Tuesday 31 March 2009

The Dream of the Dark Child

When he awoke, it took a while for him to adjust to his surroundings.

It could not be called black, it could not really be called anything. It was not absence of light, it was absence of even the absence of light. It was a dark greyness beyond even the nothingness of black.

Except there was the stream. If stream it be correct to call it. For it somehow conveyed the sense of being a torrent greater than the Tigris, greater than the Tiber, or the mighty Amazon. Greater than the Styx.

And its flow, it was not water. As he peered closely he could see individual droplet almost, rushing by in a torrent.
Except- here and there were ones that did not move, hit by the rest of the torrent, bubbling, writhing in agony almost. He could feel their pain.

And suddenly he was aware of Him. The One. He did not need to ask who The One was. He knew, in his heart. Time. Logic. Reality. The Primal Cause. The Alpha, the Omega. Consciousnes. Being. Entity. Existence.

He: Why am I here?

The One: Did you not ask to come here? Have you not been asking all your life?

He pondered before replying: Perhaps. I have had questions. But I'm not sure I have known what answers I sought.

The One: Because you did not realise what the question was. But now you know in your heart of hearts. And now you get the answer. Now you know, in your hearts of hearts already what that answer is.

He: I simply want to find my path to contentment.

The One: And you know you will never find it. Just as you know you will never find your path to happiness. You are Zero. And you knew that all along. You have spent your life running from it, scared to face the truth. All who are born zero do. They torture themselves running all their lives, seeking that which is denied them.

He: And what am I meant to feel?

The One: Nothing. You are Zero. You were born to be Zero. When you seek happiness, you will find only misery. When you seek contentment, you will find only torment. When you seek to be loved, you will be hated. When you seek to be admired, you will be reviled. That is what it means to be a Zero. Only when you accept that you will receive no rewards, that for you there is no pleasure and no pain, that YOU, YOU are the sacrifice, then you will get what is yours; nothing. No pleasure, no pain. Seek nothing, gain nothing. You will have what you need to have, not what you deserve.

He: I am not real, am I?

The One: No. Not in the sense others are. They have Free Will, you do not. You are Simply a feature of the programme. You are Zero.

He sat on the bank of the stream of souls and watched.

He: It's Karma, isn't it? It's about Karma.

The One: Yes. Karma is the only thing makes the universe possible. Karma IS the reconciling principle that makes a Free Will universe predetermined. The end of the Universe is fixed in time, the course of the universe is governed by inevitable laws. The bigger picture will always be the same, no matter how many times this universe is run. And yet- it is governed by random laws. Quantum certainty. At a fundamental level it is unpredictable, yet on the universal skill, it is predictable down to the very second it will expire. Karma makes that possible.

He: There is a balancing force to Free Will.

The One: Yes. The universe is governed by Free Will. The fact that a particular multituberculate one hundred and twenty million years ago stops to eat a fern and therefore doesn't get hit by a falling tree could have major consequences. In another alternate universe, he may die. For him to have the Free Will and yet things ultimately to always lead the same way, the price of his Free Will has to be paid. There need to be periodic staging points in the flow of the universe where the universe rights itself, puts itself on its predestined course, tidies up the messy zig-zagging of all this Free Will.

He: And these staging points think they are real. But they aren't. They are static, features of the programme, activated when the tide of souls hits it, and they balance out the combined Free Will of the souls. They become whatever variables are needed to balance out however much the universe is out by.

The One: Yes. That about sums it up. Everyone else is playing for redemption and has Free Will to decide. But Zeros are the sacrifice. The universe is predestined, so they are redeemed if it balances things out, they are damned if that balances things out. They are the pawns of Karma.

He: So I am not alive?

The One: You are. You just have no Free Will. You will do what you need to, whatever that is. You will balance your share of the burden of the Karmic debt, whatever that is. If your share of the Karmic debt demands you live a live of miserable suffering, you will do so. And you will only stop suffering once you accept it.

He: So what can I hope for?

The One: Acceptance. Accept that you are the Sacrifice. That you have no Power over whether you go to Heaven or Hell. That is the will of the universe. That you lack the freedom to decide that, so your fellow beings can have the choice.

He: So I must live life without hope?

The One: You must live life without hope for yourself. You must accept that it is necessary for you to be conscious so you can think. But you must stop feeling. As far as you yourself are concerned. But not stop feeling the world around you. Just start accepting that you are not real. Everyone else is. And that since you have not the capacity to be happy or content yourself, try give it to them, in whatever ways you can. Imagine you are there- but not. Capable of doing, but not capable of being done to. Destroy yourself. Cease to be aware. Be a tool. Submit. Be pure logical consciousness, divorce yourself from flesh.

He: Would that not make me soulless?

The One: Of course. But then Heaven and Hell mean nothing to you. You would be aware of neither. Because neither is real. It is simply that for living souls, the last moment of life lasts for eternity. How the soul feels about release. Contentment, or bitterness. If you have learned how to be a Zero, by your death you will no longer feel either. You will feel what a Zero should feel.

He: And that is?

The One: Nothing. Nirvana.

He: So what you are saying is- so that others can enjoy the chance to choose between everlasting bliss or everlasting torment, I should live my life rejecting both, but striving for eternal nothing?

The One: Yes.

He: What if I take my chances? You yourself say, its up to the universe. I may be damned, I may be saved, but I can hope. I can hope the universe lets me go to Heaven and not Hell.

The One: Think on it. Think what YOUR choices are.

He looked at the stream, at the writhing agonies of the static droplets. Then it dawned on him.

He: Nirvana or Hell. Those are my only choices, aren't they?

The One: And now you know that, does it sadden you?

He: I feel dead inside.

The One: Good. Now you are some use. Now go and obliterate yourself. But son...

He: Yes, father?

The One: Do not waste yourself. It is not for nothing you were chosen to be Zero.

He glanced back at the stream then nodded slowly. He understood.

And he craved Nirvana.

Monday 30 March 2009

2525- If Man is Still Alive

This post might be seen as a sequel to Friday's post.

And it looks into the phasal shift that will follow that, the phasal shift of the twenty sixth century.

The end of the Anthropocene.

Of course, the Anthropocene is marked as being a geological period in the history of Earth. Uniquely, by this point, a geological period will have spilled off Earth.

In a sense, it will now be so that geological periods preceding this point only had relevance in one star system. But now the history of life will be entering a whole new period.
This will be the commencement of the Galactic Era.

One failure of sci-fi representations of such a time, is in their depiction of cultures largely similar to ours, but simply more technologically advanced. And even then, only in limited fields.

It never seems to have occurred to most of the imaginationless spacecraft and warp drive obsessed techies that produce such programmes, that to even begin to harness such technology vast changes must have happened at the structural level of society.

Feudal peasants were never going to build railways, just as Capitalist corporations are never going to invent faster than light travel.

Technology and social structure are interlinked.

When the twenty third century revolution took place, human society would have had a firm idea of what it was doing and it would understand the consequences. And it would know that one day, those consequences would affect the people of Sol.

The societal effort of sending out asteroid colonies would be manageable. Indeed, once that solution had been adopted, things would run along smoothly. Each asteroid carries fifty million frozen embryos, the development of those embryos to commence on arrival, in a couple of centuries. Plus all the equipment needed to sustain and create life. By this time, there will be genetically modified plants which can grow anywhere and genetically modified animals looking sensory organs, in effect, simply growing carcasses to be harvested.
And knowledge. Each asteroid colony carries with it the technology to get to work turning the world it lands on finally, into a working human infrastructure like the one that produced it in the first place.

But each asteroid colony with have a crew of maybe half a million or so. Over time, this will grow through reproduction. It's job is to keep the asteroid alive, to carry the seed of humanity with it. To communicate with Sol.

Of course, the day will come when no one alive on the asteroid ever lived on Sol. And a day will come when a generation is born on the asteroid that sees the star they are headed to as brightly as the star they have left. But that generation knows it will never live to see the promised land. Each generation born will know that it's task is to guard the seed.
And time will come when a minor query is not worth radioing home for. Home? What do they know? Why what two years for an answer? Other asteroid colonies are nearer and they KNOW what it is like. What do planet dwellers know? The crew of these asteroids will look at images of the cities of Sol thinking 'Our ancestors lived like that. So will our descendants. But it is not our life'.

