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D is for Death

D also starts a lot more words, but having a dark mind, death was my second choice. I am not a  medical doctor, so disease was a touch specialised, even for the drivel usually published here.

Death is a useful one to discuss, being a taboo. It makes us generally a bit uncomfortable. Possibly because it reminds us we will all die, and most of what we do, did, or will do, will be of no real lasting impact or consequence.

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Generally speaking, other than immediate family or friends grieving, most of us will not even be a footnote in History.  Accept this, and enjoy life day by day.

I read a article about someone dead relative a while ago, which resonated somewhat. It mixed in with other unrelated articles, and fermented in the dark space of my mind. Here I will attempt to decant what’s left into a coherent thing.

It is an indisputable fact that I will die. The actual time left is an unknown, as is other details, like cause and location. Fact is, death is inevitable. Once I stop being, some other poor bugger has to tidy up after me.

So first aim is to not leave too much of a mess behind.  There is a bit of a mix with the minimalist philosophy here. The next of kin of a hoarder has a mountain to climb, but even an average person collects too much junk and other detritus through their lives. Myself included. I hope as a society we are slowly moving away from the compulsive consumerism, and understanding things are not as important as people and experiences. So this aspect of mess is the pile of possessions left behind. Some things are inherently useful to someone else, I still use my some of the Grandfathers tools, and he has been dead for almost forty years. Most of your own possessions are going to be of little use and you have a duty to not give that problem to someone else.

The other mess is paperwork. Officially dying involves sending back various documents , like passport, drivers licence, various certificates etc. There are legal matters to attend to, bank accounts to resolve, the list in horrible. Try to get all this junk in some form of order.

Dealing with the aftermath of your own death is not your problem, but you can make it easier for your loved ones by organising your affairs, and your stuff.  

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E is for Europe.

There are two Europes. One is a malignant Political leviathan aping the old USSR, despite the lessons its failure taught, the other is a wonderfully varied place, full of fantastic peoples, and worthy of extended visits, and getting to know more about.

A full ten percent of this fair isles residents never leave. There are the wilds of Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons, the Mountains of Scotland, the Cornish Riviera, Historic Cities, from Bath to York, and all places in between, and over 4000 miles of coast. There is a lot to do and see here.

Some, like their ancestors, rarely travel more than ten miles from point of birth.

We do have a slight disadvantage, being an island, we have to cross the Channel to get to the rest of Europe.

Fun fact. My dear Wife and I had to attend an early morning  appointment in Greater London last year. Return rail ticket cost about £120. My eldest and I went to Berlin later in the year. Return flights for us were under £100. Brighton to Berlin, about 700 miles. Brighton to London, about 60 miles.

So Europe is accessible, go see it for yourself.

The other Europe is a bit darker.

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First, the History bit.  Over the last 1000 or so years, probably longer but 1000 years is long enough, the Europeans main hobby was War. It started in 1002 with a scrap between what we know today as Germany and Poland. The last big one ended in 1945, involving the same two Nations, and most of the rest of the world. You would think after best part of a 1000 years practice they would be really good at War, but this last conflict left both in ruins. Makes you wonder if that was a hint from the rest of the world.  

After the last big one, the winners devised a cunning plan to force peace on the Europeans, well, most of them, and this plan has morphed into the European Union.

Everyone was convinced they would rebuild, rearm and go back to war, once the next crop of soliders had grown up. The plan worked. By the clock, someone should have created a drama, and invaded someone else by about 1970. Have the Europeans broken the habit?

By forcing trade and cooperation on all the previous belligerents, war has become too inconvenient. Instead of ruthless armies of occupation, we have a ponderous army of bureaucrats meddling in  our day to day affairs. Instead of a slightly mad class of Aristocrats governing our lives, we have a European Commission, of slightly mad politicians.

If you ignore the huge financial mismanagement, the petty attempts at macro management, and the feather nesting, it basically works, because we are at least two big wars behind what historical precedent suggested.

It would be very easy for me to list a ton of things the European Union has done, and talks about doing, that would perpetuate the often polarised view folk hold. I like basic broad brush strokes. It was necessary for world peace that Europe be united. The old communist USSR was cast as the bogeyman, the USA and then NATO as the defender. Unified under a common threat. This ebbs and flows, time moves on.

