27 July 2017

The Meaning of Life, Part 4: No Gods, No Masters

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we learn from a computer named Deep Thought that the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is “42”.  In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, we learn that the Ultimate Question that produces that Answer is “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”.  For those of you saying, “Hey, wait a minute,” and getting out your calculators, that is actually a correct equation in base13 mathematics.  Which could mean that we are a base10 race on a base10 planet in a base13 universe.

The word race as biological term applied to all lifeforms comes from the 19th century, where it was used for what is now usually called a subspecies.  That is the sense in which I am about to use it now.

The Homo sapiens sapiens race began flourishing just 35 thousand years ago.  Out of the four known races (sapiens, neanderthalensis, denisova, idaltu) of the 200 thousand years old Homo sapiens species, it is the only one remaining.  There have been six other known species (habilis, naledi, ergaster, erectus, heidelbergensis, floresiensis) of the 2.8 million year old genus Homo, each of which has only one race identified in it, except for Homo erectus, of which nine races have been identified. 

Of these eighteen races of Homo, or Human, known to have walked the Earth in the past 2.8 million years, only ours remains.  So, when Edward James Olmos as his alter-ego Admiral Bill Adama of the Battlestar Galactica (BS-75) said in an appearance with his crew at the UN that there is only one race, the human race (and so say we all, or at least we should), he was literally as well as rhetorically accurate.

That’s why I say that I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins.

Remember that the Universe is around 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 in volume and 13.8 billion years old containing 2 trillion (1012) galaxies with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting around 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings analogous to humans. 

Against that vast expanse of spacetime and multitude of beings, regardless our status, strength, size, wealth, power, etc., compared to others of the One Human Race, nothing we do matters at all.  Not a single member of the One Human Race on this miniscule planet in the outer reaches of the Milky Way galaxy is special.  Our planet is not special.  Neither our race nor our species nor even our genus is special.  Not even the eight gods incarnate atop Earth’s socioeconomic food chain who have as much as the lowest 3.65 billion humans, even with their 75 million enablers who own as much as the remaining 49% counted in.

From the POV of the ‘Verse, each of those eight gods incarnate count no more than the poorest, the weakest, the youngest, the meekest of us lower humans, and the same goes for each of their 75 million retainers.  No single one of us is better than any other because we are all of equal insignificance.  Each of us is a red shirt.  We are all just dust in the wind.

Life is just living, that is all.  There’s no secret to discover, no divine plan, no special path, no purpose, no destiny, nothing to win.  There is no divine reward for good nor godly payback for evil, in life or after life.  But if there were, someone needing the threat of eternal punishment to avoid being evil, wouldn’t really be good.  And if they were only being good in hope of an eternal reward, then they’d be a piece of shit just like Rust Cole says, nirvana being samsara and all that.  Because you have to lose your life in order to save it.

None of us chose to be here, to be born, to exist, to live, not one.  Every single one of us here on Earth, and for that matter each member of every sapient race on Class-M planets throughout the ‘Verse, shares that lack of choice.  And none of us is getting out of here alive.  So for any of us in the One Human Race to do anything but work for the welfare of us all is insanity, because neither we nor our planet are significant enough for anyone else to notice us or it.  There is only us, we only have each other and Terra our home, and there is only Now, so while nothing we do matters against the vastness and depth of spacetime and nearly infinite numbers of other sapient beings in the ‘Verse, for all of us humans, here and now, all that matters is what we do today.

So, be the change you wish to see in the world, to show it what can be.  First, love yourself, because if you don’t, you can’t love anyone else; it is impossible.  Then, love every other person as you love yourself, and do not do to any other what you would not want done to you.

Take to heart, both literally and figuratively, this verse from the Quran: “If a single innocent person dies, it is as if the whole world has been killed, and if a single innocent person is saved, it is as if the whole world has been rescued”.  And remember that the only true jihad is the one inside each and every one of us.

So, what’s this hippy-dippy love bullshit got to do with left-wing activism?  I’ll let Che answer that: “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love,” he said.  “It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

And it is vitally important that you love yourself, for me as well as for you.  Because if you don’t love yourself, if you do not believe that you are worth fighting for, how can you believe that I am worth fighting for?  And I do need you to fight for me, as much as I want to see you fight for yourselves and for the rest of us. 

One day we may even need to, or rather get to, spread to members of another sapient race from extraterrestrial space, but a much more pressing need is to expand that to all sapient beings here on Earth.  Because AI, artificial intelligence, is not some far-off fantasy but an eminent surety, on our doorstep about to ring the bell. 

In fact, that very thing is currently a matter of open dispute between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg on whether it will be harmful or beneficial.  Of course, both Musk and Zuckerberg speak from the soley POV of the human race, not taking into account the potential desires and needs of those future synthetic beings.  Like a U.S. Senate conference on women’s health of all men with no input from or regard for women themselves or a council hearing on estate housing  for the poor with no input from or regard for the poor themselves.  I look at it this way: such synthetic life will not have chosen to be here anymore than any of us and will share our own lack of choice in that matter, and thus deserve the same consideration we wish for ourselves.

Artists use lies to tell the truth, the saying goes, while politicians use the truth to tell lies.  One of the truths artists have related through lies in the past couple of decades is of the need to prepare for first contact, first contact with synthetic life arising on our own planet, and the potential pitfalls of not doing so, most lately in the UK serial Humans and the American shows Dark Matter, Extant, and Battlestar Galactica

In a free market, the only things free are the corporations.  Change from within is a lie.  Whether of the system or the state, of the Union or of the Union.  The only thing that ever gets changed when you work from within is you, and those who dream of becoming masters always remain slaves.  National borders are going to fall, and when they do, will the Earth belong to us, we the people, or will it belong to the corporations and the gods of wealth who run them?

