief in, and reverence for a supernatural power (or powers’) regarded as creator and governor of the universe, gives comfort. A supreme being, aware of their existence, and preparing a place in the hereafter, gives console to those who fear death, and have a burning desire to exist after their earthly death. Why do some individual’s need to believe the soul, essence, or personality of a person exist after their death?

For some people religion provides a unitary purpose for living; a community and social group for the lonely; and for the dejected the hope of better things to come. I am reminded of the quote by Friedrich Niezsche, ‘A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything’. The difficulty with the three theistic religions’, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, is the ambiguity and conflicting statements on how humankind should behave on moral issues including marriage, divorce, adultery,
the treatment of women, abortion, alcohol, sex, race, homosexuality, criminality, animal rights and war.

Sacred texts, which some people believe to be the irrevocable word of God, were generally documented following the events from memory, or stories handed down over time. The texts remain caste in stone; fixed and unchangeable; never revised or updated to reflect contemporary human behavior where a change of attitude on the part of the general public may have altered, for example, birth control; abortion; euthanasia; in vitro fertilization; the role of women in society; Sabbath observance; and other ethical and moral decisions we may make, consciously or unconsciously, each day.

The introduction of the Book of Revelations in the New Testament has caused many Christians and non-believers to be traumatised by the depiction of hell awaiting those not deemed one of the ‘Chosen Few’, and the visionary presentation of the end of the world. No one is sure; however, which individual(s) wrote the book, or when it was written. Some find it hard to read, understand, and to contemplate. George Bernard Shaw dismissed it as ‘the curious record of the visions of a drug addict’.

Where did the idea of original sin emanate? Why did a benevolent God create an earth where people are prone to suffering, illness, and internalised guilt. In fact the term ‘original sin’ does not exist in the Bible or Jewish writings. The Fall in the Garden of Eden, according to St Augustine, meant humankind would consequently be flawed, and therefore liable to suffering and evil. He was convinced the consequence of original sin was damnation and applied to people who hadn't committed any sins, including newborn babies if they died before their souls were cleansed
by baptism.

Some Christians advocate that the apparently needless suffering and deaths of small children has a purpose in God's plan. They believe it inspires others to carry out ‘good works’ for God on earth, and that the innocent children will be rewarded in an afterlife. I consider it unjustifiable to punish an innocent child in this world to formulate a point and to awaken the consciousness of others. Such a facile approval of suffering in life seems immoral and contemptuous. 


It beggars belief that members of some churches are staunchly opposed to medical intervention in the case of illness and prefer to depend on prayer to achieve healing. Their blind devotion to what they call ‘God's will’ has, in some instances, resulted in unnecessary death. The parents’ refusal to seek medical treatment, and conceivably the failure to administer simple antibiotics in some cases, has resulted in the death of a child. Devout Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions for themselves, and their children, when this action may save a live.

By referring to religious belief as an illusion, Sigmund Freud tried to show how our wanting something to be true often has the effect of making us believe it is true. In the case of religion we want to believe there is some God, heaven, or reward which compensates for earthly frustrations and death. He believed religion avoids dealing with the harsh reality of life by promoting a self-deluding and infantile belief in a father figure who will save us from feelings of helplessness and fear.

Does God answer prayers and physically intervene to grant certain individual’s a favourable conclusion to recovery from suffering and serious illness? Some Christians perceive illness as a battle between God and the Devil; the result of the patient’s treatment dependent on the strength of prayer and their relationship with God. Where prognosis is ominous the patient may be held responsible for prayers not answered. It should be borne in mind, however, that virtue does not correlate with happiness or vice with misery. 


Suffering, shortened life span, bereavement, torture, murder, physical and mental abuse are not the sole preserve of those deemed wicked and immoral. The injustices of this world, and the seemingly random distribution of good and evil, are beyond human prayer to a supernatural being. The conviction that God will make evildoers pay for their transgressions in an afterlife may give solace to believers, but not to others.

What about the mysterious near-death experience? This phenomenon has been presented by many people as testimony the human mind is capable of continued function after death. The idea consciousness could exist and work independently from the human body invites fantasy; ghosts and immortal souls, transmigration and reincarnation. Gravely ill individuals have, on occasion, reported out-of-body experiences where they seem to be souls travelling outside their bodies. Many people do it in their dreams; some experience it when they take drugs. Some scientific experiments suggest out-of-body experiences are illusory, and may be the result of chemical reactions in the brain, even when triggered in the brains of dying people. Scientific research has indicated the disturbance may be due to malfunctioning of certain brain areas because of interrupted oxygen supply or disconnection, and can be provoked by stimulation with electrodes administered by doctors.

Consider the mindset of a spiritualist medium. Their claim to contact the dead and channel messages to a relative(s) is extravagant, highly unscrupulous, and immoral. Some people may feel no harm is being perpetrated, and that an individual recently bereaved may benefit from engaging in superstitious nonsense. Many visit a spiritualist medium in a time of acute grief; a vulnerable time for any one. The comfort of receiving a message from a deceased loved one may be analogous to a fix of morphine. However, while content to receive a message from the other side (sic), the effect will not necessarily last long for the bereaved individual.

Martin Heidegger believed we must live with the insight that while death is the most important fact in the life of every single human being, no one will experience their own death. Others will share this experience; not the deceased. The sorrows of death are of the living, not of the dead.

Each individual has their own interpretation of life and death. I consider we come into this life by chance and leave by the same route. The opinions and views of others, of which we are inundated daily, for example, the news media, television,
newspapers, the internet, researchers, politicians, TV evangelists, church leaders, advertisements, and sales people should not be accepted without critical thinking incorporating the broader concepts of rationality and objectivity.

Our society is full of phony scientific claims used to market everything from breakfast cereal to cancer treatment by bogus practitioners who make false claims and give patients’ erroneous hopes for their future. We should stimulate and encourage our children to be critical and sceptical of claims, arguments, and pronouncements made by others regarding social, ethical, moral, political, secular, and religious issues, and to continue to question their authenticity in the absence of categorical scientific verification, objectivity, and honest analysis.

We should appreciate and value the gifts that those loved ones now deceased shared with us. The core values they engendered including love; sincerity; generosity of time and energy; broad mindedness; compassion; abhorrence of intolerance, bigotry, hypocrisy; and the purported wisdom of know it alls’. The deceased will remain in our consciousness and in that of our children. Beyond that it is of no necessity. Life is for the living in this world.

By living an authentic life as defined in the statement ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ (which predates the Bible, and conceivably primary interactions between Homo sapiens), there is hope humankind can survive into the foreseeable future. Individuals should, however, restrain their desire to believe things as a consequence of social pressures to conform. One must be willing to ask if conformity is motivating one’s belief or opinion, and, if so, have the strength and courage to abandon a position until they can attain a more objective and thorough evaluation.

Bertrand Russell said, ‘The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.’ There are no crisp, clear answers. Why should there be?


(2009)