Monday, 25 March 2019

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Leave Means Leave

Description of the world is only heard
if Reason’s rescue from the smearing cess 
of incoherences - the human word -
is resurrected from the dross. No less. 

And moral grammar underlies the words
just as precise as syntax. Sin is sin
regardless of evasion. Speech affords
a midwife’s help to show the truth within.

A word is say-so given, ushering meaning
into a public land; it crosses on
such passport stamps (on which all are convening)
accredited by common lexicon.

Our culture is defined by lexical
precision, so a word means this not that.
We thrive by paying attention - pivotal -
to fail invites sharpest caveat.

Lip-service paid to rigour damns a poem
whose quiddity is strictness, being built
of words. All casual departure from
observance makes an edifice on tilt.

And we ourselves are meaning, as, in us
alone, it dwells. To cut the tether tying
right sense to words our suicide and, thus
do we assist our victory in its dying.

If public men conspire to cut such ties,
their definition lost, horse-trading sense 
for fear of taking issue with mere lies,
then few words can be said in their defence.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

The 'State of Nature'

A fascinating notion I am, of course, encountering in my reading of Rousseau. It occurs also in Hobbes and Locke, both quoted by Rousseau, whose works I'd also like to read. Unsurprisingly, I have a special interest in the state of nature set out in the Adam and Eve stories. Literalists, like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, will beat Christians over the head with ceaseless demands for for historic 'evidence' for such an event. This, ironically, is evidence of a crass misunderstanding of the nature of myth. Myth seldom derives from historical or archaeological evidence. It is, rather, a portrayal of a perceived present condition projected imaginatively into a story which contains and explains the elements of the present existential condition. The story is an imaginative receptacle of those elements usually placed in an imagined and notional, but not _real_ past, as that enables the literary device to operate. Hebrew writers around 1000 BC(E?) noticed their own existential moral condition and that of their compatriots and sought a device to embody that abstraction. They felt humans were, in some sense, disconsolate, flawed or less than perfect and so invented a notional place of former perfection which never actually existed. Such an invention is no different from Orwell's 'Animal Farm' (where the truth is resited in other species), in Science Fiction (where truth is sited in an imagined future), or in stories about imagined past Golden Ages. None of these 'truths' are sited in real places but that does not make them any less true. The imagined locations are simply vehicles used to express a truth.
In the case of the Garden of Eden a moral truth is expressed by a notional retrospective projection into an imagined world. If present humans feel their inescapable human condition of self-awareness or 'knowledge' is, in some sense, painful of unhappy this might point to a sensed perfection from which we have declined but, interestingly, in Christian theology, available once again in the future rather than the past. Plato does a similar thing with his comparison of present reality with an imagined sphere of perfect forms.
How sophisticated, in literary terms, the writers of Genesis were 3000 years ago! They'd have laughed at you if you'd asked for the GPS location of Eden (once you'd explained what a GPS was). It was always a place over the horizon.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Under Attack. The Demotion of the Common Man

Every scientist and every lawyer was once a human child. In addition to this for 50 hours per week spent in the laboratory, the solicitor’s office or court, 118 will be spent sleeping with his wife/her husband, cooking meals and looking after the children. In biological terms the reason such professionals bring to bear on their work is sited in and dependent on a lump of grey matter fed by a blood supply pumped from a human heart nourished by the food they took the time to buy and cook. Which is simply to say that we are, temporally, ontologically and biologically, humans first and scientists and lawyers second. Indeed, it is very easy to argue that one can be a human without being a scientist or a lawyer but one cannot be a scientist or a lawyer without the underpinning of being a human. 

As is evidenced the first time a four year-old squeals ‘It’s not fair!’ when another four year old steals his apple in the playground a moral sense is implanted in all humans as a factory setting and as part of his or her social participation in the life of a very social creature. This innate sense of morality and justice is later more fully discovered, explained and developed into the full and necessary panoply of legal systems. However, once again, the child’s moral sense preceded the legal panoply. You could have the former without the latter, you cannot have the reverse. 