Back on Sol, the lives of these colonists will be of little concern. Human life will have adapted itself to the idea that sending off these asteroid colonies is as necessary to its survival as we now see feeding the world. Because that is the function it will play. Just as now the main human concern is feeding people and finding energy, then the task will be exporting the surplus.

Life in Sol will be Utopian. But the price of maintaining Utopia, will be the mass effort of exporting colonies.

The lives of those left behind will be stress free. The computers will oversee it all. Perhaps it will be overstating it a bit to say that as a result everyone's life will be one big holiday, but pretty much, it will. Do your limited set of tasks, then enjoy the fun you have earned. The whole thing effectively runs itself with little need for human beings to worry themselves.

Though human beings will. There will be human beings intercepting the transmissions from the colonies and sending back advice. But the vast majority of people won't much care.

The dominance of Earth amongst the planets of Sol will be a thing of the past. It will be just one of the planets, one of the three inner planets. But human life will exist on all the moons of all the gas giants without thinking it odd. And all of it will be very similar, following similar values. A monolithic culture, of coffee coloured Eloi, living for pleasure in a state of peace and harmony, in shiny glass and concrete communes, set in landscaped parks, the skies of their worlds buzzing with metallic craft, the airwaves abuzz with people meeting in virtual reality, everyone lives like the Gods on Olympus.

But humanity will dimly be aware of the divide. Sol will be Europe, or the EU. The colonies, the third world, in a sense.

Because just as today Europe solves it's problems by throwing handouts at the third world to keep their people from flooding its borders, after the twenty third century, it will have solved its problems by creating a new third world. Expelling its surplus. To a hard new life. Sure, this third world will be randomly chosen, one in three.
But what happens to them once they've gone...

And it will resemble the relationship between Europe and the third world in other ways. Sol will be the old world, it will all be much of a muchness, unable to really understand the new third world.

But there the resemblance will end. Because it will be a third world much more removed from Sol than the third world of today is from Europe. Snippets of information about life in the colonies and the values systems that come to fruition in the colonies, will be sparse. They will seem as far removed as knowledge of the Far East did to medieval Europe. Strange worlds, strange people. And not really relevant. Whilst the colonies remain in the void, no one will really care.

The hard moral decisions, will be those that have to be made by those responsible for staying in contact with the colonies.

The only moral code to adopt, will be not to treat them as children, but love them as children.

Our right to tell them what to do will have ended the moment the colonies left the Heliosphere. But their right to ask for advice, will never be negated. Sol will be their parent, they will always be our children. Until they have landed and successfully set up working human infrastructures round the stars they are headed for, they will have an unconditional right to expect aid. And give nothing in return.

And we can give them no aid, except send transmissions which may help them.

Why this situation will raise moral dilemmas is simple. They will not be living the easy life of Sol. After a few generations the moral niceties of life on Sol will be useless to them. And they may well have torn up the rule book. Tried social experiments which would be considered abhorrent to the people of Sol.

We may find one is receiving transmissions from colonies who have set up fairly barbaric social systems according to the norms of how life on Sol has developed. But the choice of those responding to requests for advice will have to choose; however barbaric we think what they do and how they live is, do we want them all to die? Is it for us to judge?

Because some of the colonies could have adopted social systems every bit as unpleasant as Hitler or Stalin. Or undertaken changes such as deciding only to reproduce females, rendering males unnecessary. Or other such mass genetic engineering changes that would never be undertaken on Sol, but the colony has decided on because it believes it to be right for its circumstances.

It is highly likely that sometimes transmissions would be received asking for advice on how to fix a problem from colonies who had moved, in Sol terms, beyond the pale. Aberrant societies whose cultures the people of Sol would not want infecting their own.

The only moral answer, would be that of a loving parent. Give them all the advice they need. And tell them we don't approve of what they do, but still help them. It is actually none of our business what models of society they choose to set up. Yes, one day it will come to pass we all meet up again as equals. But if they are wrong, their societies will not work. They have to be left to find that out themselves. And given every chance to find that out themselves. They may of course turn out, if left to themselves to come through this period and come to something far, far better than we could have even thought of, simply by going through this journey of discovery. The way we do things on Sol, MAY not ULTIMATELY be the best way.

The final years of the twenty fifth century and the early years of the twenty sixth will suddenly see a new dynamic enter the culture of Sol.

It will start when the first asteroid colony reaches its destination. And its crew, eight generation space travellers, start to unfreeze their embryo cargo and start the work of building nuclear reactors, transport networks, factories, cities.
And sending the images back.

And then- as the second and third asteroid colonies reach each world. There will be conflicts amonst the early settlers. The isolated and aberrant forms of life that have existed in transit will come into conflict. Each new asteroid that lands on each world will have something new to bring to the melting pot.

And out of the melting pot of the traditions of the crews over two centuries or so in the void, out of perhaps he first serious wars humanity will have seen in centuries in some cases, some will develop into vibrant new cultures. Radically different from Sol, but not necessarily wrong.

They will have codes of ethics vastly different from Sol, when they start to build their societal infrastructure, they will be at variance from how it was done on Sol in so many different ways. Because they won't be structures evolved from neolithic farming communities, they will simply be fabricating the whole thing from scratch with the knowledge of the twenty sixth century. So it will be a bit like comparing the street plan of a British city, which developed randomly over time, to an American city laid out in orderly blocks.

And now the people of Sol will start to take an interest. They will view the images they see, the Third World of their times, or the Cathay of Marco Polo, of 2525.

And rapidly, the way humanity sees itself will change.

Once these new human star systems get on their feet, the human world will now be a bubble of fifty or sixty stars forming a globe in a spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

Sol will just be one of them. And it will only take a generation or so before the other colonised star systems now start to see themselves as grown up children. The transmissions between the worlds will get more involved, more in depth. And Sol will realise it is engaged in a dialogue in which it is now just- one of the human stars. It is different from all the others, because it is the most populous, it is the 'Old' star, the home world. But- that doesn't make it special. All the others have things they can point to about their culture that they believe makes them special. They have history too, the histories of their journeys, how their cultures originated.

Sol will not quite be prepared for the culture shock. At how 'all growed up' its children will be so soon. As these dialogues progress, it will become apparent that some of these other star systems possess cultures headed for the dustbin of history, that when these disparate cultures really do undergo cultural osmosis, their cultures will join the Spartans; failed social experiments. But others will be better, more vigorous, and more dynamic than the parent culture. Sol will be starting to realise that some of its children are going to outdo it.

Because now, now that the sporing process has come to fruition, the possibility that that process can end will be here. That with the vast resources of energy at its disposal, fifty star systems between them can certainly harness the energy to conquer the light barrier in more ways than one. The ability to travel between eachother in a matter of months rather than centuries, or possibly even to set up the equivalent of 'stargates' between eachother.

It will perhaps be reminiscent of the time when the first Portugese ships rounded the western cape of Africa; they opened the world up. Up till then, China was a land of myth and the Atlantic could stretch all the way to it, for all anyone knew. Within another hundred and fifty years, the world had got much smaller. Circumnavigable.

I don't think we can predict what happens beyond that. Not the details. The trends, I think are apparent.

God will evolve. Through man.

In time a physical entity will exist, that were you to describe such an entity to the minds of the ancients, would have sounded like God.

And a million years from now, such beings will exist.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Twentieth Crushed Sunday Memusetica

Courtesy of Juddius Corizanus, Pantocrat of the Sunday Meme

1. Are you single? Always. Even when I'm not :)

2. Are your parents still married? Yes.

3. Are you in love? Depends what you mean. I love a lot of people, in different ways. But always room for one more.

4. Do you believe in love at first sight? I believe in lust at first sight. Anything else is plain ridiculous.

5. Who ended your last relationship? That depends on what you count as a relationship and what particular point you count as the end. Either me, or a friend acting in my interests.

6. Have you ever been hurt by a break up? At nineteen, yes. Since then, no.

7. Have you ever broken someone’s heart? Well, yes, I guess. Sorry.

8. Have you ever had a secret admirer? That's a bit like saying 'Have you seen the Invisible Man about?' How do I know?

9. Prefer love or lust? Not an easy one that, either. I fantasise about love, but in reality, lust is much more convenient. I haven't the time for much else.

