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THE NATION’S CARBON SCHIZOPHRENIA

13 Jul

On the weekends I attend the library which was made difficult a few weeks ago on account of the protest in favour of a tax! This, in an English-speaking country! The Anglosphere is traditionally resistant to taxation. Obviously a good deal many of us still are, but still hundreds of thousands of people actively support this. Figures. Right now the governing party is backing the ‘yes’ campaign (funny that) and it’s a much better organized effort than those for opposition. Still, this conflict is marked by an hysterical antipathy one side for the other. The country is mentally ill. Isn’t it obvious:

Carbontaxyes

Carbontaxno

The people at the ‘yes’ protest were (for me) likable. Lots of friendly dogs. The band was cool, finally someone’s got a clue: speeches are dull. Still, there were speeches. There always are. I caught speech-bytes between talking to people who handed me stuff: a pamphlet encouraging me to unite to end mandatory detention for refugees, a glossy booklet covered in oranges: easy vegan recipes. Another says Veganism is the solution: the organic way from crisis to peace.

The speech-bytes kept referring to bad polluters. Polluters. Those polluters, aren’t they bloody awful? Reminded me of lunch at the Hare Krishna restaurant, there was an(other glossy) ad on the table promoting a talk at the Krishna centre: Global Warming: Who’s To Blame. I remember looking up at the lights, hearing the citar drone over the surround sound speaker set, the fan turning. People buying their meals with money given in trade for labour that requires ubiquitous information technology. Stripe-shirt/club tie guys eating spoonfuls of spinach-garnished lemon and garlic chickpeas while checking Facebook, checking email, checking text messages, sending sales reports, uploading software updates, checking movies and absently scanning the net for beautiful shining things they want to buy.

Who’s to blame? The stripe shirt guys? The producers of the carbon based energy that drives their industries? Are the Hare Krishnas innocent because their food is organic? Are those billions who cannot be fed in such a way guilty? Do you solve this problem by demonizing an industry or a type of person? How do you solve this?

I must confess I laughed when I saw this. The ad is very simple of course. That is its virtue, simplicity. Something that could’ve been set up on a soundstage and shot in less than a day. And the scenario illustrated is absurdly simplistic. There are a lot of problems with it. Shifting to sustainable energy consumption is really is not such a simple matter. Truly. And, as in America, actors have entered the realm of political discourse. Is that a good thing?

To clarify: my position on AGW is now and has always been that it is happening, hence cause for serious concern. I believe we will be forced to deal with the consequences of global scale human economic activity this century. I also believe that introducing a huge political apparatus is both useless and one more nail in the coffin of liberty. My children will be raised to bear this in mind. Sincerely hope this disclaimer is to everyone’s dissatisfaction.

The political ‘solutions’ to the AGW problem are, in my irrelevant opinion, thus far, ridiculous at best and at worst a cover for some battle of interests or other. My experience of the ALP disinclines me to believe that they’ve all suddenly come over with the love of the planet. I’m skeptical of any proposition that the Gillard government’s war with the mining industry is entirely an ecological matter. On that I shan’t elaborate. No substance, just a hunch.

Who’s responsible for cooking the planet? Everybody. O’ course if you’re an Australian citizen you’re likely to be about 2000% more responsible than the average African. But they would if they could and they want to… so bad. So do the Chinese, and they’re gonna do it. Indians too. Brazil, Russia. These places are getting richer. You can’t stop that. And why should they remain in the throes of pre-modern squalor? The lack of in-depth consideration of these matters on behalf of those who believe it imperative to act immediately is appalling.

Equally appalling, tho’ much more effective in the mainstream media, is the assault on the very science of AGW. In this the scientists and the advocates on the opposition have been most useful idiots. There is something sinister of course about the unknown parties who hacked into the Climatic Research Unit’s data in order to sabotage the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. Amongst the denials of the denialists is the vehement refusal to see that powerful interests are waging a propaganda war against policies that mitigate carbon pollution. There’s something totalitarian about the tactics.

