Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Modern Deadly Sins Part II: Hatred and Dispossession

The media is a tivoli mirror show, where the humdrum happenings and good works of society and its organisations around the world are squeezed out of salience, while stories of in particular acts of hatred are to the fore.

Why there is so much apparent hatred in the world is both exagerrated and fueuelled by the media, and carefully nurturesd in its propagandic outfalls, suprisingly domestic too for we in the west.

Whether the media helps engender even more hatred between nationalities, secyts,  religions, races, the sexes, sexual orientation and social classes is an interesting point but there is a lot of animosity to report in the world, and even in the current Ukrnian crisis much of it centres around sectarian lines or the backwards neo conservative religion versus liberal secular governance.

Why do we as a species indulge in so much animosity towards our own kind, whem in fact we often display acts of amazing altruism towards strangers?

I think the crux of the issue is that differentiatipn between our encounters with individuals face to face, versus the often literal demonisation of the group;the otheras, the foriegners, "the them".

When we behave as groups we avhieve the greatest feats and build the most robust societal amd economic structures while we also commit the most heaniois crimes in the name of the group versus the them. We all know the 20th century's darkest days in the 1910s, 40s, 50s and then all over again in the balkans when we thought europe at least had freed itself from sectarian genocide and learnt from the past.

A tv anthropologist in new guniae encounter this friend or foe reaction and murderous history. For me the reportage was a kind of eureka moment, proving to me at me at least, that xenophobia has its routes deep in our psyche and not just as a result of media and church propog,anda.

In tis show the traveller went to essentially some of the most primitive peoåles of the world qho live a stone age life style, mainly hunter gathering with marginal embrypnuc agriculure around their long houses. Essemntially tribes were derined as extended families. Strangers were feared and taboo, even people who were related but lived further away than usual daily contact could easily be viewed as ghost-demons. These unpeople then were fair game for a spear or arrow. In one incident a man killed another man on the edge of his purported territory whonwas actually marriedmto his female cousin. The man was known vaguely, or from years gone by, but the fear of seeing him in the territory painted him to be a ghostndemon and hes wasnkilled, furthermore in true papua new gunieamstyle, eaten.

The reporters gained access to these families cagily by kind of social networking on the ground, peeling back thwe onion through a chain of contacts until the ultimate primitive familyntype could be visited. At each stage they met animosity and displaya of aggression and passive aggression you could cut steel with. However at each stage, once the ice was broken the family turned out to be hospitable and keen tonshare stories and conversemon life style.  The camera crew had carefully transcended those boundaries , from the them to the new friends.

There is a fairly established ethological or paleo-socio-anthropological view that human beings have a genetically inherited predisposition to xenophobia. This dates back perhaps to pre language or even early primate ancestprs, where humanoids lived in family groups or small clans.

Our ancestors certainly lived then by hunter gathering and perhaps by some seed enrichment proto-agriculture, and had either territorial life styles or were nomadic. Some may have done both or adapted with goodnor bad seasons, ormexhaustion  ofnresources. Yet others may well have lived parasitically from other humanoids or primates by robbing them, stealimg pray or even cannibalism.

For groups holding territories or wanting to avoid or exploit other tribes or sub species, it became incredibly imortant to recognise strangers, the them , as a matter of life and death.

This psychological apparattis then evolved long before homo sapiens locked themselves into agro-economy, living in towns and iexpanding inter-regional trade. In fact by in large civilisation is only 5,000 -7,000 years old. In evolutionary genetic terms this time span is a blink of an eye.

It is my contention as with many others, that we simply have not had time to evolve out of undesirable genetic predispositions such as gluten allergy, reading exacerbated myopia or of course xenophobia. While society's structures and mechanisms have evolved to be more cohesive, the devisive, nationalistic poltic is still very much present because we have not lost our now increasingly useless xenophobia. Our western meritocricy and middle eastern islamic harmonisation of race for example, render irrational hatred obsolete and most of all, global economics and world wide peace agreements should consign genocide and even petty prejudices to history.

However hatred of sectarian, cultural or racist nature still is peristent and often a prominent force in politics and acts of mass lawlessness. Despite racism and all the other prejudice based -isms being largely irrational within multicultural countries or in the context of global trade and travel, it persists due to evolution being slow. Evolution is slow to act in relation to neutral phenotypic features, or dead-wood-genes as some call them.

