Jan 132014
 

If ignorance and stupidity were capital crimes the hangman would never get a day off, and since I oppose the death penalty instituting it for these crimes may be a ever so slightly excessive, not quite what you would call commensurate response. Nevertheless they are terrible things and somebody has to say it.

  1. Misusing "The cake is a lie": just about every time somebody uses this meme they are applying it to … you know, cake. Which makes absolutely no sense at all if you know what it means. The phrase "the cake is a lie" has it's origins in background grafiti painted on the scenery of the game "Portal" – a message left for the protagonist regarding the evil GLADOS's promises of cake at the end of the "test". So in any sensible world this would be a meme about conspiracies, abuses of power, dishonest politicians or businessmen, corruption, deceipt, exploitation… in fact practically ANYTHING except for the one thing it's invariably used for: baked goods.
  2. Miley Cirus memes: on a roughly 5-year rotational cycle holywood finds a young girl, gets her to sing terrible songs and show a great deal of skin – then when she inevitably crashes and burns forgets about her: and everytime it happens we have the exact same debate. We have the sexist conservatives complaining that she's a bad influence, we have the liberals complaining that she's being exploited and we have the individuals trying to find a way to say that her behavior is empowering. It's a trend and debate as old as Madonna's career and it never changes. The only way it may ever change is if we stop playing the game – it's not even the sex that sells here – it's the controversy about the sex that sells… so stop the controversy, walk away – just shut the hell up. If the girl is truly empowered and doing it because she enjoys the attention then she'll keep doing it without you defending her, if she's a terrible influence on your children then the best way to reduce that influence is to ignore her and not keep drawing their attention to the fact that she shocked you. The only people who have anything to gain from the debate are the record companies – the one group whom neither side of the debate considers to be doing the right thing. They are doing what makes them money – and this world being what it is – the only way to end it is to stop letting them make money out of it.  It's a curious game professor, the only way to win is not to play.
  3. Viral Advertising: you know something – I hate viral advertising. Not the ads themselves – the people who share them. Laugh at the ad if you think it's funny but stop being some rich corporation's free marketing agent. Especially if you then go and rant about some of the things those corporations do. Excercise your free will and don't just follow a trend because everybody else does it – especially when somebody else is hoping to get rich out of your lack of thinking for yourself. Don't be a pawn in somebody else's game. Of course I would never suggest that sharing it shouldn't be allowed – but I do hold on to the right to think it's stupid. I have seen too many facebook walls with, on the same day even, a post about the horrors of animal-testing and a shared ad for a company that tests on animals. 
  4. Group-prejudice memes: man these annoy me. Racist jokes may be out of vogue but sexist jokes, nerd-jokes, gamer-jokes, people-from-some-country-jokes … the world of internet humor has now devolved into a state where prejudiced assumptions about people based on an arbitrary characteristic makes up practically all of it. This is beyond stupid: this is harmful, this is hurting people – and hurting people is not okay. 
  5. Rants about the stupidities of internet memes: rants like this blog post you are reading right now, they are futile, they are ultimately meaningless and to put the icing on a terrible christmas fruit cake they tend to devolve into what may just be the lowest form of humor ever invented: self-refferentialism.
Dec 042013
 

There is a prevailing myth in South Africa today that the old National Party government did a pretty decent job of running the country. Sure there were apartheid but the politicians were honest, had good intentions and built up the country and it's infrastructure.

The origins of this myth is not hard to trace: it's exactly what the Nats were telling South Africa during the more 50-odd years they were in charge. What is more interesting is the side effects of it:  The contrast with current government scandals – both corruption and service delivery related.

And tied into this – the core question we must answer: why does this myth persist to be able to create these contradictions ? We cannot only attribute this to effective National Party propaganda, the more right wingers will talk of how Bantu education budgets exceeded white education budgets (and ignore realities like how Bantu education systems were designed to suppress rather than uplift it's receivers – culminating in the June 1976 unrests) showing that the propaganda was believed – but the ANC is certainly no less busy spreading it's own propaganda and bragging about it's supposed achievements – so why the difference ?

Why do ANC propaganda have a limited impact, while National Party propaganda – unheard since the 1980's continue to be beleived ? 

