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Three Random Thoughts

I’ve not published here for a while so, just to see if anyone is still awake, here are some random thoughts with only the loosest possible relationships to each other…

Random thought #1: as to why I’ve not written here in a while. The last few months I’ve done very little writing at all. I’ve been in an odd mental space. Basically, I seem to have reached a limit with Britain. It’s a bit like waking up one day and not recognising the person you’re in bed with. Britain has seemed quite alien to me lately. We have had a truly awful spring and summer here with record rainfalls and endless cloud cover (ironically today is a truly gorgeous sunny day, and it is no coincidence that this little torrent of words is coming out now). If my understanding of climate science is right then this, give or take, is the new normal in Britain as the Gulf Stream seeks a new home further south. My chemical makeup has it that I need a lot of sunlight and my self-motivation is strongly tied to the weather. So that’s one thing. But more generally I just cannot buy into where this country is heading politically. The economy is well and truly bust and the best predictions I am hearing (not the ones spouted by the government) have the recovery decades, not years, away. And this is on top of being well into the fourth decade of one of the greatest acts of public embezzlement known to man. The Tory government is not even pretending to do anything other than to serve the wealthiest. Meanwhile, they continue the entirely predictable but nonetheless largely fictitious rubbish about welfare fraud, despite the fact that the amounts lost in tax avoidance is many times the total bill paid in unemployment benefits and low-income subsidies. We endure endless rubbish about how the “entitlement culture” has destroyed Britain, justifying the dismantling of anything resembling citizenship, while every effort is made to reinforce the truly dangerous culture of entitlement that is at the root of the current problems. There is potentially a truly great nation in hiding here, but it will have no choice but to remain hidden for the foreseeable future. Britain is in for some dark days and, as fascinating as it is to watch from the philosophical armchair, I’d rather not be on the deck as the Titanic sinks. The upshot of all of this is that I’ve been spending a great deal of my time thinking about moving back to Australia and the likelihood is that this will happen in the near future. It’s been a long and difficult decision to make, and it’s not 100% settled yet, but that is the direction that the wind is blowing right now. Believe me when I say that Australia is very far from politically perfect, but at least the sun shines there from time to time, and that’s better than nothing…

Random thought #2: on the Olympics. Yes, the Olympics are happening in London over the next few weeks and I’ll throw my hat in with the large number of Olympic-sceptics. In many ways, the London Olympics exemplifies the problems that I have with Britain (see random thought #1). It has been described as the most corporatized Olympics ever. I have been up to Stratford a couple of times in the last couple of months, ostensibly to go to the flashy new cinema (most recently last week to see the new Batman film – we’ll come to that in random thought #3), but also to gawk at the spectacle that is the Olympic site. Stratford is a veritable tale of two cities with clearly delineated right and wrong side of the tracks (with the separating line being the actual railway tracks). On the right side of the tracks we first find the flagship Westfield shopping centre (proudly Australian, I might add). Glitz and glamour as far as the eye can see, with all the biggest top-name stores for clothes, watches, and cars, as well as a casino, a hotel, and whatever other tax-avoidance vehicle Sir Phillip Green happens to own. Olympic attendees and tourists are directed through the shopping centre which is the only way to reach the Olympic site. And then, if you’re anything like me and don’t have a ticket, your journey ends with the security barriers. You can see all the fun – you just can’t get to it. And, of course, you can see the McDonalds building nestled in between the stadium and the velodrome. Yes, the spirit of competition and achievement reigns supreme at these games (so long as it is corporate competition and the achievement of lobbyists). Just ignore the tax-breaks that the corporate sponsors are receiving in exchange for having exclusive selling rights on the site, to say nothing of the promotional deals. If one perchance wandered away from the bright lights and went to the other side of the tracks into Stratford proper they would see a different side of things. There you will find the dilapidated town centre with its immigrant and working class populace who will be able to watch the games on the television even though they are only a quarter mile away. But of course, we shall be very careful that you do not wander out on that side…