Take the human appendix or resibual cæcumb: it has a very marginal role and some people still die of appendicitis yet it is still there. Or the human vagina which is allegedly evolving to be easier for sex face to face, we being the only major mammalian species to prefer this during mating, while the vagina's optimal angle is still for a direction of penetration from the lower mamalian approach ie from behind. In an agricultural based or rather fed society, gluten allergy and hayfever are two other physical slightly delatorious phenotypic characteristics which will possible evolve out of the gene pool.

Other academics with varuous hues of "socio" in their title, argue that xenophobia is a politically and culturally driven phenomena, which can therefore be erradicated by the inevitably or rather poorly presumed march towards the greater good of liberal social democratic societies. This is most often not in the  light of having read anything on behavioural genetics or evolutionary theory and science. Just like the irrational religious anti science heritics of today, they want to just deny genetics and claim we are people with free willx, separate from the animal kingdom. They abhore bioscience and blame  it for eugenics and unwanted societal interferences such as GMO and embryo gene biomarker screening.

The thing is it is very difficult to legislate or organise to erradicate xenophobia on an international basis. One major global reason now is of course the conservative interpretation of Islam and the counter current against reform toward secular societies. This is also true of internal and international interest groups having turned the USA into a post democratic oligarchy, where economic, religious and cultural belief systems are epistatic to rational decision making and logical liberalisation aka small government.

The christian, jewish and muslim conservativism today is all based on of course belief and not science, modern law or rationality. Worse the three powerful groupings are an intertwined self fulfilling sectarian trinity of hatred, violence and what many see as retrogression in terms of individual rights and the recognition of minorities,  and even majority voting in favour of secular governance. Worse are the threats posed today by nationalism, which are the seeds for new conflicts in Europe and Eurasia.

Hatred is here to stay and probably on the rise, who has a barometric measure? But due to the re-entrenchment of religious and nationalist conservatives in the face of post war, small government liberalism, sectarianism and nationalism is it seems set to get worse before it gets better. The conservative groupings are able to exploit the negative perceoptions amongst average families about how far the permissive society has gone, particularly focused on gay rights and in islamic countries, womens rights. This is counter attacked by the march of media, but in coming full circle to how I started this rant, the media is consumer generated social media and not the establishment controlled or hysterical headline chasing media of old. New media facilitates sharing of concepts of life styles from those who are wealthier and more liberal to those who find this aspirational and want to reject the old status quo in the middle east and former ussr in particular.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Modern Deadly Mortal Sins part I: Hectic Sloth

The human condition has often been said to have at its core that the gods endowed us with free choice, and the abundance to have leisure.

We have become slaves to a hectic sloth. A useless existence of serving some goal which in reality to mostly other higher up people's benefit or no real benefit at all. Then we have our own leisure becoming a tread mill of social media, taxi driving the kids, trying to get as fit as we were 20 years ago, speed dating, speed marriaging, island hopping....all is a desperate desire to do something which appears to add some value to our lives, to be toward some poorly defined result or to merely feel we are occupied to a capacity which is fulfilling some need to be on a road to success in our societies.

Now we in the western world have instead of leisure time, we have presenteeism: being conspicously at work, convincing others and not least ourselves that we are doing something valuable. Some rise through to be bosses, others become bigger farts in politics, a few realise their folly and work building up their own companies or social enterprises.

Most get hobbies and kids and say damn it and lever their experience into some level of responsibility above the drones, like me, and do consulting and so on.

However our qaulity-time is eaten into by other time wasting activities and the inability to relax. Yeah, get a little bored once in a while it's good for you like the rest days and sleep for sports.

We are as an animal locked into OCD deluxe. This is because we are creatures who are habitual: we had to survive by taking some risk, but sticking to what worked and getting the days tasks done, the seasons harvesting and preparation complete and our territory safe from predators and other tribes. Agriculture worked as the first industry because we were already evolved to conform, to repeat, to learn from the leader and to accept mundanity. 

Our modern lives leave us with a kind of meta-survival where we could all be far more productive on the one hand , while on the other hand we could spend more of that quality time, keeping fit, being involved in politics, with the kids, with the olds, teaching our skills and sports to others.