We hear about service delivery failures, protests around them and even many rightwingers feel a twinge of sympathy for the protesters (well sometimes) yet somehow they don't make the connection that exactly the same failure happened under the NATS at a much grander scale ? After all – the NATS simply did not try to deliver proper services to the bulk of the population.

Can it really be explained pure by the fact that those believing this were mostly from the section of the population that did receive services (and, on average, still receives far better) ?

I don't think so – that doesn't explain the over-all myth, though it certainly (and significantly) contributes to it's prevalence. It doesn't explain why there is a sincere belief that misguided as they were, NP politicians were honest, hardworking and well-meaning – while corruption is a cancer of the ANC only.

Especially since no historian actually agrees with that- in fact the NP's history of corruption was severe, excessive and certainly no less egregious than that of the ANC.

The real difference I believe is these few facts:

1) Until 1976 South Africa had no television service, and the only radio service was government run.

2) When a television service was introduced, this was also government run – no private vendors were allowed to broadcast television in South Africa until 1986 when M-Net got a license and they were prohibted from broadcasting news.

3) The largest newspaper group in the country (which controlled nearly 90% of all printed media) was, while not government owned extremely government aligned (in fact – it's long time chief Piet Steyn was chairman of the Afrikaner Broederbond).

4) What little private media existed, as well as international media companies, were tightly controlled by a web of censorship laws that made bad news and scandals essentially impossible to reveal.

Despite all this there was one, well-known corruption scandal in the NP years – the infogate scandal of the early 1980's – but it's the only one that came to light and many NP members of those days actually considered that one to be a fabricated scandal that was created to frame Connie Mulder in order to clear the way for P.W. Botha to become executive state president (a conspiracy theory lent some creedence by the fact that Mulder was found innocent during his later criminal trial – but had been kicked out of the running by then).

Only one corruption scandal in 50 years -and that one quite possibly never happened. It's simply not possible – it defies all experience of politics throughout human history. Sure you can get a good, honest leader now and then  -but 5 decades full of government without a single bad apple ? Just not possible.

But when that government essentially controlled every piece of media in the country – it would be quite possible for a completely corrupt government to never, ever get caught. That is a lot more plausible. I posit that the Nats were as, if not more, corrupt a government than the ANC (and that there is no such thing as an un-corrupt government) – they just never let the public be allowed to find out about it.

There was a lack of scandal – not a lack of corruption. The product of censorship and media control – and exactly why these are such vile things.

The scandals in our country is a sign of hope -our politicians did not magically become more honest (and I don't think that will ever happen on this earth) – but they are finding it a lot harder to keep it secret or get away with it, and that is a good thing.

It is also why the continuing protests against the secrecy bill are so, so very important. Because the last thing we need – is to allow the ANC government to gain the power the Nats once had: the power to stop us from finding out when they are corrupt.

Aug 202013
 

The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Motorhead, Queen, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Manowar, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Phil Collins. You call the UK a nanny-state ? Well if they are, I guess it’s working because a disproportionately high number of their citizens have become immortal. Actually this is not as facetious as it appears. The single most prohibitive aspect in developing music talent is the extremely high cost of good quality musical instruments. I bought my first drumkit second hand for R3500, I had to be thirty before I could afford that – far too old to ever reach my true potential as a drummer, best I can hope for is “not sucky” – my second kit was closer to R15000. One of those “nanny-state” interferences of the UK into the market is that the department of arts and culture there will give an interest free loan to any ASPIRING musician to buy an instrument with. No strings attached except the money can only be spent on an instrument – if you have any income at all, even welfare money, you can actually GET an instrument and learn to play without huge interest payments weighing you down. By having far more of the people who WANT to play have the opportunity to LEARN to play, a much higher percentage of those with the talent to become legends actually DO become legends.

Jun 142013
 

In a discussion about sexism recently, somebody defended chivalry by stating “it is just good manners” – in his mind thereby, no questions could exist about whether there is any harm to this sexist way of thinking and acting and the way it pushes both men and women into predefined social roles without their individual personalities, abilities or nature taken into consideration.