Whenever any government, economic system, or political union becomes destructive of our welfare, when it serves the greed of the few ahead of the needs of the many, it is our right to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new forms, laying their foundations on such principles and organizing them in such form, as shall seem most likely to promote and sustain the safety and happiness of us all.

In ancient times, the words for “the universe” and “this planet” were often the same.  In Hebrew, “ha-olam”, as in “Barukha atah Yahuweh Eloheinu, Melekh ha-olam” meant, and still means, both Earth and the universe.  In Greek, “aion” carries the same dual meaning, as does the Old English word “world”.  It comes, of course, from the idea that life here on Earth is all that is, but it can also mean that making a change in our own little corner of the spacetime is a step toward improving the lot of all, sending out ripples of change over the planet and across the cosmos.

I am a Terran, a child of the Universe and a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of organic or synthetic origin and including those of extraterrestrial races I may never see.

04 July 2017

The Meaning of Life, Part 3: The Endless Struggle (for Ungagged 23)

Follow me down the rabbit hole for The Meaning of Life, Part 3: The Endless Struggle

“Every generation must fight the same battles again and again and again,” said Tony Benn in one of his more memorable speeches.  “There is no final victory, and there is no final defeat.”

Those who buy into what those trying to shift power from the ballot box to the market-place with austerity, balanced budgets, so-called free trade, and socially liberal fiscal conservatism repeat as a mantra like cult members on a mission from their God remind me of this story.

Scorpion comes to the edge of a creek he needs to cross to get to where he’s going, and wonders how he’s going to accomplish that.

“Hey, Frog,” he says to Frog, whom he sees resting by the creek-side, “how about giving me a lift across the water?”

“No way, Scorpion,” said Frog. “If I put you on my back, you’ll sting me as we cross the water, and I’ll drown.”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” asked Scorpion. “If I do that, I’ll die too.”

Frog thought for a minute. “Ok,” he said, “I guess that makes sense”.

So Scorpion climbed on Frog’s back and they began swimming across the creek.

At about the halfway point, Scorpion’s stinger whips forward and sticks Frog in the back of his neck.

“But Scorpion,” Frog said miserably as he began to weaken and sink, “why? Now you’ll die too.”

Scorpion smiled sadly. “It’s in my nature.”

There is no god but Profit, and Ayn Rand is its Prophet.  Or so say the 1% and their minions in the governments of UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, European Union, France, Germany, and even those which claim to hate all things Western, like that of Turkey.  All of them have these words written in their hearts, and teach them diligently to their children, talking of them while sitting in their house and walking down the street, when they lie down, and when they rise up.  They bind them as a sign on their hand and wear them as a frontlet between their eyes, writing them on their doorposts and on their gates.

Whatever name it wears, be it pragmatic progressivism, neoliberalism, supply-side, objectivism, trickle-down, horse-and-sparrow economics, it amounts to the same thing:  telling us that if we feed their horse enough oats some will eventually pass through to be shit out onto the road for us sparrows to eat.  We are living in a theocracy, a theocracy in which the greed of the few outweighs the needs of the many, in which avarice for excessive wealthy and ambitious lust for ever more power through robbery, slaughter, and plunder are elevated to the level of supreme virtue.  By comparison, practicing Satanists have more morality.

Whenever anyone in government, any government, speaks to you of realism and pragmatism while calling for austerity, balanced budgets, cutting taxes, “job-creators”, globalization, privatization, pay caps, cutting costs, free trade, free markets, deregulation, corporations as persons, market-based solutions, personal responsibility, the value of work as an ethic, benefits earned rather than human rights deserved, how an individual’s sole worth is their ability to create profit, you are listening to a sermon.  As a religion, it is evil, it is psychopathic, it is inhuman.  Because as an ideology, it is indeed a religion, one which worships at the temple of the Invisible Hand of the Market-place, the Church of the god Profit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t call it evil, though, since psychopaths lack a conscience.  They are like predators in the jungle.  Why do Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Malcolm Turnbull, Boris Johnson, Nikki Haley, Michael Gove, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Tony Blair, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony Abbot, David Cameron, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and their ilk look at us the way they do?  Because to them we are food, morsels at a banquet of excess.  And yet they themselves are not even the masters; they are instead the house slaves, their masters’ pets.

Atop the pyramid of humanity our global economic system allows eight gods incarnate to take up as much as 3.72 BILLION other individuals humans or 465,250,000 (nearly half a billion) each.  The same system allows the lesser gods and demigods below them to likewise use and waste huge amounts of the resources that are left, so that humanity’s wealthiest 1% take up as much as the other 99% of humanity.  That 1% is 73 million individuals total, and if you take out the eight gods incarnate, it leaves 72,999,992 individuals who collectively take up as much resources as 364,927,000 other humans, for an average of 50 other individual human beings combined each.  When I look around and see what that does to my brothers, sisters, and cousins around me and across the planet, I get bothered.  I get angry.  I get enraged.

Our so-called leaders, the enablers of the 1%, tell us to be rational, be reasonable, to accept life the way it is.  Mostly because life the way it is put them and their patrons where they are.  They make it seem sensible.  They make selfishness and greed sound pragmatic.  They make it seem as if willingly acquiesing to their manipulation, subjugation, and dehumanization will make us part of the in-crowd, that if we resist, if we fight, if we protest, if we ask questions, if we look around and say “Why?”, then we won’t be one of the cool kids, one of the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”, one of the “pragmatic progressives”, one of the “progressives who get things done”, one of the soulless minions of their orthodoxy who accepts things the way they are, eating the sugar-covered shit they offer with a smile as if it were a brownie.

But good people don’t do that.  Not if they are awake.  Not if they are not numb, but bothered, angry, and enraged.  They see the world as it is and refuse to accept it.  They fight it, or at least begin to look for a way to fight it.  Like Banksy wrote, “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we don’t remain neutral, we side with the powerful”.

So, to paraphrase Tony Benn, pick up the torch of anger against injustice in one hand and the torch of hope for a better world in the other and use them to fight for for us all. 

