Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Magic of Reality - Socratic and Aristotlean Philosophical Theory and Educational Practice.

Most philosophical approaches to education have come about through theoretical reflection upon the (arguably) oldest two perspectives; namely, Socratic and Aristotlean – idealism and realism. These are more or less opposite extremes, with realism the chronological response to idealism. Theoretically, these philosophies have the capacity to complement each other, and this is being seen more and more as we move
beyond post-modernism into the 21st century and the new philosophical and pedagogical paradigms that will emerge. 

In terms of teaching practices in the classroom itself, the Socratic and Aristotlean methods are worlds apart and opposite to each other. With the continuing impacts of technology – ICT – on knowledge, learning, and indeed the socio-cultural world writ large, the former is taking precedence over the latter, as educators have to contend with the reality that they now share their not-so-priviledged-anymore reservoir of knowledge with Wikipedia.

The Aristotlean method sees education a means to understand the physical world, by means of transmitting information from teacher to pupil in a controlled, systemic way. This was perfect for an education system designed in the image of the world of industrialism, whose economy was characterised by ‘elite’ energies (eg. Coal and oil), which require centralised financial, bureaucratic and military systems of investment, hierarchy and control to extract, manage, and distribute. These energy regimes predicated the socio-cultural co-ordinates of the people and institutions in it, and so it is no surprise that we have very Aristotle-inspired lecture theatres and classrooms.

But we are in the twilight of this world, now – according to Jeremy Rifkin, the man whose vision is transforming the socio-cultural landscape of Europe as he weans them off the oil spigot and into what he terms the ‘Third Industrial Revolution.’ Mark Prensky’s (2001) idea of ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ identifies perfectly the shifting point. From the generations born after 1985 (the digital natives), there has come a complete shift in socio-cultural and economic reality, predicated by globalisation and the ICT revolution. Young people are so surrounded by stimuli, information, and empathic potential that educators struggle to get them to pay attention to what is on the whiteboard.  Indeed, I have found that Wikipedia is often a more useful starting point for many lecture topics than the lecture itself, and I look dubiously at lecturers whose powerpoint slides are clearly copied and pasted from Wikipedia. I know I am not alone in this.

The ICT revolution is organised distributively and collaboratively (Rifkin 2012). Young people today do not think right/left, socialism/capitalism; these are fragmented competitions of ideology. They value distributive, collaborative, lateral, honest and integrative thought. Society is evolving along these lines, as are, somewhat more slowly, the world’s economy (think how music and file sharing crippled the record labels, or how blogging crippled the newspapers). The education system is struggling to evolve, suffering a resistance to change (Hodas 1993), mainly because Prensky’s digital immigrants are still ‘trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past.’ (Robinson 2008). Aristotlean practice seems no longer to work and when it does, it is only because the teacher employing it is very, very good at it. A perfect example of this rare specimen is British historian A.J.P. Taylor, whose 1950’s televised (and often impromptu) lectures were broadcast to record-breaking audiences in the ‘prime-time’ slot.

Idealism and realism are not so opposed. Post-modernism was a valiant attempt to find the truth between these extremes, but as Dennis Koo Hok-Chun (2002) notes, it is unbalanced and inseperable from chaos and complexity theories. This is not useful because the world of C21 is moving in the exact opposite direction, and leading minds such as Ken Robinson (2008) insist that the practice of education and its philosophy must do so also.

Slavoj Zizek insists that we must neither seek to find that elusive, ephemeral truth beyond the co-ordinates of the measurable reality of our five senses, nor dismiss that longing to find it entirely. Rather we should seek to find ‘poetry and aesthetic dimension’ in reality itself. Indeed, the more mysteries of the universe that human knowledge unravels, the more there is to appreciate. It is no coincidence that the minds most responsible for bringing this knowledge to people are the world’s most eminent educators and authors. Indeed, this is the central premise of Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The Magic of Reality,’ and Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything.’

Teachers the world over must begin to grasp this, and employ Socratic teaching methods in the classroom, for this is the kind of 21st century collaborative and distributive context that will merge with the 21st century's economic and socio-cultural landscape, to create a learning environment where students – and teachers (Yates 2005) – where room is made for local as well as global; creative as well as academic (ibid; Robinson 2008), and both can find truth in reality itself.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Success and Meritocracy: Individual Effort vs. Socio-cultural World

For the public embarassment of Jamie Rochfort. You're awesome, mate.
Check out his website at

Life cannot happen in a vacuum. Success, whatever that is, requires a synthesis of a student’s individual responsibility and effort, consideration of their socio-cultural background and present, and most importantly a focus on who that person wants to become: what they consider success.

The education system offers individuals ‘equal opportunity for social mobility based on merit,’ by being a free, secular and compulsory vehicle to such success. Minds like Ken Robinson, Jeremy Rifkin, and the education department of every country world agree that it is failing.

The institution of education constrains or rewards students based on its inherent socially constructed economic and cultural/class-based assumptions and judgments. The greatest of these is the ‘popular discourse’ itself, which a) calls ‘academic ability’ success and elevates it, b) suggests that individual effort is the means to achieve it, and c) if the student is gifted in other ways, values different things – individually, socially or culturally – then that student is worth less than the academic prodigy with the O.P. 1.

