The London Underground Fail

Good lord. I’m sure I’m not the only one who occasionally, or rather frequently, steps off the London Underground feeling like I’ve just been through some sordid affair that sadly must be often repeated by necessity. It’s not a question of snobbery, the Tube isn’t some strange world full of people I wouldn’t daaaa to associate with for fear of social graces, it’s practically an intrinsic part of my life as a Londoner, as well as the buses and most forms of public transport the city offers. No amount of use however will ever shake the feeling that the Tube system itself is a fairly woeful thing that for the duration of whatever journey, fundamentally changes its passengers.

This phenomena is probably worthy of its own psychological profile. The nigh on feral clamber for a space really not suitable for a person to squeeze themselves into in regular circumstances, the sudden disappearance of any sense of spacial awareness that prompts a platform full of people to relentlessly press into the carriages that are already actually very full… the temporarily abandoned convention that a matter of inches or less is a bit too close a proximity for one’s face to another. And residing over all of this, the complete lack of communication between all these people sharing a commonly unpleasant experience. Try for a knowing smile towards a fellow sardine and you may get some sort of coy recognition, if you’re lucky.

Anything so bold as striking up a conversation is more times than otherwise going to elicit a marginal look of fear or confusion, masked sometimes by a nervous smile, followed by the minimum of number of words required to disengage without being overtly dismissive. No other place in the city will stir up that sense of being solitary in a sea of people. Rarely if ever is there a sense of camaraderie, despite this being the plight of hundreds of thousands of people every day. Around 1.229 billion people, and growing, use the Tube annually, but compared to other services around the world this isn’t all that much. God help the people of Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Paris, Mexico City or Hong Kong.

Or perhaps rather, adequately-serviced-metropolitan-rail-links-with-remotely-sufficient-capacity help these people… and it seems in some cases this alien concept actually does. I don’t want to rant, rave and give wholesale condemnation to TFL, as I know perfectly well that there are structural inhibitions that severely hamstring any hopes of London sporting the same kind of facilities as say, Taipei, where the boulevard-like platforms sparkle underfoot as you await a high speed train that arrives with pinpoint precision and invites you into truly spacious and immaculate carriages. The MRT, as it is known in that city, only came into service in 1996 and had the benefit of being planned and constructed with modern transportation expectations in mind.

Its annual “ridership” is also only about half of what London is required to accommodate, but still… memories of those journeys can’t help but spring up every time I’m directly inhaling the sweat vapours of some beleaguered, besuited professional entirely transfixed on the screen of their iPad in a hopeless bid to suppress the genuine discomfort and frustration of the commute. I think to Tokyo or Seoul also, where either by the military precision of operations, and perhaps by some unspoken communal contract between passengers that order trumps chaos, things seem to work relatively well, and generally speaking while managing around twice the numbers of voyagers as London.

I do not think it is unfair to say that the London Underground is deficient, a problem that will only become more obvious as the already strained service is further put under pressure in the years to come. There are and have been dribs and drabs of alleviation from TFL, such as the DLR, Tramlink, improvements to the Overground, the utterly gimmicky Emirates Air Line… and we can look forward to the unveiling of Crossrail, but is it all enough? Are updated fleets for the Metropolitan Line and Hammersmith & City really going to tackle this looming crisis of critical over-congestion? The Piccadilly Line at rush hour screams no.

I wonder if it’s inevitable that the planners will one day have to bite the bullet and think about tackling the core issue of the blatantly outdated and constrictive tunnels that worm their way through the city with a quaint sort of Victorian character, but are albeit insufficient to cope with future needs. I dread to think of the disruption caused by a project of such magnitude, and even wonder if it’s actually feasible at all. But if it was possible I could only ever conclude that it should, if not must be an undertaking worth pursuing. And not just because it would ultimately make life that much more pleasant for the residents of this global city.