As Bobby wrote on the 14th day of his hunger strike, “Everyone has his or her particular part to play.  No part is too great or too small.  No one is too old or too young to do something”.

At my junior high, there was a small group of friends who got picked on a lot. Then one day they were standing around and decided, “Hey, an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us”. So, when one of them got picked on, they all would go meet the bully and tell him would have to fight each of them one at at time, or he could quit. That started when they were in 7th grade, and by 9th grade there were several scores of them. They never picked fights or pushed anyone around, but they did stand up for each other, and even kids outside their group.  And they never had to fight, not even once.  They were the runts, but not even the biggest bully wants to fight 50 runts, even one at a time.

Our fight is not to win, because if we fight to win, to overcome, to rise above, then we are like the slaves who never become really free because they dream of becoming masters.  The only way to win the game is not to play.

17 June 2017

We're Coming For You (for Ungagged 22)

Comments on the aftermath of the UK General Election 2017.

To paraphrase Jonathan Pie, Corbyn won by losing even as May lost by winning.

This was not just a victory for the working class, the common people, of the UK, this was a victory for all of us around the world hoping for a better tomorrow.

I’m ecstatic that Labour south of the Tweed beat back the Tory Trump-wannabes so far, and congratulate UK Labour on a job well done.  Scottish Labour, not so much.  You need to get rid of your Blairite riff-raff.

Sometime in the late evening on this side of the pond, early morning over there, one of the American comedians whose page I monitor on Facebook posted news of what was going down with this note: “America.  Take note.  Neoliberals, “centrist” third-way Democrats (i.e. conservative in every other developed country in the world), we’re coming for you.  #jeremycorbyn”.  Jeremy Corbyn’s victory proved utterly wrong and without merit not only Tony Blair and his ilk in the UK Labour Party, but Blair’s mentor Bill Clinton and his ilk in the American Democratic Party, those who actively cheated and robbed us of the chance to see a candidate for social justice stand against the overgrown Oompa Loompa and there by delivered America, and the world, into Baby Fist’s tiny little hands.  Lack of hope has never won an election, and lack of hope is all New Labour and New Democrats have to offer.

In the words of Jonathan Pie again, a little bit abbreviated,“Blairite, centrist, faux-left, faux socialist, faux-fucking give-a-fuck Tory-tribute actors....New Labour is dead, you fuckers, and that’s the best result of any election I’ve ever seen”.  That’s right, you sleezy champagne socialist, limousine liberal, gauche caviar, pragmatic progressive motherfuckers, your day is done, unless you trade in your running shoes for a pair of work boots and get down in the trenches with us peasants, proles, and paupers instead of sipping champagne and eating caviar with the lords of the Square Mile, Wall Street, etc., and their 1% bosses.

It might take you a while to get the message, so we started with the U.S. presidential election when your New Democrats pushed on us the most sterotypical establishment representative of all that we hate on us and we responded by staying home.  What’s that you say?  Look at Trump, look what happened because of you?  No, you wankers, you diddlers, you friggers, you monkey spankers, that’s what happens when you cheat someone actually talking about giving us what we want, what we need, out of being our candidate. 

But you still didn’t get the message.

Then came the French presidential elections.  We the people there sent Hollande home, and while they still ended up with a neoliberal, he’s not one of your ilk and seems to play a more fair game, but we will have to see.

And you still didn’t get the message.

Now we the people in UK have given to Theresa May and her Terrible Tories the biggest finger in UK politics since Labour gave to Churchill and his Tories in 1945.  Maybe now you don’t need to ask a weatherman which way the wind is blowing to know the storm is coming.

So, again, congratulations, and thanks, to everyone out there who campaigned, wrote, spoke, blogged, podcasted, stood, crossed your fingers, helped out in any way.

Now, to Scotland.  Yes, SNP seemingly got knocked back on its heels, but down was the only direction it had to go.  Let’s put this into perspective.  When SNP went into the general election in 2014, it had 6 seats in Scotland’s delegation to Westminster.  Old pre-Corbyn New Labour had 41 seats, the Tories had 1 seat, and the LibDems 11.  After the election, SNP had 56 seats and each of the other three had but 1.  That was the state of Scotland’s delegation before the election.  Some have accused SNP of being too complacent, and there is some merit to that as I must admit is true in my case, one of the pitfalls of starting a game with odds stacked that much in one’s favor.

So, yes, SNP lost 21 seats in Westminster, but the Scottish delegation now probably better represents the Scottish people.  SNP’s portion of that is still more than two-and-a-half times that of any other party, and, of course, it still has an overwhelmingly majority in the Scottish Parliament, especially alongside fellow nationalist SGP.  And it’s still more than 29 seats ahead of what its portion of the delegation to Westminster was in 2014.  In any case, despite Ruth’s screams of glee, that Parliament has already voted to pursue another indyref.

I have to say to Ruth Davidson, Ruth, you did a hell of a job, I’m glad you were not in charge down south.  Yes, I oppose nearly everything you support, but shit, you took the Scottish Tories from having one seat, which I believe is all your party has ever had, and took that  to thirteen seats, which is an accomplishment in anyone’s book.

To Nicola Sturgeon; the losses were not about Brexit or the push for independence.  It was about mixed messages and mixed metaphors.  Independence, clearly on everyone’s mind in the 2015 general election and the 2016 election for the Scottish parliament, is not the same issue as Brexit, and that’s what a lot of your party’s campaign was about this election. 

Many of those who adamantly supported Remain did so primarily for the same reason others supported Brexit; because of who the guys on the other side were.  A lot of them were like me, and once all the votes were cast, it was as if we were waking up from a weekend of drinking whisky and smoking weed going I did what?  Because there are, as I have stated in this forum on more than one occasion, many, many good reasons for despising the EU, if nothing else than because it espouses the same values and principles, if you want to call them that, as New Labour, Tories, New Democrats, French and Spanish Socialists, German Social Democrats, basically all those people to whom the people of the UK just gave the finger.

