Greece - Arriving

Im doing a two week trip to Greece...Im going to write a bit about every day I am there...might be interesting, might not....its for me more than anyone else, but feel free to have a read if you like and ask questions if you want to know anything....

So I fly out from London Heathrow...which by the way is way fucking better than pay an extra fifty odd pounds for you get a decent airline that doesnt treat you like a piece of shit, cheaper cab..from Kingston anyway..etc ...anyway got to munich...had four hours to kill...left the airport on the way out the customs guy says you are going to athens next...Im like yes...he says so why are you going to Athens...and I just look at can you ask that? I mean ok if you are going to nigeria or someshit yes ask me..but Athens its fucking Athens...jesus...anyway have a stein in a biergarten just outside the airport head back tea and coffee...get on my connecting flight...decent meal...arrive in Athens...go to Fay's parents house..she is working...they are ok...very friendly...we talk about life...i bought them some presents for letting me stay for free...they seem to like them...Fay gets back from work...we have a coffee and then i pass out....

Name ist Schall und Rauch,

I had a conversation the other day that brought to mind this quote Ive had memorised since I was 18 years old. I've never forgotten it and its always stayed with me. It's from Goethe's Faust part 1

Name ist Schall und Rauch,
Umnebelnd Himmelsgluth.

Or in the English translation

Names are but noise and smoke,
Obscuring heavenly light.

this conversation got me thinking about why I remembered these words and what they meant. I'd like to share my thought journey with you and hope you can tolerate my meaningless ramblings. Naming things is a pretty nifty little idea when you think about it. You can understand why it made sense to start with. There is a rock, we dont know much about rocks so it doesnt need any other words to sum it up. That there is a tree, a bit more complicated because trees grow and change, but still you can see it. Its when you get to naming collectives of things that I think the problem starts.

A forest.
A car.
A school.

See I think its in these things that the problem arises. We assign these collections of individual parts that are totally different and perform multiple functions a single name.

A forest has many different breeds of trees, may have different fauna in it, may contain streams..or not, may have poisonous berries or not, may be growing, may be shrinking, may be standing still. You get the picture and you can see why a name works
It makes it easier to talk about and it means you can discuss something even if you dont understand it...theres advantages to that... language would be clumsy and unwieldy if we had to explain everything for what it was, but disadvantages too, it allows someone to speak about something, even though they know nothing about it.

So we see what Goethe is saying....the process of naming a thing obscures the truth of what that thing is...

Yeah so what...I hear you say

Well what about me...what about people, of course its important to be able to say Mrs X sold me convey unimportant information quickly, but what about when you want to understand someone or even understand yourself? The idea of something complex and variable and constantly transforming having a single method of being refered to and understood seems wrong, seems counter intuitive, seems a formula for misunderstanding ourselves. Lets take Greg, baby Greg is different to teenage Greg, who is different to adult Greg, etc, etc. Even these arbitrary divisions of time (Baby, teenager, adult) are names that obscure the truth.

The truth that there is no Greg.

Greg is a constantly changing primordial soup of chemicals and synapses, who Greg is today bears some relation to the person before because of his physical constancy and perhaps even by the predictibility of his actions (going to work, coming home), but Greg in the morning is not Greg in the evening and Greg last week could be completely removed from Greg next week. 

The constancy of physical form (Greg sees the same face in the mirror every day), the predictability of actions (Greg takes himself to the same place for work everyday) and the fact that people spend all day shouting the word "GREG" at the mind inside the body that is named Greg  this convinces Greg and those that know Greg that he is a singular thing, a unit, one being, indivisible.

This is an illusion, Greg will wake up tomorrow a different person, each experience and dream changes Greg and these dreams, experiences, tears, laughter, screams, moments of reflection and joy accrete inside Greg like Barnacles on a ship, below the surface where you can't percieve them unless you delve deeply enough.

This whole rant probably doesn't make any sense, but I guess what I am trying to say is that human beings unique amongst all things on the earth have road to damascus moments

Seeing a flower, watching the sunset, seeing someone smile, small things that trigger great and profound change. These events happen everyday to people everywhere. Even when the dont the accretion of change inside us moves us constantly in new directions and towards new things.

Yet we think of ourselves and we think of others as singular beings, that's just Greg, that's Daisy, etc and in doing so we do them a disservice by not acknowledging the many facets of their nature and we miss out on the opportunity to truly understand the constant state of transmogrification that is our true nature and the nature of those we love.

Thus it is that our names become noise and smoke...obscuring heavenly light...

End Transmission

Angels, reptile brains and genetic masters

The better angels of our nature...