Every Tube journey brings with it the sight of a legion of tourists, which lends itself to the “Where are they from?” guessing game. Integral to these inner queries is also the somewhat forlorn thought of their probably less than impressed judgements of London’s facilities. There’s no question of the city’s high standing in the league of international hotspots, but when it comes to the Underground you can only help but feel we’re at best slightly ashamed pretenders. On a similar note, Heathrow Airport is probably a more shocking indictment of the same kind of failure. If HS2 does go belly up then I have some fairly reasonable suggestions for what to do with that loose £50 billion.

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Blurred Lines Indeed

I haven’t written a damned thing for this blog in a wee while, so here’s a quick one. Having just read about Edinburgh University’s decision to ban Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines from being played anywhere on campus, my head spins. This prohibition comes down to elements of misogyny and rape culture being present in the lyrics of the song, and I’m sure the parade of topless women in the video didn’t do much to ingratiate the artist with a certain sect of activism.

This is, of course, ridiculous. Banning media of any variety immediately strikes me as distinctly non-academic, and last time I checked universities are predominately forums for academia and the accessing of information. I’m not trying to suggest that Thicke’s contributions to the world are of even a middling intellectual calibre, but the point stands… universities are more open than this. The Edinburgh University Student’s Association’s decision smacks wildly of amateur activism.

Blinkered amateur activism at that. As if Robin Thicke is the sole banner flyer for an overtly sexualised brand of music. Thicke was of course the unwitting collaborator in the recent VMA controversy that mostly revolved around Miley Cyrus’ utterly bewildering performance, and the young starlet seemed to get a taste for producing the wrong kind of headline. A brigade of commentators have descended upon her release of Wrecking Ball, the video for which features a frequently nude Cyrus again doing strange things that defy explanation.

Well… they don’t quite defy explanation. Sex sells. Whether it’s Robin Thicke’s dancing girls and raunchy lyrics or Cyrus’ rather gaze-averting antics, there is absolutely no mystery or subtext to any of this. Sex sells. Kirsty Haigh, vice-president of the EUSA, spoke to the Independent of a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment but one suspects a case of individual, overly-sensitive, frayed sensibilities. Suspects, mind you, I don’t know and haven’t discussed the matter with Haigh but all the right elements are in place.

For certain feminists, the ones who want to determine the entire narrative of what is permissible for women to do or not do, this must be a tough old world. Do you suspect that the models in Thicke’s video were silently raging against his misogyny? Or is it more likely that they were professionals with the high profile gig and took less issue with their role due to a simple comfort with employing sexuality to create a commercially hot music video? This might be controversial to some, but the controversy is subjective to the point of arbitrary.

Some are at ease with commercial sexuality, others are not. It seems remarkably arrogant for a student body to draw the lines in this sort of thing when the majority of music fans aren’t actually receiving subliminal transmissions on how they should perceive women, but are just enjoying a good dance track. The absurdity of this case is apparent in the fact that the track was shut down in the middle of a silent disco courtesy of EUSA policy. There are infinitely more sensible ways to address the serious issues of sexual harassment and misogyny.

Banning pop tunes is just lazy, attention seeking and frankly bizarre, given what is surely the total void of efficacy in the measure.

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Expand Your Horizons – Anime

The “cultural” half of my project has been neglected a little, but then so has the current affairs and politics half in the midst of the first real English summer in seven years. I love my writing, just not when the sun is out, though as mentioned this is England and the weather usually permits me to be prolific. A friend has prompted me to talk a little about one slightly esoteric area of my entertainment canon, that admittedly I completely agree gets short shrift outside of certain circles in the West. I speak of Japanese animation, or animé.

Japanese media throughout the last several decades has often been of the most outstanding quality, and it’s certainly easy to find someone to fawn over Akira Kurosawa films, myself included. That reference on its own might be like a foreigner saying to you, “I’m such an American film buff, I think Stephen Spielberg is amazing!”, but I actually don’t consider myself to be a resounding expert, certainly not yet anyway. Also the focus here is animé, which to my sadness is often misperceived in Western understanding as limited to the high escapist tendencies of the largely superb Hayao Miyazaki films, or as being the refuge of overly sexualised young female characters for a pervy male audience, or worse. 