To my mind however, that is a call-to-tradition fallacy – just because something is “good manners” doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. A critical thinker should treat manners like any other behaviour and ask questions about them. This doesn’t mean we should be rude or disrespectful to people all the time – it means we should question manners and mannerisms as social conventions specific to a given culture, look at their history and meaning and then make decisions about whether a particular manner is still appropriate today, whether it is doing good or doing harm and how it should apply when dealing with another culture altogether.

The majority of what we know as “good manners” in Western cultures originate in the aristocratic class system – they are deliberately obscure and overcomplicated because their true purpose has nothing to do with showing respect (or even feigning it). Their purpose was much more insidious than that: to create an artificial social rift between the privileged upper classes and the exploited lower classes. Those who knew which knife to cut fish with, could claim a false sense of superiority over those who didn’t which justified their brutal treatment of the lower classes.

In this regard then manners are merely a more modern form of an ancient false argument: those who knew the rituals held themselves as superior to those who didn’t – and felt justified to wage war on them, steal their land and property and exploit their labour. “After all – they don’t even know you’re not allowed to eat red meat on Wednesdays”. Of such was thousands of years of tribal brutality made. Where Western aristocracy took it to a new level was actually applying it to create a division within a single culture. All who didn’t know the proper rituals were inferior – be they the lower classes among your own people, or any member of a different culture.

Today’s culture has, therefore, quite wisely done away with a large chunk of these ultimately ridiculous rituals we call manners – and tried to cut down to those that are more basic. The ones we could identify as a sincere attempt at courtesy. That is by and large a good thing, and it shows that today our culture is far more evolved than we sometimes imagine. It also makes a claim like “it’s just good manners” sound even more hollow – clearly many things which were until recently considered “just good manners” have simply lost their worth. Of course they habit lives on, the very rich in society still practise many of these rituals and look down upon those who do not – we even directly recognize what they are trying to do when we describe those who practise these rituals as “classy”. What has changed is that the vast majority of us who live by more down to earth social conventions aren’t quite as powerless as we used to be, if Donald Trump publicly flogged an employee for using the wrong knife he would be charged with assault.

It was common, not to long ago, to consider throwing down a glove so grievous an insult that it had to be settled with trying to murder the person who did so – this was the standard ritual for challenging somebody to a duel. Most people today would not consider duelling with deadly weapons to be an honourable activity, nor the deaths that result to be justifiable homocide.

So what about chivalry then ? We live in a world where many women would feel flattered if you held a door for them, others would feel insulted – that you are pushing them into accepting a meek social role and thus excluding them from any other roles. So how should we act towards it then ?
This is not such a simple question – most men who act chivalrously today are not trying to push a woman into a role, they are trying to show sincere respect as per the dictates of their culture. I don’t think this is always bad – but it can be harmful and that is why so many women now find it insulting instead. I would propose that the problem isn’t the existence of the social role itself, it’s being forced into it. This deprives women of individual choice and that is the essence of sexism. So I would propose the same advice that modern etiquette experts give to businessmen who have to entertain people from other cultures in trade: observe your host and act as they act, show respect by adopting the culture you are dealing with (even if you do it badly).

When it comes to chivalry then – respect the wishes of the woman you are dealing with. If she likes having the door opened for her – she has adopted that social role by her own choice, a choice I would respect, but if she is the least bit unhappy about it – then don’t do it. Do not force her into that role if she is uncomfortable with it. Where I would deviate from the advice is this: do not observe and try to copy here -ask. Don’t just open doors until you get a complaint, a lot of women who feel uncomfortable about it may nevertheless not want to be rude in turn and thus keep their discomfort to themselves, and this perpetuates bad sexism.
Instead, upfront, ask a woman you met how she feels about chivalry if you that’s your thing. Tell her that when you engage in it you are merely trying to be respectful – not to force her into a position of submission and state outright that if she feels such behaviour pushes her into a social role she is uncomfortable with you will not engage in it.
In other words – if you want to show somebody sincere respect, you show it to them in the way they like to be shown it, not the way you think they OUGHT to be shown it – and the only way to know that – is to ask.

Jan 142013
 

It was with a great mixture of anger and sadness that I read the story this week of the passing of Aaron Swartz. A lot of people have speculated on what may have set off the suicide which ultimately took his life but certainly the spectre of a malicious prosecution for a crime which was arguably not only victimless but served a noble greater purpose that should be deemed civil disobedience at worst and a fundamental right of a free world at best must have put significant stress on a young man who already suffered from depression and could well have contributed to his death.