What does this mean for the common man or woman (by which I mean the man or woman who is not a lawyer or a scientist) who shares a common humanity and a common  moral sense with the most celebrated QCs and Nobel Prize-winning Physicists? Very often even the simple right to make an observation or to offer a moral opinion is shouldered aside by expertises that claim a form of hegemony based on having, in some sense, annexed the field of opinion. This is seen in those scientists (certainly not all scientists) who seek to scientise all knowledge, wresting it away from the ‘humanities’ or in those lawyers (certainly not all lawyers) who claim sole right to comment authoritatively on human moral behaviour. It is very tempting to use a professional qualification as the basis of epistemological power or to arrogate to oneself the right to have the last word in areas which don’t lend themselves to simple factual knowledge.

There have been some very admirable scientists, lawyers and judges in human history who have greatly benefited their communities but there have also been plenty of reprobates who have used their professions for sinister ends or purely to enrich themselves in immoral ways. Such judgments are not solely for the legal experts to make. The common man or woman is perfectly capable of looking at such people and drawing their own conclusions. This is to say that the moral sense of any intelligent and perceptive man or woman cannot be gainsaid by professional qualifications and it is perfectly possible for a common man or woman to make moral assessments of professionals without sharing their professional qualifications. We are humans first and even the most elevated professions take place within the compass of our humanity.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Destruction of Ascendancy

The aim of our society is, as a matter of routine, to destroy any form of ascendency on which we depend. Any form of useful authority or dynamic is now considered to be synonymous with exploitation and oppression against which we need to battle and there is no distinction between these things. The teaching dynamic is disallowed as those being taught assume their teachers have nothing to teach them and are fools or even culprits. Adulthood cravenly abdicates it’s responsibility to childhood. Government ceases to be a guarantor of peace and good order and becomes a hapless scapegoat blamed for all failures in the perfection of the life experience of the governed. The sexual dynamic, previously the source of amity, joy, consolation and comfort, is now the very basis for enmity and warfare. Good is now evil, evil good.

This is seen as the beneficial levelling of hierarchies as hierarchy is the enemy. Perhaps though, it is the rasing of the very edifices on which civilisation depends.

Were one of a religious cast of mind one might be forgiven for thinking a wicked spirit is abroad.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Moral Music Chairs

The person who uses the perceived disadvantage of others as a means of advertising the excellence of their own disposition towards that disadvantage has a curious order of priorities. They have noticed that public goodness (for there is no such thing as private, intrinsic goodness any more) is a limited commodity and they have set out, with sharp elbows if necessary, to corner that particular market. 

In terms of private, intrinsic goodness this might suggest that the person in question is, in fact, calculating, cynical, predatory, selfish and voracious in contrast with the public image they have secured. They have simply set out to be top dog in what they wrongly consider a dog eat dog world.

The God who used to see into men’s hearts and know their private, intrinsic goodness or wickedness, thus guaranteeing it and giving an ontological grounding to its reality, has been subtracted leaving only public appearance having any validity or currency.

Hence also the unseemly and often vicious scrabble to delegate scapegoat identity to others. There is a finite quantity of this commodity too. In this case it is not acquisition that is at issue but delegation to others in order that it is not allotted to oneself. This resembles a game of musical chairs.

Beneath all of this there is a lack of faith that there is any real morality at all. However, the fact that the appearance of goodness and wickedness is still vital seems to give the lie to this fear.  Morality matters to us whether we like it or not. Few of us can truly live, Raskolnikoff-like, under the illusion that it doesn’t matter.

And putting the cynical predators aside, what is real goodness like? It derives spontaneously or not at all (if your heart does not respond like this there is no simulating it; you’d better mend your heart which must be in the wrong relation to your fellows) in real sympathy where the action of kindness is lost in the contemplation of the other’s plight. It creates a human bond that acknowledges that the sufferer and the contemplator of it are part of the same thing (as in Donne’s ‘No man is an island). It is forgotten the moment it is over. In one sense it is a completely unremarkable expression of our nature.