Words and Chaos

Month: December, 2013

I started Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie on Boxing Day, finished it yesterday. Haven’t devoured a novel like that in quite a while.

There is Only Chaos: Conflict Avoidance Culture #3

Objectivity is a skill that is lacking in out western culture, on both sides of the ocean, in UK and America. We are not truly taught and trained in objective thought, as a skill in its own right until, and unless, we go into university and beyond.

Objectivity is the ability to examine a topic without emotional interference, and with as little bias as possible. It’s more common to hear it described as ‘free’ from bias – but in my opinion there is not a single thought on the earth not influenced by some form of personal bias, not matter how small or unexpected.

It’s important to the topic of conflict avoidance culture because, as I’ve talked about before, it’s hard to take anybody seriously if their arguments all begin and end with, ‘because I like don’t it’. It would be like taking Fox or the Daily Mail seriously as a credible news source.

I mentioned that it’s only really made a big deal of in higher education, but that’s not to say that we aren’t encouraged to be objective before that stage: I think we are. I don’t, however, remember the idea receiving any real focus, or proper mention at any point before I went to university, and I don’t think I know anybody else who does either. Before getting a degree, objectivity doesn’t feature at the forefront. If I had my way, I’d have it taught in secondary school. I also wonder if leaving it to this late stage to emphasise it’s role, is unintentional. I have the idea that it’s actually fairly deliberate.

If you teach people to think objectively from an early stage, they get a lot better at picking things apart and finding problems. More to the point, they can get better at articulating why they find problems, and can propose answers to those problems. You get coherent response and retaliation to exploitative or damaging proposals and ideas as a result. And as a result those ideas carry more weight. Some of us do this fairly naturally, or figure it out long before university level. In fact, I’m fairly sure everyone does to one degree or another. That said: Nothing beats training.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the culture we live in is saturated with an almost religious idealism of emotion. The ‘heart’, for lack of a better image, is set on a gilded throne on a giant marble pedestal and a chorus of people sing songs to it day and night. The idea seems to be summed up nicely by that insipid tumblrite phrase, ‘all the feels’. That’s because there’s a lot of industry invested in emotional manipulation. The reinforcement of a co-dependent, extrovert-centric, social-media soaked society demands, like a bad caricature of a psychiatrist, ‘how do you feel?’

There’s an over-emphasis of relationships, a floodtide of useless self-help books, and over-prescriptions of any mental disorder you possibly image, so that some prick in a boardroom can look at a chart and decide that more people need to feel one way or another in order to drag more money from their wallets and buy new Zoloft and Prozac and Wellbutrin. This where the size-zero debate comes from, the sudden focus on body hair, pubic hair, and stretch marks. This is why people jump desperately from one diet to another, or subject themselves to periods of outright starvation, in a futile attempt at an easy-weight loss solution (Pro tip: do some exercise.)

There’s political investment in the culture of emotion. Let’s be honest: they aren’t the most intelligent things. Fairly hard, in fact, given that they’re pretty much a series of chemical discharges in response to stimuli, patterns and behaviours. That’s why, increasingly, political elections aren’t about the politics. It’s ends up being Big Brother in a more open stage. Bring out the wife and the kids, bring out the orphans, bring our your homosexuals, transsexuals and whatever other group of the moment, to parade before people. Fuck the policies and the job. Feel good, feel affectionate, feel attracted, to this guy behind the microphone and in front of your flag.

I don’t suggest we live in some robotic emotionless society either. Emotions have a use. Mismanaging emotions causes all kinds of hilariously dramatic, and mostly unforeseen, side effects. That’s why we have shrinks. But there’s got to be a balance, and there’s got to be some investigation of your own responses to what’s put in front of you. If you don’t know why you feel a certain way about something, you should take it apart and find out.

This is dragging on a bit, so I’ll leave it here for now and come back to it all next week. It looks like this is a topic that’s gong to be around for a while, but I’ve started and I may as well finish.

I’ll see you all in the New Year.

10 Lines of Dialogue #5

Sociopathic businessman. Trades in exotic items. Feels he does a service to the elite.

‘Hello, sir/miss/madam’

‘What can you offer me for what I can get for you?’

‘What about the Rhinos and Elephants? Does it matter? They’re half a world away being taken care of by a bunch of savages. What of it?’