Today the news announced that M.I.T. has launched an internal investigation into how they handled Aaron's case – an investigation that, based on the comments from the news, is pushing MIT back to reflection on it's once-proud roots as a hive of the free exchange of knowledge which Aaron so deeply believed in. 

If some good might come out of this tragic loss to the free software and free culture communities – it may be to give those who still believe in the open culture that made MIT great the ammunition to fight back against the conservative pundits who have been demanding an ever more "like a business" approach from universities and stifling the very sharing of knowledge that forms the heart of all research. 

But is it worth his life ? Was it a cause worth dying for – especially since he had no way of knowing that such an outcome may happen and we can probably assume that he didn't do it for the sake of his cause, but because he had given up on himself (and with that on his contribution to that very cause: which is ironic considering how great his contributions have been – this is the man who helped invent RSS after all).

Can the actions of MIT today make it worth while ? I say – certainly not. But perhaps it can give some justice and closure to his loved ones. That the wrong actions of MIT against Aaron which ultimately contributed to his death might lead to them at least realizing that those actions were, in fact, wrong and ceasing in such approaches towards others. 

Aaron did not die for a cause. He was killed by a disease. He suffered from depression and ultimately, like so many others, he succumbed to it. I wish he had sought help instead of taking that step, he had so much left to give the world (as ungrateful as that world may have been) and his loss is a tragedy for our community of immense proportions (now considering that it must be infinitely larger for his loved ones I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through).  No, his death was not act of heroism, and trying to explain it away that way would be cowardly and wrong.

But it could perhaps, be a warning – a warning to those whose thoughts cycle around ending their lives that they should seek help – that help exists and is worth asking for (I speak from personal experience). I could perhaps be a rallying to change. I am by no means suggesting that we turn Aaron into a martyr – that would be a violation of his dignity and exploitation of his loved ones, instead I am saying: this young man believed in a better world. A world where academic knowledge was freely shared, a world without censorship, in his honour – we must continue the fight for the world he believed in. 

Aaron wanted that world but he didn't live to see it, those of us who share his belief should redouble our efforts in the wake of this tragedy. Not to dwell on how he died, but to continue the fight to realize that for which he had lived.

Jan 052013
 

I want to ask a radical question, what if the patriarchal society of our time was a female invention ? Imagine for a second the world of our ancestors a long time ago – a few hundred thousand years in fact – before the first of us ever left the African continent. The usual assumption is that these societies became patriarchal due to the physical dominance of men (on average), but what if it was the other way around ?  What if women, the objects of desire and veneration (for their ability to bear children – something that survived until quite recently in paganist societies) had demanded the men take the roles of guardians  ? The world was a very dangerous place back then, the vast majority of children born did not survive infancy, predators roamed around and even the prey humans themselves fed on was dangerous as most of it was much larger than we were and well armed (it's a documented fact that Neanderthal people hunted mammoths – probably by using fire to scare the herds into a panic and chase them over cliff faces. I don't know about you but I think a herd of panicking mammoths is a pretty damn scary sight !)

What if it was the women back then who declared that they need to stay behind and watch the children – so the men, stronger (and more readily replaced from the children's point of view as they don't breast-feed) had to become both protectors and providers. This probably makes brilliant evolutionary sense too (by providing and protecting the men were improving the likelihood of their offspring surviving) -and thus was laid the foundation of gender roles, not by oppressive men but by scared women (who were, objectively speaking, making a very logical and smart move) !

The point of this question is not paleontological conjecture, frankly we know so very little of history from what we can piece together even 3000 years ago that to suggest we could ever answer this question with the few fossils in the world is outright ludicrous. The point is to question something else entirely – a growing and concerning trend in feminist writing to declare the misandry cannot exist at all (apparently it's impossible to hate men – as if neither women nor men could ever be capable of hating men or acting hateful toward men). I state outright that in our society the privilege of men cannot be denied (though to pretend it has not been reduced at all as many feminists are wont to do is to deny the massive achievements of their forebears and frankly quite dis-ingenious for their own cause), it's nothing like what it once was, but there are still very true and legitimate complaints from women that must be resolved (the pay-gap between men and women is a major and undeniable example).