10. Prefer a few best friends or many regular friends? Both. If you have both, life is good.

11. Wild night out or romantic night in? Wild night out.

12. Back in the day: Been caught sneaking out? By who? Parents? My Gran? My girlfriend? Yes to all.

13. Ever wanted something/someone so badly it hurt? And not had them? Yes, two women in my life spring to mind.

14. Who are/is your best friend(s)? The Baker and the Chimney Sweep

15. Ever wanted to disappear? Oh yes.

16. First attraction: Smile or eyes? Eyes, I think. Good honest old fashioned come to bed eyes....

17. Prefer intelligence or attraction? Intelligence so often IS attraction. But if it isn't, then attraction.

18. Last phone call you received? The Baker.

19. Last thing you drank? Fosters, I hate to admit.

20. Before your current one, when was your last relationship? Depends what you mean. The last thing I'd count as being a proper relationship, an Iranian girl back in early 2006. Blogging has kind of taken up too much of my time for anything since.

21. Do you and your family get along? In a very fucked up way, kind of.

22. Would you say you have a "screwed up life"? Yes, I guess so.

23. Have you ever gotten kicked out somewhere? If yes, do tell. Like a pub or a club? Yes, regrettably. Usually for inappropriate use of cubicles.

24. Do you trust all your friends? My friends, yes. That's why they're friends. They've proved themselves.

25. Who knows the most about you? The Baker.

Romantic Love- Fulfillment or The Last Temptation

My most successful post of all time, undoubtedly seems to be the post I did recently on the Romance between Grisson and Sara.

It seems to have gone down well on several CSI related forums I was not previously aware of the existence of.

One person who read it suggested it touched a nerve because it was heartfelt. I guess, yes, Grissom is a character I relate to, he has some qualities I myself have. Although we aren't similar in a lot of ways, I guess I share his objective, emotional detachment.

And I guess Sara Sidle is perhaps the closest TV has ever come to encapsulating the sort of woman I could actually fall in love with. The last time it came so close was Dana Scully.

But before I return to Grissom and Sara, it's perhaps worth looking at some of the literary and historical leitmotifs that affect my thinking on the subject and also some real life parallels.

I think I may have mentioned before, I specialised at degree level and Epic Romance, specifically the Arthurian legend, but I have always been very much into classical romances.

And one which has always had a profound impact upon my is that of Aeneas as it relates to Dido, Queen of Carthage.

I guess most people are familiar with the legend at a rudimentary level. Aeneas is carried to Carthage by a storm. Here the Queen, Dido, falls in love with him and they have a Romance. Then he is reminded that it his duty to fulfill the prophecies and set sell for Latium to be the ancestor of the Roman people. And so off he departs in the dead of night, abandoning Dido.

Who promptly self immolates herself. Aeneas as he sails off can see the smoke of her funeral pyre.

Most of the girls in our seminar group at uni found this tale to show Aeneas in a bad light. Indeed, it raises the question of why this tale appeared in the legend at all. It hardly seems to present Aeneas favourably. A man who sets sail watching a woman who loves him set fire to herself and die.

Interestingly, we should bear in mind that Aeneas is the son of Aphrodite. His own mother is the godess of love.

Of course, it was relevant to the Romans. To them it was the origin of their struggles with the Carthaginians. The founder of Rome had slighted the founder of Carthage. But more significantly, the unwritten subtext that the love of the founder of Carthage was unworthy of a man whose destiny it was to found Rome.

There is a sense in which it is exactly this, the fact that Aeneas sails off watching her burn that makes him a worthy founder of the stoic Roman race. That he can rise above the most potent of all human temptations, potent because it seems so pure, that of romantic love.

She dies out of love for him, and he has no pity. Because if he did, the greater good, the foundation of Rome would not come to pass. She is, to him, a sacrifice. If she has to burn so that Rome might be, so be it.

Aeneas has a choice. If he stays, his life is wasted. If he goes, she burns and her death will be on his conscience. The only question is, which can he live with?
So perhaps this is actually the most important bit of the story as a whole. It demonstrates why Aeneas is a worthy founder for Rome. Neither choice can be taken with a clear conscience. But he takes the choice that shows him a higher man.

The question always raises itself whether Christ made a similar choice. I think he did. I think the love of Mary Magdalene was on offer, perhaps there had at some point even been something between them. That, indeed, was his Last Temptation.

He could have lived happily with her and raised a family, never been crucified. But he did not take that route.

I have often said before that the Catholic Church never forbade its priests from sex, just from marriage.
If one really wants to understand what they meant it was the sex isn't the problem. Just don't go falling in love too deeply. It will sidetrack you.
You will end up wasting your life.

If you fall too deeply into someone else, you may never get out.

It is almost as if, reading through the entirity of human literature, the entirity of human drama, even watching TV and film drama, even looking at one's own life experience, one sees the same dark and brutal bit of wisdom shining out.

Falling in love is beautiful. Loving and being loved is the purest sensation that can happen to a human being.
Which is what makes it such a dangerous temptation. Because you will give your life to it.

When people are in love, nothing else matters. They- fulfill eachother. But in essence it is that very fulfillment that is the danger.
Because one devotes everything to it. And one has so little left to devote to anything else.

I suppose for me the Grissom and Sara romance was partly about me confronting my fears. And partly a bit about me and indulging myself.
Love at that level is something I fear, I do, no two ways about it.

The idea of having blind faith in anything or anyone is not something I trust. I purposely avoided 'romantic' relationships with people I could become too hooked on. People I can never become so addicted to they can affect my normal decision making processes.
Nor do I want that level of intensity in my life. Romance is fine when kept on the hobby side of the equation, but I always worry when it starts to like like it's having an effect on things I deem to be important.

There are people out there who are happy to be with someone just for the sake of it. I'm not one of those, not in that way. I firmly believe my life is better off being single. Relationships to me count as friends who have sex; they are generally judged as no more than that. Someone in a 'relationship' with me means no more or no less than any other friend and I strive hard to keep it that way.

That doesn't mean I'm not susceptible to it. I'm susceptible to a lot of things which I know if I don't keep in moderation are bad for me. I just try control these things to preserve myself.

And yes, I guess there is a curious zone. See, I'd want to find and fall in love with someone like Sara. And yet I try not to want it. Watching Grissom and Sara allowed me to feel all the positive sensations something like that would make you feel. And yet feel safe, because it isn't you.

And partly, I guess, it was about confronting fears. That maybe it wouldn't ruin your life to allow someone in like he allows Sara in.

Being in a situation like Grissom is, with a woman like Sara is, is the deepest fear of my life. Really. My deepest, darkest fear.
And I'm not sure how I'd see it if it came along.

Fulfillment or The Last Temptation?

Friday 27 March 2009

The Twenty Third Century Revolution- A Revolution in Baby Making

A general theme of this blog is evolution.

The belief that there is a logic to human history, that in a sense, we can actually follow the logic of where we are going.

That indeed, the human species is actually going through a rapid phase of evolution, evolving into something totally new in the story of life, perhaps unique.

And we don't notice that evolution happening because we don't see it as what it is.

The oddity is- we do know in our hearts how man is to be surpassed. It is the deepest darkest fears of science fiction, in some ways.

The whole point of dystopian futuristic fiction is raise issues about the possibilities of technology. To highlight the possible pitfalls of knowledge. The dangers of getting new knowledge wrong. Of playing God too soon.

We fear artificial intelligence and its consequences. And we fear artificial reproduction.
They are the genies in the bottle, so to speak.

However, they are genies which will one day come out of the bottle.

I mentioned in this post that each phases in human history leads into the next by its own success.

And it is my belief that by the middle of the twenty third century, the success of human life will lead to the necessity of another revolution in the human way of life. A very different sort of revolution to the one the twenty first century will bring.

It will, naturally, involve a change in how humanity governs itself. And how it uses it's labours. What it will not involve is a change in how human adults live. So it will be quite a different type of revolution.

Human life in the twenty third century really will be quite Utopian. By that time the United States of Earth will probably be home to around two hundred billion. We think that will mean we're packed like sardines. But it won't. Sixty million people live in the UK and we're not actually packed that close together. Food production will have become an intensive heavy industry, the land needed to feed those two hundred billion will be far less than it now takes to feed six billion.

Much of Earth will simply be like one vast suburban housing estate. Every living in hotel complexes of five hundred people, vast collective units. Part village, party family. The nuclear family will be long forgotten.

