Monday, 29 July 2013

Don’t just think - act

Are thinkers good doer’s? Can we accept the wisdom of words from people that lack the courage of their convictions? Is cowardice a failing for thinkers? What makes someone wise? Is it just the act of thinking? Is it thinking of acting? Is it someone who has taken action and then thought about those actions? Is it someone who thinks about the acts of others?

Yet history has given us many examples of all of the above. We have the knowledge of great generals, politicians, kings and queens. We have the knowledge of great writers, playwrights and philosophers. We have examples upon examples of how people behave when they are attempting to get power, hold onto power or are losing power.

However, I would say that writers are also acting. They are writing. This is one of the most difficult forms of action. If history has shown anything it is the power of words to inspire, to control, to manipulate. Thinking is free but putting thoughts onto paper has a price and sometimes that price has been the writer’s life.

So when you have thoughts, you decide whether they are fleeting or as permanent as they can be. You think whether they are worthwhile or not. You think whether something else is more important. It is up to you to decide to act on those thoughts to make them real or let them disappear into the electric pulses of your mind.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Sonnets to Rap - Where are the poets?

Poets used to be the rock stars of popular culture. The poems of history are seldom quoted now. They are the fabric of old societies with different philosophies and conflicting threads of human hope and angst. Where there used to be sonnets to woo a woman’s heart, is there now only rap?

In a couple of hundred years, will school children have any poets to reference, to entice, from our age of consumer culture. Instead of Shakespeare and Yeats will they have to make do with P.Diddy and Daft Punk? Will they laugh or will they cry at popular culture of our age? Will they take the words seriously?

We have an explosion of methods to allow the masses to creativity, yet has letting in the deluge of creative waters diluted the strength of the few, true poets in our time? Can poets make an impact in popular culture. It is doubtful, very doubtful. Ah but you say the singers and songwriters are the new poets. Really?

Was Bob Dylan the first and last poet of the modern era that will be remembered as culturally significant. I’m sure there are lots of poets out there but how many have an impact on popular culture across continents? Is there just too much noise drowning out the voice of the few. Are you a poet, muted by the many or a rapper whose lyrics are the lyre of pop culture?

Is there scope for a new poetry? Can you write poetry to inspire the masses? Maybe the poet must return to their roots and become the performer as well. Maybe the rapper will be the new Wordsworth? Maybe the poetry of our age is the noise of the many and the silence of the few.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Panoptic society

Michael Foucault developed the concept of Panopticism. Since his death, it has inevitably moved to Post-Panopticism like most philosophical concepts e.g. post-structuralism, post-modernism etc. There is plenty of text written on the terms, what they mean and more importantly what they mean in our society in the early 21st century.

Quickly, Panopticism is the ability of the elite to keep the peasants under control by surveillance. Post-Panopticism moves the debate to the self control we exert on ourselves. The impact these concepts have on our society is under appreciated.

I believe the 21st century has a new architecture for the Panopticon. No longer is there a central column that allows the elite to observe peasants. I believe the central column has fallen. We now live in open cells, watching each other like never before. There is no elite. No one can escape the gaze of the other or the self. We all carry camera/video phones, use social media, live under the cctvs, tabloid newspapers have emails/phones hacked, take photos from great distances.

The issue needs to be separated into different strands. Some actions are covert like email hacking, data farming from companies data records, some are overt like CCTV, social media. Where are we going to draw the line? When we know our information, our actions, movements, pictures are tracked, then it is not merely observation? When we don't it is spying.

The Panopticon is concerned with the observed. We are in view of the others in the Panopticon but so are they. Like the philosopher said. 'What is private?' We give up information on social media readily. If the information is out there, then should we be surprised that someone is gathering/observing that information?

The question is choice or lack of it. We are born into the Panoptic society. It is difficult to put up a curtain on our cell. We must sever that link to the modern world to escape the Panoptic society. Could you give up your credit/debit cards, electronic devices, transport? Therefore we must accept the cost of our post-modern world or leave it.

It may be a case that the 21st century will be remembered as the century Panopticism became prevalent, accepted and finally produced a political and possible violent reaction. The generation that is growing up with new technology doesn't have the wisdom of hindsight. In general people just see the good of communication technology.

It won't be until two, three or four generations have lived in a Panopticon society that they will yearn for the supposed freedoms of people in the pre-microchip era and try to do something about it. Maybe the last war of the 21st Century will be about those who want privacy and those who want to make privacy impossible.

Friday, 12 July 2013


The history of the world has a lot to do with triticum or as it is commonly known as, wheat. This crop allowed the development of the first empires in what is now Iraq and the Levant. Egypt's history with wheat goes back to the Pharaohs. They were able to build the pyramids based on its economic value.

The Roman empire depended on the wheat from Egypt to feed the Romans by dishing out the dole through wheat rations. The loss of Egypt's grain for the Byzantine Empire when the new Islamic caliphate conquered Egypt really affected the ability of Byzantium to survive.