But, no matter the bad manners, the CRU’s data reveals a bunch of scientists who violate the very principles of science in order to advance a political cause and a personal interest. This is venal. The human race needs science now and yet it displays an absence of its central discipline which is to remind yourself of your ignorance: how do I know that? But in the realm of politics the facts are irrelevant, or putty to be shaped and trimmed. The CRU acts thus and in response the anti-AGW crew declare the rest of the (solid) data in support of the AGW hypothesis immaterial. It’s not happening. The issue is over, they say.

Meantime the weather patterns change and no-one notices. No-one notices the sky anymore. Do you know what phase the moon’s in right now? Doesn’t anyone think it’s funny to hear mosquitos buzzing around your ears in late May?

Oh never mind, leave that for now.

The discourse of the ‘yes’ campaign, the ad appearing above, link ‘social justice issues’ with sustainability. This despite the the argument that making power more expensive and switching to organic food production etc are the indulgences of the wealthier classes and will hurt the poor. This is only the first contradiction in a miasma of bitter choices coming up over the horizon at us. What about the people of Bangladesh? Millions of poor and uneducated people who live in a land that is already subject to flooding from the mountain monsoonal waters. If the sea rises they will be swallowed up. A levy will only assist disaster. What about the millions who live in the tropics? Millions? Billions perchance? There are places that could become uninhabitable.

Adam Smith posited a scenario that asks what would you do if faced with the following choice: cut off your hand or a thousand people die? I think his figure was actually higher. But let’s make it a thousand, or maybe a million. One? The choice is, objectively speaking, obvious. Your hand is clearly worth less than even one life surely. But… would you do it? If a thousand strangers were wiped out by earthquake would you be more upset than if you lost your hand in a traffic accident? What about a scenario in which millions must die if you are to avoid medieval impoverishment?

I’m not saying that will happen, but what if?

Modern civilization requires energy. This is obvious. As a personal choice I support the slow food, back to the Earth, permaculture vibe. I’m totally down with it and want to be more so. I want to live in a Earthship house and collect fresh eggs in the morning from chickens that wander free fertilizing the garden. But that’s what I want. Other do not. And I won’t force anyone to live a certain way. It’s been attempted on me. Forget it! And also, again the inconvenient fact: 6 billion people plus can’t live on food grown in this fashion. It’s impossible. I can, because I’m privileged.

Modern civilization requires energy and our current methods of harvestation are unsustainable. Sustainability’s a word much maligned, it makes some people retch. But it’s important. To sustain civilization is to make it last. This basic idea, surely, is worthy to the vast majority of us. Still we argue about what to do and whether it’s necessary to ‘do’ anything. And the volume’s up so high we can hear none but our own voices. I think it is important to ‘do something’, sure.I also think the public policy solutions thus far are myopic, useless, a front for a rort. Many things but ‘effective’ ain’t one of ’em.

Modern civilization requires energy. We can’t go back. The peasant’s life would kill most modern urban dwellers. Ask anyone who was in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Anyone who survived that is. How do we acquire sustainable energy sources? Obviously the Sun’s ideal but there are problems. For example, the production of the world’s best photovoltaic cells would not be lawful in this country. Why? The toxic by-products of the process are prohibited by our environmental laws. Just one problem, not even the main one.

There are others. But at the heart of the ‘solution’ problem is science and innovation. Technological innovation is not something that happens well in a governmental department. Scientific breakthroughs never happen because of political decree. The capitalist behemoth might be partially or entirely repulsive to some reading this but, it works. For producing innovative new technology there’s not been anything remotely close. So is the solution to be accomplished by regulation and taxation? By the State taking control of a process it’s ill-equipped to manage or even facilitate. Should we leave ecological sustainability to politicians? Are lawyers the ones who will save us?

I support a carbon tax policy but not the one that is going before the House shortly. That carbon tax is simply an introduction for a cap and trade system (which seems to me a rort designed to keep developing nations from developing), it is (yet again) over-complicated and targeted squarely at the resource and energy concerns. (Those bad polluters). I don’t think that’s smart. They are actually powerful you know. Do this and you get a war; war is destruction.

The solution is technological and scientific. The solution is ethical, the choices you make everyday, the way you act. The solution is savage: ‘there’s gonna be sorrow try and wake up tomorrow’. The solution is in the minds of brilliant entrepreneurs and engineers we haven’t heard of yet. The solution is stop blaming ‘them’ and realize there’s no Justice there’s just us. The solution is… as simple as that. And infinitely more complicated.