And the lives of twenty third century human beings will be largely stress free. The system provides without too much work being needed from people. Most of people's time is their own. The main division of labour will be between domestics and technicians, those who carry out service functions like running the communities, cooking the dinner, doing the laundry, maintaining roads, beautifying people, providing leisure services. And those with technical training. Those whose tasks are related to the infrastructure.

And by and large almost any academic function, will now be technical. The division between blue and white collar expertise will be gone. Surgeons no longer cut people up, indeed generic surgeons no longer exist. Simply technicians who understand how to operate the technology and know all there is to know about that particular complaint.
Computer programmes won't be the problem they are now. 'Computer says no' won't be a problem. Computers fail because systems are badly programmed. By the twenty third century, they'll have been operating for centuries and be increasingly accurately programmed. We will have reached the stage when a computer judgement is more consistent and trustworthy than a human judgement. Increasingly, we'll be asking the question of why certain sets of decisions still remain in human hands. Because it would be better if we allowed computers to decide. Computers will be less arbitrary.

So a lot of decisions the technical class makes will be increasing irrelevant. And the fact they are making them increasingly irrelevant. And start to be being seen as actually a little dangerous.
Areas such as law and order. We might well start to feel that perhaps these sorts of decisions can only be fairly made by a computer. The computer is fed the data and says 'There is not enough data to prove guilt' or 'There IS enough data to prove guilt' and then if the latter analyses the facts and makes a recommendation on what action is appropriate.
And it would be free of possible abuse. The programme is written and then it stays consistant. All that is needed is for the programme to be updates when human beings change the policy. But day to day decisions would be removed.

The only thing that will have prevented humanity handing over its entire Executive and Judiciary functions on an infrastructural level- will be that it still wants control. And the technical classes- as well as the human beings serving Executive and Judicial functions- aren't turkeys voting for Christmas.

Reproduction will have altered in many ways. The principles will be the same. Babies will not randomly be made. But women won't any longer go through pregnancy. There will be connection between sex and reproduction. It will be remembered that there once was, but sex will simply be a form of bonding, a friendship gesture.

A woman will simply choose men to be fathers to her babies and they will apply to have a child. The child will then be created from their extracted sperm and ova in test tubes, grown in artificial placentas and then delivered, as if by storks, to communal incubators.
Yes, it will be getting towards Brave New World. Babies, like everything else, will come off the production line. But the important point is, they won't be produced at the whim of the state. They will still be the children natural selection chose. Just human beings no longer need to go through the pregnancy process.

This, of course, will vastly change how women see the world. Increasingly, the human race will be showing a tendancy towards androgyny with sexual differences really becoming less marked. Sexual differences really will now simply be a case of organs of sexual pleasure- for that is now pretty much all they will be- and secondary sexual differences. But increasingly, both sexes will probably incline more amore to common aesthetic standards, much like Wells' Eloi.

Long term, I think, it seems clear the human race will neotonise further. One theory is that humans are in fact neotonised Apes in many ways. We delay the adolescence of apedom throughout our lives. Or put another way, we reach sexual maturity whilst still essentially being children and then never grow into adult Apes. Like an Axolotl.

And I think culturally, we're going through such a shift again. Many people complain that on the one hand, children grow up too young and then on the other delay taking on adult responsibility for too long. I think this is part of an inevitable trend.

I think by the twenty third century we'll have got to the point where we are all essentially interdependent individuals all our lives. Intellectually mature far younger, but retaining a certain childhood naivete for life. Part Eloi, part Vulcan if you like.

Another major shift that will have taken place, will be in our attitude to things that are 'artificial'.

Whilst humanity with include two hundred billion Earthlings, it will also include by this time an equal amount, if not more, of human beings for whom Earth is the Old World.

Who live on worlds where life itself is an import. To these human beings, the virtue of things that are 'natural' will be different. There will be animal and plant life on their worlds, but ultimately, it will be an import. Their worlds will not be finely tuned by a balance of nature. There will be dogs and cats and cows on their worlds. But not tapirs or three toed sloths. The idea of life that serves no human function, will be a curious earth idea, an alien concept on the New Worlds, who will such Mysticism as a bit Luddite.

Because when the people of Mars study life, they will be studying a process which begun elsewhere. Animals and plants which aren't domesticated will be a curiosity, something you see on holidays to Earth, a bit like the Parthenon or the Pyramids.

The shiny newness of the cultures of Mars and Venus- and the Moons of Jupiter and Saturn- will mean that they see no dividing line between artificial and natural. For them, biology will simply be a subset of chemistry. The entire life process for them, will be something under their own control- only Earthlings still cling to this idea of a balance of nature.
And yet even on Earth, it will be a myth. Even the climate of Earth will be manufactured. Without satellite control the Ice Age would long ago have returned.

And the last shift will have been the communication shift. The expansion of what is now the internet. Into people's hourly existence. The mobile phone will have becoming a wristband, permanently connected, capable of creating and projecting holographic images. Perhaps more. Perhaps we'll already have the internet hard wired into us, able to move from virtual location with effortlessness, able to hold real conversations in real time with anyone we choose. Second Life and Real Life are one. We are all, always, in communication with all of us. Loneliness is a matter of choice. Physical presence is exactly what it means. People only need to be in physical proximity if they need to actually physically interact. But there is no longer a distinction between cyber world and real life. Cyberlife IS reality. It is the collective consciousness of the human species.

So- what sort of revolution will take place?

Well, the only challenge facing humanity will be- what happens when we run out of space? In this star system? It's a long timer coming, but it will happen.

And there will only be one long term solution. Export people. And I don't think we'll yet be able to break the light barrier. It seems to be one of those paradoxes. To achieve it, a species already needs to have colonised multiple stars. But first, it has to colonise those stars without being able to travel at lightspeed.

If we really are to continue reproducing an a healthy way- allowing any child to be born for whom two people are prepared to provide their sperm and ova- then humanity will need to go through a revolution in human reproduction.

Reproduction will have to become the new collective effort of the species.

A decision would have to be made that one in every three children would be sent off to colonise the stars.

This wouldn't mean we had to wait for them to reach adulthood.

The key change would be to reproduce quarterly.

By this point, this wouldn't be a major change. It would simple mean that each couple's application for a child was not acted on till the start of each quarter, then all fertilisations for that quarter happened at once.

And the states of Earth would now serve a new purpose. Restructured so that each one was equal in population, a birthing unit. A population of thirty billion people would expect a quarterly embryo yield of one hundred and fifty million. Two thirds would be dispersed back to their communities, the rest- frozen and placed on the key product that the entire surplus energy and materials of the birthing unit had been devoted to for that quarter.

Each quarter, each birthing unit would send off a spore, a hollowed asteroid. With fifty million frozen embryos on it.
And staffed by a small number, maybe a million or so, whose descendants over the next six to ten generations would have the task of watching over the seeds of humanity they carried with them.

So human life on the ground, on Earth, on Mars, on Venus, would not change. The everyday lives people led would not change.
The changes would be systematic.

Because the bulk of the burdens of this vast shift in human labour would not affect domestic life or those involved in it. They would affect the technical classes.

The huge expansion in workload would mean that things the technicians didn't need to do, it would stop doing.
To free mankind to achieve this- the step of handing over day to day decisions would be handed over to computer programmes.

The entire process of production and distribution would probably already be computerised. But the Executive and Judicial functions of the Infrastructure would now largely be computerised two. The technical classes would now become simply programme writers.
The function of legislatures below the level of Earth's government, or interplanetary organisations, would simply be to agree the specifications of the programmes.

There would remain ultimate human control, but the day to day running would be left to machines. The programme will say when new houses need building, if a river needs diverting. And it will get done. Only major decisions like if it asks for a new Shuttleport, or other Megastructures.

The judiciary would be computerised, but the appeals process maybe left in human hands. At least in serious cases, cases where a human rights issue was at stake.

In many ways, this would actually prove a satisfactory outcome. Humanity would have striven for so long to free itself from human executives. Now it truly would have made it so that decisions could be made due to human knowledge- but without each decision being affected by arbitrary human judgement. And yet the basis upon which such decisions were taken would remain under democratic control.

You see, in a sense, yes, it would be surrendering human powers to artificial intelligence. But- what exactly would that be?