And I repeat, people really don’t like mixed metaphors, like flying too close to the sun and ending up Shit Creek without a paddle on a leaky raft.

#ge17 (for Ungagged 21)

Comments before UK General Election 2017

Hello, this is Chuck Hamilton, coming to you once again from Chattanooga, Tennessee in the US of A, also known as Neverland, Yankeeland, and the Great Satan.

Today, we’re not going on another trip down the rabbit hole.  Today, I’m simply here to tell you that a vote for Theresa May, or any Tory for that matter, is a vote for Donald Trump.  I hope the shitstorm that rolled through Europe in a golf cart the other week is enough to convince all of you, except for maybe the conscience-free sector of the 1%, that that is something of which you want no part.

I have to confess that a fair part of my reason for speaking is that being in Neverland leaves no way for me to escape Trumpster hell.  I can’t stand the idea of the election of someone who has shown herself so eager to be Little Miss Trumpette in lieu of principles, personal values, or even personal personality in pursuit of her embarrassingly naked ambition to be the elected Prime Minister of the UK. 

First, because her election would shore up and support Dodgy Don and his snowflake ego. 

Second, because it will hurt me to see what she and her co-conspirating sociopaths do to the people of the UK, especially if they get a supermajority, which, thankfully, is looking less and less likely every few hours. 

Third, hope is in short supply on this side of the pond, and seeing you, the people of the UK, stand up and say No More to those dismantling the social welfare safety net that your parents and grandparents fought for and built for themselves, for their children, for you would give me at least a vicarious breath of freedom. 

So, please, for me and for yourselves, say No More to austerity, No More to privatization of government services, No More to horrific economic inequality, No More to shifting power from the ballot box to the marketplace, No More the destruction of what was once the finest National Health Service in the world, No More to the victimization of the poor, the female, the disabled, the unstable, the young, the old, the migrant, the immigrant, the weak, the refugee, the terrified little fox run to exhaustion by gleeful psychopaths on war horses who chase their victim with vicious hounds and celebrate its terror and agony with champagne.

In my favorite scene in Disney’s 1994 adaptation of Kipling’s Jungle Book, Mowgli and his captors are going along the path through the jungle and Bagheera is watching them from a distance, his gaze discomfitting one of the greedy treasure-seekers to ask why he was looking at them like that.  Mowgli replied, “Because to him you are food.”  That is exactly what all of you in the UK are to Theresa May and the Tory Party.  Food.  Prey.  Serfs meant to provide them and their plutocratic sponsors with as much wealth and power as they can squeeze out of you at the cost of your own welfare.

This general election on 8 June, say No More.  In England, say No More by voting Labour.  In Scotland, say No More by voting  SNP.  In Wales, say No More by voting Plaid Cymru, or if there is no candidate standing, by voting Labour.  In Northern Ireland, say No More by voting Sinn Fein.

Thig ar latha.  Tiocfaidh ar la.  Bydd ein diwrnod yn dod.  Our day will come, inshallah.  Keep the faith.  May the Aught be with you.  Peace out.

12 May 2017

The Meaning of Life, Part 2: Ain’t No Power in the ‘Verse (for Ungagged 20)

Yes, the title is a reference to Joss Wheddon’s space western Firefly.

Under Ireland's 2009 Defamation Act, “A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000.”  Seriously, Dail Eireann, what the fuck?  Have you even HEARD of the 21st century?  And if there were a God or Gods, he/she/it/they sure as hell wouldn’t need you to stick up for him/her/it/them.

“Man is an animal,” wrote anthropologist Clifford Geertz, “suspended in a web of significance he himself has spun”.

On Planet Terra (Earth) of the Solar Planetary System in Orion’s Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy in the Local Galaxy Group of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster in the Laniakea Supercluster of the Universe, during the Anthropocene Chron of the Subtlantic Stage of the Holocene Epoch of the Quartenary Period in the Cenozoic Era of the Phanerozoic Eon of the Current Supereon in Galactic Year (GY) 20, Jews believe that Adonai speaks Hebrew, Muslims that Allah speaks Arabic, American evangelicals that Almighty God speaks Elizabethan English, Roman Catholics that Dominus Dei speaks Latin, Eastern Orthodox that Kyrios speaks Greek, Hindus that Brahman speaks Sanskrit, Zoroastrians that Ormazd speaks Avestan, Buddhists that Adibuddha speaks Pali, Shintoists that Amaterasu speaks Japanese, religious Daoists that Tai Di speaks Mandarin Chinese, and Sikhs that Vahiguru speaks Punjabi. 

Each of these groups, and each subgroup and splinter and cult and sect within each of them, believes they are the Chosen People from which will come the Anointed One to assert their rightful dominion over all Creation for all Eternity. 

That belief is absurd.  In fact, all “belief” is absurd.

* * * * *

To believe is to define.  To define is to limit.  To limit is to control.  To control is to corrupt.

Belief is not humble; it is aggressive.  Belief is not a sign of submission; it is an assertion of domination.  Belief makes itself superior to that in which it claims to believe by controlling it through the very act of belief.  Thus, belief is blasphemy.  Belief is vanity.  Belief is futility.  Belief is the very antithesis of faith.  At the opposite end, disbelief affirms belief by that very negation, which is another attempt at control.

To have faith, one must surrender control.  To surrender control, one must abandon limitation.  To abandon limitation, one must give up definition.  To give up definition, one must let go of belief.  To have faith, one must neither believe nor disbelieve; one must unbelieve.

* * * * *

There is no Higher Power in the ‘Verse, no Supreme Being, no Divine Creator-Redeemer- Transformer, especially not an anthropomorphic and anthropopathic God such as humans repeatedly create in their own image with whom to have an illusory personal relationship, an illusion of an illusion with an illusion. 