We are instead locked into obsessive compulsive behaviour. Days of being busy while acheiving little more than a white noise for most of the day.

In all this ocd, there is an avoidance or a myopia to what could be imoportant to achieve for ourselves, our families, our community and the world of nature and mankind.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Just Who Does Gary Turk Think He Is ?

I just dropped in on the 'Look Up' vid on yotube which criticises our modern obsession with the multi media, touchscreen mobile device we still call the phone or now call the tablet.

The vid' for me contains both a degree of truth and much that annoys me about the Luddite view some hipsters, social sideshows and old fogey laggards take on social media in particular, as the main up time on said hand held machines.

'Look Up' by Gary Turk, self appointed urban laureate, does address a couple of issues, which came up for me this week. Firstly our local mayor has put the hammer down on councellors and other of the meeting's participants should refrain from the distractions of tablet communications which are either unrelated to the debate or perhaps devisory or showing that they are seeking council and authority which they should hold in their own stature of office.

The other thing i noted more than anything this week is that i have more or less given up on tv in favour of SM.

Before in life as young adults even, we would expend our energies of the day and then sit for two to three hours, often more. We found tv relaxing, distracting, informative and we became attached to stars, journalists, presenters and even continuity announcers and cartoon characters.

The other night I watched an episode of 'silent witness'. It was in the mould of 'personal involvement with the perpreators, and forensic scientists being far more involved with the policing and legal processes than they are in real life'. Put in a drop dead gorgeous actress, bit too skinny for me but she'd do, and you used to get my disbelief suspended and my enjoyment secured. Not any more. I am intellectually insulted by them regurgitating yet another aforementioned plot vehicles.

I refused to suspend my disbelief and instead read about my pals in SM, rose tinted postings and all, or the israeli Like campaign for cocking a.n M16 in the face of pallestinian youth protesting about the ethnic cleansing on the west bank.

I find the Westminister and Washington parliamentary/congressional largely a media propoganda circus for the old, dying media while freedom of thought and expression and political movements happen on mobile devices and social media. I trust bloggers more than journalists, at least I can go in thinking the b log is owned in a bipartisan set up before i accept what they have to say.

I no longer bother much with marketing material and brochure-wear web sites , i go to consumer generated experiences, pirated technical manuals in pdf form, price finder sites and our own version of e-bay, finn, which often has the entrepreneur selling outside the usual chain store retail price agreement, or the unwanted gift from a fellow consumer at a bargain price and so on.

So the old 'channel' concept where journalists, politicians and marketing managers were the would be puppeteers, are now dying away to be replaced by CGM ( consumer generated media). Why look at a bunch of pontificating self appointed experts or story mongers? Why adsorb meaningless soap opera stories with the  cardboard one D stereotype or the larger than life characters being played out by actors. Not to mention the  overly violent nature of crime dramas and much of what Hollywood churns out. "Don't believe the Liberal Media" well dont beleive the fascist 'fender sticker' either.

Also I am considerably MORE sociable than I would be and I like both the spectrum of people and groups I can mingle with and my ability to exclude those bitches and fascists I really cant abide, but may have to endure in a 'real' social context like that great pretence of sociability, going to the pub to talk about the weather and the cricket scores.

The fact is too that SM in particular has kept me sane while living in a small, navel gazing town where after six years I have basically no real mates. I have some quite good FB buddies here, some are a bit shy in real life. More over I keep in touch with some really interesting characters and old friends, even if that is in a strange cocktail of flagrantly boasting child-pride and socio- poltical "Likes this Page".

People do post bad day feelings.

Prior to the advent of SM proper we had e-mail and sms and the long distance telephone call before that. When my dad died I picked up the handset and called to talk to my best pal, explaining to his dad in his abscence the cataclysmic event for me. Aged 12. When a long term would be love interest lost her mother we got a chain e- mail as her way of crying out loud and getting attention rich shoulders to cry on. Parties would be organised to exclude boy X or girl Y by using chains of carefully planned phone calls or notes in addidas sports bags last thing on a friday at school such the poor uninvited, sometimes me, knew nothing before it was over.  I got dumped most often on the phone, from at least 50 miles away and after 10pm. Thanks girls. Would be a PM on FB these days.