Now we live in interesting times. War in Western Europe is unlikely. It’s good for the Arms industry, but that is not dominant. We have a businessman as President in USA. UK is leaving the European Union, Italy might do, Spain is starting to crack over regions. Greece has been financially ruined. Immigration of unskilled persons is at record levels.

It’s the age of soundbite politics, trial by media, twitter and 24/7 media. It’s the age of new generation, and they are generally disappointed. Every new generation feels the same way. This lot have the tools to tell everyone how they feel, and have been brought up with the dangerous message of entitlement, and other false promises.

Have to see where it goes from here….

F is for Freedom.

Freedom, liberty, no oppression, a fine ideal.

Living in Western Europe, specifically on a rather nice island to the west of mainland Europe, we enjoy a lot of freedom.

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We are free work or not. The actual work is not specified because the freedom is the freedom to work, not a specified job or career. Times are changing, automation is on the increase, and will spread to all sorts of sectors. Jobs and careers are a lot more fluid, with a large rise in short term specific task contracts, the gig economy. We don’t pay any income tax until earnings are in excess of £11000.  If we are not able to work, the system will pay basic frugal funds. Not enough for a full life, but the basics are covered.

From Birth to death, the system provides. There is no regulation on who can reproduce. The only requirement is to be female. Fertility can be helped, sperm donors are available to those with a suitable mate. At least when you adopt a rescue dog, you get a home visit to assess suitability, an interview, and of course a suitable donation.

All through pregnancy and early years, support is available to ensure development is progressing at a arbitrarily determined level. All provided free to the end user.

Education is provided free from about four to eighteen. You are free to take advantage of it or not.

We are free to make poor choices, and it follows we are free to live with the consequences, whatever they are.

We are free to vote for whichever MP wants to put themselves on offer. You are free to stand as an MP if you can find the deposit, about £500, and persuade ten other voters to sign your form. Given we elect every five years, that is slightly cheaper than a weekly lottery ticket, and better odds of winning.

You are free to follow any religion you like, free to believe anything you want. You are even free to remove yourself from the job market, by choice, and you will still get supported by the state.

You are also free to leave, but we make it nice and comfortable if you stay. You don’t even have to speak English.

I have a modest theory about the current drift left towards Socialism and it’s nasty cousin Marxism.

We have too many choices. The Education system and media does not equip people with the reasoning skills to make correct choices. Only experience can do that. As a person who has made some poor choices over the years, I have the advantage of hindsight. A second strand to this line of thought struck me on a visit to DDR museum in Berlin. In the DDR, a lot of the practical things were taken care off. Housing, healthcare, jobs etc. Not perfect by any means, but, those who accepted it, and went along with the restrictions on their personal liberty, survived and thrived. Limited choices, basics provided for. Sorted.

I am of the opinion that many people actually want that. I am also of the opinion many leaders in governments, health, education, to name but a few, also want that.

Freedom is a wonderful thing, but it has a cost, and with freedom comes responsibility, and a duty to fulfil your own personal potential. That is just too difficult for some people.

You views are welcome.

 

G is for Gods and Religions

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A great source of comfort to some, a reason to go to war for others, or just a fairy tale?

Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais have spoken far more.eloquently than most on the fairy tale aspect. What is significant is their position is one of tolerance, or even indifference. This contrasts sharply, in some cases literally involving sharp implements, with other more prescriptive religions. There is a with us or against us attitude with some religions that can only lead to conflict.

Religions are a sort of club. You agree to follow specific rules, you get some sort of reward. A lot of these rewards are a bit vague, and are only qualified for once conventional life is over. There are a few flaws in this, but religions have rubbed along for thousands of years on this vague promise with the good old carrot and stick. Happy ever after, if you follow these arbitrary rules, or eternal damnation. In some of the bigger religions, there is a fair amount of detail on the eternal damnation thing, presumably to make it sound as appalling as possible.

But it’s all so primitive. If you do follow the rules there is a  promise of serving some imaginary god like figure for all time under his or her benevolent gaze, or make for own choices and face the fire forever. Sounds like house servant or boiler keeper. Both are hierarchical positions, with you still at the bottom.  

Others appeal to more carnal aspirations, offering a vast number of inexperienced young ladies, at your disposal, to satisfy the most voracious appetites. Apart from sounding like a teenagers wild fantasy, it’s a bit harsh on the ladies. Where do they come from in this version? It’s not overly appealing for them, to be one of a collection of bags of flesh for a random male to abuse for eternity. How did they get subscribed into this story line?

