Sunday, 12 August 2012
Sunday, 12 August 2012
"No man ever steps in the same river twice," the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus is said to have said. Life and the universe are in a permanent state of flux.
This view seems to be true, if you think about it commonsensically. Apparently science corroborates it too. But what I have in mind is something less (or, depending on how you look at it, more) prosaic. I think that it is possible for anyone to go through such life-changing experiences that you end up wondering whether your personal notion of personal identity is correct.
Time passes and things change. Constantly. That is clearly what Heraclitus of Ephesus meant. According to serious scientists, that is what happens at the molecular level. Gradually, all molecules of our bodies are replaced by other molecules, so that not a single one of our current molecules is a molecule that was part of us at a certain point in our past. But we are, of course, still recognisably us.
Some people, however, undergo changes that are so drastic that this natural flux of life wouldn't be enough to explain them. For instance, when someone becomes an atheist, having been religious all of his or her life. Obviously, small changes will have happened along the way, preparing the ground for such a conversion. Yet, others never change, even if all the molecules of their bodies happen to have been replaced by new molecules since the last time they prayed to their gods.
There are changes that come about through really revolutionary processes. I was thinking about that kind of change just now.
This subject was kind of forced into my mind by a film I saw this evening. I film about a guy who can see when someone is approaching their death. Many scenes in it are suffused with moving statements and images. My first mental impulse was to ponder just how much human beings are capable of saturating life with sentiments which aren't strictly necessary. I felt that our reaction to death is influenced both by animal instinct and culture. We reject death instinctively; but human societies develop different ways to express this rejection. Part of the reason why we reject death is love; but, from a biological point of view, love is simply the name we give to an emotion that we all feel and which fits quite easily in a evolutionary view of life.
By now, however, I was asking myself whether such a dispassionate take on death (and, consequently, on life) isn't actually supremely unwise. It may well be a realistic insight into the matter, but if I am to seek to live a life that I can call good, meaning is something that will have to be part of it. There could come a point where I'm well-advised to accept my absorption into a scheme of things in which utter indifference is all that there is, and be philosophical and almost quizzical about death. That would be my own death, I guess, and even then I might be moved by the beauty of what I'm becoming. For the time being, though, I'm more inclined to stick with love.
Sunday, 5 August 2012
Sunday, 5 August 2012
I've just watched a video on youtube about conspiracies surrounding the 7th of July 2005 suicide bomb attacks on the London transport system. Apparently, a guy calling himself Muab Dib (who turns out to be an Englishman from Sheffield called John Hill) came up with an intriguing and compelling conspiracy theory, which he explains in a specially produced DVD that was sent by him to many people in the UK. The DVD is titled Ripple Effect. The video I watched is an episode of a BBC programme called Conspiracy Files. I had never heard about Ripple Effect and I must confess that I can't be bothered to watch it. The Conspiracy Files programme demolishes Muab Dib's theory very convincingly. That didn't surprise me: I'm very sceptical about such conspiracy theories, especially the one about the 9/11 terrorist atrocity in New York. I think people who insist on peddling these conspiracy theories miss a point which I find very important.
Some people seem to harbour a vague and general suspicion that the world is ruled by some sort of secret society, which will stop at nothing to achieve its goals. That is why they reckon that an ex-President of the USA and an ex-British Prime Minister are behind 9/11 and 7/7. They think (rightly, in my view) that those atrocities helped George W Bush and Tony Blair make their case for keeping up their fight against 'terror'. Which in turn furthered their world domination designs. Without 9/11 it would have been harder to convince Americans and Brits of the need to invade Iraq, to mention one example. The British were actually overwhelmingly against the invasion of Iraq, up to the point when it was carried out, and even more so afterwards. But there is no doubt that 9/11 changed most people's perception of reality. Saddam Hussein would have been far less demonizable without 9/11. Donald Rumsfeld, Bush's Secretary of Defence at the time of the invasion, made this clear when he said that the invasion of Iraq was directly connected to 9/11. I remember clearly him saying something about things being seen through a new prism after the Twin Towers attacks. And so conspiracy theorists simply go one step further. If the above-mentioned terrorist atrocities were in some ways useful to Blair and Bush, wouldn't it make sense for them to hope for them? And to go on to plan and carry them out?
Even though this isn't particularly relevant here, I think one needs to look at the people who entertain these conspiracy theories. Just in case. What other beliefs do they hold? Well, Muab Dib thinks that he's Jesus Christ. Literally. And then there is the large number of Mosque-going Muslims who find the theories quite cogent. But to dwell on these facts is just a diversion, as far as I'm concerned.