PAINTING

12 Jun

Twilightinthewilderness

“Twilight In The Wilderness”, 1860s
Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)

THE HAND OF A FISH SO SMALL

2 Jun

TurnerSlaveShit

Perception is a weird thing. It’s natural, so the neuroscientists tell us, to divide the world into value-laden binaries: good/bad; good/Evil/black and white. That black and white make shades of grey is some disconsolation. Grey is the colour of an impending storm. Grey is winter and old age. Shades of grey can be complicated and hard to understand. A sharp line twixt darkness and light is preferred.

Black/white. Time was the Moors raided the coasts of Ireland and Scotland (places where the poor lived next to the sea). During the Middle Ages, I’ve read somewhere, they took millions of slaves. Later as Islam receded militarily and scientifically, as Europe rose, the slave trade’s direction reversed itself. This tide between Islam and Christendom, between Africa and Europe (not the same thing) has been coming in and going out for hundreds of years. It’s on a geo-tectonic scale, if you permit the metaphor, human individuals on this scale are like the blades of grass. They pay no attention. It’s too big for them.

Centuries of the human race fucking each other in the arse without permission: rape, murder! Face it.

The colour wing-ding’s a curious thing ladies and gentlemen. In ancient Egypt the aristocrats were light skinned and this gave them prestige. Or rather because of their prestige they were a lighter shade of brown and this became a mark of status. It was an indicator of wealth that one was not tanned by the sun. Also, and with the aid of the cosmetics available to cashed-up Egyptians, your ‘youth’ lasted longer.

The semantic alignment of ‘black’ (dark) and ‘white’ (light) with the spectrum of human complexion is the modern era’s most nefarious invention. It is an unintended consequence of Christianity. Followers of Jesus Christ are not permitted to enslave others. To eliminate slavery was of course very difficult, the economy of Agrarian Civilization depended on it. But, by the second century of the second millennium it had been accomplished.

And then the Spanish court acquired territory in central America.

The story is complex and I’m not intimately familiar with it. But in essence the Catholic Church decided that Africans didn’t have souls, hence it was okay to enslave them. Europeans couldn’t handle the Sun in what is now Cuba. The local inhabitants were dropping dead of the fierce Eurasian diseases which would soon decimate the American continents. And some Portugese captain received a gift of slaves from an African king. Well, when there’s money in it, let’s just bend the rules… um ah.

The love of money is the root of all Evil, and the closer to the bottom line you live, the more liable to sin. Europe was a shithole. Europeans were hungry. But they were also Christians. The Catholics decided yes. But Protestants and Jews (mostly) agreed.

Much has been made of the stark doublethink involved in these half-civilized brutes at once regarding African humans as animals whilst baptizing them by force. Carrying on sexual relationships with them and selling the children: the l’il bucks and bitches. Surveyed like a horse or a hunting dog assigned a role in the machinery of imperial agriculture. A resource for exploitation all the while being subjected to a cultural oppression that centres on adherence to the faith of Jesus Christ?

Women too. Any male slave confronted with a wily enough woman, especially a very attractive, sexually frustrated one, will not be able to refuse. Even tho’ the consequences might be fatal. Crying rape on a lover can be a useful tactic if he’s become inconvenient or you’ve been sprung. The accusation will not be disputed and ruthlessly proceeds to execution, sometimes in the midst of a drunken picnic. White people in the South used to have a grand old time at a lynching – yessir!

And we modern people, those of us on the planet who have entered the 21st century – intellectually and emotionally – we who find theories that hold one race superior and others inferior literally laughable, we…

Because of those morons the Nazis, the heirs to Empire can not speak of it in the very literary circles that require the enunciation. The divided mind, the divided self, the schizophrenia infecting the culture all surfeit of a complete lack of basic courtesy. Each side thinks itself relatively guiltless – they started it. Who started it. When did it start? This hacking each at other on the basis of some difference which does one no harm. When? Oh…. way back when.

That’s not the question, the question is have we stopped?

SCARS, WOUNDS AND MARRS.