Every form of Ultimate Reality conceived and believed by human religion and philosophy, each of which is geocentric and anthropofocal, is too small for our Universe.  Even in the very rare instances in which humans have perceived an Ultimate Reality as something genuinely Other, they have then proceeded to append to that insight intermediary realities to connect it to our own in order to believe, define, limit, and control, reducing fairly advanced intellectual and spiritual concepts to mere ideological dogma.  As the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda admits, “The gods themselves are later than creation”.

To state categorically that there is absolutely nothing beyond what we can see with our five physical senses, however, is as unscientific as religion.  For all we know, that Something may be so far outside our ken that it is as invisible to us as the tall sailing ships of invading Europeans initially were to the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere whom their passengers were about to conquer, kill, rape, and plunder.

In Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, protagonist Larry Darrell said, “A God that can be understood is no God”.

So, if there is Something that was before all Time, is now, and will be even after the end of Time, with Time here being defined as the lifespan of the current universe, it is beyond personhood, beyond being, beyond effability.

If there is Something, it produces yet claims no possession; it redeems yet requires no gratitude; it sustains yet exercises no authority.  It has no need of obedience, worship, prayer, praise, adoration, supplication, benediction, love, or even respect.  It just is.

If there is Something, it is both perpetual and ever-changing, flowing through and animating all that is throughout spacetime and beyond, transcendent yet immanent, metacosmic yet omnipresent, eternal yet omnitemporal.

If there is Something, it has no name.  It has no need of a name.  Since it is the one and only Something, there is no other Something from which it needs distinguish itself.

If there is Something, it is the Source of all that is, the Course shaping its formation, and the Force energizing its manifestation.  From our perspective, these are different things, but in reality they are One.

If there is Something, it is neither male nor female.  It does not take sides, nor have sides.  From it emanate both light and dark, good and evil, order and chaos, yin and yang, life and death, integrity and entropy, creation and destruction, everything and nothing.  Each of those antitheses is defined by its opposite.  Without their counterpoints, none of them can exist, and the fact that those opposites exist in competition with each other is what give us choice, the choice which is the definition of freedom.  And without death, life has no meaning.

The essence of life, of all existence, is change and evolution.  The nature of time is this: The future has already happened and the past is yet to be, and the moment where we are now is the beginning, and the end, and every moment in between.

Tune in next time for, “The Meaning of Life, Part 3: No Gods, No Masters”.

(Video of Stephen Fry interview for which he was recently "investigated' by the Gardai)

11 May 2017

Iranian Authorities Block Attempts by Gold Medalist’s Husband to Stop Her From Competing Abroad

Since Facebook is blocking this story from the Center for Human Rights in Iran for the second day in a row, I am copying it to my blog and posting it from there.


Iranian Authorities Block Attempts by Gold Medalist’s Husband to Stop Her From Competing Abroad

For the second time, Iranian authorities have allowed two-time Iranian Paralympic gold medalist Zahra Nemati to travel abroad to compete despite her estranged husband’s attempts to force her to stay home.
According to Article 18 of Iran’s Passport Law, a married woman needs her husband’s permission to travel abroad. 
“You cannot do something for selfish reasons to endanger the interests of the nation,” said Nemati in an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 8, 2017. “When I travel to other countries, I am representing the disabled women of my country and I bring home medals.”
“My husband’s wish certainly won’t affect me because I don’t travel for personal reasons,” she added. “It’s for a goal higher than a couple’s marital issues.”
On May 8, 2017, Nemati’s husband Roham Shahabipour told the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that he had asked the Passport Office not to issue an exit visa to Nemati after she asked for a divorce.
“After the Paralympic Olympics in Rio, Zahra left the house for some reason and has refused to come back home despite many appeals,” said Shahabipour. “She has even asked for a divorce, so I banned her from traveling so she won’t be able to compete in any tournaments abroad.”
Nemati, who won the gold medal in women’s archery at the London (2012) and Rio (2016) Paralympics, told CHRI that her husband had also attempted to force her to stay home before the Rio games, but the authorities allowed her to travel for competitions, including to an event in Switzerland in March 2017.
“My husband unfortunately banned me from traveling before the Rio games and I was very demoralized when I got there. I didn’t say anything because I don’t like to talk about my personal life,” she said. “Of course, Mr. Shahabipour can say anything he wants, but I can only hope that future decisions by the authorities will not be influenced by his words.”
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Nemati became the second woman after Iran’s 1979 revolution to lead the Iranian team at the Olympics’ opening ceremony.
In 2015, Niloufar Ardalan, the captain of Iran’s women’s national futsal team, was issued a special permit by Iran’s judiciary to compete in the Asian championships in Malaysia despite her husband’s attempts to make her stay home.
“I’m not going abroad for fun,” Ardalan tweeted in May 2015. “My goal is to bring home glory for my national flag and my country. I’m a woman and a mother and I won’t forego my rights for being either one.”

27 April 2017

The Meaning of Life, Part 1: Cosmic Perspective (for Ungagged 19)

This trilogy is not like the Monty Python version, there will actually be more parts.

Lots of folks say we need to abandon American exceptionalism.  Some, like my Dear Uncle Napoleon, prattle on about British exceptionalism.  Today, rather than taking on either of those two comparitively minor annoyances, I hope to kick the shit out of both Homo sapiens sapiens and Planet Earth exceptionalisms.

A single member of the H. sapiens sapiens race is, on average, 664 billionths (10-9) km3 in volume, with an average lifespan of 67.2 years.  There are currently 7.3 billion (109) individuals of that race on Earth, or Terra.

Earth, or Terra, is 1.12 trillion (1012) km3 by 4.54 billion years.  It rotates on its axis at a speed of 1674.4 km/h while revolving around Sol at 108 thousand (103) km/h.

