Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Epistemology (It's easy for you to say that!)

These days the mere possession of a human consciousness, a sense of moral likelihood and an approximate idea of the parameters of the human condition - what is and what isn't feasible - do not equip one to actually 'know' anything. Before you know anything it has to be mediated through a panel of professional scientific arbiters who have corralled (and usually monetised) that particular area of reality. When they are good and ready they'll 'let you know.'

Monday, 5 February 2018

Schrödinger's Feminism

You could argue that accepting the fact that human beings are sexual animals in exactly the same way as baboons or elephants are is to accept the human condition and human nature for what it is. Men are animals, women are animals the only difference from other creatures that are animals being that we know  we are animals. Accepting things for what they are is usually a wise thing to do and, it could also be argued, one of the bases of conservatism – adjusting to reality and nature as it is. In this sense, conservatism is actually nothing at all.

In spite of this, when it comes to the women at the Presidents’ Ball or the women on the grid in F1 or on the oche in darts competitions we suddenly get high-minded and feel we are above the open sexual display which one gender of other 'lower' animals usually indulges in. It involves the base ‘objectification’ of women (who, nevertheless, seem to be perfectly capable of projecting their personalities while disporting themselves thus).

And yet, when Myleene Klass gets her kit off in the Sun or Billy Piper appears in “Diary of a Call Girl” it’s all about celebration and ‘empowerment.’ This might seem to suggest that, suddenly, we are back to accepting that women have a sexually gendered role in a sexually reproducing species and that we should enjoy observing the sexual signals their bodies give off. It's all part of rejoicing in the glory of life after all and we wouldn't want to be prudish would we?

So, it seems, when it suits us, we can entertain two utterly conflicting narratives at the same time. It was interesting to see Camilla Long in the Sunday Times recently suggesting that, perhaps, all that is going on here is good old-fashioned evolutionary competition. If beautiful working class girls can be kept out of the race with high-minded moral strictures, then that’s a few less for the middle class and the luvvie class women to compete with. Cynical and pragmatic in the final analysis and oh so 'survival of the fittest.'

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Psychology which drives the EU’s control-freakery

The Balance of Power tipped disastrously on two occasions in the twentieth century and the big boys dominating the playground came to blows. In both cases one of the chief belligerents was Germany who, as a result, and after severe punishment and deserved demonization, is now afraid of its own shadow. To solve this problem and the wider problem of the propensity of European nations to go to war with each other much of national identity, especially Germany’s, has been subsumed in the kind of pressure cooker which is the EU. In it you get to put your snout in the trough of trade provided that you subsume identity, a process that is supposed to guard against the terrifying spectre of further wars. This is the most pragmatic of bargains.

The problem with this is that to subsume identity and autonomy goes against everything that people and nations are and, specifically, what “liberal” nations are supposed to be. Sure it’s a risk to have a lot of autonomous nations rubbing shoulders with one another but the powder keg the alternative might engender is perhaps worse. To say that having these autonomous nations co-habiting and competing is desirable is simply to say that we have to allow the human, political and national condition to obtain and then to take it as it comes. No one can neurotically control history, as the EU, perhaps, has tried to do, for very long. Ultimately what will be will be. You have to go into the future with best intentions and hopefulness.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Why on Earth do People Virtue Signal?

Writing in The Spectator, James Bartholomew coined the phrase, ‘Virtue Signalling, to denote the practice whereby people, on the surface of it, engaged in activity which they suspected might be considered generous, brave, solicitous or unselfish, held as their real priority the being seen in public to be carrying out that activity. In the New Testament Christ had enjoined those individuals who gave charitable alms not to let their left hand know what their right hand was doing. The modern dispensation is completely different. Whole swathes of society seem to be engaged in the noisy proclamation of their own virtue although, were they to be challenged that this was the case, they’d deny it vehemently. Why has this situation come about, as this is, undoubtedly, a modern phenomenon?

I’d suggest that this is the result of a shift in the moral landscape due to shifts in our cultural landscape which have taken place in the latter part of the Twentieth century and the early Twenty-First. In this period, and this process can, perhaps, be traced back as far as the nineteenth century as Darwin and Freud came to the forefront, it has become more and more popular to see the old recourse of religion as something primitive that has been replaced by a smarter and more realistic scientific outlook.

In times when religion, notably, in Western societies, the Christian religion, prevailed the moral sphere was located largely in the ‘hearts’ of individuals. The ‘heart’ as the term is used in the Bible, was a private place known solely to the possessor of that heart and to his maker who had unhindered access to it. The Bible also enjoined people not to judge others lest they too be judged because no man can really look into the heart of his brother and know what motivated him.

In the hearts of individuals took place the moral drama of redemption. To be one of the saved a transaction between a man and his maker had to take place. As the reliance on religion has been superseded this private location has lost its seniority. The fact that few now believe in such interiority or its importance means that all that remains is the public domain. The goodness that once resided secretly in people’s hearts now resides only in public. The currency of private virtue known only to God is now a public currency to be flashed whenever possible. For if it is not seen and known by fellow creatures what is the point of having it? Such boasting, once, in times when doctrines such as that of original sin were assumed, would have been seen as anathema. How times have changed!

This being the case what remains is a competition to accumulate the currency of virtue which is seen to be in short supply and which exists to be flaunted. If you don’t acquire and show public virtue points the sure and only alternative is that you will be viewed as irredeemably vicious. All that matters is public perception regardless of any interior moral truth, a commodity whose very existence is doubted. Suddenly we are in a jungle where the rule of the survival of the fittest obtains and the weak go to the wall. The battle is not for food but for the appearance of virtuousness and there is only a finite amount to go round. Nature is red in tooth and claw. This is why, in discussion on sensitive subjects, one often feels as though one is hovering near to a spiked mantrap into which, glimpsing the slightest sign of vulnerability, your opponent will pitch you. Be seen to put a moral foot wrong, fail to sympathise ostentatiously enough with a downtrodden group, be seen to give the tiniest hint of racism or sexism and in you go! It’s them or you. The only real disaster that can happen to modern people and the one they will seek to avoid at all costs is this one. And this is all because the moral drama, albeit a comprehensively false one, is now enacted in the public arena instead of in the cockpit of the heart.  Salvation, and a sham salvation at that, now depends entirely upon the individual and his or her success or failure to get their moral credentials out there in public.

Monday, 29 January 2018


For the brief spell we are alive we have the privilege of being little patches of causation.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Beckett's Readers

Samuel Beckett's readers are grateful to him for his exploration of the confines of the human condition.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Announcement of New Ministries

Speaking from Downing Street in the last half hour The Prime Minister has said that "In the 21st century it is intolerable that anyone should feel dissatisfied and, therefore, with effect from next week, a new Ministry for Dissatisfaction will be instituted. The newly appointed Minister will also have responsibility for Discomfort and 'a certain amount of restlessness and being at a loose end.' We feel that, with this, and other Ministries in place we should be better equipped to go forward to meet the challenges of a changing world." Commenting on this our Political Corrrspondant, Laura Kuenssberg, said "There is little doubt and one thing is clear and that is that Mrs May is tremendously concerned about the dissatisfied and the uncomfortable. All that remains now is for us to wait to see what happens next. The only thing we can be sure of is that things won't be easy and a walk in the park is entirely ruled out. Laura Kuenssberg, Downing Street."