31 May

Devil Tarot

I’m plagued by the memories of situations tangled in complexities underpinned by unknown factors and awash with a passion that’ll tear the chain outta the wall any minute now. If I cut myself some slack I’d raise a glass for the true pursuit of the cardinal virtues: wisdom, temperance, justice and courage. But I don’t and I know I have failed them, all four. I am a stupid, reckless, selfish coward.

We are, all of us, all of those things, and their opposite all the time. It ain’t easy. What court presides over the fluxus of daily interpersonal conduct? Only our own self-interested and distorted recollection. The fluctuating narratives of the he said/she said fandango. And the memory hole lurking in the dark gap between what is said and what is done amidst a storm of confusion created by the glaring corruption of our spiritual institution. Facing the brunt of a storm I have only the obsolete words of a near-lost ritual, rarified to the point of meaninglessness, yet earnest: Mother in Heaven, I have sinned, hear my confession.

What a battered saga lays twixt me and my last awkward confession to some bloodless, badly-shaven, cold-eyed man in a high black collar with a white tab signifying some s’posed wisdom on the other side of an archaic bit of woodwork designed to allow the clear transfer of whispered, shameful and shaming voices while obfuscating eye contact, making touch impossible.

How many awkward, wild, tender and nightmare-scary moments have passed on mattresses in sundry condition in so many cities and towns. In tents, on a field, near a tree. On a rock in the mountains. Surrounded by four walls that close in a little each night. How many times has it been an immortal choreography? How many times a disappointment? How many a refuge? How many will be sometime, sublime death-bed memories?

And how I long for that again and how it lurks and darts in front of me but always out of reach. Again and again a facsimile of what I seek but false. Or true perhaps, obscured by the fear of impostors. A filibuster straight from Desire with nothing of love in it. It feels like (yet another) test. And the journey has already been so long. It’s all around me, I have eyes. But they see too far, they see around the corner to the myriad of consequences. The knowledge that you can hop on a bus and end up travelling just as far in the wrong direction…

It’s another beautiful day in Melbourne. But it’s the goddamn Anglo-Saxon jive man. Snatching misery from the jaws of euphoria. I’ve got women on my mind. Desire is a knife-edged psychopath. Watch out for it. S/he’s not interested in your happiness one little bit. Enough! let’s have some whinging white-boy crap on the jukebox ‘ey.

IT’S MONDAY MORNING (AND I FEEL FINE)

30 May

I am contemplating my tough life

Before, it was the bitter and dry Victorian set doing the John Bracks shuffle wrapped in navy blue and grey; the inevitable black stylists (me included). The lonely crowd pushing Despair to the side as a matter of the habit of slaves starting another grim week of duty. Duty to the almighty Grand March forward to a world with a dollar sign on everything.

And because of that grand march, dig it, the buildings behind me. The docklands development of Melbourne is part of a global phenomena. Brisbane got its back in the 80s (at last a cultural first). Excellent place to imbibe of lysergic acid dyethlemide #25.

Sydney had theirs built in the halcyon 90s decade. It might still be there, you never know with Sydney. I’ve been there, stayed there. Out on the town there. It reminds me of the lives of battery hens if you let ’em go to the pub in the mall on Friday night.

Barcelona has its as well, haven’t been there.

The conversion of old, environmentally-dangerous, inner-city docking facilities, infamously awash with junkie bars and criminal networks, to new Jetsons-type living where once again the river is the star attraction the architecture serves and not just a place to spew our filth into – is grand. It makes (maybe) that whole crazy dance worth it. Here, in this beautiful and peaceful place where the Monday morning racket is a far away drone, we have a glimpse of the long-promised Brave New World.

People will complain that this is only something the rich can afford. And naturally it is. Will waterside views always be the privilege of those higher up in the chain? Will the chain always be based on money and education? What of it when those things are freely available to entire populations? How will we feed our need for command and obedience and hierarchy then?

No matter, inhale deep and pause…. enjoy the Sun. You won’t see it for a while, doesn’t matter how much money you got.

THE REVOLUTION BEGINS HERE

26 May

They’re on about solar power. They say the revolution begins here. Of their sincerity I have no doubts. But what I want to know is, what I want to know is what happens after the revolution? Who will be in charge? And how do we stop them from grinding us into the ground.