These genres certainly do exist, and the prevalence of harem ecchi styled media, which feature dominant central male characters surrounded by a cast of scantily clad  and usually worshipping ladies, doesn’t help expose other audiences to what in some cases are some of the finest things to ever be made for a screen, period. Skip over the ultra-violent, the nigh on soft-pornographic or otherwise the downright weird and there are some true diamonds. What I might offer up here is likely only scratching the surface in terms of a real otaku (borderline obsessive mange or animé lover) but I wouldn’t want to take you on an expansive hipster odyssey anyway.

Locate for yourself two particular series, both by the same genius mind, one Shinichiro Watanabe. Knowing eyes surely roll, as I’m recommending to you none other than Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. To begin, they stand out as sensational works of art. These are all animated after all and the drawing is of a remarkably high standard, so if that’s something you take any appreciation from, don’t hesitate. What I particularly love about them, and is a trademark Watanabe stylism, is wonderfully imaginative genre blending. Bebop is a crime noir space western, if you can wrap your head around that, and Champloo mixes the Edo period of Japan with anachronistic elements of hip-hop and youth subculture.

These conceptual aberrations aren’t the only reason to love these two series however, I’m not just advocating these for being quirky. They are genuinely exceptional in their characters, plots, development, pacing, emotive quality, you name it, any and every cinematic facet of value is present in abundance. If there was one cultural lost in translation factor it might occasionally be the sense of humour, although Watanabe is considerably more disciplined than some of his industry compatriots. I’ve seen a few series that would otherwise be outstanding and objectively accessible but for the slightly skitty or frenetic injections of rather over the top comedic segways.

But no, these Watanabe productions are mature and thoughtful while still being outrageously entertaining. They are surely the best place for the uninitiated to start what could end up being a long journey. I’ve met very few people who weren’t engaged by these, regardless of their preconceived notions of animé or affected dislike of something sometimes seen as a bit nerdy. A love for animé however, is comparatively little more than a love for any major cultural media institution. The Japanese invest just as much creative firepower into this world as any other country might into whatever the mainstream media form is, hence the great breadth of genres, styles and degrees of propriety and quality.

The best of it stands with the best of anything. Go and have a look, really. I’m highly confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Phidias Meets Foster

In the year 2013, on an evening more than typical for the English May, grey cut with a chill just too mean to be called mild, the ghost of Phidias, 5th Century BC Athenian sculptor and architect, visited Norman Foster, one of the most celebrated architects of the late 20th and early 21st Century AD. An auspicious occasion if ever there was. Assume, if you care to, the usual drama and incredulity of the apparitional visitation, although it isn’t necessary. Here is a meeting of minds.

Phidias – “Dear Norman, how are you? For nearly two and a half thousand years I’ve watched as the face of the world has changed in more ways than any person of my time could ever have imagined. There are so many things I would like to discuss with you.”

Norman – “Why Phidias, I am well, although this is unexpected, and not the least that a ghost is before me! What things could the master architect of classical antiquity want to discuss with me?

Phidias – “What else Norman, but our trade? We are both architects, no? I have spoken to many of our fellows throughout the ages, and you are certainly notable. You see, my passing came before my life’s greatest work was fully complete. How cruel that Phidias could not see the Parthenon, crown jewel of the Acropolis, white temple on the mount of the shining city of Athens, finished with living eyes. But Ictinus and Callicrates were fine architects too, and my disciples were taught well, I taught them! Alcamenes and Agoracritus, such fine artisans of stone, my tradition lived on in them. When I asked Apollodorus of Damascus as he rebuilt the Pantheon of Rome for Trajan, he told me. More than five hundred years after I was gone, I remained.”

Norman – “And longer still I should think! You must have seen that well beyond the time of the Romans the style of your age has endured? Neo-classical architecture has resurfaced in a new and distinct way for almost every century that has been since yours. You must be proud, and happy?

Phidias – “Oh, proud, yes. He who built the Temple of Zeus at Olympia should be proud. He who raised the Athena Parthenos to greater heights than the tallest of men deserves to be proud! But I cannot say if I am happy, Norman. I do not know yet.”