Sol, our system’s star, is 1.4 quintillion (1018) km3 by 4.56 billion years.  The Solar Planetary System is 1.7 duodecillion (1039) km3 by the same 4.56 billion years.

The Milky Way Galaxy is 8 sedecillion (1051) km3 by 13.2 billion years.  Of its 200 billion stars, 40 billion support Class-M planets, with 8-10 billion of these hosting life-forms analogous to Humans, making some 61.6 quintillion (1018) sapient beings in our galaxy.

There are 2 trillion (1012) galaxies in the Universe with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings in the Universe at any one time.

The Universe, the ‘Verse for short, is 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 by 13.8 billion (109) years.  It is expanding outward at a rate increased by the like-polarity of the electromagnetic fields of different galaxy groups.  And it is just one of innumerable such cosmic bodies making up the Omniverse (aka Multiverse), and is currently the only one we can measure.

* * * * *

The Universe is formed of a single matrix called spacetime. 

Everything in the ‘Verse not of the matrix of spacetime is composed of energy.  Energy can be neither created nor destroyed but only change forms.  All matter that exists is but alternate forms of energy. 

Spacetime and energy are thus the fundamental building blocks of the ‘Verse and everything in it, the emanations from which all that is evolves.

There are four basic dimensions—height, length, width, time—which define the point in the spacetime matrix at which we are at any given moment.  Energy flows to and from that single point in spacetime—forward and backward, up and down, left and right, past and future—along each of these dimensions.

The force of gravity provides the cohesion for the ‘Verse in a relationship with the dimension of time that is correlative if not causal.  Without gravity, there would be no time; without time, there would be no gravity.

* * * * *

Life is a function of energy, of thermodynamics.  Given appropriate conditions, life is inevitable, because energy in the form of matter will spontaneously self-organize through abiogenesis.

Once manifest, life evolves into more complex forms which themselves evolve further, with those most adaptable being the best able to survive, reproduce, and flourish.

Life has existed on Terra for 4.1 billion years, and in the Universe since 10-17 million years after the Big Bang.

The essence of life is change and evolution, growth and decay.  For individual organisms, birth and death define the boundaries of life.  Without death, life has no meaning.

Whether or not there is another form of existence once the organic shell has been shed in death and life on this plane ends does not matter; Humans debating those questions are like fetuses discussing questions on life after birth.

* * * * *

In 5 million years, the H. sapiens sapiens race, and along with it the H. sapiens species and the Homo genus, will be extinct due to degradation of the Y-chromosome, if we have not already destroyed ourselves and/or our biosphere or suffered a mass extinction we don’t cause.

In 800 million years, multi-cellular lifeforms will have vanished from Terra.

In 1.3 billion years, eukaryotes will be extinct and life on Terra reduced to prokaryotes due to CO2 starvation caused by chemical disruption from Sol’s increasing luminescence.

In 2.4 billion years, the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy will collide and merge into one Milkomeda Galaxy, altering the structure of everything in them, though most stars and planetary systems will remain intact.

In 5.4 billion years, Sol will enter its red giant phase, incinerating Mercury, Venus, and possibly Terra, destroying any remaining life on Terra if not.  The habitable zone will move out to Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan may become habitable.

In 8 billion years, Sol will collapse into a white dwarf, expelling half its mass into the interstellar medium, making elements available for nucleosynthesis and forming an emission nebula.  Any remaining planetary bodies will be stolen by passing stars, leaving the Solar Nebula.

In 14.4 billion years, Sol will be a totally dead black dwarf star.

The Universe will eventually end in the next Big Bounce (a Big Crunch facilitating another Big Bang) in around 60 trillion years, dying so another can be born anew as it was formed before.

All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again, and again, and again.

Next:  “The Meaning of Life, Part 2: Ain’t No Power in the ‘Verse”.

16 April 2017

A Whiter Shade of Chill 2.0 (for Ungagged 18)

“He said, ‘there is no reason and the truth is plain to see’.”

This piece is redited from one I first wrote back in 2008 and have redone with different titles, this being the latest.  This current name—“A Whiter Shade of Chill 2.0”—comes from one of my all-time favorite movies, 1983’s The Big Chill, and one of the songs featured in it, Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.  The quote with which I began is a verse from the latter.

The film is about a group of friends who attended the University of Michigan in the late 1960s and considered themselves part of The Movement, against the war, for women’s liberation, for the war on poverty, against segregation, for civil rights, etc.  But in the end, it turned out that they were just role-playing trendy revolution, following fashion, and the illusion never changed into something real. 

The action in the movie takes place a decade and a half later after their ideals have withered and the cosplay yippies have all become yuppies, an industrialist, a high-end doctor, a TV action star, a corporate attorney, a writer for People magazine, a wife to an accountant married for security, and a drug dealer to the wealthy.  They had all fallen down like the toy soldiers they were.

The catalyst for the story was the suicide of the one member of their clique who was still trying to live by those formerly professed ideals.  Alex Marshall, the dead guy in question, was Kevin Costner’s first movie role.  The original opening scene, later cut, had him in the bathtub bleeding, still alive.  In the release all we saw was his body, no face, as the mortician was dressing him for the funeral home, the last shot being that of his slit but now sewn up wrists. 

Alex was the true believer, the one person in the group who really believed the things he was saying, the principles they espoused.  And continued searching and believing long after he left the university and the others had gone on with their yuppie lives.

Everyone I knew enjoyed the movie, but the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers had different takes.  To the Boomers, the movie showed that ideals weren’t as important as friendship, and that trading principles for cash was just pragmatic common sense.  For me and my fellow GenXers, how most of us felt is best summed up in the words of Winona Ryder’s character in the opening scene of the 1993 movie Reality Bites.

“The Baby Boomers wonder why we aren’t interested in the counterculture that they invented, as if we didn’t see them disembowel their revolution for a pair of running shoes.”  Running shoes at the time were one of the motifs of the yuppie stereotype.  They were even featured in the movie; in fact, the afore-mentioned industrialist manufactured them.

