Blogging

Blogging.

Blogging.

Blogging, blogging, bloggingbloggingblogging … blogging, blogging.

Blogging, blogging.

Blogging.

Blogging.

Blogging?

Hmmm…

Blogging.

Uncertain

It's been an odd few weeks and months.

I'm looking for a bit of stability here. I'm finding some.

Bizarre performance art

Returning to the recent Sprout Burrito theme, this from Fark; "Hey, at least it's got beans on it now B-b-burrito? DIT"

The best comment across a couple of hundred posts, the very best, most succinct whilst retaining a flavour of what they must be thinking:

"This is some bizarre performance art or a social experiment. Regardless, there's no excuse for these 'burritos' should they exist. They are an abomination."

A man puts Brussels sprouts into a tortilla wrap and, well, the response is inevitable isn't it!

Sprout burrito inventor

In an attempt to reinvent myself on social networks I've been silent for a long while, to let the old stuff out and the void in. That's not to say I haven't missed the interactions, I have. But life, as-ever, got in the way.

I'm not back yet, far from it, but I see encouraging signs. One of them was an attempt to engage with people I don't know on IRC. It's literally 20 years since the last time I had a go, and there's no coincidence that was also my first try; it's synchronous chat, quite a fast-paced, and an unforgiving environment. But once in, it appears a sense of community remains. Nerds, geeks abound. The attempt went reasonably well, but I definitely sensed some insularity, mistrust of outsiders; most unlike the entirely positive experiences on the 3 most-recent small networks it's been my privilege to be involved with.

So, to the title of this post?

First, it might be, though probably isn't, a good idea to read this:

"Today, after a lot of procrastination, I will eat my first-ever burrito. I'll post a picture of the uncooked thing momentarily. Later this year, a visit to Taco Bell UK"

And then this:

"Following up yesterday's first-ever burrito, I'm making my own from leftovers: Mashed sprouts, sweetcorn, redcurrant jelly, tiny squirt of ketchup. In the oven now, wrapped in foil"

Incidentally, the mobile version of the Fark site works really well on mobile devices.

Getting there, not just socially.

Logotherapy

I started to write this post with a point to make and a structure to work around it but part-way through I gave up, the events of last week took away my focus (both in the news and personally.) So yes, I gave up and just typed stuff. Here it is:

We all search for meaning in life, whether or not we know it. Logotherapy provides, when meaning is elusive or nonexistent, an attempt to restore it, to restore an individual's human spirit.

From the Wikipedia article, a basic description:
> "Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
> Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
> We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering."

It's a branch of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is, I'll admit, not my forte let alone within my experience. So, again quoting directly from the article, 'we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways:
1. By creating a work or doing a deed;2. By experiencing something or encountering someone; and3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering" and that "everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."'

Pretty straightforward stuff it seems: some find meaning in the job they have, others in the sports teams they support, their friends, the pain of loss, or fundraising for those less-fortunate. Meaning can be found in scenarios from the passive involvement watching a television series, to the total immersion of running a country. Logotherapy provides a mechanism to make sense of life and to restore an individual's sense of meaning, when all seems otherwise lost.

No, I'm not undergoing any form of externally-sourced therapy, I arrived here during a study of Totalitarianism, Authoritarianism and Inverted totalitarianism this last being, by the way, the most relevant to our times:
> "In inverted totalitarianism, every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to collapse as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism."

First coined 14 years ago to describe the tendency of United States governments to increasingly ignore the best interests of all that country's citizens in favour of the few at the top and those who shout the loudest, the description is eerily accurate now. 2016-2017 brought new lows: voter suppression, the rise of the far right, the rise of populism and nativism. The removal of essential healthcare protections in what was previously easily the world's most expensive healthcare system is particularly disconcerting for those condemned to an uncertain fate by it, and must be utterly terrifying for those condemned to a certain fate.

I'm particularly interested right now in the bit about 'intolerable suffering,' especially my observations of the grades of what people imagine the term 'intolerable' means to them. We do after all live in times of hyperbole and instant gratification.