But I think the assault on the patriarchy approach being taken is, well not to put too fine a point on it, very bad marketing. This immediately casts feminism as a war between the genders, which only creates new gender expectations and stereotypes. The real problem with gender roles isn't that there is a vast majority of men in power who are maliciously doing all in they can to oppress women so they can retain their own privilege (while I definitely don't deny that such men exist, I think they are a shrinking minority and have ever less real power in the world, their position of privilege is shrinking along with their numbers). This gender-war is counter-productive to the ideal of equality for the sexes because it reinforces the very concept that ones gender is a defining attribute of one-self (it's for this reason that individualist-feminists have largely rejected this approach as the idea of strong group-identity goes utterly against their individualist beliefs).

The real problem is that we have been saddled by gender roles which were programmed into our society (not our genes – I completely reject the thoroughly debunked pseudo-scientific claptrap that is neurosexism) by the world as it once was (for a very long time – hundreds of thousands of years). It's not some vast conspiracy of evil men and weak-minded women who are keeping things messed up – it's a much more basic problem than that. The problem is that gender-roles as a very concept is outdated at best. It is doubtful if it ever served a true purpose (rather than an imagined one) but it certainly doesn't now.

The sex-positive movement has the right idea about sex: the right sexual decisions for a given individual is the ones chosen by THAT individual. Whether this person chooses promiscuity or lifelong virginity is their own business. We need to move to the same thing in terms of equality in general  - and that means away from group identity and towards self-identity. The limitations of gender based group identity is well known (western society is unique among all known cultures today and in recorded history for having only TWO genders – nearly all others have at least 3 gender roles) but they are more dangerous than that- they inherently limit individuals.

A woman who chooses to stay home and care for her kids is not less than one who chooses a career over having kids at all, and the one who chooses both is not superior to either of them, the question to ask is only: are you, the person, happy with that choice ? Is this individual being treated fairly ? Are they given a fair assessment of ability when they reach for their dreams ? 

When this is not the case, that is sexism and it doesn't matter if the person involved is a woman, a man or one of the other genders which exists in other cultures (Maori's have quite an interesting third gender – look it up sometime), or even some entirely new gender-identification which this person chose for h??self which nobody else has ever been, ever. Then we are making progress toward equality, only by moving beyond group identity can we achieve the liberal ideal of true equality. Only then can we judge a man rather than judging a black man. Only then can we see somebody and not make assumptions about their character and behaviour based on our external view of their identity – which may well (I would argue almost never will) be applicable to this particular individual.

I reject the notion that individualism somehow is the birth-right of conservatives. Conservatives speak of individualism but only when it suits their ends. They only talk of individualism when they want to deny privilege or attempt to preserve it. When I speak of individualism I do not deny that group identities exist, I do not deny that they have caused massive harm (nor do I deny that "white male" is winning the lottery and getting to do life at the easiest setting available), denying these things is not individualism as it denies the very problems that stand in the way of an individualist society. We can only embrace individualism if we admit to the existence of group-identity, acknowledge the harms it cause and actively work to undo it. For me affirmative action is a required step toward an individualist society. Only in a society where workplaces and government is representative of the society as a whole can individual merit actually be deemed to be the measuring stone of personal performance. 

In a society without group privilege – representative workplaces would require no laws, they would just happen as individuals of merit exist in all groups, but because of group privilege many are denied the capacity to develop their talents. This is not only philosophically but economically stupid, if we are to achieve greater prosperity and solve the problems of the twenty-first century then we will required all the talent we have working towards that goal, as long as group privilege exists there are talents we as a society and an economy need which are going to waste. We are losing our best female scientists by never giving our girls a chance to excel at science. We are losing our best black engineers by not giving our black children the same quality schooling as our whites.