Norman – “I can understand this. As you introduced yourself you said the world has changed, and I would add never more so than in the last fifty years. There must be many sights that have displeased you. The slow ruin of time on your own creations must be especially hard to see?”

Phidias – “Ha! Displeased. If I told you that I was no more than displeased when fire brought great ruin to my Parthenon in the 3rd Century AD, what would you think? Does it surprise you that ravages of time and the changing of powers and faiths that slowly degraded this wonder are of little consequence to me? Why even when that Venetian oaf Francesco Morosini landed an explosive shell on it in 1687, I didn’t cry. I wish perhaps that the Ottomans hadn’t placed their gunpowder stores there but it is inconsequential. Conflict is as inevitable as time and all things that men build are destroyed by both. I am at peace with this.”

Norman – “Of course this surprises me! While I should probably admit I don’t expect 30 St Mary Axe to stand for a literal eternity, I intend for it to remain for the conceivable future and designed it to do so. It would be a horror for myself, and the society it is nestled in, to see it fall, especially violently. If your life’s work hasn’t made you content, and their destruction is not the cause of your discontent, why then aren’t you happy?”

Phidias – “I could say because of you, Norman, although that might be unfair. I believe that you, and those who share your architectural values, including those who came before and informed you, are in fact responsible for the death of craft. Craft as I knew it anyway. My atelier used to sing with a chorus of hammers and chisels as men created works of art to adorn our grand façades. Today I see little more than steel and glass, wrought into appealing shapes by machines. Why have these crafts died?”

Norman – “That is perhaps difficult to answer Phidias. There are many reasons. As we have both now said, time has changed the world. In this nation it is certainly no longer possible to gather great numbers of men to take the stone from the earth and carve it. Stone is heavy and expensive and those skills that existed in your day do not so readily exist today. More still, at this time the classical style is not important, we are exploring new possibilities. I don’t blame myself for these things!”

Phidias – “No, indeed neither do I place all the blame upon you. There were many others before you and it wasn’t simply those who rejected true craft in architecture that helped it to its death. Many who embraced it were equally responsible for their misjudgements, the excesses, the repetition that caused your forebears to look elsewhere for inspiration… I stood with Postnik Yakovlev in 1560 as he lamented over Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, realising the gaudy confusion of his work. I listened to John Nash in 1830 as he defended his bloated expansion of Buckingham Palace! Frankly, entire cities like Rome became over-saturated show pieces for the likes of Bellini and Michelangelo throughout the Renaissance.”

Norman – “I would add Antoni Gaudi to your Bonfire of the Architects in that sense, his works were so full of craft that many would call them an eyesore.”

Phidias – “Yes, yes, and many more we could list. I did not say however that I hold these men more accountable than others. And to the latest day there were those who wanted to honour the old traditions of stone-masonry, carpentry, joinery, sculpting and painting, the old crafts that were employed, and still could be. Thus did Charles Barry bring the Palace of Westminster to back to life throughout the 1840’s and over fifty years later Henry Bacon was adding shining classical monuments to America’s cities. The Lincoln Memorial is a thing of such elegance, he could have been my protégé!”

Norman – “And yet did not Charles Dickens ridicule the expense of Barry’s magnum opus? The great social satirist and commentator of the age, appalled by the lavish costs of beauty, authority and unequal prosperity turned edifice!”

Phidias – “Absolutely these things cost! They must cost! What labour of mankind was great that didn’t cause us to bleed and suffer and regret? What stories will be told of the building of your Axe? And what remains of it once built that causes one to ask of its construction? There is no intrigue, no detail for the eye, just a shape, a monolith to calculated efficiency in all its dearth of soul.”

Norman – “That is a matter for opinion, as many see great beauty in my designs but calculated efficiency is my badge of honour. I can appreciate your criticism of my aesthetic values if you can appreciate mine of yours also. Your friezes, metopes and triglyphs, pedestals and columns, nothing but fanciful indulgences. They served no function beyond their beauty and so were art, not architecture! Can we distinguish between these things? Yours was the day of art and architecture combined, today we look to the latter first.”