The institution of education is obsolete. As Ken Robinson argues, it was created to meet the needs of the industrial revolution, shaped primarily by liberalism and capitalism, and so places emphasis, at the exclusion of everything else, on the kinds of academic ability and disciplines that were useful for work in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In Australia, most of what Henry calls the middle/ruling class value more highly those traits of individualism and competitiveness that better enable them to achieve ‘academic success.’ The fact that these people have most of the wealth – financial capital – and that they are mostly white, and part of the dominant culture, suggest that they have formed generational belief structures which remain because they work. At the other end of the spectrum are the ‘working-class’ and ‘ethnic’ families, who generally value community, family, and practical work. The majority of people who will control the cultural and economic capital of the future, such as teachers, doctors, civic and business leaders, come from the former background, and so perpetuate the paradigm, and are inclined to impose their constructed beliefs in individualism and competitiveness onto everyone, potentially prejudicially and ignorantly, and often to their detriment. This trend is growing. Surveys conducted in the 1992 International Social Science Survey and the 2009 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes indicate that the current paradigm of academic intelligence is still dominating the distribution of rewards. The risk here is that we end up with a class system that is less mobile than the one before it. The new upper class, the educated, pass on privileges to their children, as before. But with dwindling jobs for the less skilled, and still more restricted through ‘unnecessary credentialism,’ it is harder for the under-privileged to haul themselves up.

Worse, those at the top believe that they deserve their privileges, making them more arrogant than the old upper class who realised that they were there partly or entirely through luck and/or their exploitation of other people.

That said, however, in the end it is all about the individual experience of life. Success should not be defined as a high I.Q., O.P., or graduating at the top of the class. I have an I.Q. of 134 but an O.P. of 12. I went to an elite private school from years 1 to 12, graduating at 16 and am now, at 25, in my first year of University. I struggle emotionally and mentally, due to a family background of trauma, abuse, suicide and poverty. My individual effort, aptitude and willingness were all outstanding, in the academic setting, but socio-cultural considerations have stunted what I used to think of as the only avenue to, and aspect of, success. I have come to see myself not as a failure, but as an individual who chose to accept the difficulties posed by my socio-cultural experience, and am taking the best path I know how – through my own effort – forward. I consider the totality of my experience of life thus far a success, because though I have high human and intellectual capital and not much else, I have actualised what I have in spite of my difficulties.

Failure should not be defined as the opposite, either. I’ve a friend who is academically useless; he failed Grade 10 and comes from a working-class, community-oriented and supportive family. He used to think himself a failure, but he now is heading up at least one English language school in China’s Tangshan province. He is married with a son (you can only have one in China, if you didn't already know) and content. Both him and I would consider ourselves a success through our individual choices and efforts and consideration of our socio-cultural realms. Circumstances don't matter, only state of being does.

Note: O.P. refers to Overall Position, the ranking system for secondary school (grade 12) graduates here in Queensland, Australia. 1 is the highest, 25 the lowest. For me, 12 was a huge achievement, considering the circumstances, but at the same time, I felt a failure for getting anything below a 4. Times change :)
Note: I.Q. refers to a formula filtered through an aptitude test that is supposed to measure academic/abstract/spatial intelligence. Scores measure on a bell curve, with 134 making me in the "smartest" 2% of people. It's really not all it's cracked up to be, and not just because academic prowess is not the be all and end all of life.

Monday, 22 October 2012

What's Wrong With Colour Blindness?

Colour blindness in the classroom is an exercise in taking standardisation and homogenisation to extremes that will never work, primarily because socio-cultural constructs and prejudices will always exist, everybody needs an identity, which their culture and race is a part of, and extremism does not work in practice, and is unhealthy.

One of the primary flaws in the idea of colour blindness in the current school environment is that, when deployed as a policy, whether it be institutional or casual or anything in between, it plays out, in practice, as a kind of polite and shallow appreciation of minority cultures, alongside a blanket ignorance of the dominant. Policies of colour blindness fail because they try to ‘level the playing field’ by truly levelling – that is, razing, it.

On this flattened field, students will play in the rubble, explore their identities, and new constructs will develop. The attitudes, human compulsions and social habits that created the constructs that colour blindness demolished are still present, and will exert themselves over the razed landscape. But these will be rudimentarily expressed in the image of the socio-cultural paradigms that stood, perhaps on the same spot, crafted from the debris strewn about, before the policy of colour blindness knocked it down.

Australia is a very 'multicultural' place. There are children and families from many hundreds of different racial and cultural backgrounds. The constructs that have developed have been stunted by the institutional red-tape-noose of colour blindness, and taken the form of a politically correct and shallow ‘appreciation’ of different foods and festivals. This does much to undermine appreciation and integration, for these reasons and because it is a primitive expression of othering. Children recognise different minority cultures but gain no knowledge or skills in integrating with them. They gain a measure of comfort with their own cultural/racial identity, because these ‘appreciation days’ construct rudimentary symbols to which they can attach. Pre-colour blindness, alongside the racial and cultural apartheids, there existed comparably well-developed opportunities for development of empathy and selfhood. These have now been lost.

The main group to suffer out there on the homogenously razed playing field are the ‘dominant’ culture. That is to say, the Anglo-European males; ‘white boys.’ Post-colour blindness, they are all too often assumed to not only have a well-established, healthy and mature culture, but also a similarly spiffy identity within, and understanding of, that culture. Which culture, by the way, does not need to be recognised because it is so dominant at the expense of all the others. White guilt, anyone? This is an assumption that is creating major developmental problems for these children, as nobody has thought to champion or craft a symbol for them to rally to, and neither actualises nor permits them to build one themselves. The Indigenous do, the Indians do, the Muslims, the Polynesians, the Christians, the Vietnamese, women, the GLBTQI and the rest, they at least have been given chance to build their symbols to identify with. However primitive such symbols may be - thanks to colour-blindness - they are better than nothing. All that the white children - boys in particular - have to identify with is ‘white trash.'

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Half-Baked Human Dream

We will always treat others the way we do and are willing to treat ourselves.

If you condemn someone who loses their marbles when they're weak, hurt, broken and/or pressured, then you will be condemned, and condemn yourself, for your own weakness, hurt, brokenness and/or pressured times.