I was sitting there on the sofa the other day...staring blankly at the flashing images on the screen when I snapped of the mutant forehead characters in this space opera I was half watching uttered one of those idiomatic phrases that just speak to you...she said something like 'let us pray that the better angels of his nature win out' or something along those lines. For some reason I just phased out of where I was and went on a little thought journey. I would like to share it with you.

What I thought first was the interesting thing about this phrase is it sums up the duality of our nature...we have better angels and some not so good (seriously I can speak from personal experience on this...I don't even want to mention what the less good angels of my nature get up to on occasion), the way the phrase is set up demands we admit the possibility that those less better or for simplicity shall we say 'bad' angels can and often do win. So we are not singular individuals, but individuals divided between the better angels of our nature and a dark, amorphous nature....

Fairly simple so far right...

So next I thought, well if this is the case and I am reasonably certain it has some truth to it, what are the natures of these two divisions, these two forces that pull at us, or alternately the two personalities within us that vie for dominance. My first thought is that what is good is what is human and what is bad is what is base or to some degree animalistic. Of course what is human we could define as the products of a self aware consciousness with advanced language skills and the ability to think in advanced abstractions, good, duty, honour, honesty, etc. So these better angels of our nature then seem to become socially defined constructs that dictate what is esteemed as, shall we say, noble and decent behaviour historically within a certain culture. On the other hand what is bad are our instincts, our lusts for the three essentials of survival: reproduction, food and shelter, translated in the modern world as uninhibited appetite for sex, money and power.

Still reasonably simple yeah...our better angels = cultural notions of good conduct – vs bad angels = modern versions of animalistic instincts...

I am not saying I necessarily think this is a good thing or bad thing, but it certainly 'is' to some degree. Something did not sit right though (and it wasn't just that asda chicken pie) and as I stared out the window I thought surely much of the existential troubles we suffer arises from the fact that we are at all times forced to suppress an intrinsic part of ourselves. I read somewhere that the brain has three parts (I think its called the tri model or something), each part of the brain representing a stage in our evolution. Right at the base of the structures of the brain is the reptilian brain. We share these brain structures with birds and reptiles, they represent that first step in our advancement towards true consciousness. I imagined that within in us lies this instinctual animal, it wants to fight, to kill, to eat, fuck, dominate, territory, fear. From the moment we are born we are trained and trained and trained to suppress, deny and control this creature lying forcibly dormant at the base of our skulls. This suppression of something so in essence a part of ourselves must have its consequences...

So still with me....basically the division between the instinctual and the human causes issues....

So then I thought why? Why do we do it, why do we try so hard to suppress this part of ourselves? Why do we prioritise these 'better angels of our nature' to their less attractive reptilian cousins? At first I thought of the old straw man...or for those of you who don't know what that is, the old punching bag...religion...this lead me on a bit of a tangent stay with me...i thought people are always blaming religion for causing war and so on and so on, specifically christianity (by the way the inquisition killed like 5000 people...that's peanuts...the great persecution of the Romans killed between 10000-100000 I think the pagans have the upper hand when it comes to body count). Regardless all I can say is all those crazy fundamentalists with their religious persecutions are a bunch of fucking pussies...5000, Bah, 10000, humbug, even the Crusades with the 1-9 million is pathetic!!! You want fucking genocidal maniacs...Atheists every time Hitler, Mao, Stalin need I say more..but anyway besides all this at the end of this little tangent I concluded that the fact that we are consistently willing to suppress an intrinsic part of ourselves and kill in the millions in defence of these ideas we use to suppress that part of ourselves, well this demonstrates to me that they (these ideas) must have some value, but what?

Ok so here we are...still there...its not religion, its not atheism, its ideas...

So I went and made a cup of tea at this point..came back and it was obvious. Evolution...its always the easiest answer. At some point in our evolution the suppression of the reptilian part of ourselves became evolutionarily beneficial. At some point running around fucking, fighting and eating paid off...but then over time, those who didn't do these things (well who at least did them in an organised way in cooperation with a group of others!!!) gained an evolutionary edge and thus was born the suppression of instinct. Aristotle worked this out early on when he said that man is by nature politikon zoon or a city beast (commonly translated as a political animal). What does he mean? It is simply the recognition that man prospers best when he is part of a community with customs, rules and what not. If we all get along and provide each other with mutual help there is a greater chance that our offspring will survive and then themselves reproduce thus ensuring the survival of our genes. So it seems that the elaborate rituals of civilisation exist to convince us to suppress our reptilian selves in the interest of our genes.

So we have a kind of answer – we suppress because its good for our genes...we aren't there yet though...