Remember, we ourselves could largely be seen as co-operative colonies of millions and millions of individual lives. Our cells behave as co-operating individuals. By doing so, they each live longer and more reproductively successful lives on average than their distant kin who do not.

I have said before that life has so far succeeded in reaching the third grade. But certain limits have, up till now, prevented a fourth grade.

Viruses and Bacteria are the first grade. Eukaryote cells, co-operating units of Bacteria that act like one lifeform are the second grade. Multicellular beings are the third. We see ourselves as one unit- but only because our co-operating cells have managed to set up a neural network for transmitting data- and that network has therefore acquired what we see as- consciousness.

Insects have made some advances towards being a fourth tier lifeform. They reproduce as a collective unit. But a termite mound is not quite there. The individual termites are still the entities- the termite mound is not- but it has gone a long way in that direction.

Why it's chances are limited is that termites cannot transmit thoughts and data to eachother.

But- humanity are a good way along towards being a lifeform. Not lifeforms, a lifeform. Or PART of a lifeform.

We have already outdone ants and wasps and bees and termites.

Because we already have a collective memory. At first it was purely oral, then it was written, now it is electronic.
The rudimentary sensory organs of a collective intelligence; that is the story of human history.

And as time progresses, that structure that we are creating will become more and more intelligent. Look at how 'intelligent' internet search engines are becoming.

In time, that collective intelligence that we have built will be making decisions for us.

It will become the fourth grade lifeform.

Of course, it won't quite be at that stage by the twenty third century. But it will be getting closer with every fresh human development.

Of course- there will be some interesting issues faced by the determination of mankind to colonise the stars with its spores.
Because it really will involve a certain degree of letting go. These will be colonies that are essentially independent of their mother culture from the start.

Spores of human culture over whom the parent culture can have no control once they've gone.

And that- that raises a whole plethora of fascinating- and perhaps chilling possibilities.
The logical consequences of which, will have to wait till another post.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Citizen Journalism- Why We Need An International Blogging Trade Union

The blogging recession.

Of course it is.

All bloggers have noticed it.
Notice I don't say we. Because that is part of the problem. Part of WHY there is a 'blogging'recession.

But yes, there is a recession in logging. Some link it to the other recession.
They are wrong. Surely the existence of the other recession should mean the internet is awash, the hits of bloggers are up, because now, in these hard times, the citizenship of the globs do not trust the MSM longer so they now, finally, turn to us.

But they have not done so.

Put blogging in perspective, hasn't it?
Just a 'hobby'.
Just a bit of fun.

I run through the posts in Google reader every morning and the proportion I mark as read without reading increases. I see '109 unread posts' and once I mark those I know aren't worth reading, it's 19.

It didn't used to be that way.
That's why it's a blogging recession.

How do I distinguish between those worth reading and those not worth reading?

I read the posts that show Citizen Journalism.

Posts that bloggers should write.

As I often say, it's a new medium.


And for it to succeed, it needs to get it's head round this; it's virtue is in making the personal political.
It's vice is making the political personal.

It really is the future of human interconnectons, potentially.

But it had it's birth in communications by being born within- the dross of humanity. How else can one say it nicely? There is no other way.

People give credit to MPs and politicians discovering blogging, discovering the net and giving them full marks for understanding its power.
And I agree.

The internet- and blogging- is the biggest advance, the biggest positive shift in human interconnection ever.

But blogging has a major problem.
How it was born.

It is a simple fact of human history that the internet- once- was the preserve of, well, the dregs.

When I was a student, we had access to the internet at Uni. In those days, chatrooms existed.
And at 3 AM we'd stumble into the University Computer rooms stoned to our eyeballs and trawl for porn.
And go into chatrooms. For a laugh. Take on screen names like 'Ho Chi Minh' and wind up American Students.
But- that's all we used it for. For a laugh when very stoned. That was 1996.

And for the first few years before and after that, if you used the internet as a means of meeting people and interacting- chances were, not being funny, you were the dregs of human existence.

It wasn't the way people with normal human interactive skills communicated.

When I discovered blogging in 2004, things were very different. The internet as a means of communication had opened up.

Because of its potential. But that potential has not yet been realised.

My mate's stepdad said to me on hearing about my blog 'Isn't that like an internet diary? I wouldn't have thought that would be you!'

This is it's problem. People in real life look at me and wouldn't think 'Bet he's a blogger'.
But if I said 'I DJ, you know' they'd say 'Yes, that makes sense'.

But that's what blogging could and should be. An intellectual version of DJing. Iain Dale meets Paul Van Dyke.

Not one up from a chatroom. Not a public version of Facebook. The Blogopsphere needs trendsetters, it needs idols, it needs to be on the pulse, it needs to be not just catching public opinion, it needs to be hitting ahead of public opinion.

The public perception of blogging needs to change and that is up to us.

It's how we interact.

How we handle things on this medium.

The fact this medium began as 'weblogs', an outgrowth of reject misfit culture, has created a puzzle.

Because actually, this medium now has the potential to be the best thing that has happened to humanity within this generation.

If it can truly free itself from being just another form of 'social networking' and truly become 'Citizen journalism'.

But to do that- and this is harsh- we have to free ourselves from the debris that came with its birth. Those who spent the years prior to its birth in chatrooms, in Triv rooms, thinking it normal to form romantic relationships via the internet. The misfits and fruitcakes that hang on the butt hairs of blogging, basically.

Because they are what puts off the people who blogging needs, from blogging.

It's an irony, I find. Many normal rounded people now regularly use the internet as a means of communicating. I find my Facebook message box is filled with plans for gigs, Dance Music sets, demonstrations, etc. From people who- should have blogs. But don't. Because it's never occurred to them. They're not 'net people'.

And yet a good quarter- if not more- of those who blog, shouldn't. Precisely BECAUSE they're 'Net people'. They should piss off back to Facebook or Twitter.

I'm not saying blogging isn't social networking. Clearly that is part of it. But it's not social networking just for its own sake. If that's what you want to do, you shouldn't be blogging.

We as bloggers need to start seeing this medium as 'Citizen journalism'.

Or it will die.

It's that simple.

Only it won't, of course. The logic of Citizen journalism is so powerful, it will win out. It's just how we, who are here now, adapt to it.

Citizen journalism can not work by simply seeking to do what the MSM do.
Nor can it work by doing what can be done on Facebook or Twitter.

Blogs that simply seek to regurgitate what can be read on MSM blogs, serve no purpose at all.
Yes, blogging can make MSM largely irrelevant, if it succeeds.

It can make the long articles and commentary of the MSM irrelevant. But not the reporting itself. How can it? None of us are Reuters.
But blogging can mean that if it succeeds, it sidelines news at ten and means that we- not just you an I, but everyone out there- gets the facts on MSM blogs, then goes elsewhere for a bit of comment.

But there's no point trying to outdo those paid a salary to be on the ground getting the facts. Every singly blog out there which simply grabs a headline and adds their own twist, is wasting their time. The competition is too tight and they'll never outdo those paid to do it. Because they got the story first. Any such post is simply regurgitation.

So Citizen journalism should leave certain things to the professionals. What we should aim to do is what they never can. Offer a perspective they don't. That's why I think this blog is right to try avoid current affairs.

The other extreme which I think fails, is writing posts that really are just a diary. Why that fails is- no one cares if you went to the shop. And one liners which might be witty- Facebook exists for that. My Facebook status at the moment is 'This week is 'Make love to as many random strangers as you can' week. It's for charity. Get busy'.

Yep, this is the sort of stuff Facebook is for. And I stick endless sets of music there too. Three, four Youtubes at a time. That's what Facebook is for. To amuse people who know you.
Hell, I've even started a group on Facebook the sole purpose of which is to wind my mate the Chimney Sweep up every time Tottenham Hotspurs lose.

Now, there are many ex bloggers who have moved their energies over to Facebook for that reason. More than one of my earliest blogging friends have now stopped blogging completely. Because they don't want to be 'Citizen journalists'. What they want from the internet, is there on Facebook.

Facebook actually, is a great thing in that way. My mate the Baker, for example, who frequently gets mentioned on this blog. Not someone who would ever blog. But he enjoys Facebook. A lot to be said for Facebook, actually. Far better than text messaging. If I could only train my Gran to use it, I'd never have to take any phone calls outside working hours ever. The private messages thing is a godsend. I'm far more likely to answer that, than my mobile.