‘Whatever’s about to come out of your mouth had better not waste my time.’

‘You want to know where that comb comes from? Where that pie comes from? Go to a fuckin’ zoo.’

‘Unless you’re on 100K or more, I don’t have time for you. Get out of my face.’

‘The bargirl? Sure, she’d fuck me. A lot of girls would fuck me – look at me: I’m successful, I have money, I know all the right people. Of Course she’d fuck me. She’d be dumb not to.’

‘Listen, I’ve got a manicure followed by lunch with some very important guys, and then a spar with a couple of guys from the club. If you have something to say it’d better be worth hearing.’

‘I’m not worried. I don’t really care – if the ivory runs out we’ll just move on to something else.’

‘Make it quick. Do you know who’s coming in later? Of course you do. Because everyone one knows them!’

There is Only Chaos: Conflict Avoidance Culture II

Last week I made the assertion that we shouldn’t shy away from subjects that cause friction. We should embrace subjects that can be divisive. If we follow this path and take the road with more thorns, we’re inevitably going to come into conflict with a view that opposes our own.

‘Oh no!’ you cry

‘Oh yes!’ say I

There’s a lot of hate for opinions in contemporary culture, it seems. Even though everyone loves to share their views. There’s something to be said for the guy who made the comparison to arseholes. But why do you think social media is so popular? There’s an image doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment, that suggests inserting your opinions rectally.

I disagree.

Suggesting that everyone keeps their opinions to themselves is really stupid.  Opinions aren’t bad. If nobody pointed out that they thought something could be done better, or that something wasn’t working as well as it could, nothing would progress.

The difference, and defining factor as to whether your opinion is valid, is how the idea is communication. There’s a reason why people don’t like being beaten about the head with the Bible, or the Quran, or the God Delusion, or the Communist Manifesto. It’s because the idiots that like to do that type of thing generally don’t want to hear the opposing thought. But here’s the thing:

Your opinion is not valid if you’re not willing to have someone reject it.

If you want your thoughts to be taken seriously, you have to be prepared for people to point out the inevitable flaws in it. There are very few, if any, ideas that are invulnerable. Your own are no different. But that’s the point: that you discuss whatever it is that you think.

If you rant and rave about the state of current economics and propose a solution, you can’t continue to rant and rave if someone counters your idea with their own, and continue to be taken seriously. This is also not suggesting that every dispute has a solution. You don’t have to reach an agreement, but sharing the ideas is important. Thinking is important. When you listen to other people’s thoughts and opinions you generally don’t have a choice in taking them into some form of consideration. If you have a response, offer it! Half of the time you won’t have a response until a couple of days later when you’ll suddenly be able to clearly state why you disagree with what the other person was saying. Congratulations: you have an unconscious. The result is simply that you will be that much more confident in your own ideas, having had them subjected to some testing, and finding a good reason to maintain them.

What if the other thought was better? Fine. You don’t lose anything by taking it on, or using parts of it for your own ends. That idea, that thought, can only benefit from your input, from your experiences, and your perspective. It’s new blood. Your thoughts aren’t a competition: Don’t turn them into one because nobody wins anything if they’re just dogmatically defending something for the sake of defending it.

Swapping ideas and thoughts creates chaos due to the inevitable conflict it creates. Chaos breaks the established thought and from there we get change. Change creates progress.

 

 

 

10 Lines of Dialogue #4

An out of touch Disco lover. Somewhat bitter, but holding a candle for the rebirth of Disco as a music genre and a cultural movement. Refuses to listen to any views that don’t align with his.

I’m not sure whether this came out more like a bad caricature than a character….

‘Hey, man. What’s cool?’

‘Clubs just ain’t what they used to be, man. Drugs ain’t what they used to be. Where’s the love go? Why can’t I get high no more? Real high. No you can get drugged, but you can’t get high, man. Not no more.’

‘People used to have soul, they used to have heart. There was life in the streets. Colour! Not no more. Just corporate grey.’

‘Back then Michael had a nose, back when the Beegees were serious, we used to have fun, man!’

‘It’s all gone to shit since 79. Punks killed the heart of the people. Those bastards destroyed a great culture.’

‘These threads? Out of fashion? Hell no! Never. It’ll come back. Just like the music. Just like the people. Believe it, motherfucker.’

