A word for a sword. To cut through the fluff and the cant.
And to make you smile … occasionally.
I started this blog because I was constantly bouncing between three different states: rage at the idiocy and mediocrity of our public discourse; hope that the public might be coaxed into caring about the important things; and blissful disengagement from a failing humanity and retreat into the absurd. This blog is a space in which I may bounce.
I care about politics. I care about ethics. I want to believe that others care as much as I do. I want to believe that my fellow citizens are worthy of the democracy that we all treasure. That they’re really trying, and that they won’t fuck this up. But I’m not so sure.
As I write, the US President has been reduced to releasing his birth certificate at the press conference. The purpose? To prove that he was really born in the US and to counter Donald Trump’s claims that he isn’t entitled to be President. Trump is a property billionaire, reality TV show host and presidential aspirant. His platform involves taking Iraqi oil to fund the US invasion and … well … I’m not sure there is an ‘and’. This is the state of US politics.
In my country, Australia, things are not much better. The world’s top scientists say that it is ‘very likely’ (greater than 90% chance) that global warming over the past 50 years is not solely due to known natural cases. A Prime Minister proposes a modest emission trading system to deal with climate change. The opposition leader chants a mantra ‘Great Big New Tax’, the people get spooked, and the Prime Minister caves. The Prime Minister then proposes to tax companies slightly more for the ludicrous profits that they make from digging minerals out of our soil. Billionaires protest. The public sides with the billionaires. The Prime Minister loses his job and the government nearly loses the election. The current Prime Minister is trying and failing to sell a modest carbon tax and looks set to lose the next election. The public and media are concerned about her dress sense. This is the state of Australian politics.
The other thing I care about is words. I like to use them and I love to see them used well.
So this blog is space where I can bounce. And where I can bounce words. Where I can use them to express my rage, give voice to my hope, or simply enjoy my disengagement and retreat.
Posts on this blog will be divided into four categories: rants, persuasion, ruminations and ephemera.
When I’m disgusted at the lack of thought shown by my fellow citizens – when I don’t think they are trying hard enough to think clearly, to think well, to think at all – I will rant. When I’m outraged at the meanness of my fellow citizens – when I see people proudly wearing their self-interest as if a war medal; when I see appeals to the darkness in our collective heart succeed – I will rant.
I know these rants will not persuade those who disagree. Really, this is not about persuasion: it’s about being right. It’s not about winning the hearts and minds: it’s about taking no prisoners. It’s tool that I may use to be destructive and to vent. It probably won’t make the world better, but it will make me feel better. Maybe it will make you feel better too.
It’s also about being daring and being courageous. My work involves much writing of the studiously neutered kind. I can’t be polemical. When people are trying to deceive me, I can’t out them publicly. When I see a fool, I can’t judge them as one. And this bothers me. So my hope is that the rants section of my blog will provide a cathartic release for me. And verbal ammo for those who agree.
This is for when I have hope. The posts in this section are necessarily based on a more optimistic view of human nature than the other sections. It is premised on the idea that, if a good cause is presented clearly, compellingly and attractively, the public can be persuaded to make a sensible choice.
I’m particularly concerned to use this section when I see an important cause being poorly communicated. Posts will be intended to refashion dud communication into good persuasion. They should be engaging and be understandable to the average citizen. They may be in any format I deem fit. It could be a story with a moral. It could be a scholarly essay with footnotes and references. It could be talking points to aid an advocate defending the cause in oral argument. It could be a haiku.
Whatever it is, all posts in this section are free to be used by anyone. At no cost. Without attribution (though I can’t stop others calling you a plagiarist). The whole point of this section is to provide useful arguments. And the arguments will not be very useful if I’m the only one making them. I would rather bask in the anonymous satisfaction of seeing my arguments repeated and reworked by others, than jealously guard my intellectual property rights for personal vanity and glory (which is not to say I’m immune from vanity and glory … but I’ll try to be the better man just this once).
This is for when I’m feeling subjunctive. For when I wish to explore an idea without defining or defending it. For when I wish to reflect … reflect without a conclusion … reflect without an answer in sight. The posts will be tentative and cautious. Some things seem to defy, not only a solution, but even the possibility of sensibly taking a side. (If you’re even remotely intellectually honest, that is – fools and ideologues seldom take this advice.) This post is for these things.
The plan is to take an idea or a word or an event – whatever! – and roll it around my head: poke it and probe it with the fingers of the mind; see if it squeals when I squeeze it. The posts won’t attempt to give any clarity. Rather the point is to luxuriate inside the cloud of uncertainty. Maybe, like a blind man who can hear a feather drop, the other senses will sharpen from stumbling around in the fog. Or not.
These posts will not end with a conclusion or a call to arms. Rather a sly question, an invitation, or a metaphorical shrug.
This is for when I have no hope, but can’t be bothered ranting.
Essentially this is me giving up the political project and ignoring the betterment of mankind. I try to resist this urge, but I can’t always. You see my life is pretty good. I live in a wealthy country. I earn an above average wage for a job that I find interesting. I belong to a privileged class of philosopher kings (well, perhaps philosopher courtiers, more accurately) and get to hang out with other people like me. I am white, straight, male, middle-class, educated and free of disabilities. So I do just fine myself. When the evil or the stupid make the world a little bit worse, it usually hits someone else. This is bad and I want to stop it, but most times I can’t. I’m impotent, but unharmed.
So sometimes, when I see others ruining the world, I just sit back, relax, and retreat into a world of magnificent absurdity. The world of Joseph Heller. A world of schadenfreude and amusing memes and … well, whatever entertains me. I hope it entertains you too.
There probably won’t be much original content here, because … well … I’m not that funny. But I intend to cull the intelligently amusing gems from the interwebs and then link them for your pleasure. Obviously this will be stuff that amuses me and if you don’t share my taste in humour you may not get much out of this. Or you may. You’ll figure this out.
I guess this is the part where I tell you about myself. Hmmm … I’ll have to think about this and update it later.
A few points for those who like, or don’t like, what they read here.
First, you can use, link, or modify my content for free. As discussed above, anything that appears under the persuasion section does not need to be attributed. You can pretend it’s yours if you think that will make it more persuasive, or you can attribute it if you want (I don’t really care). However, anything I write in the other sections of my blog can only be used with attribution.
Second, if you also have a blog, feel free to link me if you think my readers will find something of interest. However, linking me doesn’t mean that I will necessarily link you. It depends on how good your blog is. Obviously, my blog is premised on the assumption that our public discourse is lacking. I’m not going to further diminish that discourse by publicising bad writing. Sorry.
Third, the same goes for comments. You don’t have to agree with me, but you have to make an effort to come up with an intelligent and reasoned response. You must order your thoughts, express them clearly, cull the bad ones and back up the good ones with evidence and logic. Otherwise you may not comment. Unless it’s gratuitous praise and flattery.
That is all for now. Until the next.