Phidias – “Not the case at all I say! The things we built were of such uncompromising architectural quality that we needed no cements or anything of the sort. We lay perfect stones, honed by hand, in such a manner as the builders of today couldn’t hope to replicate. That we added embellishment to our structures does not at all support your claim. In fact, I counter that today there is great guilt in seeking to amalgamate these opposing values. In much of what you and your predecessors have achieved is the evidence of trying to inject arts primary non-functionality into the very fabric of your architecture! I say you want to create art first.”

Norman – “I disagree, but could we agree that this is a dichotomy present in all architects? None of us want to create visually unpleasant things and so are we unavoidably tied to art in some sense?”

Phidias – “Maybe. And yet no. I think to Frank Gehry and his Guggenheim, to Oscar Niemeyer and his preposterously amorphous nothings, to Zaha Hadid and her bewilderingly overcomplexity. More? What has Rem Koolhass achieved with angular asymmetry, what is pleasant about the Seattle Central Library? Impressive, arguably, brutish, certainly, but enduring? I think not. None of it. Art before architecture, and bad art too. Let’s not even talk about Renzo Piano. Pompidou Centre? Pompous Centre!”

Norman – “Are you not being selective and anachronistic? Our lack of the use of classical craft has clearly not hindered our success and if we are vain in creating these things then so were you in your day. We operate on the limits of what is possible now, and I’m not even sure your age is therefore even relevant to us. I am curious though. How to judge those who arguably sit between us? Those who bridged the classical styles with the new and were highly regarded, Rennie Mackintosh, or Frank Lloyd Wright if you’d allow?”

Phidias – “Both well and good, but I feel we might be diverted into listing every prominent individual we have encountered in our experiences. It doesn’t please me to see the labours that I was surrounded with cast off as outdated, and I struggle with that definition. It is a fine craft indeed to be able to turn the raw matters into sculpted works of art and finer still to put these in places of honour. Atop the palaces, the temples, buildings of government and great private enterprise, all built by hands working in unison.”

Norman – “Why have a gargoyle 2,700ft in the air? Would you like the Burj Khalifa to be adorned with wasteful items that no one could appreciate?”

Phidias – “Why have one at even 225ft?! Do you think the people on the steps of Notre Dame de Paris can see those twisted faces above them? They were put their despite this and at least a superstitious person could say they serve more purpose than the twirls and loops and bulges of some of the monstrosities produced by the aforementioned! I ask this, why build something so tall?!”

Norman – “Because we can, and I apply that law to most endeavours in our field in this day, and yours too I’d wager. We don’t build white marble and granite shrines with pretty toys carved out for them anymore because for a long time we have been able to do more. And if we can, we do, this is one of the most simple principles of our craft. This expressed itself in your time as sculpture because that was what you were limited to. If you could have done the more ambitious things with steel and glass that we can today you would have, and classical architecture would mean something else entirely.”

Phidias – “So you say that craft has simply changed and my attachment to the definition and understanding that was contemporary to my day, is hindering me from seeing how in a sense my principles are still alive?”

Norman – “Absolutely. Craft has moved away from the common and artisanal trades and towards the industrial and technological but it still exists. The fundamentals of design and realisation in architecture is its craft, and the mediation of machine and computer between man and what is constructed does not devalue this. But I don’t think anyone would necessarily call your crafts inferior. It’s likely that no living individual could recreate Leochares’ Apollo Belvedere but I reckon a machine of surpassing precision could. Yet it would still require the direction of man and the initial creativity of vision followed by action to achieve anything. We might be more captivated by the notion of one man’s exceptional labour, or indeed the labour of thousands in cooperation, but romanticising these to the point where we devalue what is enabled by progress is ludicrous.”

Phidias – “Bah! Contentious. But if I were to accept this point then all I would have remaining were my aesthetic preferences and less to lament. We shall conclude this for now. There is more to discuss but I’m late for what is becoming a regular inquisition. Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond have yet to sufficiently defend that ArcelorMittal Orbit travesty.”

Norman – “Agreed. Later Phidias.”