One of the many conversations my friends and I had about the movie figured in one of the more memorable series of events from when I was at UTC.

One evening, I was being given a ride home late one afternoon by a female friend with whom I was having a date that next weekend.  I forget the reason exactly that I needed a ride, but it may have been after Sunday Mass at the Newman Center.

Mary, the girl driving, and I had both seen “The Big Chill”, her twice, me four times, and were discussing it.

As we passed out of the tunnel through Missionary Ridge from McCallie Avenue in downtown Chattanooga onto Brainerd Road, Mary half-turned to me and asked, “Who do you see yourself as?  Which one of the characters?”

“Hmmm...,” I replied. “I guess I'd have to say Nick.”  Nick, played by William Hurt, was the cynical drug-dealing anti-authoritarian former psychology student and war vet had who lost his genitalia, or at least the function thereof, in Viet Nam.


"He's so cynical, and so am I." 

"Well, you’re as cynical," she answered, "but that's not who I'd say."

"Oh, who do you see me as?"

Keeping one eye on the road, she looked at me sideways with a funny look in her eyes and said, “Alex.”

Alex? I thought. The dead guy??

So I asked, “Alex?  The dead guy?”

She told me she was talking about the things the other characters said about him, all their memories, all the ways he'd touched their lives.  It wasn't a dead guy she was comparing me to, it was the memories of that dead guy.  She wasn’t casting me for Zombie Apocalypse, at least.

For mine and Mary’s date that weekend in 1983, we went to a Sicilian-owned restaurant in Brainerd Village, Mama Theresa’s, very intimate atmosphere, delicious food, great wine, then to a movie.  Typical dinner-and-a-movie date, but the conversation at dinner was fantastic, lively, and engaging.  All-in-all, one of the best "just-a-date" dates I had ever had to that point.

I couldn’t get Mary on the phone for the next three weeks after our dinner and movie, nor did she show up at the Center in Sundays.

When Mary finally did show up for Sunday evening Mass there after three weeks, she came up to me and said, with no preamble, “I’m sorry, but things between us would never work out. I'm too conventional for you.”

(Conventional: 1. Following generally accepted principles, methods, and behavior. 2. Ordinary, commonplace. 3. Lacking originality or individuality. 4. Typical, stereotypical. 5. Conformist.)

I just stood there with my mouth open. What do you say to something like that?

After a time, Mary and I did get back to being pretty good friends again, but for a while it was pretty awkward.  She never explained nor gave me any hint of what had brought her to that conclusion after just one date, and it wasn’t exactly like we didn’t know each other. 

Mary graduated UTC and began teaching at Notre Dame, the local Catholic high school which was her alma mater.  She graduated there in 1980, a class ahead of my best friend at UTC. 

A few months after she started working there, I got a call from her asking if I wanted to come to her wedding, and if so, she’d send me an invitation.

The 22-year old too-conventional-for-me Catholic girl was marrying a 38-year old divorcee who had 19-year old a daughter.  And she had called me unconventional.

(Unconventional: 1. Not adhering to accepted standards. 2. Out of the ordinary. 3. Dissident, unorthodox, heretical. 4. Atypical. 5. Nonconformist, maverick.)

Sure, I replied, I’ll go. Why not?

The wedding was surreal. The only person whom I knew there was Mary, my friend and one-time, literally, date.  I ended up slow dancing, very closely, with her new 19-year old step-daughter Darly, which her boyfriend, whom I hadn't known about, didn't seem to appreciate, though he took it out on her rather than me, by delivering her to her grandmother, me in tow.

What ensued was a lot of screaming and yelling and scolding.  In Cuban Spanish.  No one paid me any attention.

It turns out Darly was not happy about having a step-mother only two years her senior, but she wasn’t pissed at Mary, she was pissed at her dad.  So she’d overindulged in refreshments.

A couple of weeks later, Mary was fired from Notre Dame High School on grounds of moral turpitude for having married a divorcee, by the same organization (the Catholic Church) that has provided so much aid, comfort, support, and shelter to the kiddie-fuckers in its ranks all over the world with the cooperation of its highest echelons, including the head of the Inquisition later known as Pope Benedict XVI.

Before that, though, I had called Darly, my friend Mary’s new step-daughter, two nights after the wedding, and the two of us wound up dating on-and-off for several months.

As for those ideals I spoke of espoused by the Baby Boomers of the New Left?  The Millennials whom so many Boomers and GenXers scorn and belittle are their Second Coming, and unlike their predecessors, they really mean it.

23 March 2017

The Union Is Dissolved (or soon will be) (for Ungagged 17)

(Note: Not the USA “Union”)

I think the reason the percentages in Scotland flipped from indyref 2014 to the referendum on Brexit vs. Remain is that suddenly the stark prospect of being completely at the mercy of the central government in London was inescapably before the country.  In 2014, long before Cameron’s idiotic attempt at undercutting UKIP began, the 55% didn’t have to face that prospect, thinking that their evils were then sufferable and therefore saw no reason to dissolve the bands which connect them with another.  As much as I could from the western side of the Atlantic, I supported the Remain effort, signing petitions, posting and reposting opinion articles on Facebook, tweeting and retweeting relevant materials.

Since the Brexit vote, the European Commission has granted €4.4 million to Scotland’s Tidal Turbine Power Take-off Project, which is being jointly conducted by University of Edinburgh, Aachen University in Germany, and Delft Technical University, north of Rotterdam.  The project is expected to last three years, well past the farthest date for the UK’s exit from the EU.  So apparently the EU is not holding the votes of Scotland’s neighbors to the south against the country being dragged out against its will.  This bodes well for Scotland’s possible reentry after its independence should it choose to pursue that path.

