Thursday, 27 April 2006

Fewtril #95

No professional doom-foreteller has yet been so bold or so brave as to utter what is perhaps the worst of his forebodings: that he will awake one morning only to find the tulips in bloom, the birds in song, and that all’s well with the world.

A Contender for the Worst Neologism of 2006

Homo-sectual. – n. A person whose “gayness (or homosexuality) is deeply interwoven with personal experiences and understandings of religion”, as in, “the important challenges that homo-sectuals bring to conventional religious norms”. (Jeffrey A. Redding, “Human Rights and Homo-sectuals: The International Politics of Sexuality, Religion, and Law”, Journal of International Human Rights, Vol.4:3, May 2006.

Fewtril #94

Let us hope that the goodness of a man proves an effective resistance even to his most sacred ideals.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Fewtril #93

The trouble with defending that which one suspects to be a fact is that one can very soon come to believe that it is an established one, for no other reason than that one has defended it as though it were.

Thursday, 20 April 2006

Fewtril #92

Guilt and shame are important constraints on human behaviour, but the soft-humane wish that no one suffers has extended even to the sufferings caused by guilt and shame, and thus by the action of a pious and humane creed, these constraints have been lessened, so much so that we end up today with so great a deal of shameless and unconscionable behaviour, whereby callousness knows no bounds.

Setting the Benchmark

If the Bumper Book of Pretentious Drivel ever comes to be compiled, surely the following example ought to be included:
“At numerous gigs around Wellington I played my drums and, under the lights, in the midst of sound, in the middle of rhythm, always in between one time or another, I theorized my relation to the drums, my becoming-rhythm, the abstract-machine of player, stick and skin, my self as purely a conduit for other phyla.”
Grayson Cooke, “Human – 1 / Cyborg – 0: A Personal History of a Human-Machine Relation”, Nebula, Vol. 3:1, April 2006. pp.19-20.

Fewtril #91

An ideology can work largely unseen – the suspicion of which drives many a fool to see it everywhere.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

A Puritanical Affair

Just occasionally I like to read the pages of the Weekly Worker, that irritable organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain. For sure, it has none of the bounce of Woman’s Weekly, but what it lacks in knitting-patterns and jolly gossip, it makes up for in theoretical blueprints for proletarian dictatorship and bile-spitting excoriations of other socialists, which, whilst devoid of charm and cheer, have nonetheless the power to entertain.
It is a long-standing observation that socialism is by and large a puritanical affair, and no one ought therefore to underestimate the sheer life-numbing cheerlessness of it. Those comrades who still hold out the hope that, come the revolution, there will be a joyful popping of corks in celebration of a new and joyful age, had better reckon with that observation, and still too with the sentiments of their more zealous comrades, who will eye any outbreak of cheer with sober and sinister disapproval.
Consider, for example, the opinions of this joyless blighter from the letters-page of the Weekly Worker:
It is true that people still smoke despite the health warnings on cigarette packets. But fewer people smoke now than did in my youth in the 1960s, and many who still do would like to give it up. It is now generally accepted that tobacco is unhealthy. Government information campaigns have played a part in this. The same could be done for alcohol.
A socialist society would still bear the birthmarks of the bourgeois society from which it emerged. Even a workers’ state, until the process of its self-abolition is complete, would be an authoritarian body. In the final analysis it would be bodies of armed workers imposing their will. The will of the proletariat should be imposed on the bourgeoisie, including those who have profited from the manufacture and sale of drink.
They should not be killed, except where there is no other choice, or fined, but set to hard labour repairing some of the damage they have done. In so doing they may become human; just as a society freed from the poisonous swill sold by profit-hungry capitalists will become both human and humanistic.
Terry Liddle, Letter to the Weekly Worker, 620, 13th April 2006.
This man is clearly out of touch with the current political régime, wherein such chilling revolutionary puritanism finds little favour. Fabians, after all, prefer a gradual approach.

Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Fewtril #90

Sometimes I think it would be more beneficial to society if our modern-day self-loathers publicly scourged themselves in the medieval fashion with spiked whips and chains. We could make a day of it. Instead, however, we have the daily and more pitiable sight of such persons committing their neuroses to print, in novels, poetry, sociological theses and newspaper-columns. At least the medieval fashion is less wasteful—and easier on the eye.

Fewtril #89

Throughout the ages, the common man has been satisfied with his ignorance, but in our age he is angered when it is not recognised as knowledge.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Fewtril #88

An untruthful relationship based on reciprocal faintheartedness may exist between the people and their political representatives; for when the people dare not hear the truth, their political representatives dare not tell it.