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Tennis, Of Course

I love tennis. Yes I do. I’m watching tennis right now, such are the joys of home employment. The Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club, West Kensington, London, meeting ground of some of the finer acts on the ATP circuit, currently hosting messirs Murray and Mahut for my entertainment pleasure. What is there not to enjoy? Tennis demonstrates some of the finest examples of athleticism, strength, coordination and mental power in all of sport. No team mates to rely on, nothing to hide behind, just you, your tools, the court and your opponent.

Can I play tennis? God no. Not for years anyway, prior to the days when I consciously decided that a pace faster than brisk was just uncouth and not for me. I, like millions of others, defer my prowess and aspirations to the likes of Murray. I remember in the dying days of the Henman era there were whispers of the up and coming talent in the then scrawny Scotsman. Junior US Open Champion generally says very little for the later main circuit success rate, but then being British, anyone who could even spell ‘tennis’ was probably going to be a little bit exciting.

Murray, however, actually was exciting. With Henman and his excruciating but thoroughly enjoyable years heading for the exit, there was the grim prospect of an Alex Bogdanovitch number one, so thank god. 2004 marked the end of Murray’s junior days and brought him his Junior Grand Slam success, and early 2005 saw him enter full ATP events during the clay season. Having trained through his youth in Spain on the red surface, this perhaps made sense but his weakness on those courts in comparison to hard and grass was somewhat evident. He didn’t make his mark until the grass season and good third round runs at Queen’s and Wimbledon.

It was his epic five set defeat to David Nalbandian on the SW19 Centre Court that probably lit the spark of interest in Murray for most people. Henman had made an early second round exit and Nalbandian at the time was a major force. Seeing this puny little chap taking on the gruff and intimidating Argentine instilled an instant sense of hope. That is I think a distinctly British thing. The moment Murray took a set in that match I was daydreaming about his woad covered face terrifying the enthusiasts as he stormed triumphant around the grounds at the end of the last Sunday, Federer’s severed head in hand.

While it took a few more years, a few finals heartbreaks, a lot more muscle and couple of different coaching set-ups, he got there. 2012 was a barnstormer, and although tragically falling to Federer at the actual Wimbledon event, Murray was glorious in defeating both Djokovic and Federer on his way to Olympic Gold at the All England Club. Defeating Djokovic again for the US Open Championship sealed the deal. The UK has a genuinely world class tennis player, not to mention in the time of arguably the greatest players who ever stepped on court.

Just watching him finish off Mahut, his 2012 Queen’s dominator, in straight sets, over the course of two rain disrupted days, I’m gearing myself up for the pre-Wimbledon hype again. All the speculation and comment and column inches in the world won’t make a jot of difference, but as if believing it will happen is the currency of reality, I will read it all to reinforce my own hope that Murray will finally bring the Wimbledon trophy home after more than 80 years of British failure. He has to. He must. There are meak signs of the talent in store after Murray, with the likes of Ward, Evans, Corrie, Golding, Baker and Edmund all toiling for success.

But if Murray can’t do it, short of dramatic advances for the younger cast or the emergence of another unlikely talent, the wait could prove to be indefinite. Keep your football, spare me the cricket until the Ashes, forget this lame F1 season and accept the Lions will have a strong tour of Australia, this year, all eyes should be on Wimbledon.

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Objective Reality, Ideology and the Rational Actor

The first thought that occurs when writing a philosophy piece of sorts is… how do you open a philosophy piece? It’s been at least a few years since I was reading any accepted literature in this area with any regularity and I’ve forgotten. A statement of intent I suppose. Ah yes, that would more or less be that I’m going to attempt to be build a limited rationalist world view from which I will try and determine a form of post-ideological political ideology. Simple.

To preface this I would say that I will try and avoid what is actually a significant chunk of philosophical thought. Inherent to my notion of rationalism, rational behaviour, rational actors etc., is an immediate dismissal of all those considerations that lend themselves to philosophical quandaries. I loathe scepticism. Discourse is effectively irrelevant if nothing is acceptably real based on common empirical experience.