I made this mistake myself very recently...I am very hard on myself, traditionally, giving my insecurities and weaknesses no mercy or quarter. I have however been fortunate enough to have learned from this, and taken every available opportunity to seek forgiveness and to make it right.

If you wait for a person who remains - or like to think they remain - unaffected by their difficulties, then all you are doing is waiting for a person who will remain unaffected by love, and so will not love you.

Calling anxiety 'head' and excitement 'heart' won’t make it any easier should the awful day come where one chooses to let their ‘head catch up to your heart.’ These two should always be in balance. Anxiety always goes against the natural flow and causes pain, no matter how it is dressed up.

Putting effort into – or caring about – the people who hurt you should only be taken so far, proportionate to the pain they have imposed on you. Even the strongest love for someone should not, because it can not, be extended to someone after they rip out your guts.

In doing so they give you the gift of showing plainly their regard for you and for themselves. There must come a point where your love must learn to become strong enough to wash your hands, accept, and feel sorry for what they have chosen to be.

Hope that love will win the day, that truth will win in the end, and all that, if that's what you want, but at this point, the only way that's ever going to happen is if you allow what is to be what it is. Even if it's the hardest thing you've ever had to do.

Pain teaches; wild adventure builds character.

This is the challenge, not the reward.

For we will always treat others the way we do and are willing to treat ourselves.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Just Love

Stay true to yourself against all odds and against allopposition.

Love yourself and extend that to the world around you.

Let yourself fall in love with everything.

Learn how to channel who you are through your excitement andnot your anxiety.

Be ever mindful of who you are and what you're doing, andwhy.

Explore how you react to things.

Allow what is to be what it is - it's that way for a reasonthat will serve you if you let it.

Know when to stand your ground, know when to step aside.

Live for and in the moment, for the moment is eternity.

Always go with the flow.

Never fight back.

Just love.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Negative Emotional Reactions

You can’t experience something that isn’t already a part of you. All emotion comes from belief. If you don’t have a belief about something then you don’t have an emotional reaction to it. By the same token, if you understood that other people’s behaviour is their choice, and until you make it so, has nothing to do with you, then it would be an observation, not a reaction. It’s on this level that you can ascertain that they are behaving in a negative way. If you choose to make it about you, and create an emotional reaction, that means you have a belief that something in what they are saying is, or might be, actually true about you, and you are afraid that it might be. You can’t have an emotional component about something that has nothing to do with you.

Mostly people are working through their own process, their own pain, and are trying to make you a reflection of what they think they need to see. Reacting emotionally will turn you into that twisted reflection of who you’re meant to be. If you can understand people on this level, that what is being said and done is in their domain, and fundamentally has more to do with them than you. Then you can listen to what they’re saying and decide whether or not, in whole or in part, to incorporate it into your own understanding of yourself or whether it really does have nothing to do with you. From there you can examine your own beliefs and fine-tune yourself, if you wish. Remember, all emotion comes from belief.

If you keep feeling bad, and/or reacting the same way, then you simply haven’t caught all the beliefs that need fine-tuning yet. So you need to keep digging, keep exploring yourself, to find all the reasons and core definitions that define why you continue choosing the same reaction.

This is the whole point to these experiences – and it’s not about the world around you changing, because it won’t. It’s about giving yourself opportunities to find out whether you have really changed…or not. The key is not what’s happening on the outside but how you respond differently to it, even if it looks the same. There will always be emotion. But they can all be observations - emotional responses. Nothing has to be fundamentally foreign, painful or something that doesn’t belong. You don’t have to look at it that way. You can welcome them as opportunities to grow and change and be more of who you are. They can be exciting, new, and wonderful.

What you put into it is what you get out of it. If you believe that people, places, things and experiences come into your life to give you something positive, then that’s all you can ever get from it, no matter what their intention is. And if you keep on finding the same people and things cross your path, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, it just means you’re alive. Prove it to yourself by experiencing everything as positively as you can. Tip your hat to all those who can’t believe it’s you.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

It Is What It Is: On Relationships

Relationships tend to start with a mixture of attractions originating from mind, body, and/or spirit. 'That' relationship is where you have all three and manage to fan them into a connection and mutual feelings. If you can explore these feelings and discover through open, clear and honest communication, how to continue moving more and more in that direction, then, well, absolutely smashing.

If you discover that there are no ways to move in that direction, then, well, don't. Yes you'll feel bad, but then, it is clear that the purpose of the relationship, at this moment, is to allow you personally to get in touch with the issues that have caused you to feel that way, and why you reacted that way at that time.

Then the relationship is serving its purpose, and serving you, by allowing you to get in touch with why you feel the way you feel, and integrate these concepts within yourself.

Then, who knows: as you interact with the relationship, using it for what it's there for, then it could also change, because once something serves its purpose, it no longer needs to stick around, and so it doesn't. Different kinds of things can then come up that can open doors that weren't even there before, simply because you were willing to let the relationship be what it was, and use it accordingly.

So many times, people find they get nowhere, going around in circles, going mad, letting their fear destroy what's good about their lives, or their 'head catching up with their heart,' because they are not willing to start with allowing the relationship to be what it is. Once they allow it to be what it is, many times it then changes automatically and they actually do wind up with what they originally thought they wanted.

It doesn't always work that way, but it doesn't matter that it doesn't. Because if you use the relationship for what it's for, then YOU will change, and attract to you, no matter who it is, whatever relationship is absolutely right for you at that moment. If you get in touch with this truth, then it won't matter who it is, because the relationship - and the person - will be totally right and appropriate at that moment. People don't belong to one another, we choose each other every day.