Far from the Fray

“[T]he ghoulish stereotypes that spread fear through Daily Mail-land: benefit scroungers, feral youths, problem families.”
(John Harris, “Bottom of the class”, The Guardian, 11th April 2006.)
One must suspect that this man — like so many of his fellow Guardianistas — has never walked through Stockport on a Wednesday afternoon.

Friday, 7 April 2006

Fewtril #87

It is often a great mistake to assume that a shallow and callous man is not fully committed to the moral principles he espouses. On the contrary, because he does not adhere to these principles through a genuine sympathy for his fellow man, but rather wears them with pride as so many badges and testimonies to his principled character, he may extend them without let or flexibility to their furthest limits, such that he may extend a moral principle against the oppression of a minority so far as to decry the incarceration of murderers.

Thursday, 6 April 2006

The Fairest Method of Extermination

There has been a curious development in ethics recently, namely, that of making non-discrimination the sine non qua of one’s moral faculties. Consider the following remark, for instance:
I thought he was arrogant and racist but then I learned that he’s just upset at us Homo sapiens and he’s equally predjudiced [sic] to all classes of people. [1]
Or, in other words, while a prejudice or an injustice against some people is a sin, it is not a sin when applied equally to all—as if a sin against a part could be absolved by a sin against the whole! The author bases his moral judgement solely on the pious ideal of non-discrimination, and thus places his moral judgement in this regard below that of a vegetable, whose inability to discriminate would make it positively saintly. Such an ideal bespeaks a pious madness that benumbs the moral faculties, or indicates a lack thereof.
The remark was made by a student in his evaluation of Professor Eric R. Pianka, professor of Zoology at the University of Texas, who has allegedly expressed the hope that ninety percent of the human population of the world will be killed by airborne Ebola. [2] As one of his admirers puts it,

We need to decline in population. A virus is probably the fairest method of extermination (though still not completely fair, I admit) because it’s nondiscriminatory as to whom it targets. [3]

Ah, well, as long as it’s nondiscriminatory . . .
When this ideal of non-discrimination has become the sole or determining basis for a “moral” outlook, piously maintained as a sop to conscience, could it not be that the scope for callousness might be expanded rather than bounded? After all, by this way of thinking, if misfortune exists at all, it is only “fair” that it include all.
It does seem that there is something in the air — a whiff of misanthropic glee, by which our intellectuals might excite their doom-lust. Just yesterday The Independent published a letter, in which the author concerned himself about humanity and its impact on global warming, wishing for “a major pandemic” and wondering whether “bird flu could be the salvation of the human race”. [4]
As Monsieur Pascal noted, “Experience makes us see an enormous difference between piety and goodness”, [5] and we see a stark illustration of that here.

[1] Excerpts from Student Evaluations, 1998-2004, Biology 357: Evolutionary Ecology, University of Texas at Austin. (H/T: Krauze, “The blogger’s guide to Dr. PiankaTelic Thoughts (Weblog), 4th April 2006.)
[2] See, Forrest M. Mims III, “Meeting Doctor Doom”, The Citizen Scientist, 31st March 2006. (H/T: Dan Collins, in the comments at The Daily Ablution, 4th April 2006.) This report of Professor Pianka’s views is corroborated by two student evaluations. (1) “I don’t root for ebola, but maybe a ban on having more than one child. I agree . . . too many people ruining this planet.” (2) “Though I agree that convervation [sic] biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90% of the human population should die of ebola is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness.” Excerpts from Student Evaluations, 1998-2004, Biology 357: Evolutionary Ecology, University of Texas at Austin. (H/T: Krauze, “The blogger’s guide to Dr. PiankaTelic Thoughts (Weblog), 4th April 2006.) Update: Partial transcript of Dr Pianka’s speech (HT: MikeGene “A Promise”, Telic Thoughts, 8th April 2006, which does not fully support Mims' account. Thanks to Krauze for pointing this out.)
[3] Brenna, Serenity (Weblog), 9th March 2006. (Original emphasis.)
[4] Bob Harris, Letter to The Independent, 5th April 2006.
[5] Blaise Pascal, Pensées (New York: Dover Publications, 2003), p.136

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Fewtril #86

It may well describe an advantage over our forebears that we moderns can include under the name of culture a canvas daubed with the excrement of an attention-seeking cretin, though what that advantage might be, other than a greater flexiblity with names, I cannot rightly say.

Monday, 3 April 2006

Fewtril #85

Our politicians are like thief-beguilers with the simple knack of misdirection. “Keep your eyes on the future”, they say, and whilst we await the rabbit out of the hat, they’re binding our hands and rifling through our pockets.