This is almost an anti-Cartesian mission in that regard. Wholesale doubt is not the position from which to advance to practical considerations if all that can be ascertained is that, to the most minimal degree, I exist. I’m seeking to rebuild certain concepts from the perspective of my interpretation of the modern rational actor, whose thoughts might follow these sorts of lines –

“I can objectively accept reality and my environment as my conscious mind perceives it on an empirical basis. I am an intelligent human who reacts and behaves in these conditions with a primary function of self-preservation in a cooperative social context. I can accept through report and consensus the empirical experiences of those beyond my immediate environment, enabling my understanding of different or unfamiliar processes, with particular regards to scientific understanding. Through these things I can reach an acceptable definition of broader scientific truths, effectively circumventing concerns of subjectivity”

I am immediately aware that some readers may baulk at how quickly I reach that last conclusion, and indeed to quote philosophical combatant Jack Reilly,

“Subjectivity cannot be circumvented; rather, subjectivity is constantly engaged in constructing reality according to certain presuppositions. There is no unmediated access to ‘reality’, it is incomplete, anamorphous, fragmented… the task of the subject is to engage in the activity of stabilizing reality through narrativisation (science is one narrative, but it’s impossible to say if it is the ultimate narrative).”

But my “circumvention” is the expedient way to move forward onto real issues, if you’ll forgive that wording. If it helps, I am certainly not advocating any notion of actual or total objective truth, merely a sense of, “Good enough,” because otherwise this is all too sticky for my tastes. Perhaps a common ground can be found in suggesting that we can only really operate in this “objective reality” of mine, and going much further is navel-gazing territory.

Leap of logical faith established, what is the substance of this objective reality? It appears that life in cosmological terms is a transient anomaly in a scape so vast it defeats the comprehension of the best of known living intelligence. To a lesser degree, in terrestrial geological terms, life is a young, struggling phenomena that is evidently capable of existing and propagating in at least these conditions. We have a better understanding within this context of ourselves and life in general, but theory is still prevalent beyond the point of constantly advancing knowledge.

In human terms, our scientific understanding far outstrips our historical understanding which spans, with any genuine sense of effect, perhaps 2000 years at a push. Archaeological exploration is a boon in this regard, but limited in value when compared to properly recorded history in the academic sense. We have evolved in distinct stages from more primitive versions of ourselves, in a biological, societal and technological manner, into what appears to be relatively and broadly the most advanced species on this planet.

This is basically to assert that every living creature exists in multiple objective realities, in a very real, non-science fiction sense. Or perhaps it is better to say, one fundamental objective reality but after the fashion of a Russian matryoshka doll, containing another within another. I accept that more than three ‘layers’ can probably be delineated but I haven’t got forever and don’t want to convolute things. Importantly, going to a smaller degree than the expansively human one I think starts to take matters into more subjective areas.

The problem from here is how do you use these to inform an ideology? On the grandest scale, ideology itself is an irrelevance, but then arguably so is everything. If I’m to maintain logical consistency and not devalue this, any and all exercise in every possible circumstance, I must with some irritation actually discard any consideration of our fundamental objective reality. And probably the secondary objective reality too, as they both do effectively as much to invalidate principles of humanity and ideology as does scepticism.

If irritation is an excessive description of my feelings about this than I would offer that it at least causes a certain amount of dissonance. My dislike of scepticism is in its deconstructive focus based on a rejection of things I determine are (as good as) empirically true. Yet almost to the point where we enter the realm of subjectivity, the primary structures of our objective reality are totally unconstructive with regards to the aforementioned principles of humanity and ideology. Could we even go further to say they are in direct confrontation with these things?

Probably. If the scope of those higher governing forces in our reality are so extremely beyond our will to control or manipulate, all human thought and endeavour is rendered down to a futile and meaningless puddle of ephemeral delusion. And that, to use the philosophical expression, is a total bummer and indeed contradicts the fact that our relative objective reality as a species has, does and will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.

And within this are all the subjective qualities and experiences that make us distinctly who we are, from suffering to harmony and the rest of the whole banquet of human emotion, creation and otherwise activity. Just because they no longer function within any identifiable sense of objective reality does not mean they don’t exist with real consequence on an individual, societal and historical scale. It’s the best rejection of nihilism I can imagine. Yes, everything is pointless, in a fashion totally disassociated from the human experience, but that experience is real, it exists, and ignoring it is therefore inherently inhuman.