This is how these things 'work themselves out.' Everything aligned and everything in allowance automatically balances. Automatically feels correct and appropriate and right.

And of course, never forget that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Is This the Real Life?

"Open your eyes, look up to the skies, and see." - Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' 

Reality. Something we've never quite got our heads around. Some of us think we have it figured out. There are others who can't deal with it and go crazy. Or maybe it's the "insane" ones who have it figured, and the priests and scientists who are mad. What is reality?

One film I can't get enough of is Christopher Nolan's Inception. It tackles this concept with the perfect blend of conceptual vagueness, engaging complexity, and relentless hints of multi-faceted and infinite ambiguity (Johnson 2012) that are the closest to representing the best justice we can do to this topic.

For simplicity's sake, reality is 'existing.' Existing is like a rollercoaster at a theme park. It has twists, turns, thrills, chills, highs and lows, and it's very brightly coloured, and it's fun, for a while. But in the end it is just a ride. There is no inherent meaning, no blood on the wall, nothing outside what we can perceive. As Morpheus famously says in The Matrix (1999), "If real is just what we can see, taste, smell, and touch, then real is just electrical signals as interpreted by the brain." And there is no more accurate way to measure reality, to know that it is real.

This is the best we can do, but this is the real beauty of existing - our perceptions actually shape and create our reality. There really is only one moment, one continuum of creation, expressing itself subjectively in all the ways it possibly can - infinitely. Space, time, and physicality are our perceptions of them.

I remember a train trip my brother and I took. There was a man behind us engaged in a lively conversation with somebody named Roland, who neither my brother nor I could see. My brother murmured, "he's insane, there's nobody there!"

Very much as the caretaker in Yusuf's basement said of his dreaming charges, "who are you to tell them otherwise?" I remarked to my brother, "how do you know that Roland isn't real, and we're the crazy ones for our inability to see him?"

What you see and feel when you look at a painting will be very different from what I see and feel. I could use any number of adjectives to describe reality, but it can only come down to this: Reality is eternal, a gem of infinite beauty and facets, which we all appreciate in our own way according to our choices.

There are therefore only four laws in the entire universe.

1. You exist. As Descartes put it, 'Cogito, ergo sum.' - I think therefore I exist.

2. What you put out is what you get back. Whatever else this reality is, it is definitely causal. Credit to The Matrix's Merovingian for reminding us all. The continuum of creation that is reality is a consequence of the choices that the participant makes.

3. The one is all, and all are one. If you exist, then you are relationally attached to everything else.

4. There are no rules, except for the first three.
The reason you can't will a million dollars into your bank account is that you perceive it is a more preferable choice for you not to do what you need to do to get the money (Robinson 2009). In effect, you signed up for the specific way these rules meshed together on planet earth, and if you want something more than you want what you currently have, then you'd make it so.

Perceiving is believing. Believing is seeing, not the other way around. Let's stop blaming God, the government, the 'system,' our pasts, our weaknesses, etc. for what we have. For what we are. For all we can taste, smell, touch, see, hear, and love.

These are truly the things that matter the most. The faculties of our belief, the tools with which we craft and create and perfect our dreams, right now. Especially the last one - it is the pinnacle of existing, the sublime idea that makes reality reality. It is what Cobb risked everything for (Johnson 2012), what his journey was always about. As much as I hate Saviors, it is what made Neo sacrifice himself. It is, I believe, what makes the world go round. And who are you to tell me otherwise?


Descartes, R. (2003). Selections from Principles of Philosophy. [Project Gutenberg E-book version]. Retrieved from <>

Johnson, K. J. (Ed.). (2012). Inception and Philosophy: Because it's Never Just a Dream. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Robinson, K. (2009). The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Viking Penguin, New York.

Wachowski, A. & Wachowski, L. (Directors & Writers). (1999). The Matrix [DVD Movie]. Warner Brothers.

Zizek, S. (1999). The Matrix, or Two Sides of Perversion. Philosophy Today, 43. <>

Pictures obtained from:

The Search for Enlightenment: Buddha, You're Doing it Wrong.

Siddartha Buddha's birth myth has a lot in common with most other messianic figures, in that it involves a creative avoidance of the necessary involvement of reproduction and any reference to the vagina, as if there were something wrong with it, or with women altogether. What is it that compels the mythmakers to remove the prerequisites and mystify, devalue and idealise women in this way?

What's more, Buddha's mother died a week after his birth, after having her son crawl out from her side. At least they make some kind of attempt to be realistic, although with a hole clean through you, I can't imagine surviving *that* long.

Such a loss in the formative years tends to change one's perspective. I am one of these, as are many of the people I identify with the most. Jasmine is one of them, too. I'm not hesitant to declare my respect and regard for her. There's a depth of wisdom and beauty to such people, I say. An instinctive hunger for the truth that lies beneath the surface. A unique perspective.

So why, then, was Siddartha Buddha a spoiled dandy palace brat until he was 29? He had every pleasure in the world right there for the taking - food, drink, music, comfort, and of course, as many girls as his tongue could cope with. It's kind of understandable really, I suppose - who would say no? Right?

Siddartha seems to have shown no consideration for anything else, instead gorging himself on everything and everyone that his various body parts could handle. Whatever makes you happy, right?

Until you have responsibility. Buddha married and had a son. At this time, as his wife was nursing this baby boy, he decided to grow up just enough to open his eyes a bit. Only a bit, though this has nothing at all to do with the fact that he was Asian.

And it was this eye opening experience - leaving the palace he noticed that there were sick, starving, poor and dying people in the world beyond his own. Probably not realising that they strained themselves so to provide him with his life of comfort, he instead took away from this experience a keen awareness of the inevitability of suffering and (primarily his own) death. Like I said, only opened his eyes a bit. And what, then, did he do with this experience?