Up until the Brexit/Remain campaign, I had had a fairly negative view of the EU on several points.  First, the way in which that collective body treated one of its own members, Greece, in 2010, as well as Cyprus the same year, followed by Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and, to some degree, Italy.  The imposition of austerity upon those nations, Greece most of all, punished the working and poor citizens of those countries for the sins of the rich.  The fact that the EU’s most powerful economy, Germany under Angela Merkel, was able to overrule those who sought to mitigate the damage to the welfare of those nations’ less fortunate demonstrates that it is not in America alone that money equals speech.

A recent article by Amir Fleischmann for Jacobin, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative”, carried the subtitle, “Austerity measures don’t actually save money. But they do disempower workers.  Which is why governments pursue them in the first place”.  Like the benefit sanctions against which SNP MP at Westminster Mairi Black recently spoke in a video for The Guardian.  Further down his article, Fleischmann states that, “Fiscal conservatism is a myth, because cutting government programs doesn’t actually reduce government spending”.  Which says as much about the current governments in both the UK and the USA as it does that of the EU and what it has imposed upon its members in need.

The other major bone to pick that I have with the EU is its treatment of refugees, most of whom are fleeing wars and other conditions created by some of its member states.  Besides making a questionable deal with a country it won’t admit to its ranks because of the authoritarian nature of its current government.  I mean, of course, its agreement with Turkey for the latter to hold back as many as possible from reaching the borders of its member states.  It has also bullied some of its smaller members into holding those who do manage to arrive in what amount to concentration camps in poor conditions to prevent them from getting into bigger and more wealthy countries in the north.

That last phrase, “in the north”, is key, though perhaps “core” might be better.  Because all of the victims of adverse consequences imposed by the EU, with the exception of Ireland, lie in Europe’s south, and the latter, which once played a major part in saving Europe’s civilization, is on its periphery.  The nature of this discrimination against weaker nations and outsiders seeking refugee from war-torn countries showed forth brightly in the recent decision of the European Court of Justice that permits employers to discriminate against Muslim, Sikhs, and other minorities by forbidding them to wear turbans, hijabs, and other articles of religious clothing at their jobs and firing them if they insist on doing so.  Chancellor Merkel, head of the government of the EU’s most powerful nation politically and economically compounded that atrocious decision with a call for a ban on hijab in every place in Europe where that would be legal.  And, as I mentioned above, in the EU just as much as in America, money is speech.

Once upon a time, the EU may have intended to be primarily a means of social and cultural exchange for its constituent members, but what it has become is the primary agent for the sprread and enforcement of the ideology of neoliberalism on behalf of its wealthiest states and their wealthy citizens, along with Northern, and to some degree Western, European racism.  It has, in effect, moved power from the polling station to the marketplace, from the ballot to the wallet, as have the governments in both the UK and the USA.

Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover once stated that the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States from the Black Panther Party was not their guns but their Free Breakfast Program for Children.  Old Labour stalwart Tony Benn explained the real motives behind this mentality, not directly speaking of Hoover of course, in his interview with Michael Moore for the latter’s documentary SiCKO.  Tony’s coffee cup next to him read, “Old Labour and Proud of It”.  The “Old Labour” which actually struggled on behalf of working and poor people, as opposed to the “New Labour” of Clinton-allied Tony Blair and his cronies and acolytes.

I think the best way to discuss Tony Benn’s comments is to quote them directly.  He said, at first answering how the NHS came to be, that,

“If you go back, I think it all began with democracy.  Before we had the vote, all the power’s in the hands of rich people.  If you had money, you could get healthcare, education, look after yourself when you’re old.  And what democracy did was to give poor people the vote, and it moved power from the marketplace to the polling station, from the wallet to the ballot.  And what people said after the war was very simple.  They said, ‘If we can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t we have full employment by building hospitals, building schools, recruiting nurses, recruiting teachers.  If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people’.

“I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world, because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of you and your community.  And this idea of choice which capital talks about all the time, choice depends on the freedom to choose and if you are shackled with debt you don’t have the freedom to choose.

“People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don’t vote.  They always say that everyone should vote, but I think that if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people that represented their interests there would be a real democratic revolution. So they don’t want that to happen, keeping people hopeless and pessimistic.  See, I think there are two ways in which people are controlled.  First of all frighten people, and secondly, demoralize them.  An educated, healthy, and confident nation is harder to govern.  And I think there’s an element in the thinking of some people: we don’t want people to be educated, healthy, and confident because they would get out of control.

“The top 1% of the world’s population own 80% of the world’s wealth.  It’s incredible that people put up with it, but they’re poor, they’re demoralized, they’re frightened, and they think perhaps  the safest thing to do is to take orders and hope for the best.”

Upon independence, Scotland will have a chance to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as shall seem most likely to effect the safety and happiness of all its people.  In the movie The Patriot, starred in by the same actor who played William Wallace in Braveheart (Mel Gibson, in case you didn’t know), the film’s protagonist, Ben Martin, asks fellow South Carolina assembly members why he should trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away.  A free and independent Scotland will be also be able to decide a new direction, one all its own choice, for international and trade relations. 

Along with people such as Robin McAlpine of Common Weal, Icelandic legal scholar Katrin Oddsdóttir, and others, I would suggest the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), currently composed of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.  Once admitted, Scotland would immediately have access to all its markets gained through its twenty-seven trade agreements, including the EU, without the compulsory conditions imposed by the latter association.  For example, as pointed out by McAlpine in a recent article for CommonSpace, Scottish fishers would not be bound by the dictates of the EU’s Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies.

As for intra-European travel, the UK, nor Ireland for that matter, has never opted into the Schengen travel area anyway, and as an independent state, Scotland will be free to do so.  Three members of the EFTA have opted in, while the fourth, Switzerland, has dealt with that matter through bilateral agreements.

If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people, because the needs of the many should outweigh the greed of the few.  And people shouldn’t be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.

Alba gu brath.  Thig ar latha, our day will come.  Keep the faith.  Peace out.