I spend more time thinking about other people and issues ,while yes, I do less with them....but i live frikkin out on a limb anyway!

The main issue is with the children. They spend too much time on tablets and I spend too much time on mine at some prime points for QT in the eves and weekends. At least i admit this.

If I lived in Edinb'ra or Glesga agin, then I would be more sociable by using SM to get to meetings and get involved, and dating sites to use my pri.nciple of turnstyles and serendipity of an extended, and ever expanding social network. This would be in the opposite without SM, as circles would be ever-decreasing.

Think of a mid life crisis in the 1970s??  For me post divorce, it would be an unbearable trawl around pubs, over 30 clubs spanish evening classes, badminton ladders, amnesty international meetings and a dusty address book with a list of bridges which were burnt years ago by lack of contact.

SM is not an issue for me, playing with my kids would be an issue without more than a turn dial telephone as remote social technology. But knowing that i can do something about it and will because the contrast is so strong.

Back to how life was as a teenager and hip young adult in the 80s and ealy 90s. As Morrissey crooned while in the smiths..."there's a someone who really loves you go and you stand on your own and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die'. What a great truism for we the shy majority.

How many times too did i go to the pub with my "best mate" or other to have them play the puggies and skip buying rounds or try and ditch my shy heaviness and meet some new girls?

Far better dear Morrissey now, to meet up with someone you have affirmed as having common interests and maybe even got passed the maybe we like the look of each other. Then you go and maybe leave without being on your own.

Or the Arab Spring and what is happening in Saudi Arabia: Now as a liberal ,reformer you can meet on the internet and have your views affirmed and. become a force for positive change.

In fact from 1986 to 1999 i did not look at much tv, and went to indie cinemas or fringe field films. After that it was the mad friday night rack of father ted, trigger happy TV, have i got news for you, absolutely and latterly spaced. What has happened to that radical free energy? TV went cheap with reality shows and then worse, celebrity reality shows. Full circle to the SM fueled talent shows, which reward excellence in mimmickry as substitute for originality.

So bye bye TV, news in retrospect on the tablet, FF through the handball and the break-ins.  And yes, i do want to see my disparate, spread out fkormer buddies' families gfrowing up and do more than the christmas card and the goin.g out my way to meet them once a decade.

Bye bye random dates and random geogrpahical fortuities: proximity shags, convenience friends, down-the-local drinking buddies, sport team "mates". Hello mutual socio-politico-pshyco- triage relationships :  new lovers, casual sexships, political alliances and new best pals.

So social media i am glad you are here, i am glad i use you, i use you less than i used to watch TV, i have as many or more  useless, wonderful acquaintances than i did 25 years ago. I keep in touch with my old pals more than i would have before you, dear media noveau came along.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Small Town Blue Full Circle?

I grew hup not in a small town, but in a village at the side of a small town. In my childhood the populations of both my own home village and the larger neigbour more or less doubled, with a huge influx of folk from way far outside.

In that one fact was i saved from being a small minded small townee.

We had then a fairly major naval and marine commando base nearby plus we were a comfortable commute to the big industrial connurbation. So my compatriots at primary school were fluctuating and I grew up with a positive view on new friendships, new people, diversity and became used to social groups falling apart when people moved away after their 3-5 year turnus at the marine base or often denationalised industry their parents had helped close!

In fact i have to count myself lucky because both village and town smallness were largely swamped by incomers.

An interesting hypothesis about people being excluded in small towns or entire conservative countries even, is that they of course recognise you as outside the clique, but more so they struggle to categorise you as safe or a threat. They recognise their own and feel they must remain with the centre of gravity when it concerns meeting the new. Neophobic, like rats with established runs who avoid traps.

The centre of gravity gains that critical mass because of bullying and collective esxclusion as a social reinforcement. The group defines itself in conservative ways or by some common agreements, perhaps secrative or even non verbal, perhaps rather loose proximity factors like sports, school, street, church, age, looks etc..... but individuals find their own insecurity with that group or their neophobia stregnthened when they are able to define someone as an outsider and actively and conspicuously Exclude the person.