‘Rock music and punk music. All that music. Stay away from that – it’s all racist. They’re all racist. Homophonic. Gay bashers. Motherfuckers. Violence and hatred is the only thing in that music. That crowd. They ain’t got a heart. Ain’t got a soul between them. They’re fuckin’ empty! Stay away, man.’

‘Sit down and rap, man.  Ain’t nothin’ anybody’s got more than time.’

‘Disco didn’t die. Those racist bastards tried to kill it. But they couldn’t! They never will! It’s gonna have a rebirth. Just you wait, just you wait! A cultural revolution. You’ll see. Just you wait!’

‘I’ll be around. Peace and love, man.’

Word Clusters #5

Another month, another list. Here they are:

  • Pasta Distinctions
  • Voyages Invitation
  • Scrutinise Veins
  • Estrangement Spring Cleaning
  • Avocado Eschew
  • Passionfruit Spends
  • Add Symbolism
  • Lug Bolt Buyer
  • Legislate Respectfulness
  • State-Run Mittens

There is Only Chaos: Conflict Avoidance Culture I

I live by the words, ‘If there’s nothing to say, then don’t speak.’

I’m not a man for small talk. I’m not a man for what is commonly called ‘tact’. I have no patience for small talk and I’m generally very direct. I wouldn’t, however, call myself tactless. I have this idea that a lot of what people call tact now is that odd way of addressing a subject without ever speaking about it. The kind of thing politicians call, “diplomacy”. It’s characterised a lot of back channel language and under-the-surface chatter and faux niceties.  It can also simply be a watering down of what you have to say in the first place. And worse still, it can be a refusal to speak. I get angry every time I hear people mention subjects that people ‘shouldn’t discuss’ because those subjects are divisive. Because they cause friction. Because they can cause conflict.

This is why small talk exists. This is why people cultivate vast networks of connections and still feel disconnected.

Stop avoiding conflict.

A few weeks ago a thirty-year-old woman told me she was old. I told her to shut up. It wasn’t malicious, and it was clear I wasn’t really telling her to stop talking. But it needed to be said, in my opinion. Each and every person reading this blog, right now, has had the same experience.  Your friend is between twenty and thirty-five and she’s told you she’s old. And you’ve probably said nothing or just run with it.

The reason I tell young people, who tell me they’re old, to shut up, is because they know it’s not true. They’re not even that serious about it. They know it’s bollocks. I know it’s bollocks. Everyone in earshot knows it’s bollocks. But we accept it anyway. An 18-year-old model told us, on the TV or YouTube or a poster in the street, that by 30 we’ve gotten past our peak. It’s all down hill from there.  And we didn’t really take it in – because we’re smart enough to know that it’s bullshit – we still somehow accepted it. As a culture and as a society. I suppose if you have anything repeated to you over and over and over again, for years, you’ll start to subconsciously believe it.

We still laugh about it, every time another young man or another young girl tells us that we’ve got five or ten years left before we better start checking for rust before bed, every night. But I think it’s become ingrained. Because there’s always an edge every time someone tell you they’re old. There’s always an edge to the silence or the laughter that follows. None of us believe it, but we won’t deny it. We don’t reject it out loud.

Why? Because, in some twisted way, it has become a truth. We don’t question it because questioning it opens up a can of worms. One question always leads to more questions. More observations. More discussions about things that eventually start to scrape at your nerves.

Here’s where I step back and address the thing you’ve been cocking an eyebrow at for the last five hundred words:

‘Yeah. Ok, mate. Stop jerking yourself off – this isn’t a revelation.’

As I said: nobody in their heart of hearts believes anyone is old by 30. We say it and there’s more than a little mockery.

Perhaps I should have started with a more controversial subject. Perhaps that would have been more fitting.

What’s your political stance?

How do you feel about porn?

What’s your take on the NSA or GCHQ?

How do you feel about drones in the Middle East?

How do you feel about governments spying on their own citizens, or any attempt at censorship of the Internet?

What are your thoughts on Syria?

Have things gotten better or worse, objectively, since Saddam Hussein was killed?

What about Christians?

What about Muslims?

Satanism?

Do you know much about Hare Krishna and how potentially fucked up some of those groups are?

What’s your philosophy?

Do you have a philosophy?