So indeed, I see affirmative action as an intensely individualist position – only by breaking down group privilege can we allow individuals to reach their full potential, can we undo the harm that group identity does to individual liberties and opportunities – can we become an individual-merit based society. So I must oppose all that serves to re-engender group stereotypes, whether this is vilifying men as "more violent than women", painting most men as rapists (when in fact it's a case of a few rapists who do it a lot) and return the focus to the individual.  That approach can be solidly stretched into all walks of life – as the following example shows:

A lot of American feminists complain about the lack of legally protected paid-maternity leave in their country, rightfully stating that this is an unfair discrimination against women. On the other hand a lot of people in the USA argue that giving them legally protected maternity leave is discriminating against men. Other critics argue that doing so makes them less attractive to hire by companies and would contribute to increasing the pay-gap and decreasing female hiring – which would harm two other major feminist goals. 

But all these groups fail to get at a good solution because they are trapped in the thinking of group identity and thus completely missed the third possibility (despite the fact that this possibility is in fact the law in Denmark and there is a perfect example of how it can work). Denmark has one of the best protected maternity leave systems in the world. In fact in Denmark a woman gets 2 years of maternity leave after the birth of a child – but the law does not end there. The crucial point is this: the mother has the legal right to take only one year, and if she does so, the father has the legal right to take a year as well simultaneously. That is a full year of both maternity and paternity leave. 

This is a very good system – it does not discriminate against men, as it actively encourages fathers to be home and caring for their child in the first year alongside mothers. It does not make women less attractive to hire (since the version most of them take is the same one taken by most men), and it has a major positive step by recognising that single parents have a tougher time (hey – two people working at the same job means half as much for each to do – this is just a fact), most of the women who will take two years themselves are single-parents and they get the extra year to help with the burden of doing everything themselves. 

Now I am not saying that Denmark doesn't have it's share of chauvinists who would insist their wives take the two years so they can work uninterruptedly towards promotions (and not have to change much nappies) but they are in fact a shrinking minority in the country and smart laws like this which does not discriminate on gender but instead simply helps protect the rights of parents to be there for their children and recognizes that the social good of parents spending more time with their infant children is greater than the social good that would be achieved by their economic productivity in that same period actually helps promote that attitude. By taking gender out of the having-children time-off equation entirely, it helps to remove it from the society. It actively endorses the idea that fathers should be true co-parents, rather than merely "providers" – and that is progressive, that is liberal. That is both liberal and individualist – and it makes for a better society to live in.

Nov 142012
 

Rightwingers among us tend to cite as one of their core values "personal responsibility" – this being their major argument against welfare systems of any kind. The truth however is that this is argument is filled with a critical paradox that invalidates it completely.

Now it's worth remembering that most rightwingers also oppose labour law of any kind – their belief being that all labour contracts are signed freely and therefore exploitation is in fact impossible. It's your own responsibility to negotiate a fair labour contract for yourself.

So far, even if you don't agree, this is a sensible and at least logical position. What they tend not to mention is: children. The very first labour laws the world ever passed was a ban on child-labour. This was not an arbitrary decision. In the United Kingdom prior to the passing of the anti-child-labour bills during the height of the 19th century industrial revolution nine out of ten children died before the age of ten, and almost all of them from deaths caused directly by the labour they were doing. From industrial accidents to simple overwork (which for a growing body which needs most of it's food consumption to grow new cells is a much greater risk than for an adult). The ban on child-labour was not intended to stop kids doing chores, having paper-runs or anything like that- and indeed all these things are alive and well in the world today. Child-actors make a fortune, but there are strict controls about how much they are allowed to work to avoid these problems and most general labour is completely restricted to anybody below a certain age (in South Africa that age is 15).

Indeed it's a fundamental principle of the law that a child is not capable of taking full responsibility for their actions. This is why a minor cannot sign a legally binding contract. This is why we have age-of-consent laws around sex. Because personal responsibility is held to be impossible for a child.

Now most (not all but at least most) right-wingers would actually agree up to here (indeed they also tend to be at the forefront of legislation around this – such as calls for increased censorship of children), but it causes a massive problem for the 'personal responsibility' concept.

Why is this ? Because a child is not capable of taking personal responsibility, the responsibility must instead be devolved onto others. Generally this is their parents, or other legal guardians. Unfortunately it is also a fact that a large number of parents and guardians are incapable or unable to fulfil this responsibility. From mildly understandable and forgiveable things like health problems (including severe mental health problems), severe poverty or addictions to more terrifying ones like abuse and cruelty – bad parenting is a disturbingly common problem.