At what point does anyone remember the sage advice, if its too good to be true, it’s probably not.

There is the small matter of proof. There is no record of a reliable witness returning from any of these reward or punishment centres. There are lots of documented near death experiences, where folk, who were presumably in significant pain and under the influence of a lot of medications, make claims of a long white corridors, calming feelings and so on. If you factor out a large number of me too claims, factor in the medication, and the also documented hopeless expectation of death induced calmness, that’s neatly explained.

I fully accept the comfort Religion brings to many people. It offers a codified life, which leans towards doing nice and civilised things, usually for the benefit of other people. Except the whole with us or against us, go to war thing.

I like the rules and safety net of modern life. I’m comfortable with the big rules about killing and stealing, being reasonable and mindful towards the needs of others as well as my own and so on. I am much less comfortable with big religions hoarding riches, slaying people who don’t agree with them, or agree to follow their choice of rules. It’s the big intolerance issue. I cannot understand how so many folk want to be in control of other people’s thoughts and actions.

My personal belief system can be summed up thus.

Firstly, life it is a result of a strange chemical reaction billions of years ago and then evolution happened.  

Secondly, If your alive, you will die, and the biological bits will break down and cycle through the planet again.

Thirdly, there is no master plan, stuff just happens.

Fourth and Final, always try to do the right thing. If the right thing is not obvious, try harder.

 

Ultimately, folk will do what they feel comfortable with or compelled to do. I do, and assume you do too.  

(Note, this whole alphabet thing is turning out to be more difficult than I thought. Pick 26 random topics and write most days. Good exercise, never again…..)

H is for Hate

Hate is a strong word. That’s not really true, it only has four letters, but its use can be hateful, in some circumstances.

Hate is an emotion, and thus specific to the individual. It is acceptable and a real thing for someone or something to be both loved and hated. Just ask any married couple.

Some argue hate is based on fear, others on lack of understanding, and some even on skin pigment. A different way to look at it would be to take the view that hate is based on lack of acceptance. That rather falls apart when someone tells you they hate brussel sprouts. That is not based on a shortage of acceptance, but on taste. It is also good news, as there will be less demand on the sprout pot, and thus more for me. Taste, texture, smell are all physical reasons, a simple not liking, and perhaps more comprehensible than hate based on pigment, or which book you have been told to believe in.

Hate is a barrier to communication, two sides cannot effectively compromise if hate is present, its a crude form of prejudgement, bias if you like.

Hate is an adult form of immaturity. It is an artificial construct used to unite one group against others. This is where it becomes more sinister. As part of the ruled classes, we are perceived as to be in need of some sort of control, some unifying factor is required. We all fall for this, and it has been the case for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Hate and similar things like prejudice are learned behaviours. We excuse them as societal behaviour, and thus they become acceptable to us.

It helps to think of it as an extrapolation of a tribal origin, or even further back, to instinctive behaviour. We lived in small communities, often mostly extended family. There was a lot of sense in unified aims and objectives, like enough food and water, shelter from elements. It was our aim to see we got those things, to preserve our bloodlines, our tribe, our lives, promote our survival. If there were other tribes with their own worthy aims of survival, then competition for those necessary resources would be inevitable. Competition leads to conflict, leads to winners and losers, leads to resentment leads to revenge, leads to hate?

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On a primitive level, probably not. I don’t suppose the Zebra hates the Lion, when in competition for scarce water. The Lion does not hate the Zebra, it just wants to eat.

So hate is very useful in contemporary societies, and can be used to unify or create division, depending on need.

 

We really are that gullible…..

I is for Interested..

Now this can be a bit of a curse, especially with the discovery channel and YouTube.

There is so much freely available information. To make it more interesting, quite a lot of it is wrong. Not always totally wrong. But often inaccurate or misleading. The now legendary Encyclopedia  Britannica collection in most aspiring households has been rendered obsolete by Wikipedia’s growth. Without fully understanding how it works, it’s fair to assume if you are reading a blog, Wikipedia needs no introduction. But. And I know it’s a poor show to start a sentence with either of those words, but, it’s readily editable by anyone who can be bothered to register. Regardless of their expertise or political leaning. Britannica had a good reputation, although it could be dated. Wiki is not so reliable, but is a good starting point.