So for a blog to really hit the right spot, to really BE 'Citizen journalism', it needs to be doing something that gives it a certain value.

In a recent post for a blogging organisation I am a member of, I listed a few members who met that criteria in my book.

But I'd like to list a few others I read that hit that spot, and why.

The most obvious one that springs to mind, mainly because the I used the word spot and it made me think of spot, is X-dell at the X-spot. It's not hard to see why this is Citizen journalism. Just take a look. It's obvious investigative journalism.
Stuff that is lucky normally to get an editor prepared to publish it. Unless its relevant right here, right now. This stuff is quite obviously worth time putting on the internet and worthwhile people reading. But there isn't enough of this sort of stuff published by people who have to stump up money to pay for it. So this is stuff that ONLY the blogosphere can do.

Cat at Wait! What?
Why? Because it can only be done, BECAUSE it is anonymous. It's actually an insight into the day to day life of a family which is tearing apart at the seams and the woman who holds it together. It is actually an everyday story, in many ways. But to see into it with that clarity, is a gift. It's not stuff people would ever tell you, nor could you read about it anywhere else but the blogosphere. That level of honesty would not be possible if the Cat's anonymity was not treated as sacrosanct. She is honest about her own fears and shortcomings. And even when she just feels like throwing in the towel. Yes, it's Citizen journalism.

Sparsely Kate
It's real. I actually had a look through some of the other commenters at her site- for the simple that most commentors stick to commenting at bloggers like them. Ones who write about the same things. I'm not sure I can quite put my finger one why Kate does it better, but she does. I guess she makes each post a story. There is a point in there. It's an observation on life. I don't think citizen journalism needs to be making a complex philosophical point. An observation is good. Kate's stories are often anecdotes, basically.

Princess Pointful

Interesting blog. With a very wide readership. Not that that always proves anything, but yes, it does say a lot. I think a good many of her female fans quite admire her, actually. She's intelligent, for sure. An air of mystique. It's well written, again mainly anecdotal. Observations on life.
I've just had a skim read through her last few posts trying to put my finger on her X factor as a a writer and I think it's this, and it's something I've said about other writers too. The mark of a good writer is the ability to convey your own personality without drowing your readers with authorial voice. The ability to convey your opinion without the reader having your opinion thrust into their face. So you know what they think, you got that from the post, but you don't feel hesitant about leaving a comment saying what you think.

I've marked these three as examples of what I see as successful blogs that do what only the blogosphere can do. They are successful in terms of being widely read with interactive writers behind them.

But there are also blogs I've come across which don't really get an airing. Which sit in my reader and perhaps go to bold once a month. Blogs where I feel the author has a lot more to say and it's a shame they're not more active in the blogosphere.

This one, the Public Intellectual, is excellent.

And this is one which raises some interesting points. Very good blog. High quality of thought. And yet- there seems some debate about whether the author is called Selena. Or indeed was likely to be christened Selena. Rumour has it the author posssess the wrong genitalia. This actually makes me a little annoyed. It's not anyone's business is it? I've seen some people getting excited by the idea that the author may have posed as a woman simply to get middle aged men to drool at her(?) site. Well, if (s)he did, more fool them. No sympathy for them and full marks to Selena. The drooling perverts in question would have done better to read her posts and stop wondering if the legs on her avatar were hers or not. I do know that the issue of Selena's gender did become a discussion at some point on some blogs, which I must say I found a little- unpleasant, actually.

The Moonshine Memoranda is an excellent blog, I link it in my blogroll, the author as far as I am concerned is Selena Dreamy. And it is a fine example of Citizen journalism.

I could go on all day listing good blogs. I simply wanted to give a sample of some very different blogs which made the grade, in my opinion.

The sorts of blogs the blogosphere is for.

But it's not just about posting.

It's about commenting.

Now you all know why I have comments moderation up- it's only to prevent one, maybe two, commentors.

And it is the likes of them that create the problem.

While people like them exist in the blogosphere, this medium can never truly become Citizen journalism. Ok, we can't stop ALL trolls. But we can stand up to trolls who have blogs.

Ultimately- we need some kind of Trade Union.

A Union of Bloggers. Not a club, a Union.
A Union to regulate online conduct.

The idea would be that any blogger could join, there would be no barriers to entry. And no obligations. Any member would be free to publish what they wanted.
What it would mean, however, is that members did agree ONLY to comment at the blogs of members of the Union.

Any member would be free to publish anything they wanted, as long as they adhered to professional standards of journalism.

By that I don't mean arbitrary standards of taste and decency. I mean professional standards in regards to having some ethics as to what they could and could not publish.

As in, immediate expulsion of any member who started publishing personal information of any kind about any other member of the Union without their permission, whether in posts or in comments.

It would actually be quite simple; unless a member of the Union is referring to an existing post by a blogger, if they want to refer to something a blogger hasn't put in the public domain, they need full permission in writing.

And secondly, trolling. If any member asks another member of the Union NOT to comment at their blog and then registers that with the Union, the next time the unwelcome visitor comments, they are expelled from the Union.

If we had this Union, and we had these rules in place, and we all stood by the Union, the blogosphere would work. Of course, non membership wouldn't mean your blog wasn't read, it just wouldn't get comments from bloggers who were members of the Union.

But if the Union worked, which I think it would, eventually, the vast majority of bloggers would join. And the more bloggers joined, the more their readers would join.

We badly need this Union, as bloggers.

It really is the only way we can regulate online behaviour and raise the standards of blogging to what it should be.

Not just for that, we need a common voice. To stand up to governments, stand up to state interference, stand up to Google or other internet platforms. We are at their whim. We as bloggers need to be in a position to organise mass action. Every time Blogger or Wordpress or whoever fuck around with bloggers, we need to be able to respond on mass.

We need to defend this medium properly, have an organisition capable of co-ordinating the online equivalent of strikes. We need to be able to literally force Google to respond to the needs of the blogosphere. We want it to be the blogosphere deciding what does and does not happen online, not a corporation. As it stands, we're at their mercy. We need a front who negotiate for all bloggers direct with Google and other providers.

But more than that. Think of how bloggers have been sacked from their jobs for blogging. Imagine if we had a Union- and every time a blogger got sacked from their job for blogging related issues the entire Union sent a single e-mail- just one mail- to the company or institution concerned, imagine the difference that would make.

A Union would mean that the world at large took blogging seriously. Not any longer just a form of social networking. Citizen journalism.

We need a professional Union.

Until we have one, this can never be Citizen journalism.

I have not written this post because I am founding such a Union. I am writing such a post because I think such a Union should be founded.

I am writing this post hoping that people reading this will agree and that somewhere along the line enough people will start to see the logic of this and over time gradually, things will coalesce in the direction of such a Union getting off the ground.
And when that happens, I will certainly join such a Union.

As of now, I have nothing to offer but a possible name and a possible slogan;

International Federation of Citizen Journalists- Defending the Right to Write.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Crashie, Gone But Never Forgotten!

It is with some sadness that I have to record the departure from the blogosphere of one of it's happiest luminaries, Crashie.

Crashie's blogging has perhaps been sporadic of late and her retirement not therefore a shock.

Time was, of course, when she posted frequently and when she did, she was a little star.
She posted on this blog too and when she did, her posts were of the highest quality.

Perhaps it is partly vanity that makes me say that, because quite often, you lot thought they were mine- Crashie, Crushed, I guess it's easy to get confused :)
And I'd correct people in comments, but a part of me wished I could take the credit, because they were great posts.

But Ruby herself comes into that category of people who are more than just another blogger. She is one of my oldest blogging friends and someone I've enjoyed many long and interesting discussions with on IM. On a wealth of fascinating topics. Religion, Art, Music. She's actually a very bright person.

And amazingly bubbly. Not one to be easily downcast or daunted. She has a quiet, inspiring strength. The good that is in her shines through.

She was the first person to let slip my actual name in my comments section and me to NOT delete the comment. Admittedly, only I would spot it. She called me Oey, which is a kind of baby version of Joey, I guess. Some people might have thought it was 'Oy', so I let it stand.

With some people, one doesn't have to try too hard to see the good in them, it's trying to find the bad that is the conundrum. I haven't yet found it in Ruby.