So that seems to be the why, we want the better angels of our nature to win out because when they do we as a species win. When they don't we as a species suffer, even if some individuals benefit, on a species wide basis we don't.

So that got me religions are simply tools that help us to suppress our reptilian selves and thus ensure a more cohesive society (if I think I'm going to burn in hell I wont kill my neighbours husband and run off with his pretty wife), the political ideologies of the 20th century (Fascism, communism) did the same, but what now? How is this 6000 year old system we have devised coming along? I hate to trot out poor Nietzsche at a time like this but here goes 'if god is dead, everything is permitted'....

So still here, well done!!! So as Nietzsche says if we kill God (either the God of religion or of politics) what is there to stop me now from killing that other guy and taking the blonde for myself?

So there I was thinking – do we still have an effective mechanism for suppressing the instincts? We have punishment of course, the fear of punishment is a reasonably effective deterrent...well kindof...actually I don't really think it is, in my job I deal with people who have ended up where they are because no amount of punishment has made the slightest bit of difference...there will always be large proportions of people who have nothing to lose and everything to gain from breaking the rules essential to the genetic strategy of the politikon zoon. Still I think in essence whether or not punishment works on its own is really a story of scarcity and plenty. In a society where I have a reasonable expectation of having my reptilian needs met, the need for an ideological or religious rationale to glue together the social fabric is less essential...BUT as we are fast approaching a time where population pressures, energy shortages and environmental problems may very well bring us back to a situation of at least relative scarcity what's to be done?

Then I got thinking about the ancient Greeks again (amazing lot they were, but then again if I owned 100 slaves and only had to sit around all day I may be pretty amazing as well)...this idea they had of the telos...the final purpose of a thing...all things had a final goal towards which they aimed...even a was an agreed upon goal that all worked towards...this we lack and as Nietzsche knew full well and I ended my little reverie by wondering at the consequences of breaking a 6000 year old system, an unwritten agreement between the reptilian brain and our genetic masters, should we pray that the better angels of our nature emerge victorious?.....

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing?

Nietzsches the gay science...


The worlds morality police

Ok just a warning, if you have never considered the fundamental reasons for any of your actions this may offend you, oh and if you are left wing, I hope I offened you, you weak minded, weak willed, bleeding heart, i like to fly in the face of reality pussy.

Anyyywaaayyy now that that's out of the way I would like to ask a very simple question. I'm going to put it on its own line so we can all absorb its magnitude and import...

'Why the fuck are we dropping bombs in the middle of the desert in North Africa?'

Anyone? Can someone please explain this to me. So western powers have just spent the better part of a decade dropping bombs in deserts all over the world and obviously we cant get enough heat stroke and decided we needed to bomb some other waterless hole in the middle of nowhere. Really? What exactly did Gadaffi do that got so much sand in the west's vagina?

Ok so rather than my random vitriol shall we examine this logically. I'm going to address the main points that I have picked up from the media.

1) He attacked his own people

To this I have several answers...the ''protesters' were not going for a lesiurely stroll followed by some nice speeches in the park. They were burning down the police stations, the traffic police headquaters, houses owned by government officials they did not like. Now of course firing on protestors is not something I support, but raging mobs intent on storming government buildings and burning them down...well I think a police chief in a middle eastern country would have to consider what would be the appropriate course of action in those circumstances. Lets also not forget that people under intense pressure during violent riots occasionally react with panic, western governments have shot protestors that were alot more peaceful than the ones in Libya (the infamous shootings on Berkley campus come to mind) and no one decided to bomb them.

Secondly what would our government do in the same circumstances. Say the people of cardiff, or newcastle, or miami just decided they'd had enough, stormed the local government buildings, burned them to the ground and declared themselves free. Should the legitimate government of that country just shut up shop and go home? Whether we like Gaddafis government or not is not the point, he is representative of the recognised government of that country that all our countries have relations with, that we sign treaties with, that has a seat on the united nations. As a soveriegn nation he has the right to deal with his own insurgency in his own way. To say that a soveriegn nation does not have that right means that the USA could have bombed the UK if it didnt like the way the UK was dealing with the irish problems during the 70s or Russia, China and Iran could legitimately bomb Israel for dealing with the palestinians. The fact is this is an internal problem and we are taking sides.

Taking sides is the problem here. Clausewitz's maxim that war is the continuation of politics by other means comes to mind. The Libyians are involved in an internal political struggle between those who favour change vs those who want to maintain the status quo. You may argue 'but the status quo has tanks and planes' to which i will answer 'well that didnt mean shit in Tunisia and Egypt'. If the people are really behind the revolution than all the tanks and planes in the world wont make a difference. The fact is that the countries loyalties are divided and they are going to fight it out. This isnt the first time in history that people within one country have taken up arms to decide which course to take for the future, the English civil war, the Russian revolution, the Greek civil war, the French revolution and so on and so forth. When great change comes people die, but in dying they establish legends that give the future its mythologies, Garibaldi in Italy for example. Why is it our job to pick a side, who gave us the right to decide the Libyians future?