I think Muab Dib is a nutcase, but I also think that Muslim people are unfairly discriminated against by a lot of people in the UK. You can't blame a Muslim person for wanting to prove everybody wrong regarding the religious background of the perpetrators of the 9/11 and the 7/7 terrorist attacks. If they turned out to be Christian, the phrase Islamic terrorism would have to be replaced by Christian terrorism. However, the fact that someone might have a reasonably legitimate reason for wanting to believe that this or that reality is true has no bearing on whether it is or isn't true.
The main point in my opinion is that indulging in conspiracy theorising is to overshoot the mark. Of course the powerful nations of this world don't base their actions on moral considerations. Of course they mess up with other people's countries. But to see this as a deliberately elaborated foreign policy is, I believe, a mistake. The great Noam Chomsky said something once which I think is the key to how powerful nations go about their ruthless and remorseless domination business. It's not as if governments, corporations and the media collaborated in a conscious effort to wreak havoc around the world for their own benefit. They certainly do collaborate with each other to wreak havoc around the world (and to create misery to many people at home), but they do that thinking they are doing something else. This world elite is pretty much naturally selected to be exactly where they are. When they use words like freedom, stability, prosperity, democracy and the like, they take them do mean what good dictionaries say they mean, without for a moment doubting that what they are doing is the right thing to do.
Now, that doesn't always seem to be the case. Sometimes it does look as if people are just being deliberately ruthless full stop. But to believe that is to misread the motivations of today's powerful interests.
The very rich and the very powerful see their wealth and their power as a right they are entitled to. They see themselves as the exemplification of the soundness of the system they champion. To turn the very powerful into comic-strip villains is to play the fool in a different way from those who worship their political leaders. They may avoid being deceived by state propaganda, but they turn themselves into laughing stocks.
Anyway, I needed to say this to myself. Conspiracy theorists are a blessing in disguise for power-mad governments everywhere.
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
I've just seen an American movie called Salt of the Earth, from 1954. It is about a miners' community in New Mexico that goes on strike. It is somewhat depressing to realise that some of the themes developed in the movie are still eerily contemporary. Workers' rights being trampled on, ethnic minorities being treated as second class citizens, people in power willing to deploy all sorts of devious and illegal tactics. The film is, to some extent, a fairy tale, in that its happy end has ordinary people overcoming powerful interests. Although I'm not sure whether that was already the case at the time in which the story is set. I don't know whether such happy end was a very unlikely outcome in real life already at that time. It seems to me that it is set somewhere in the first half of the 20th century. Perhaps the information was given at some point, but I missed it. Whatever the case may be, the story does come across as a fairy tale today. The current Occupy movement is very encouraging and inspiring; but given the extent to which technology has been harnessed and turned into a means of seemingly unlimited violence, I can't help but wonder to what extent the populations of Western countries and above all the USA are safe from harm coming from the powers that be.
This is one of the things that went on in my mind's life today.
I have also been thinking about Venezuela's inclusion in the Mercosul, which is an economic and political agreement between some of the main powers in South America, including Brazil, the most powerful of them all. South American countries, led mainly by Brazil, have been quietly and consistently adopting a defiant stance regarding foreign and indeed domestic policy. Defiant to the extent that their policies aren't the kinds of policy that the US government would tend to favour, to put it mildly. And it seems to me that the good news is that this development is likely to favour the majority of the population not only in South America, but also all around the globe. The so-called 99%.
These things are important, because the very survival of humankind could be at stake. Typical so-called neo-con policies are, generally speaking, amenable to climate change denial. In fact, those policies are actually designed to keep the pace of global warming continuously increasing.
I've also been thinking about losing some weight and, which is a related subject, sticking with my alcohol abstinence. I need to start exercising. Mind you, I've been taking long walks almost on a daily basis lately.
Money has been on my mind too, since I was taken by surprise late last night by a payment which turned out to be substantially smaller than I expected. It is incredible to think of how many tiring things have been going through my head in the last twenty four hours, beginning with my dreams. Dreams of precarious housing after a flood. Perhaps it is alright to be a bit manicheistic sometimes. Maybe life is really all black and white. The power of light versus the power of darkness in an eternal battle of wills. Our job is to stay on the side of light. And of illumination. I shall keep on trying my best. I guess most people find themselves in a kind of twilight zone from time to time. Gosh, how vulnerable I am, come to think of it! How weak and susceptible. I'm sure there are many others out there who feel the same way about themselves. I think they are right to feel that way. And so am I.