In one corner the Left who after two centuries of rapid change propelled by a cycle of constant change made possible courtesy of the perpetual innovations of capitalist technology that make manifest this form of writing and publishing, this style of music. That produces the liquor we drink and the food we eat and the spliffs we blow… that makes all this possible – in that corner are the avatars of those who would change it without understanding that this is change. In the other the Right who just keep singing the same old tune, indifferent to those who get crushed, who are left out, who lose.

Congo slum

The music goes back to the beginning. It’s a new global style harking way back to the fractured tribes of pre-history. A stomp, a clap and a chant: words that testify. Full circle we’ve come and now the tribes are transcontinental associations connected by the internet, the phone and the camera.

Outside on the street the scents of an ancient and most useful herb blend in with the familiar braggadoccio jive viz slicin’ and dicin’. An impro freestyle rap session. But no-one stomps. There’s no machine to tell them what to do. The revolution starts here? I sense the same old instincts, the same aggression that took centuries to control and channel constructively enough to get here to this point where the different tribes can blend in peace and harmony. Inside on the dance floor there’s a greenhair’d heavy metal dude who likes to push people around on the dance floor. To my left a couple of sophistos you’ll never see anywhere near the floor dismissing an acquaintance: he’s a junkie.

You can smash the state, it’s been done. Tho’ these days methinks it a might more difficult than once it used to be. You can put the oil barons and media lords and mainstream party politicians up ‘gainst the wall. You can murder the tax department, the cops, the soldiers and anyone who works in a human resources department. You can make laws of peace but you can’t change the monkey…

After the revolution – what?

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

30 Mar

It seems to me the snake was telling the truth; God was lying. The woman says to the snake: we may eat of the fruit of any tree in the garden but that one. The one that lies in the centre of the garden. God tells us it’s bad for us, that it will kill us.

AdamandEve
“Adam and Eve”, 1528
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)

And the snake says, “Oh sister, that’s horseshit. You eat the fruit from that tree and you’ll know things. You’ll be able to understand stuff. You’ll know the difference between right and wrong. That’s why the Old Bastard tells you not to eat it. He knows, you eat that and you’ll be like Him.

And so she eats it. And she gives it to the man and he eats it. He always does what she wants him to.

And they begin to understand. And what do they understand of themselves, man and woman? What do they do? They see each other naked and are ashamed of that. Of the poo and the goo and the in-out squishing noises; the feasting on each other’s flesh that never troubled them before. More than that she realizes she’s always spreading her legs even tho’ it doesn’t seem to feel half as good for as it does for him. They didn’t understand before, they just did it. And now the man understands he’s always doing what she wants and now she’s really gone and done it! How he longs to get back to his nice comfortable rut when he was happy and stupid. Well no more of this obedience shite, now he has to face brutal existential reality. From now on he’ll be picking much more the fruit of the hemp tree. And he better invent beer.

And now they have to work. (Or did they really always have to work they just didn’t understand what that means?) Now they feel pain (or did they always feel pain?) Now they understand: death is waiting for them.

Did God lie? Sure. Don’t we tell our children hyperbolous stories in order to prevent them from doing stupid stuff? How useful to how many parents over the aeons has the Boogie Man been? And sure the snake was telling the truth. I’m sure there are pedophiles skilled in the art of appraising children of the truth of parents’ white fibs in order to win their trust and lure them toward perdition.

In an older version of the story Eve is given a choice between the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. One brings immortality, the other understanding. She chooses, feminists like to say, because her man cannot. Did she make the right choice? Would she? Had she known she would be ashamed. And shamed?

It’s a story.

I’m amused and moved almost to pity when I see people fight for the literal interpretation of scripture. I understand. It makes things nice and simple, clear and easy to understand. How many times has the law fallen to disrepair because of the excessive deployment of interpretive metaphor?

It can be made to say anything! Thus cries the priest in Jesus of Montreal when confronted by a Passion play that deploys the actual facts (and lack thereof) concerning the actual life and death of one Joshua from the Sticks. That this Passion also expresses most beautifully the gift that Jesus bore is immaterial to the priest. It contravenes doctrine and therefore his cushy job in the Cathedral is threatened.