There is so much I find refreshing about her. Like a little ray of sunshine, really. Non judgemental. With a powerful ability to sense REAL good and REAL evil. Sensible. And actually quite a deep thinker, beneath the seemingly ditzy surface. Often I found she'd make me see things in perspective with a simple remark.

I'll let you into a little secret as well. I hope she doesn't mind me telling you, I know she didn't tend to make it public on her blog, but nor was it something she hid.

For any of you who think Islam is of necessity a dark, sinister, barbaric religion, please go read Crashie's blog. For any of you who think Islam is of its nature a woman hating religion, please go read her blog.

Crashie is a modern woman, with her own flat, with a good job in a good progressive, forward looking business sector (Yes, it's a similar sector to mine), but she is also a sincere and devout Muslim. Please note as well, she stood up strongly in the comments section of this blog once against some rather unpleasant homophobic posturing from a certain commentor. One who has some blog somewhere languishing in obscurity.

There have been many times in fact I've wanted to say one of two things. One has been when I've read remarks elsewhere making blanket remarks about Muslims, I've wanted to post the link to Crashie just to refute their Islamophobia. And other times when I've had commentors adopting a particularly illiberal position, ask them how they feel about the fact that a member of a supposedly backward faith has more liberal opinions than them.

She is somebody that I don't mind saying, I feel a lot of love for. As a true friend. Someone who, if there is a Heaven, won't have to stop off at Purgatory on the way.

If you never knew Crashie the Blogger, please take a look at her archives, perhaps leave her a comment to say goodbye.

She is a loss to the blogging world, a star missing from the blogging firmament.

Comments sections will not be the same without her warm, bubbly optimism, her generous spirit, her profound goodness.

People say this medium is in trouble. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Actually, I think that is in our own hands, it always has been.

Crashie aspired to be the best of this medium; a true citizen journalist, a valuable contributor to debate, she was everything a blogger SHOULD be.

She set a standard in both posts and comments many would do well to emulate.

And though she is not gone from my life, she is gone from my blogging life, and for that I guess I am a little mournful. Not forever I hope.

There is a Crashie shaped hole in the Blogosphere today and it will take time to heal.

Monday 23 March 2009

The Joy of Party Politics

I remember when Margaret Thatcher resigned.
I had never known another Prime Minister.

I did not really remember the miner's strike, just really the word. Power cuts when I was very young and hearing the miners blamed. The Falklands meant nothing, it had happened when I was four.

What I did know was when Thatcher got in, the country had been going up shite creek faster than a slut down a slide. It had been a mess.

My teens kind of tended to incline me to the view, comparing the two parties, that the creeds offered were quite simple.

It seemed to me that the Labour Party was a kind of unholy alliance between nice people with nice ideas that never worked in practice together with unscrupulous militants who sought to establish a dictatorship of some kind. John Smith on the one hand, Arthur Scargill on the other.

Whilst the Tories were an unholy alliance between the worst elements of the ruling classes- the likes of Michael Heseltine- with decent people who could see working with these types as the only way to ACTUALLY make things better for the common man. People like John Major.

I guess I genuinely felt back than that it really was a kind of Hobson's choice. Working with the Tories meant working with bastards. But bastards who had a vested interest in keeping society functioning. And many people of principle made that choice because of the alternative. Labour governments seemed only ever to be inept, or authoritarian.

I joined the Tory Party in 1994 as a direct response to Blair being elected Labour leader. Many saw him as the great new hope.
I thought he reminded me of Hitler.

My parents had always been quite apolitical. My Mum didn't vote and my Dad had voted Liberal Democrat in 1992 as a protest vote.

I guess my Toryism wasn't Conservatism in the old sense. It was very much of the radical Thatcherite kind. The classless Free Market, economically liberal, Anti-Europe, C2 type. Essex Man Toryism. The figures I admired in the party were Michael Portillo and Peter Lilley.

And I became quite the young activist.
I was on my Branch committee at seventeen, as well as the Policy Committee. I earned my spurs in the party by canvassing a council estate in a hopeless ward in the 1995 local elections. Yes, me. Wondering round in a suit and a blue rosette.

I loved it. Politics. Campaigning. Knocking doors. Meetings. Constituency functions. Being pretty much a generation younger than anyone else on the committee, I had this powerful sense of- going somewhere.

I guess I had my life plan all figured out. I figured the Tories would be out for two terms. But the wave that brought them back in would carry me with it. They'd lose in 1997 and 2001, but win in 2005. And my aim was to be contesting a parliamentary seat for the Tories in that election. A hopeless seat maybe. But maybe a good performance might land me a safe seat for the election thereafter.

Were any of my convictions sincere? To an extent, yes. They weren't well thought through, no. But at the time, they were as well thought through as most of the right wing blogs one sees about the place. I read the things they write and think 'I said stuff like this at Policy Committee Meetings many years ago...I believed this stuff back then'. And older members would nod wisely thinking 'This lad will go far'.

The 1996 Party Conference at Bournemouth. How can I NOT remember it? I look back on it and a part of me thinks that the future could have been very different. I was eighteen. And very politically ambitious.
I went to the launch meeting of Conservatives Against a Federal Europe. Brilliantly conspiratorial. There was a sense there, I think, that once the Major government had gone, the Eurosceptics would inherit the party. Simply being there, you felt you were on the winning side.
I remember enthusiastically forcing my hand in to Teddy Taylor's and kind of cocking up by offering him a drink, not being aware the man was teatotal...

And I met Portillo...

I can remember the very last day of the conference sitting next to a very pretty blonde girl from Folkestone who spoke of Michael Howard with gushing praise. I wasn't his biggest fan because I disagreed with his hang' em and flog' em policies, but she spoke highly of him. Nice girl. And now the Conservative candidate for Chatham and Aylesford, I find. Ms Tracey Crouch. I explained to her I was the new Vice Chairman for Aberystwyth Conservative Students (membership about 7, I think). We exchanged details with a view to organising some galvanising event. It never happened.

It was a euphoric feel, that final day. Major made a good speech. One couldn't help feeling that if optimism and sheer determination counted for anything, maybe there wouldn't be a landslide.

As I was waiting for the train back to Aber, I saw Peter Lilley at the platform. I kid ye not. I couldn't resist it. I had to go up and chat to him and tell him my honest opinion that I saw him as the best candidate to follow Major after the inevitable defeat. Not strictly true, Portillo was, but hey, if the guy was to win, It certainly wouldn't have been bad to be the guy he chatted to last in Bournemouth who told him to. You'd think hundreds of people approach them; they don't. And I actually encountered the lovely Ms Crouch again, who appeared from nowhere. I gathered he'd met her before.

The 1997 election shocked me profoundly. In terms of scale of defeat. To be honest, I rather took the view that organising any kind of resistance at Aber to the Unions dominance by Labour and Plaid Cymru was rather pointless. The Tories were yesterdays news or now. The Tories needed a rethink after such a huge defeat- and so did I.

I was briefly Chairman of the University Tories, but kind of dropped out. Sex and Drugs were far more appealing ways to spend time.
And I needed to clarify my own political outlook.

After I graduated, I did get back involved. Part of that had to do with Portillo's return to politics. I liked the things he was saying and I liked his vision of where he thought the Tories should go. A true liberal party. Economically and socially liberal. A party that didn't alienate ethnic minorities and gay people by pursuing policies with a whiff of Fascism to them. I believed it was perfectly possible to have a party that believed in limited government on all counts. One that would on the one hand roll back taxes and cut red tape, but would also legalise drugs and stop pushing family values.

And I wanted to be in the party, at the thick of it, fighting that corner. But also, I'd missed it. Missed sitting at committee meetings gesticulating with my pen. Missed door knocking. Missed the blue rosette and the clipboard.

Fact is, there's nothing like it. You have to experience it to feel that. Politics is- it's a buzz, it is. No two ways about it. All of it. And canvassing especially. Going on a charm offensive, standing there on the doorstep in your crisp suit and your sprayed curls and looking into the eyes of the housewife and yes the words you're saying are 'Well, yes, if we win control of the council we plan to...' but your eyes are saying 'Would you like to fuck me? Would you? Then vote Tory!'

Yes, I missed it.