A direct result of this is the street children problem so prevalent in many places (particularly here in South Africa). Now since society has declared that children cannot take personal responsibility – and indeed have legally constrained them from even attempting to do so (in order to prevent exploitation) these children are now a logical problem. Those who should be responsible for them aren't. They cannot take personal responsibility. 

The only logical conclusion is that society as a whole removed their capacity for responsibility, therefore society as a whole have adopted that responsibility. We are all responsible for all the children. We are, each of us, personally responsible for every street child out there. What we don't do for them – is a as bad as what their parents didn't do. Anything else is a massive logical flaw.

The moment you say and acknowledge that however, you are left with a problem. Can private charity alone handle this issue?  The answer is clearly "no". At no point in history has private charity been able to deal with the problem of abandoned children – there are simply too many, needing too much correlated and agreed-upon action. The only system that has shown any ability to deal with the problem has been institutionalized welfare, which can provide the kind of overarching and correlated activity required here.

So the only logical way we can see abandoned children is as our responsibility. The only logical way we can fulfil that responsibility is through institutionalized welfare – and the moment you accept that, then you have to accept that often the best way to address that responsibility is to assist parents who would be doing it well themselves but simply lack the means. So right there, you've come to the conclusion that welfare for adults is, at least sometimes, the only way of dealing with the people who are not CAPABLE of taking personal responsibility. 

Now note that I never said STATE welfare, merely institutional welfare. In a republican democracy like South Africa that would be a state-function, but institutionalized welfare systems also exist in anarchic philosophies. 

In the end though – the concept of personal responsibility instead  of welfare is logically unsupported, indeed creates a paradox. Ironically despite what the rightwingers claim liberals ALSO believe in personal responsibility, but they extend it. Right-wingers believe in taking personal responsibility for yourself. Liberals believe in taking personal responsibility for yourself AND FOR OTHER PEOPLE.

This does not negate their responsibility to themselves, it merely extends it with your responsibility toward them, and extends your personal responsibility for yourself with others also taking responsibility. This becomes the social safety net. The difference between solitary animals and social animals (and humans are decidedly a social animal).

Even if you don't agree with, or even like, the liberal idea that you are your brother's keeper (which rather makes right-wing ideology utterly incompatible with the ideals of Christianity – the overwhelming religion among right-wing people) you cannot get around the fact that the right wing idea of personal-responsibility in isolation is a logical paradox that is completely unsupportable by any rational standard. 

Until and unless they can come up with a new system – that addresses the problem in their logic – only the liberals can claim to at least make sense. 

Oct 222012
 

How do you write a poem ? I've been doing it for about 20 years now, and all I can say about it is – I haven't got a fucking clue. There's a conscious process of inspiration, of thinking about how some other writer you enjoyed would have expressed something, and an unconscious process of just expressing yourself and they are in constant conflict and out of that contradiction comes poetry. 

I have no idea why there are times I can write 5 good poems in an hour, and times I can't write a line of poetry in six months. 

But my latest six months appear to be ending… I had a depressing few weeks, you know they kind, when you're nostalgic and romanticise the past even as you know you're doing it and remind yourself of what was wrong with those same pictures – and then you just feel sadder because your memories are as sad as the world now  ? And all you can do is cling to the few people who make you happy, because you know the world probably never will. 

Then I had a hectic weekend, an insane one, going from one emotional extreme to another – with a shitload of rock and roll thrown in. 

How do you write poetry ? Fuck me if I know… but I can tell you how I wrote this one. I took all those crazy emotions of this weekend – and quite a few of you reading will recognize yourselves as having produced one of these intense moments… and you try to find out what the emotion behind it was, and find words to make others feel the same feeling -and then you tell them what you are doing to them so they feel it even more (you hope)… and you build it all around a line that started as a horrible joke you then declared "I have to use in a poem one day" to the general horror of your current audience.

And you call the whole thing by a neologistic title that nobody will be entirely sure they figured out. 

And so I give you: Secretionitive

 

Then finally, to put an unpopped cherry on the old cake, you write a blogpost (which you haven't done in too long) about writing a poem (which you haven't done in even longer) and you try to make sense of your mind until everybody thinks you're being really insightful… or something.