It’s a story. The truth is not the story, the truth is in the story. The story is simply a vessel for it. And like a child that’s been taught not to go wandering in the bushes for fear of the Boogie Man the story will morph and elaborate as s/he grows and ages. S/he’ll know that it was a lie yes, but one that fundamentally told the truth. Does that not make sense? What truth now in the Book of Genesis, second episode.

Modern people reading it will know better, if they wish. We have always known that the human female, unlike other animals, feels excruciating pain and is in actual mortal danger during child-birth. But we now know (if we wish) that this is the dual result of our relatively recent evolution to a bipedal mammal and the subsequent increase in brain size requiring of course larger skulls. Because of our large brains women suffer pain. The little brats, their heads are too big! It’s another story but it says the same thing: the pain in childbirth is consequence of our capacity for understanding. Different story, same basic truth.

Still the stories are different. They are composed in different times and told in different ways. In these differences there is also a truth, perhaps one that sits on a larger scale of existence.

What is the difference?

Well obviously we can forget all that palava about ‘shame’ (can we? should we?). Sex is natural, necessary and should be fun. We have thousands of years of contemplation of the subject (mostly by males). We have thousands of books, documentaries, internet soundbytes, magazine articles, newspaper items coming out every year (mostly by females). We have understanding. What we don’t have are the rituals and beliefs that create from all that a new idea of ‘the good life’ in this brave new world.

In the old stories the woman chooses, from willful wickedness or courageous determination (mostly willful wickedness). She knows not the consequences but more than anything she wants to know. It’s the artifact of a culture asserting the political rule of men, no more soap operas. It is the artifact of a culture that radically chooses to assert the primacy of monogamy and sobriety in sexual matters. No more bouncing from girl to girl. But the woman chooses. Within the old story an older story leaves an essential, now submerged, thread.

The story of the Fall of Man was originally a rebellion. Rebellion against the then dominant culture with its god-kings, its bedazzling religious spectacles, its rituals of blood and sex. In these scary creeds there is also an Original Couple. But they are gods. Human were not then worth remembering except if they were great kings who won a war. The Book of Genesis was a Book of Revolution. It declared that we were cosmically important. That our… what we moderns would call – ‘sexuality’, is not a giant force that drives us writhing into the maelstrom but the site of a virtue that the One True God commands.

Naturally we know that the pagan tale corresponds more with the facts as ascertained by science. But we are modern people, three thousand years after Moses, and we no longer feel the need for human sacrifice or blood soaked ritualistic orgies. Perchance our war with sex, waged over millennia has something to do with this? We understand. And understanding has cultivated our hearts, some of us. What is the literary difference between the Book of Genesis and the Theory of Evolution? In the old story the woman chose and we blame her: Eve the temptress! scowls St Augustine, Woman is defective and misbegotten shouts! St Acquinas. Let them die in childbirth! scoffs Martin Luther.

Is this perhaps more, perhaps a denial by the male animal in furtherance of controlling the sex instinct so wild in humanity? His sex instinct. For who is it that thinks most of the consequences on the brink of coitus? Who’s the one more likely to ask: is this a good idea? Defective? Misbegotten?

Canova
“Three Graces”, 1817
Antonio Canova (1757-1822)

Methinks they speak in denial. The early Christian women tried hard to accommodate the image. They dressed in bags and rags and had to mutilate themselves because sometimes the drab threads didn’t do much good. In CE 585 the bishops at the Council of Mâcon decided that , yes, women do have souls after all. The motion was carried by one vote.

What difference between the stories? We now know we did not choose. We know that that doesn’t matter – things are as they are regardless. We know we can’t blame women, that blaming women is surfeit of the bully instinct in the human animal, the result of the prime bleak fact of violence, and consequence finally of the male tendency to use their penises for thinking with. All this is to modern people banal, matter-of-fact. We know that that’s the way of it and what can you do? And we know, if we can face it, that we don’t know. We are like children who have grown up.

What has our tough adolescence made of us?

Lucasfriedeggs

Sarah Lucas, b. 1962
“Self-portrait With Fried Eggs”, 1996