He abandoned his baby and his wife. What the hell. Most religious creeds are built on a fundamentally immature reaction to the realisation that death comes for us all. In the words of comedian Dylan Moran - "Religion is just a formalised panic about death; quick, death is coming, put on the gold hat!"

If gold hats are irresponsible, empty and stupid, then what Buddha did is detestable. He then went on to do even worse: trying to find the path to 'Nirvana' - that is, the way to transcend the painful realities of life and death and suffering, to find peace. Double what the hell. This just goes from bad to worse! This only works if you're say, me; I never tried to get anywhere in life by abandoning my family or ditching my responsibilities or the ones I loved.

He then spent the rest of his life teaching others to try and meditate, pray, rationalise and otherwise wank away the pain they themselves created by being alive and therefore responsible for their choices.

Triple what the hell.

It seems to me that everything he did and taught is undermined because they are all attempts made by him to live with the fact that he never manned up and went home.

And as if this were not bad enough, his ideas caught on in a major way. A religious way...for millions and millions of people. But to me, Siddartha Buddha will never be more than a clusterfuck of pseudo-philosophical cowardly cop-outs; excuses for having been a total bastard and abandoning his wife and his son.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Humankind's Talents.

Human beings are very good at, among a select few others, three things: first, making so much noise that we confuse ourselves. Second, breeding uncontrollably. Third, an alarming inability to learn from the past. These attitudes are threatening to seal our fate - our extinction, according to many. Why? There are too many of us for the planet to support, and some of us are hoarding all the resources at the expense of the rest.

Population has exploded in the past not-quite-a-century. As seen in figure 1, this is unprecedented and enormous, but next to nobody is acting like it. In the 1700's, English economist Thomas Malthus observed that population patterns conform to the available resources - both human and natural. He was a critic of the poor laws and work-houses that were springing up in his home country, which earned him the brand of an immoral heretic, even though he was right. About both. Today, human resources have developed into behaviours such as the misguided cheap charitable impulses that Malthus condemned, and galvanisation of empathy and the 'alien other' into market-state patriotic apartheids. Humanity's other characteristics are an embarassing promiscuous inability to not think before making more of us, and our ingenuity resulting in technological petro-chemical enhancements to everything, in particular, medicine and agriculture. These have resulted in a massive population surge.

Like Malthus, modern minds such as Slavoj Zizek and William Shockley, the man who gave us the transistor, have come under fire for criticising humankind's propensity to generate such self-confusing noise (such as the 'climate change crusade' and capitalism 'with a human face'), to breed uncontrollably, all-consumingly, and to not learn from our mistakes.

Keeping the poor alive helps them in the same way as a slave owner helped his slaves by being nice to them. The situation is merely aggravated and prevented from being changed to make such evils a thing of the past. The shrill and obscene crusade surrounding climate change is also similarly misguided and self-sabotaging, since most of the noise there ignores most of the important facts about our impact on the planet, our home, whilst providing a 'moral' justification (to replace the old imperial and colonial excuses) for stealing the resources of the developing world, particularly Africa. This is all noise and it, along with all the other ideological cheap substitutes for truth that we are so good at finding, is inequitable, confusing, destructive and immoral.

Much closer to the truth is realistic and responsible measures like those employed by China, and realistic and responsible minds like Ronald Wright. China's policies have seen a marked drop in their population growth, with an increase in their quality of life. Ironically, when one looks at China's energy consumption per capita, they use dramatically less than the U.S.A., Canada, Norway, Australia, the European Union, etc. Why has China been so successful at its policies but others can't succeed comparatively well in managing their energy use? China's population control policies are relatively successful experiments and examples to the rest of the world, in terms of the direction it should be heading.

This still, however, comes at the direct expense of the Earth's ability to feed us all, as per Jeremy Rifkin's empathy/entropy paradox. Recognising such hard truths as we are the Earth's emphysema (in deforesting 20% of the Amazon, the lungs of the Earth), and the morbid obesity (rendering 1% per year of Earth's arable land barren in the last three decades). We are 1% of her biomass, but consume over 26% of all photosynthesis. This is ridiculous. Not to mention the fossil fuels we used to become so will run out. I'll say that again - they will run out. We will soon, if we have not already, hit world peak oil production and peak oil per capita. The problem of population is not just one for the developing world. It threatens us all. We have, in the words of Ronald Wright, built our own suicide machine.

To fix this problem we first need to fix our attitudes that we apply to it. We need to agree to focus on equity and justice; on responsibility and truth; on education and empathy. And then act accordingly, by repairing the damage to both people and environment - we have the technology for that, let's find the drive. We need to live off Earth's interest, not her capital, and we need to do it equitably and sustainably. 7 billion people is not sustainable, and having the top 1-ish billion hoard everything is not equitable. These two are related to each other very closely. Social and environmental justice, perhaps. We need to keep it in our pants for a little while and take some time to cut through the confusion, and learn from our mistakes. We're not likely to get another chance.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

You think plugging a ponytail into an animal is cool?

I watched James Cameron's Avatar movie the other day - it's pretty good, everyone agrees, full of big blue nobly savage people fighting the greedy little pinkskins who killed their own mother, and are now coming after the blue folks' mum. I had three major thoughts as the credits rolled, other than how much cooler Stephen Lang was in Terra Nova.

Firstly, that plugging their hair into animals was so tangible, so...real!

Secondly, how cool would it be if we could do something so tangible in our own attitudes and relationship with ecology?