I define part of me as a casual follower of the brave and a reluctant leader of the foolish. I have been on the fringes of cluiques and maybe in one or two loser cliques whose inclusion/exclusion where not de facto snob clique phenomena, they were a result of sports, educational, lifestyle or neighbourhood choices. Some are excluded by not qualifying or not trying hard enough to get in, and maybe some feel excluded. A bit like the whole class thing in the uk, which means that average working families will no longer be able to afford to buy a house. Property ownership becomes a means of social exclusion by economic phenomena which are qualified at an individual level, those who are wealthy for whatever reason,  yet have drastic exlusiory effects without their being a conscious negative philosophy.

Take though a more down to earth examplle from my own life. I am about two years too old to be in the Eccie (ecstasy abusing) generation and five years older than Generation-X. However i found myself on the edge of a clique of gen'Xers as a young graduate, making my greatest mijstake of moving back to said small village sattellite to the town. I never made it into the core of the group by not of course being a motorcrossing lunatic, but i did not feel very excluded either and enjoyed much of being around them at snowboarding slopes or in the hazy summer of 95 when we all learned to surf down at the coast in an amazjing summer for sun if not waves.

I think ijt was summer the year after that i got a sense of clique negativity. In fact it was my then new best pal who shwoed the side of what was a kind of mirror image of my life latefr too: a younger surfer who had talent started to hang out and my pal labelled him as "bad smell". He was a great looking young guy, and there lay the issue. The "group" as was all the clique could call themselves on the occaisional bout of self insight, had a smattering of the usual small town girls who were actuallly nothing to write home about at all. However the boys were keen to keep them a bit limited to themselves. A new, younger good looking guy could have brought a profit of new girls in, but the bad smell label was applied. He was also a decent, cool type : i let him share my tent in the dunes and he was a lot like me in his awe of n.ature and love of simple things.  He turned up though after the group had found its legs. I had been in the group or around it an.yway since 1991 when i guess the old school buddies had grown into a cohesive collection of a wider set. So i was allowed in due to the lava still flowing. Also they were gen Xers and not small town conservatives or capital T - tories.

It grew on me that the group merely tolerated me and a couple of individuals disrespected me a bit, so anyway i moved away and after a bit of a final run in and attempt to be sociable in the last ten years, i actively avojid them, and that was before facebook took off so they are not have-to-have-pals on that.

Back to more general cliques and small towns. I have moved to a small town again,x as an economic bolt-hole in 2008. I have worked in the town and county a grand sum of four months while having worked two years outside, a year paternity, 9 months retraining in a new career in between there,  and the rest unemployed.

The last point is not mute, and if I had fitted in and been a little less me, neurotic and skeptical, then i may have landed a job here. Maybe not anyway.

I find the cliques here have a kind of malignancy based on looking inward and not bothering to include people, rather than per se exclusion. Crimes of ommission rather than commission. They have closed cliques more amongst women. People did make an effort with me, but the social, fun ones have wide social circles established here and gave up making space for me after a time with very promising progress.

Partly i felt stressed out , but mostly the few ijnvitations dried up and i never really got positive feeddback when i probed for more. I reckon it was juletide 2011 the last party i was at which i thought was cool and with the right types.

People here have moved back here and i would not do that to my home town, unless i was on my high horse a bit: look at me, i did well like Michael Stipe. So the frightened , the ones who did not like being in a big pond or those who wanted to be a bigger fish once more in a fish bowl moved back. The wasters and mummies boys never moved away.

The worst thing though was the  curiosity: this is just that, but jis dressed up with some politeness and pretence of friendliness. For my now estranged other half it has been more difficult in some ways, with a clijque queen doing the bitch back talking. Also i am dragged in a bit by whayever she said about me to them and a couple of others.

They say you should go in through sports or interests like art or poljitics, but that is just as bad a route as any in reality because of the small town inertia, xenophobia and self satisfied-ness.

At the end of the day you should go and have an extended holiday or visit regularily at weekeds for your proposed small town move. Are people rude, suspicious, superficial ? There tends to be a culture but also a superficiality.

Also make sure you are within reach of your existing social network, including of course best friends and that they will actuall visit you and let you stay over when you in turn see them. There are your life lines to your own clique you see. You dont really want to be living your social life on facebook like me.