What gets me is that we seem to have decided that the best way to live is the way we live. If you live differently that is inherently wrong, regardless of circumstances. Now we have always believed that and that was fine, but it is only in the last 60 years that we decided to go around bombing everyone who disagreed with us and what is the track record on those intereventions (Korea, Vietnam, The Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan) Not fucking great really, so why oh why are we doing it again? Do we want to curry favour with the arab masses. The ones that hate us and think that we are servants of the great satan, but who call on us at the first sign of trouble?

2) He heads a brutal regime

This is so ridiculous that I almost cant be bothered addressing it. He's a butcher, a psycho, a nutjob, blah, blah, blah...him and just about half of all the other heads of government on the league of crappiest countries table. Im not joking, shall we go and bomb Zimbabwe? How about the Kosovans that burn Serbians out of there homes? Shall we bomb those evil people in Iran, Pakistan, DRC, Yemen, Bharain, etc blah blah...come on seriously if we could bomb every country with a bad regime, but what does it accomplish except blowing up alot of peoples houses...why did Gaddafi get put at the top of the list?

3) We have a moral duty

Last but by no means least, why do I care what happens in Libya...(actually my father was born in Tripoli, so maybe I should care) but why should we care. Really think about it, why? What does it matter to us if they kill each other for the next 100 years? Why do I have a moral duty to help someone who lives far away and who I dont know and care about even less? To which the lip wristed leftie replies, but we are all human and we all live on the same earth and we have a responsibility, blah fucking blah fucking blah, well if you really believe that rubbish, sell the house you bought with the money you inhereted from your loaded grandmother, donate it all to straving people somewhere and go work for free for an NGO...dont want to do that, then shut the fuck up. This brings me to my next point...

Self interest and alturism

People in everyday life like to think that there is such a thing as alturism. That you can do things that are good, just because they are good, but this is actually a misconception. There are no alturisic acts (acts without an element of self interest). Even dropping a 50p coin (only fifty you cheap bastard) into a homeless persons filthy paw is a selfish act, how so you ask, because the positive feeling that you get (nice brain chemicals mmm) is your pay off for being generous. You are nice, because it makes you feel nice, fair play, everyone wins, but its still selfish. So if we accept that there are no selfless acts (and when it comes to government I want them to be selfish anyway) There is only one actual reason for getting involved in the internal politics of another country, raw, naked, wobbling your bits about self interest. So what could possibly motivate us?

1) Oil

Libya produces about 1.8 million barrels a day, the worlds production is around 80-90 million barrels a day and we are running almost at capacity, continued instability will lead to an increase in fuel costs, increasing inflation, eroding earnings and consumption all when the world is just coming out of the great recession. If there were to be a civil war that produciton would be gone until it was resolved as the facilities were fought over, damaged or destroyed, etc, etc Poof worlds spare capacity gone overnight for who knows how long.

2) Regional stability

This is complicated, long conflicts evolve unintended consequences. What if the revolution attracts or is taken over by islamists and they win? A radical islamic country on the doorstep of Europe? Not that unlikely, long civil conflicts in islamic countries have a history of radicalising the revolutionary side. Look at Afghanistan, Chechyna, Iraq, Palestine, all these conflicts started with secular groups who became more and more orientated towards fundamentalist religion as the conflicts wore on. All of them are still going. Want that a couple of miles from the Italian mainland?

3) Have a seat at the table

Imagine the west being the heroes in an Arab nation? Want to redefine your reputation from hated aggressors to heroic saviour? Good press is hard to come by in the arab world and having a new government that owes you one really could be a huge game changer. This means alot when there are fifty million of them living literally next to you and another 100 million a short boat ride away...

4) etc...

There are plenty more reasons for intervention in Libya that can be argued from a position of self interest and could still be argued against. What bothers me is not our interventions, but the hypocrisy of them. If you want to be the world police, that means applying the law to everyone, not just to the criminals you have a particular interest in. If you want to be a nation making foreign policy decisions in the interests of your own people great, but dont treat us like a bunch of dicks and feed us bull about why we are doing things. You cant have a real debate about the pros and cons of something when you dress it up in the language of a morality that you actually dont subscribe to. Its the emporers new clothes, I just wish there were a few more people dancing around saying hey Obama, Sarkozy, Cameron I can see your balls.....