Annnd third, the real onion, is why they put this in there. There are several possible reasons and all of them are disturbing and annoying. What are people going to think about why we can't? How is skipping symbolism and throwing a tangible middle finger in people's faces going to encourage them *not* to 'kill our mother...' and for that matter we are not even killing the Earth! We're ruining our ability to live on it, sure, but she was here long before we came, and will recover and endure long after we go.

Screw Avatar. Anaesthetic mass-marketed disillusioning lie.

You think plugging a ponytail into an animal is cool? No, it's not. What is cool is that we can achieve far more, in a far less outlandish and dream-like way, in a far less outlandish and dream-like place - our own home. We have to stop anaesthetising ourselves with this bullshit, and figure out our own responsibility, ability, and strength.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

There is no Spoon

For Jessie Brownlow - Reminding me why I plug in and how to unplug since 2011 (:

The Matrix has been a formative influence upon me since its release in 1999. It is alive with action, cinematographic genius, and my favourite literal, metaphorical, symbolic, and philosophical ‘coffin nail’ truths about the condition of the human race. Written by the Wachowskis, who later helped kick-start the Anonymous movement in their role as writers in V for Vendetta. Remember the Guy Fawkes masks?

Neither widely accepted nor publically expressed is my own view of philosophy underpinning The Matrix, which is that it provides allegory of our hyper-commercialist, media-disillusioned, impotent and world-destroying experience of reality, showcasing our ‘varying grotesqueries,’ in the words of the film’s The Architect, in all their disgusting glory.

The film had three glaring flaws which stand out like so many sore thumbs. First, the casting of Keanu Reeves as Neo. While he made what was to many a welcome change from Rambo-esque heroes, Reeves attracted increasing criticism as time, and the sequels, passed. George Ouzounian remarks:

‘(He should have been replaced) with a wooden plank with a mean face on it. The subtle point here is the mean face: without it, Reeves would be on par with a wooden plank, except a bit more rigid. He approaches every scene with the steadfast determination of a moron running into a wall.’

Second, the film’s overburdening with vague and condescending ramblings; a smorgasbord of philosophic hair clippings that I found insulting. It bores a hole through the introductory precepts of every paradigm of eastern thought and western philosophy – from causality to duality; Keanu’s backside to purpose; to ‘Christological Symbology,’ whatever that is; to destiny to choice to everything and nothing, all with the depth and dignity of two drunk college freshmen in a dorm room debating apartheid. That being said, the experience of Slavoj Zizek must also be considered:

‘When I saw The Matrix…I had the unique opportunity of sitting close to the ideal spectator of the film - namely, to an idiot. A man in the late 20ies (sic) at my right was so immersed in the film that he all the time disturbed other spectators with loud exclamations, like "My God, wow, so there is no reality!"... I definitely prefer such naive immersion to the…intellectualist readings which project into the film the refined philosophical…distinctions.’

It must be credited for its success in making such concepts accessible to the wider audience. The levels of meaning and communication alter ‘like a jewel in the light’ depending on the viewer. The third sore point about this film is the dialogue. It grows repetitive and annoying very quickly. George Ouzounian comments:

 ‘(It) is tacky, not unlike a pregnant woman in a bathing suit (unless you are turned on by that sort of thing, in which case you might find the dialogue strangely erotic.’ 

In my opinion the most important aspect of the films is Agent Smith. As he is set free from his role in the system, by the ‘saviour,’ Neo, ironically, he is thus unhinged from his purpose. The speech, found in appendix a, embodies his hatred of humanity. He delivers it to Morpheus in the first film, and when he is ‘set free’, becomes the only thing Smith takes with him. His first lesson to us is that he is the manifestation of both the system we exist within. The second is his embodiment of frustrated potential and stymied purpose. William Blake says “Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.” The third and penultimate lesson in Smith is that despite warnings blaring across all temporal, cultural, technological and spatial barriers, we are collectively rushing to our own demise. We may indeed be the plague, the virus, the cancer, of this planet, and so had better start taking responsibility and exploring this conundrum. Smith is at first an agent of the mind-enslaving system who hates the inhabitants and their propensity to consume and destroy everything. He eventually becomes the system itself, and finally becomes that which he hates, consuming and destroying everything. He is thus an almost literal representation of the current state of humankind within the system we inhabit, which are together becoming an insurmountable obstacle. The experience of such is the one positive condition for humanity.

We live in an existential, apathetic vacuum to The Matrix’s literal vacuum. Our survival as a species may depend on our ability to ‘resist’ our way out of our quagmire of apathetic disavowal, resist our urge to indulge in it. Reality is that which chooses to resist. We can and must resist, because the current system is a suicide machine, as Smith became in the end. 

Why are the too-human Oracle and the too-robotic Neo obsessed with choice? Because choice is the great determiner, of the utmost importance in this process. Choice, represented crudely by pills blue and red, is the beginning of the lucid understanding we require to define ourselves and our systems, and what they are becoming. We are at the proverbial fork in the road, the blue pill or the red. The stakes are as high as what Smith would have for us, and as low as something more bleak indeed than being enslaved and fed delusions of capitalist utopia by machines.

Smith’s burning hatred is the world-destroying fire of causality that will win in the end. The burning of the world is thus the consequence of these, our actions, with which we hurl ourselves like a bullet into the conflagration. It will happen eventually, and it is here that the parable of The Matrix makes an unforgivable omission – or commits its greatest sin. It champions choice and our own strength, combined with haunting reminders as to what will happen if we do not. But viewers are in the next moment robbed of the opportunity tomake choice or be strong, by pinning everything on Neo, and inexplicable hope and faith in him. That, in the words of Serenity’s Mal Reynolds, ‘is a long long wait for a train don’t come.’ It is up to us to save ourselves, from ourselves, before it is too late. Not Neo. There is no Saviour. Only causality. Only the pills and only Smith. At least the likes of Anonymous are stealing timid glances at these truths through the eye-slits of their Guy Fawkes masks. Why, oh why, don’t we even look at the pills?