Why don’t you have a philosophy?

Should we stop slandering the Bankers?

Was the Occupy movement a waste of time?

What’s your economic stance?

Have you ever heard, or walked in on, your parents having sex?

Take your pick. I’ve got more.

I hear people advise other people to avoid talking about things like politics, religion, and philosophy. Because they cause conflict.

But conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

You are advised to stick to small talk. “Conversation” that is “safe”.

Fuck safe.

There is Only Chaos is going to be a regular part of this blog going forwards. I’m going to make opinionated statements on just about anything. Not necessarily this long, but over the next few weeks I will be expanding on this topic. If I wrote it all down in one chunk it would be an essay of a few thousand words. I know the Internet generally doesn’t have that much patience. We’re all busy people.  There are cats to watch, memes to make, and porn to leave sad comments on.

Cheers.

10 Lines of Dialogue #3

She’s orderly and structured. She enjoys giving advice and instruction, and she works as a consultant. She is very friendly. She appears confident and secure. Her enjoyment of helping people conflicts with a deep-seated fear of obsolescence. A fear that she won’t be needed and that someone will be better than her.

 

‘Hello there! I was just thinking about you! How did you get on last week after our chat? Really? No! Listen, it’s fine, I know just what to do. Sometimes things work like that. I’ll schedule you for an appointment on Tuesday, after lunch. I can’t do earlier, I’m booked solid before that, sorry. 2 pm, ok?  Great! I’ll see you then. Keep your head up in the meanwhile.’

‘I hear Peter’s having trouble with a promotion. You should send him my way, I’ll have him running things by the end of the month.’

‘Oh, she was having trouble with the school. I told her to go over there and talk to them. The daughter is their responsibility while she’s with them; it’s not her fault if she’s disruptive. It’s their fault for not being in control. She saw it my way in the end and she’s going over to give them an earful today.’

‘You’re new, aren’t you? Listen, if you run into any trouble or have a question, just come find me. I’ll sort you out. Ask anyone – I’m well known here.’

‘Alan is a nice guy and he’s got a good head. He’s great for the short run, but he doesn’t have the mind for the long term. If you want the best, look my way, ok?’

‘I really like what Jessica has done with her space. We spoke a fortnight ago. She really didn’t quite know what she was doing or what she wanted to do. So we went for coffee and she told me her ideas. I may have made a couple of suggestions, but she’s really run with them and turned the place around. It’s great!’

‘Alan has been talking to Gavin. I don’t know why, because he’ll never get anything useful from him. I’ve got nothing personal against Gavin, but I get the impression that he’s not keeping up with the performance from the rest of us. Anyway, the two of them are planning something and I don’t think that’s a good development. Find out what they’re up to and tell me.’

‘I can’t talk now. I’ve got a meeting with Steve. He needs help with a project. I’ve got to go, I’ll catch up with you later on, ok?’

‘I heard that Gavin has been saying Jessica is going to run her department into the ground. Honestly, I wouldn’t pay too much attention. Between you and me, I’ve heard some less than impressive stories concerning his performance at his last job. I know the receptionist; we have wine over at that bar on the river sometimes. Apparently things were in a state when he left. They had to do a real cleanup afterwards.‘

‘What do you mean my suggestions were bad? I give the best advice in the whole city; my abilities are second to none! Especially in comparison to your own! Get out of my office!’

I’m a bit late…

So Friday’s update didn’t happen.

Was I out getting obscenely drunk and doing cocaine off a whore’s tits? Nope.

Was I ab-sailing off the Empire State Building, fighting terrorists and singing Hail Mary’s with one hand, and jerking myself off with the other? Nope.

Was I standing on my head, drinking whiskey from the cask with a hose, while a surprisingly attractive dwarf woman performed ridiculously intricate and filthy sex acts on me (somehow not upsetting my headstand)? No.

‘But then,’ I hear you ask, ‘What could you possibly have been doing? What could have happened?’

The Starbound Beta may have eaten a sizable chunk of my life. I should have something up later on and perhaps something new tomorrow.

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.”

– Voltaire

This quote seems appropriate, given the fact the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, is facing terrorism charges for doing his job. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a pathetic and utterly see through attempt at intimidation and posturing. I am fairly ashamed of my government at the moment, to be honest.