One of the reasons the German army invaded Russia in world war two was to get access to the large wheat fields of the Ukraine to help feed its population. When the wheat crop failed in the mid-west USA in the 1930's, it affected the livelihood of millions. Wheat is as important to western culture as rice is to eastern cultures.

Egyptians depend on wheat as a stable food. Science has enabled wheat to grow in tougher conditions and survive disease. The ability to grow such quantities of wheat has allowed a population explosion in Egypt and surround countries. However the grow of the population has well exceeded the ability of Egypt to feed itself with wheat. It needs money to buy in extra wheat to feed the population. It doesn't have that money.

Now this is where world history begins to take shape. When people start to go hungry they have nothing to lose. When people have nothing to lose they are willing to take on the status quo. The French Revolution is a perfect example of what happens when people are left without choice. The price of wheat is rising. The Egyptians are depending on aid from oil rich gulf countries to sustain it but how long before those countries are not able to sustain this aid?

Throughout history the migration of people has precipitated new historic paradigms. If the people of Egypt start to move east or west looking for food, then you will see new conflicts arise that will test people's ability to live by principles they hold dear. History has been full of shocks. The future is no different. There will be shocks. The price of wheat will be one of those shocks. The consequences are already been felt. There is no reason to believe the consequences will not continue to reverberate around the world.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Olympics need a home

The Olympics is one of those events that unites the human race. It brings out the best in human interaction, endeavour and spirit. The ethos of the Olympics in Ancient Greece was to find out who were the best athletes in the ancient world. It was less about flying the flag for the particular tribe, kingdom you were from. I think this is an important aspect that has been hidden from view by nationalist flag flying.

The Olympics have been overtaken by nationalism in another way and that is the Olympic councils selling of the rights to host the Olympics by a national government. The cost of holding the Olympics has long surpassed creditability. Instead of Olympic funds been used to promote sport in a country, it is spent on long-term infrastructure for a very short term event.

It does not make sense. It is obscene to the extreme. The cost of even bidding to get the Olympics is beyond  sensible. The questions arise. Who benefits from this system? Where does the money go? How transparent is the system? The lack of these questions been answered makes me believe that the system that has developed, the Olympic industry needs to be radically reformed.

One solution to the largesse of Olympic waste is to stop the tour that the Olympics has been doing for the last one hundred years. It is time to find a home for the winter and summer Olympics. The obvious advantage of this is that a permanent home offers economic viability to the location, money is not wasted that could be better spent. After time the location becomes less political as people just accept the status quo.

Where should it go? Well Greece is the obvious permanent home for Summer Olympics but there could be practical difficulties with the heat unless the Olympics was moved to a better time of the year. I'm not going to go into the problem of picking a location now. I just want the idea to spread,  'Give the Olympics a permanent home'.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Spider on the wall

Nothing says dilemma like a spider on the wall when you are in bed, the room is cold and the warmth of the duvet is just right. You can pretend to ignore it, live and let live. It won't harm you. It's on the other side of the room. It couldn't possibly traverse across the room during the night. It won't use its super tensile silk to move onto your pillow like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. It won't move over your sleeping skin where it will bite you or worse lay eggs under your innocence skin. No it won't do any of those things. So why are you still looking at it?

You don't want to wake up in the morning for it to be gone. You need to know where it is? what its movements are? what it's intentions are? Maybe it will be back the following night, stalking you ever closer. You are now completely and utterly paranoid. You must taken action even though it will disturb your perfect posture.

Ah but before you can move you have an ethical thought. Do I just get the shoe and stamp it, eliminate it? This is my territory baby and you can't just sit there in a small insignificant corner and tease me. Kill it, wipe it out, destroy it. It is beginning to be seem like overkill. What did the little creature ever do to you? You believe in a deity. Would the deity like you to kill one of its creatures? You don't believe in a deity. Would you like a dirty mark on your wall of a dead spider. The world needs spiders and what gives you the right to remove it.

So you think to yourself some more. It's an insignificant spider but for the spider death is not insignificant. It's mission in life is to kill, to wait patiently for a fly or smaller spider comes into its web. Are you not just a bigger predator. It's your right to be able to kill those insignificant creatures that upset your life? You see a glass. Yes I can get it into the glass, put a paper over top and throw it out the window. Out of sight, out of mind.

You move like a shark to its kill. Fast trying to beat the cold air that wraps around you like a cold, cold duvet. You stop just before the final movement, ready to pounce the glass. You move confident you will cover it but it felt you and your movement to invade its space. It moves like lightening. It catches you off guard. Damn its a fast spider. Is there anything worse?

Before you know what has happened, it has dropped to the floor and has scurried across the floor under the chest of drawers. Yes the chest of drawers that hasn't been moved in years. You drop onto the floor and look into the dark of furniture. I should have just smashed it you think retrospectively. It's pointless. It's won this round. You skulk back into the bed. Tomorrow night, tomorrow night I will get you, are your final thoughts as you fall into a deep sleep.