I've a list. It's uncomfortable to write, but I'm in the mood:

  • Syria and Iraq are currently experiencing unimaginable death tolls, Syria currently engaged in a 6-year-old war. A site I've linked to elsewhere indicates that 470,000 have been killed in Syria alone since 2011. That's not just the destruction of essential infrastructure and then the devastation of entire towns and cities, it's the senseless killing of men and women and children and babies. It's all because human beings don't want to talk to other human beings.
  • The USA is presided over by a man almost universally seen as unfit for government, unable to understand diplomacy, a bully, and even telling the simple truth seems beyond him. The office he holds was once termed as 'the leader of the free world.' And yet he needs a legacy. A US military re-entry into Afghanistan is again on the agenda. The real possibility of a use of nuclear weapons scares me. The US's approach to foreign policy fills me with dread.
  • Brexit. Yeah, Brexit is, quite simply, a process that should never have been allowed to happen. Factions within the Conservative Party insisted and the Prime Minister agreed to put the choice to the British people: In or Out of the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have offered another referendum on the deal the government of the day negotiates with Europe, the choice of approval or disapproval: The 3 larger political parties reject this, and the British electorate rejected it in the General Election just gone; "too much politics, we've had enough!" How odd; they're rejecting a chance to influence the future of our economy and world standing. They're throwing away the chance of a future based on real democracy because scratching an 'X' in a box is too hard.
  • The British Prime Minister is attempting to form a government reliant on the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), without any form of agreement between those parties. Ulster, a province profoundly factionalised on fundamentally religious and nationalistic grounds whilst somehow remaining a part of the United Kingdom, is one in which, for instance, abortion is still illegal. The DUP, a party with 10 MPs in theory represents an electorate fundamentally opposed to gay and womens' rights, and some seem to believe the world is 6,000 years old. It's a party retaining links to terrorist organisations loyal to the UK, and a profound divide exists between them and those who wish to rejoin the Irish Republic. Presumably a side of the divide acceptable to the Conservatives. Of course loyalty to the UK is somewhat more nuanced now Brexit is imminent. The DUP, with a total vote share of 292,000 holds the balance of power within a nation of 65 million.
  • Perhaps the most uncomfortable fact from the last two elections - in the USA and UK - is that people will vote for things that disadvantage them if they believe the politician has created talking points simply to gain office. (Of course this is based on both pre-election and exit polls; though an individual's vote is secret and it's unlawful for anyone else to reveal them, a voter can freely state who they voted for.)
  • Older voters in particular seemed inclined to vote to reduce protections designed to look after them once unable to care for themselves. During a pre-Election BBC Question Time broadcast, a third of the panel's questions were put by obviously angry old men intent on destabilising the lives of future generations. Their universal condemnation of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as a 'terrorist sympathiser', as someone fundamentally opposed to the use of nuclear weapons, as a decent human being and thus presumably unqualified to lead a government, all of it appalled me.
  • The very worst of it all is perhaps the most predictable. It's universally acknowledged that politicians lie, that the businesses lobbying for influence encourage it, that the newspapers and news media organisations shape public opinion to please their financial backers. But ordinary people don't seem to care, and are simply too lazy to check the facts.
  • No, I was wrong. The very worst thing to emerge is the words 'normalisation' or 'normalised.' We're so accustomed to hearing of hardship elsewhere in the world, so used to hearing of death tolls in far-away places that their significance escapes us until, albeit on a smaller scale, it happens here. And once it's happened a couple of times and Facebook temporary profile pictures have been pulled down, the root cause is basically ignored. We remain extraordinarily lucky that the reach of xenophobia and all the other things into our modern societies barely touches our comfortable existences, we simply accept that there'll never be an end to world poverty 32 years after the 'Live Aid' concerts.

I could go on, but thinking about things is hard, you see. I've enough on my plate just reaching the end of each day right now.

There's a saying, purportedly Chinese, which is appropriate on so many levels. It's this:
> "May you live in interesting times."

At first it seems a positive phrase, in this context however 'interesting' means unsettled, chaotic, even dangerous. It's a curse.

We live in interesting times.

Manchester

We're watching the #OneLoveManchester concert and, perhaps unconventionally, I contributed a few pounds towards the UNHCR ‬Mosul (Iraq) appeal unhcr.org then signed their #WithRefugees petition unhcr.org/refugeeday.

Worldwide more than 65 million people, greater than the population of the UK, have had their lives put on hold, been forcibly removed from the safety and security of their homes, and less than a third are being cared for by the UN in any manner.

No, this isn't me giving you a dose of perspective, I haven't got a bloody clue what's going on. It does need fixing though, and quickly. Here's a repost of my words from the week of the Manchester bombing: http://bazbt3.10centuries.org/2017/05/26/ffs-sweary

One final point, simply attempting vengeance, to kill terrorists without any other coherent strategy to stop ordinary people being turned into terrorists, will never work.

Manifesto

I read the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for the 2017 General Election: http://www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto. More precisely I first read the 'Easy Read' variant then skipped through each of the party's next-Parliament pledges.

One thing I took away from the experience can be summed up by the range of formats available on that page: the Liberal Democrats are a party of inclusiveness, honesty and pragmatism. A bit of a leap maybe but if anyone was to read the Manifesto they'd understand why I feel my personal choices have been vindicated. I saw it when, in government, they moderated the worst excesses of the Conservative party, and I'm seeing it now in opposition.