To be honest, I had in many started to move so far away from my party in terms of privately held opinions, that it really would only take actually reading Das Kapital to make me realise that I had in reality been a Marxist a long time, without really knowing it.
But at the time, I certainly believed that government by the Tories HAD to be better than government by Labour (which I still believe) and why leave a party you have a good track record in that can give you what you always wanted.

Those magic words...
'I therefore declare *** ****** to be elected to serve as member of parliament for this constituency'.

Christ. That moment HAS to be better than sex with someone you love. 25,000 odd people sticking a cross by your name.

I guess by this time I was quite cynical. The whole things a game, but since it is, it's a great game to be playing. And if I made it to parliament, as long as I didn't care too much about a ministerial career, I could use the media spotlight to advance some highly liberal causes.

It never came to pass, of course. Life- took a different path. Because I had other facets to my life and- things came tumbling down, no secret about that.

But I suppose once all the dust settled from my life collapse in my twenties, it really did have a number of effects.

One was a certain relief that at last I really could be totally honest with myself and others about the things truly believed. I was freed from the burden of pretending to think things I didn't think, simply to further a political career. Secondly, I realised I actually cared very passionately about a lot of things I had never really cared about before this collapse. I felt the same passion I had always felt for politics- but differently. Now I actually felt passionate about real issues, not passionate about blue rosettes.

I actually cared.

And part of this was the realisition that there wasn't really a political movement with a place for my beliefs anyway, but even if there were, they'd never now choose me as a candidate. I'd blown that.

But...I missed it. And I knew I always would.

Meeting in drafty sports halls, committee meetings in smoke filled rooms, the networking, the constituency functions where you walk in knowing you're simply going to work the room, its a room filled with power and influence and you are going to make them love you.
And the thrill of campaigning. The race of the pulse as you prepare yourself to go out canvassing, is like preparing to go out on stage. And just as exhilerating. You make sure you haven't got a hair out of place, your shirt is immaculate, your shoes polished, you have that look between a cherub and Adam Ant in a suit.

It is one of those things that if you have had it in your life, nothing else can ever compare.

My partner at the time found it something hard to get used to. We were engaged, we lived together. But I think she found it difficult to get her head round her relative importance in the scheme of things. I think she basically accepted it, that most of the time, she got more time than The Party did. Because the demands of the party were less. But if it ever came to a choice, The Party would win. The phrase 'I would sell my own grandmother for The Party' was irrelevant, I'd never need to, though I would have done. I might have to sell her, she realised that, and I wouldn't have thought twice.

Even though she could never remember which party I was a member of...

I remember polling day morning, 2001. Her asking me 'Who do you want me to vote for then?'

She had no idea. I never talked politics with her, really. She knew it mattered to me. She didn't care who won. But she knew I did. And knew, furthermore if everything came to pass the way I hoped it would, that the time we spent together would one day end. That one day she would simply be a smiling face at constituency meetings, that if all came to pass the way I wanted it to, she'd see more of me by watching Today in Parliament, than she ever would in the flesh.

But she was prepared to accept all that. Even accept the fact I would sleep with other people than her simply to further my political career. Because she understood what she was to me, understood the place Romantic Love held to me. That to me, life is about a work-play balance. Politics was work, she was play.

I guess I look back at those times and I feel a bit uneasy. I shake my head at how devoted I was to a political party. Because these days I despise them all.

I don't despise my attitude though. I think THAT was right. I think I showed the right attitude one should have to causes.

I guess the way I feel about it now, is that it shows the tragedy of our system. Most people make the majority error. I made the minority error.

The way I felt about The Party was right, I think. One should have that attitude to something. To one's place in life. The thing is, the only institutions and causes on offer in todays world are so unworthy of it.

So many people make the opposite mistake. Of thinking that sort of devotion is never worth it.

As a society the lack of any decent higher principles to serve, has turned us jaded. Because we are so used to the idea that single minded devotion to a cause is sinister. We associate it with shouting and screaming Brownshirts, or Trotskyite lunatics.
And thus we seek to find fulfillment in shallow, trivial things. I don't just mean sex and drugs. I mean selfish, introverted things. The idea that Romantic Love can give you total fulfillment is only one up on individualism, perhaps we could call it dividualism.

People who, like I did, believe that total fulfillment can come through total subservient devotion to serving a party are mislead too, and those sincere and honest ideals are warped to produce the power matrix.
But we're far better people than those who never feel that, who never feel that unique fulfillment that being part of a mass movement can bring.

Orwell struggled with this, I realise. Struggled with the dynamics of all this. Orwell described the need to be part of 'working, striving, triumphing, persecuting' movement as sex gone wrong. I think he was wrong there. But on the right lines. Because I do believe that part of the greatness of man is that our highly increased sex drives gives us so much excess sexual energy we need somewhere to put it. No matter how much sex we have, it can never be enough. That surplus energy drives us to seek our fulfillment in building communal efforts, our urge to live on after our death drives us to create things of which we can be part that will live on after we die. Orwell being, in his heart a loner, recognised this, but could not see that it is not this destruction of this dynamic we should seek, but a way of turning it to positive use.

The difference between myself and Winston Smith is quite simple. Winston never quite understood INGSOC. I do.

I am honest enough to admit to myself that if I lived in 1984 world AND I WAS A MEMBER OF THE INNER PARTY, I'd be quite happy. Every single drive of mine would be met. I would look upon INGSOC as the ultimate system of perfection.

Part of the reason 1984 works is that Winston HAS to be a member of the OUTER party, a member of the Inner party wouldn't feel the way he does.

1984 doesn't entirely address this. The final chapters. The pathetic contrast between O'Brien and Winston. Time and time again one sees the intellectual superiority of O'Brien over Winston. Winston's heart may be in the right place, but he has no guiding principles. Just a dislike of INGSOC. And that is not enough. When O'Brien replays the tape where Winston proudly declares he would commit atrocities in the name of the Brotherhood and uses that to demonstrate that Winston cannot claim moral superiority, Winston cannot reply.

And yet the response is not so very hard. It is the response that Von Stauffenburg might have given, or Morpheus in The Matrix. O'Brien knows the response, Winston doesn't.
I sometimes wonder whether Orwell isn't in fact subtly making this point. O'Brien clearly does not love Big Brother, not really. He is no fool. Otherwise he would not be able to empathise so clearly with Winston- even if this empathy is to be misused. If, as he claims, he co-wrote the 'book within a book' he is at heart, with Winston. Winston is indeed right to see O'Brien as sympathetic. He is. He sympathises with the fact that what really drives Winston is that the system is based on manipulation of people's drives and that he is in on it and Winston isn't.

But O'Brien is actually the key. O'Brien understands. Winston is merely a plot device, he isn't a hero, any more than O'Brien is a villain. Winston's journey of discovery is in fact a journey by the reader in to the pathetic reality of why his type of people either blindly support totalitarianism or get wiped out. Symes or Winston, they are both equally feeble.

The reality is, it is in the perversion of the O'Briens of this world that such systems triumph. Nobody has cozened O'Brien. He did it to himself. Consciously.

The last few chapters aren't so much a study of INGSOC, but a study in how good people become servants of it. Not slaves, up till then, we've seen the slaves, this goes deeper, the servants.

Why O'Brien, a man who can truly understand the workings of it all, so much so he can contribute to writing a book explaining in humane terms the perversion that is INGSOC, still ends up serving it.

Evil systems are not created by individuals, they develop. Standing up and saying no, is a risk. If no one else says no, you go to Room 101. It really is an act of faith. O'Brien serves INGSOC because it can serve his drives. He has no faith that life can be different.

When I say I have no regrets in life, I mean it. Sometimes that surprises people.

But I mean it.

I have no regrets because I am not a Winston. I am an O'Brien. I am driven the way he is, I think the way he does. Do not think O'Brien is a man of no feeling. Remember, he wrote the book within a book which shows that he can feel, emote, understand. It's merely that he has learnt to warp his own passions and feelings.

I feel I have been freed from that. For good or ill. I am an O'Brien who has fallen foul of INGSOC and now seeks it's demise.

Because I no longer have anything to gain from it's success. So my book within a book, my 'Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism' really is written, not to lure people into a false Brotherhood to lead them to Room 101, but to actually stop INGSOC in it's tracks. My Brotherhood, is for real.

For the reader dear to my heart who asked what I ultimately wanted out of life, I hope this post has clarified that.

To eat, sleep, drink and beathe the revolution. What else could I possibly want?