Sunday, 29 April 2012



I'm sure you've all seen something like this before. I could go into a rant here about what's wrong with it, but below you will find the perfect case study. It took place on the internet, of course, in a public medium, and is therefore fair game. Names of course, other than my own, have been omitted, and there is no intent to cause offense to any party - but hey, I'm the evergreen polemicist - if you're offended, I take it as a compliment.

Poster: O M G! This is so unjust... <displays the above ^ image>

Me: It's also untrue.

Poster: Many 'Opinions' and different situations... maybe 'everyone' needs to look at 'all' of it.

Participant: Is it <me>? I was wondering about that. How much do they access?


Participant: Just read one that says that this misinformation is based on a Canadian story. And the refugees I work with just don't seem to have the kind of money that this suggests. Finally, in our government there is no such thing as illegal immigrants.

Me: See the myths; aged pensioners base weekly income starts at $335.95, then there's supplements on top of that. I am unsure how it works, but while the aged pension is still frightfully low, they still get more than *illegal* immigrants, who get *nothing.* Asylum seekers get nothing, too. Properly processed immigrants and refugees (the latter having to wait in detention centres for an indefinite number of years, with appalling conditions and being separated from their families) receive the same opportunities as all Australian citizens and permanent residents.

Poster: <me>... many people do not take into account the money it takes to be Cared for in a Home.. most pensioners are left with next to nothing per fortnight. Our 'aged' population is going without in a Huge way, whilst illegal immigrants are given money that most of us pensioners of all levels would not receive.

 Participant: Thanks <me>. This is much more like what I have experienced.

Poster: Whatever paperwork is 'out there'... there is nothing like 'seeing it for yourself' to feel it hit home.

Me: <Poster> I've no idea what 'seeing it for yourself' or 'feeling it hit home' has to do with anything...unchecked emotion and rhetoric can become problematic, as in the case of these statistics, for example.

Also, there is no such thing as an illegal immigrant under Australian law. Anybody is allowed to enter Australia for the purposes of seeking refuge - ie. Asylum. There is a system for processing them under the law, and we are not the USA; it is factually incorrect to refer to anyone in this country as illegal immigrants.

The elderly in this country are indeed under immense strain for a variety of reasons. This is in many ways regrettable, and can - and indeed should - be remedied. But we must say the same for the public health system and the asylum seeker/refugee situation as well.

All three of these systems give people a fundamentally unfair deal, but it doesn't help to post - and in doing so, support and spread - such vitriolic untruths as are
contained in this picture. Doing this will only make the problems worse.

Participant: I think that our Aged population is suffering under the conservative govs of the last decade or so. We could be all about public aged care here in Aust, but I notice that we are moving towards a system of privatisation. I do think that for many of our leaders and voters, there is a belief that if you do not have a nest egg for retirement you somehow deserve to live poor. It sucks - and is reminiscent of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum days. But it is a completely separate issue. To couple refugeeism and aged care together is simply an example of persuasion. <poster> - I challenge you to come to my work sometime - We have some of the highest level of refugees living here in <Participant's home town>, in Australia. I teach them every day. They are struggling to get by with regular Dole payments and often without Medicare. Even though the term does not exist anywhere in the legal profession, in the world, they are labelled 'illegal immigrants' every day. This link is trying to create harm and discontent in our community. It is designed to divide us. I for one, do not accept these weak and badly researched arguments, or the discriminatory propaganda they are peddling. With you there, <me>. It is so unusual to see anything that is not peace, love and happiness coming out of <Poster>!

Poster: Unchecked emotion? Geezus your rude! Statistical minds seem to have no room for the 'real'. Like i said.. whatever paperwork is out there.. dosent account for what is being seen. Since now 'I' am being put on the chopping board, because I do not agree with your opinion's, does not make me anything less than i am either <Participant>.

 Poster: Why would I personally want to be challenged? I have an opinion, and not All places are the same. You people have just made me sick to my stomach. Attacking. Take it elsewhere.

Poster: OH.. and please forgive me if i'm no 'lawyer' or 'statistical speech maker'... I'm a person who lives with a chronic illness.. who see's people who have come from oversea's as refugee's, given all sorts of things that I cannot afford.

 Participant: You are not less - I was just surprised. Not your normal type of post. I guess the problem that <me> and I have is the difference between fact and opinion. 'I hate refugees' is an opinion but 'refugees get paid standard newstart allowance' is a example of fact. 'Refugees get paid $56 000 per year' is what we call an assertion. You write it like a fact (without I think at the beginning for example) but there is not evidence to back it up and it happens to feed into a general fear that exists in out society. It is persuasive, not factual. You can give the opinion that you don't like refugees, but 'facts' like this one will always get a sharp reaction. Finally, while I know you are angry about us right now, I hope that you will check this out more one day - you will find that too often, those who sit at the bottom of society are so often pitted against each other like this.

Me: Ahh. I live with a chronic illness too, as did my parents and most of my grandparents. I wish I could apologise for my behaviour and empathise with yours, but you took a chain mail hoaxes as an excuse to decry others for having things you don't have, and you played the 'hurt feelings' card. Both of these things make me a little sick, too. Now that both our opinions have been voiced, we can surely agree on the fact that we're both sickened by the attitudes and facts that have been shared by the other. Cheerio.