The games are also likely be the most militarized ever. It is said that the enforcement presence at these games will easily eclipse that from the Beijing games – makes you think, dunnit. We’ve all heard about the rocket launchers on rooftops. Mind you, I’ve not seen any nor was I offered the opportunity to play host to one even though I am within shooting-distance of at least some of the events. But I have had some serious military helicopters flying very low over my home at all hours (including, lamentably 4:30am – thanks guys!). And there is a mighty naval vessel parked just down the river at Greenwich. Last week we had the scandal of G4S who were hired to provide security personnel for the games… and failed, so now we’re calling in the army and the police, and paying for it twice no doubt. The failure of outsourcing here is a timely (and, to my mind, tired) warning about the privatisation and balkanisation that the British government is applying more broadly to the public sector. Meanwhile, in other parts of privatised London, private rent-a-cops are out in force to ensure privatised law and order over private property (i.e. everywhere). So London is hosting a Games that is true to its core nature – it is exclusive, privatised, and fully fitted with the usual “trickle-up” devices, aimed at the enrichment of corporations at the expense of community. It is for the rich and by the rich, although, in true libertarian “Big Society” fashion, the not-so-rich can contribute as volunteers

Random thought #3: pertaining to the new Batman movie. Being a bat-phile, I went to see the new Batman film last Friday as it opened in the cinema near the aforementioned Olympic site. I enjoyed it a heckuva lot. It was truly epic and good fun, and I will see it again before long. Batman is, of course, the most philosophically interesting of all comic book heroes, and some may be hoping that I’ll perform a philosophical analysis of the film. They will be disappointed, at least for today (although they might look at an earlier article here). The blogosphere has been aflurry with articles alternately claiming that The Dark Knight Rises was either a salute to Occupy Wall Street or a love poem to conservatism. Probably the most accurate description I have seen was a forum thread that described the film’s political message as “muddled” which about sums it up for me. There is a beautiful line given to Anne Hathaway and directed towards billionaire Bruce Wayne about how long he though the rich could get away with their profligacy, but that was about as deep as the commentary got to my mind: Bane was no hero of the poor, nor enemy of the rich, but just another power-hungry a@#hole (but a mighty entertaining one and a good deal more so than the real-world ones). A few other themes drowned out the blogosphere over the film. One was the comic-book fanboy tribalism as to whether the film rocked because it wasn’t The Avengers, or whether it sucked because it wasn’t The Avengers. Another was on various plot points on the film (which I won’t discuss so as not to spoil it for those who want to see the film). And, of course, there was the sad and tragic event in Colorado. I won’t say too much on this. The news came out while I was actually in the theatre watching the film. I read it about an hour after which was quite creepy, particularly given the content of the film itself. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. Is the violence in cinema to blame? Probably not (but then there sure are a lot of guns and gun-usage in films when compared to real life – what does this tell us about ourselves?). Those who know me already know my stance on gun ownership. Those that have read some of my writings can surely guess. True, guns don’t kill people – people kill people; but people with guns can do it so much more easily. I have no sympathy for some of the online rantings that I saw claiming that if everyone in the cinema was armed this tragedy wouldn’t have happened. It isn’t 1865 and we don’t live in the Wild Bloody West. Liberal gun ownership leads to escalation, not security and certainly not freedom: if I feel compelled to own a gun because your easy ability to acquire an assault rifle makes me less secure then we are both of us less free. And I have no patience for an interpretation of liberty that holds that people should be free to acquire the instruments of homicide but that universal access to healthcare is a violation of freedom.

  1. October 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Tim,

    I have been thinking about a comment (one of several you made to me), ‘why do markets always have to grow, why is growth required, why is shrinkage not good?’. Well that thought has been twisting around in my brain for a while. And I still see the straight arrow answer: Well, populations grow year on year, and every one is into “wealth improvement”.

    Is there any other answer? I lack your urban philosophy or insights on economics. And so would appreciate your thoughts on the subject! (an article?)


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