The Egyptian Crisis and the failure of journalism

Hi, I have been watching the unfolding street protests in Egypt with great interest. I have also been watching closely the reporting of this event with interest. It seems to me that journalism has become the simple representation of events. Journalism used to be about attempting to understand events in a deep way, as expressions of a political or ideological viewpoint. What has happened over the last half century is that Journalism has declined to the point where they no longer have any real opinion that is either considered or insightful. Instead they have grand narratives that simplify a world that is in no way simple or simply present what occurs as a camera presents a photograph. Neither of these modes of reporting are what journalism should be about, journalism should be a filter that helps us to understand what occurs, I buy a newspaper or read an article expecting the writer to have both a) a deep understanding of the event b) a considered opinion of the event. Before I go on I would like you to watch this video...

The Egyptian crisis was immediately reported by the media in the manner of the old grand narrative, of good vs evil, of innocent individuals fighting against corrupt political systems. This idiotic fable fed to us by ignorant journalists utterly fails to take into account both the history of Egypt, the history of popular uprisings in the middle easts or any sort of evaluation taken from the standpoint of real politik. So stupid have our journalists become that they see all political strife as ultimately a moral battle between a side that is good and a side that is evil. I am glad to say that already this idiotic approach to journalism has collapsed before the 'revolution' itself has failed. In their hysterical desire to see the linear progression of a traditional good vs evil narrative come to fruition the journalists forgot that Mubarak is an ally of the west, that he is the only leader in the middle east to have a peace treaty with israel, that the Egyptian armies officers are trained by the Americans and that he has been suppressing a fundamentalist muslim movement called the Muslim Brotherhood. Do the journalists who talk about the will of the people understand the will of the people they are implicitly supporting? Should we support mobs who have regressive views or who are demanding systems of governance that could turn a country with stable secular institutions into a divided failed state? What do they understand about the social forces at work in Egypt and how they would react when suddenly released from the control of a stable, yet not to any degree bloodthirsty dictator? With the massive demographic powder keg growing in the arab world (huge population of young and mostly unemployed men, with little economic opportunity) we are likely to see more unrest and call for reform in a region dominated by paternal autocrats, monarchs and presidential dicatorships. What is needed from the media is not a simplistic good vs evil fairy tale to make things easy to understand, but real reporting on the dynamic and complex problems facing the region and their repurcussions for those of us in the west.



work, eat, sleep, work.

Think, consider, contemplate.

Time shortage leads to prioritisation.

Ask the question what is the most important. Which psychological limb do you keep and which must be amputated. What thoughts do you let yourself think in the time that you have.

Drink all the water in the land, you are wet and the world is a desert.

End Transmission

...........................Supplementary Broadcast.................................

Black history month...

"In 1596, Queen Elizabeth issued an "open letter" to the Lord Mayor of London, announcing that "there are of late divers blackmoores brought into this realme, of which kinde of people there are allready here to manie," and ordering that they be deported from the country. (1) One week later, she reiterated her "good pleasure to have those kinde of people sent out of the lande" and commissioned the merchant Casper van Senden to "take up" certain "blackamoores here in this realme and to transport them into Spaine and Portugall." (2) Finally, in 1601, she complained again about the "great numbers of Negars and Blackamoors which (as she is informed) are crept into this realm," defamed them as "infidels, having no understanding of Christ or his Gospel," and, one last time, authorized their deportation. (3)"

I find it ironic that only a few years earlier the good queen had partnered with an adventurer and made a 60% profit on...yes you guessed it - black slaves.


I often wonder to myself if my continuing focus on dystopian scenarios is a consequence of indoctrination with an eschatological weltanschauung during my formative years. What concerns me most though is if the latter is true and one can interact with reality only through the prism of ones experiences then how can I know if my dystopian thought is a product of logic or of the prism. If it is a product of the prism how do I examine that which I examine through?

corpora lente augescent cito extinguuntur

I can no longer listen to music. It brings tears to my eyes. It represents a world that I know is dying. When I listen to it I think of the millions who are about to die. I think of the cataclysm that is coming and I can't shake the images from my head. When this happens I come back again and again to the Decameron, a medieval book where a group of Florentines flee the city as the black death ravages the land. Destroying the world and killing everyone, or so it seemed. They retreat to a villa and tell each other stories as they wait for the plague to pass. I so often wish to do the same, to escape the evils I know are approaching me and mine, to retreat and lose myself in words. But there is no escape, not really. It has begun much earlier than even I thought, I wonder if those who have had the misfortune to be borne in an era of, not just difficulty, but disintegration, cursed the time of their birth. Disintegration, such a good word to describe the coming storm.

End Transmission