 Poster: Excuse me...'I' DID NOT WRIGHT IT'. What it did was open up other area's of concern and displeasure. I did not say HATE... you are putting words into my mouth. How dare you. These people get a one off big payment when they come in.. and they also get Heaps more opportunities for help! You may see it as feeding a fear... I see it, as do many, that it is something that might stir some 'thought' about it. You telling me that 'I' am Angry is an assumption. I am not angry.. I am disappointed. How dare you sit on your high horse and put me down for an opinion i have. Suffering goes on all over the world, yes. And I for one would like our Government look after their voters for a change.. before putting everyone else first. You both have totally got me the wrong way because of making assumptions.... maybe.. when YOU are ready.. get to know me first before you assume I'm a hater!

Poster: <me>,. what an awful person you are. You have no idea.

Poster: Are you bed ridden most days?

Poster: How dare you take it out on me... I am sorrow to have ever given a thought of building a friendship with you.

 Me: What does the state of either of our illnesses have to do with the fact that you're advocating a false and divisive agenda as the email presents? They don't get more than us. The email is wrong. You're getting worked up over a chain letter email full of lies...

 Poster: What have you got to say about the people living in card board boxes living on the side streets???

Poster: You obvioulsy have not read everything i have said <me>. 'Whatever' paperwork is out there. I really don't care about 'this particular piece of paper'.. get it?

Poster: The state of my own personal health is very important.. as I have seen a hell of a lot of people being thrown to the 'too hard basket'.

 Poster: I don't hate.. I want our Australian people to be cared for! I want our Australian people to have All the opportunities there is to have a better life!And by saying that... it dosent mean a new car.

 Poster: I will stand up and have my opinion...and in well earned life credit.

Me: If that's true then why play the 'he hurt my feelings' card when I tried to steer you away from this false email and towards a more truthful approach to the situation? Why base your stance towards your illness, aged care, the homeless, immigrants/refugees, and me, on the emotionally rhetorical and vitriolic lie that the email propagates.

Poster: This is <Poster's boyfriend> the point is this we believe that charity starts at home and i see no reason to be spending millions of dollars on overseas aid programs and millions on refuges while we still have Australians with mental health issues who can not get the care they need and people living on the street in cardboard boxes,people losing there homes through no fault of there own equally people simply not being able to access proper housing and health care.We simply believe that we shouldlook after our own people properly first.and after that refuges.

 Me: I am not attacking you; I started with trying to share with you *factual truth,* because that's how all such things should begin between friends. I know I offended you in the process somehow, but if you recall, you began hurlingl personal insults when your friend corrected the erroneous facts you presented. You're entitled to your opinion, and to invest your efforts in trying to make the world a better place. But so am I. My opinion is that truth is truth is truth, and everything and everyone must do its damndest to begin with truth. Since there's so many other ways such noble ideas can come unstuck, sabotaging it by trading truth for willful ignorance and emotional indulgence will always offend me, because it is *WRONG.* If my attitude offends anybody, then I will considerit evidence thta I'm doing something right.

 Poster: ... i don't need your help to 'steer' me away from this 'evil' email. I am always honest.. and i am being honest when i say I am NOT playing any emotional cards. What i have said is NOT based on that email! omg..get it in your head!

 Poster: omg.. I did NOT present these 'facts' .. this is ridiculous. Saying I am 'Ignorant and haveing emotional indulgence' is a cop out. I am not Wrong.. I feel.. I am Human.. I have seen it.. i will express it as I am a passionate person in any stance. If you want to take it as ignorance and emotional indulgence.. go for it. As i have said.. i think a couple of times.... is that its what this email made me think about.. other that the immigrant stuff. But.. you and your 'iintellectual' head... cannot get past that. I MUST BE PROVED WRONG! Get over it.. and tell me when you really have some life credit to your name... its all statistic and emotionally (which means feeling) re moved. Human's Feel. Get a clue.

 Me: And my point, <Poster's boyfriend>, is that nobody is being looked after properly - saying charity begins at home has three implicit flaws - 1. That this is an issue of charity and not one of statecraft, humanitarian welfare and prioritisation of government funds, and 2. That anybody from the western world has any idea what these people go through, and 3. That said western world thinks they deserve more than others do.

Patriotism is evil. I feel that drawing political lines in the sand between people is immoral, especially when it is used as an excuse to keep screwing over people outside our political sandbox. I struggle therefore to see how you can speak of charity.

 Poster: I guess you struggle a lot <me>... there 'could' be many plans.. many ways to tackle it. but.. if we are not healthy/healed as a nation first.. then how the hell can we heal/help others to the effect that it is actually going toFIX it? NO.. Work on the 'home' first.. then branch out. That's our opinion.

Me: How is sharing the image *on your wall* and headlining it with "O M G! This is so unjust!" *not* presenting them? You called the email evil, not me, but if it's capable of inciting you to this much anger, as well as being the lie we already know it is, then it may very well be. Emotions may 'feel' honest, but there is a fine art to tempering them with objective truth, as well. Balancing the scales, in a sense, like the goddess of justice, whatever her name is XD

If what you said is not based on the email, then why a) present it as the fuel for this discussion and then b) turn this discussion into such a violent argument? I'm genuinely confused.

...or at least I was, until I read the last part of your last post, there.

Saying I am 'unable to feel' and that I 'struggle a lot' is actually inexcusable. You crossed a line there. I am a passionate person too, but I'm also capable of basing my emotions in reality. You seem to have lost that capability, or never had it. I am gravely incensed by your assertion that I cannot feel. You are rather fond of taking things out of context to fuel your emotional frenzy, aren't you? I must conclude that this is so, and that your behaviour - and the opinions you hold about the world that such behaviour stems from - are only malicious, negative, and immature. This conversation is over. You want to talk to me ever again,you preface it with an unreserved apology.


I wanted to end with "Now it's time for my emotionally unbalanced and immature response: Fuck you." But I didn't. I'm proud of myself. Time for muffins and bacon :3