What I’m starting to feel now is that there is nothing terribly useful to ascertain from this analyses in terms of ideology. Within my tertiary, or human, reality it seems reasonable that the commonly understood imperatives of life are the governing forces. And after the fact that the “truth” of our existence is necessarily redundant, we are I feel left with an open field for all the traditional ideologies and their feuding that tends to plague us. There does remain a general feeling, none too revolutionary, that I would best refer back to my rational actor to explain, and is basically a deeper exploration of part of the initial statement –

“I am an intelligent human who reacts and behaves in these conditions with a primary function of self-preservation in a cooperative social context.”

Or, to reduce this somewhat,

“I act in rational self-interest”

And to expand again,

“I act in a manner that promotes and advances my well-being and the security of my person. Humans are social creatures and it can be empirically demonstrated that cooperation within a societal model is the best environment in which to achieve my ‘selfish’ primary motive. Thus my actions should at least be cohesive with the societal model, if not in direct support of it.”

Within that statement is the entire tranche of positive moral attitudes and actions relating to individuals and society. The fact that, based on this, the ideology one arrives at may be wildly different, speaks entirely to the subjectivity of world view and individual experience that I initially set out to dispel. Personally I see this as a rationale for a finely tuned relationship between social, or state, and individual empowerment. Implicit to that assertion is that in their natural form I see state and society as mutually informing entities.

What do you see in that statement? Do you agree with it? My curiosity for input at this point overrides my ability to continue this exploration with any efficacy. If nothing else I think I thus far have been novel in at least creating my own self-defeating and self-fulfilling philosophical discourse.

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Pfizer Finally Grants Men Sexual Liberation

A recent report on pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and their decision to directly market Viagra online was a curious one. I understand this would be the first occasion in which a major manufacturer did this, but the story itself is something of a side note in a broader discussion about the availability of certain drugs. Particularly those drugs that are purposed for what could be described as sexual empowerment, but in this instance it might be better to phrase it as individual empowerment with regards to control of one’s body.

Possibly since the dawn of email, spam messages marketing the since nigh on infamous man pill have indiscriminately plagued users. Alongside the post-watershed “twinkle in the eye” suggestive undertones of the oddly cryptic TV ad, and other slightly veiled but public means of getting the product about, this was albeit an indication of the general social acceptability of its use. A use, no doubt, preferably kept discreet for the implications inherent to its requirement, but in this regard it’s no different to many a treatment for an embarrassing ailment.

What makes this issue more interesting is when you contrast this ethos of broad agreement that a man needs to “get it up”, with a rather unbalanced approach to the same idea when considering women. Clearly a woman doesn’t have precisely the same consideration but the objective for men is basic biological sexual empowerment, an objective that for women still remains mystifyingly controversial in much of the world. The biological element differs substantially from broader sexual empowerment in terms of attitudes, behaviours and cultures, thus my distinction at the beginning, but control of one’s body should be a clear and inalienable platform for gender equality.

Obviously this notion then informs the larger debate but I want to focus on the core aspect. Here in the UK there seems to be a reasonably healthy attitude and women have easy access to gender specific birth control, free on the NHS, and the somewhat gender neutral condom is commercially readily available. But even in America the debate still rages over whether or not it’s even moral to use the “pill”, with recent efforts to widen it’s availability on the public dollar stirring up another hornet’s nest. The debate over abortion is an even nastier one, and although more complex than birth control it speaks to the same matter.

I’m sure none of this is ground breaking feminism on my part but I couldn’t help but wonder that if an astoundingly powerful company like Pfizer wanted to do something genuinely remarkable, they could provide a similar service to women as they supposedly have just provided men. Apparently the Viagra move was in the name of fighting counterfeit erectile aids on the black market that could contain anything so horrible as printer ink and pesticides. Well, some of the stories I’ve heard from near every corner of the globe that talk of the horrors that women sometimes endure for want of control over their own bodies are a goddamned greater deal worse than that.

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