Labour comes a close second, their Manifesto document alternatives don't include Braille.

The Conservatives attitude to inclusiveness is ably shown by the single PDF download and oddly-sized inline document viewer.

One final point, none of the three include languages other than English. Maybe I missed something but maybe, just maybe, people that come here from foreign lands are better at integration than native Brits will ever be.

On the eve of the Brexit vote I urged people who'd never done so before to vote, to vote whichever way their consciences told them to. This time around the ones who voted to leave Europe, if not voting Liberal Democrat, can get fu

Documentary

Like everything else I write what follows is only my opinion, however anyone reading this should know it's a fact in my mind.

'Peppa Pig' is the best fly-on-the-wall documentary series television has ever produced.

Assumptions

I often fall into the trap of assuming people know more than they do about the things I'm interested in. I should be paid for it, along with my ignorance I'd make an absolute fortune!

I've just recovered from watching the car-crash television interview of Tim Farron, UK Liberal Democrat political party leader. Interviewer Andrew Neil came across as being spectacularly ill-tempered, intolerant and ultimately ill-informed.

Part-way through it devolved into a shouting match, a wholehearted removal of any pretence of mutual respect.

From the brief article accompanying the video clip, this: "In heated exchanges where Andrew Neil told his interviewee not to "heckle" him…"

I haven't seen his preceding interviews of the other 2 main party leaders, I wasn't interested. It seems though that modern interview technique mandates that interviewers must show how 'tough' they are by constantly interrupting the interviewee then accusing them of not answering the question. Do politicians deserve respect? The reasonable answer fits somewhere within the range from 'No' to 'It depends', of course it does.

But part-way through Andrew Neil made the same mistake I've heard from him before, offering Mr Farron the blunt assertion that "we all already know that."

Mr Neil might be very surprised indeed how little a lot of people outside his political bubble know about the realities of modern politics, and modern life in general. The failure of British people to engage on anything but a superficial level with politics, and Brexit in particular, ensures people are either spectacularly uninformed or spectacularly ill-informed. What better time than now to give the party leaders a voice?

But no, the terms of the modern interview mean they've got to be shouted down and called names before they get the chance, and be judged on those terms.

Tim Farron proved himself to be human this evening.

But we're not voting for a party leader are we, despite the Conservative party leader's wish we were. No, we're voting for a party's policies and its ability to present a coherent front. A Labour vote is ultimately a wasted vote, it's a party that'll fall apart as soon as the temporary, fragile cessation of internal hostilities the election imposes finally breaks.

All of this is why I'll still be voting Liberal Democrat.

FFS (sweary)

I'm not sorry if the language in this post offends. I cannot get past a (probably primitive) need to use it. I know it's wrong and anti-social, and yet releasing the pressure cooker valve of crude and vulgar language will help me come to terms with it. So, here goes.

An acquaintance turned to me today and, totally out of the blue, said this (I'm paraphrasing a little):

"Today's a special day for them, they commit atrocities on it."

There was no preamble, nothing I'd said that would indicate how receptive I'd be to the statement.

"Eh?", I replied, then headed to Google, partially to block out thoughts of axes and sweeping majestically across the Steppe, laying waste to…

It turns out today marks the beginning of Ramadan. So I told him so. "You mean Ramadan."

Doubling down is usual, and he didn't disappoint this time. Well actually he did:

"No, no, sometime soon there's a special day where they commit atrocities, it's part of their religion."

"No it isn't. No it is not," I had to reply before shutting the conversation off.

Should I have asked him for proof?

Should I have attempted to educate him?

For fuck's sake, we're not living in The Dark Ages; we're not living in a time during which, if we didn't understand something, it automatically had to be excluded from the community, or maimed, or killed. Or made the subject of a decades-long feud. Or a bleedin' Crusade! Now we are living in a time of information overload, of that there can be no doubt, but it's so bloody easy to use Google to check, that even a child could do it. But I guess the twat who so casually opened the conversation with religious intolerance (he's also a racist) has lost a child's ability to wonder about things, and would rather remain ignorant.

For some perspective, a headline on my favourite web site:

"24 Coptic Christians killed in Minya, Egypt in what authorities are calling the largest attack on the community since last month". It's now at least 28 deaths and, added to the 44 from just last month, adds a teeny tiny sense of perspective.

But for a real sense of perspective, there's this site:

http://www.iamsyria.org/death-tolls.html

The word 'stark' doesn't even come close to my thoughts on the disparity between this week's Manchester death toll and what's going on in Syria and all the other conflict-torn countries.

We really do not know how lucky we are.

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