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(This is not a picture of me. In the free to use photo section, there appears to be little demand for grumpy overweight blokes peering at books. Just have to make do…..)

The discovery channel is great entertainment dressed up as vaguely educating. It usually entertains, even if you have to watch out for the words could, might be, and one day.

As a human, there are certain basic needs that have to be met, water, shelter, food being the basic building blocks of life. The Discovery channel is a long way down that list, but if the basics have been met, the need to stimulate the few pounds of soggy grey matter behind the eyes becomes more important.

I sometimes wish I could be interested or even fanatical about watching sports. That is well catered for. Doing sport is ok, good sometimes, watching it does not sit well with me. Watching live sport has a number of drawbacks, watching it on a small screen is not my beverage of choice. Simply put, watching a person pushing the limits of physical endurance, whilst slumped in a near vegetative state, consuming a steady stream of high calorie, high sugar crap, just seems wrong. Maybe I should watch the cycling from a static trainer, or the athletics while on a treadmill, not sure how I could watch Rallycross, other than throw myself off the chair occasionally.

But people do get interested in being a spectator, i’m just not sure how. Hence, the tendency to get interested in many different things, none of which are mainstream, and frankly only of interest to myself. The curse is to have a butterfly mentality, flitting from thing to thing, dependent on mood, weather and how much coin there is in my pocket.

Take art of example. I like doing art, making pictures, chasing pigment all over the page, that sort of thing. My art, my connection.  I have limited interest in watching art, like spending hours at a gallery. I am just not that deeply connected to it, or more likely, have that deeper level of understanding.

Or I will spend hours watching or reading about history.  If I go someplace, and have a bit of knowledge about the history of it, I will try to find some sort of physical connection. Literally touching the wall. The defeat of the Nazi’s in Berlin was a lot less abstract to me once I had touched the Reichstag building. The Cold war more real when I walked along what’s left of the Berlin wall. Suffering and crises was real at a Romanian state orphanage in the early 1990’s. The Iron age becomes more tangible when you walk around an abandoned hill fort.

And I have no idea why.

J is for JUST DO IT

J is for just do it

Struggled here, so I nicked the old Nike slogan. Here is an attempt at short fiction, inspired by Prompturium.

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A week after I died

It’s been a week now. I can categorically state that every major religion got the whole afterlife thing wrong. Completely wrong. They were right about God. Partially. God exists. but it’s not a person or an individual. It’s more of a corporation. That’s almost completely wrong , but close enough for me to understand it. God stands for General Outerworld Developments. We are effectively a breeding colony/ experimental laboratory, in the universes equivalent of a low rent industrial park, a long way from the motorway.  

We were arranged into cohorts based on age and gender, of twenty one. Orientation took up the first four days. The rest of the universe works on a 30 hour day so part of orientation was getting used to longer days. Only a third of us passed this stage. It’s still not clear what that means, either way. The other fourteen have gone somewhere else. We were told it’s not our concern, and to focus on ourselves. The last two days had been assignments and briefing. Tonight is a mandated evening of rest and celebration, before I take up my new role. Something I am not over happy about.

Mostly we record, measure, and report back.

The cohort facilitators were dead like me, but seem to have been bureaucrats before. There were a few middle level managers in the cohort, who seemed to have a bit of an advantage. Before my event, I was a disillusioned junior manager; that must of helped. There were assessors, but they only flickered in and out of vision.

John Lennon was surprisingly well informed.  We were not in heaven, or hell, neither above or below.  Best way to describe it would be alongside. This was a big stumbling block for those heavily into religion, which seems to have been a construct of the Romans, or Greeks, or someone similar, but basically a thing  made up to exert some control over populations. Talk about a little white lie that got well out of hand.

Speaking of getting well out of hand, our bellicose nature was not part of the plan either. Outerworld Developments had seen many bloodlines compromised by war, and was still reeling from the various 19th Century wars. The 20th Century conflicts were organised just to weed out a percentage of the population spike, an unexpected result of innovations in technology and medicine.  OD needed time to evaluate apparently.

Alongside is a dreary place. Think 1970’s beige and brown. It’s a little bit worn, and a lot dull. By getting this far I have been promoted to level five. I managed to suppress a giggle at this point, which would have probably demoted me to a four or even a three. We were herded into the club for a bit of a celebration. I really fancied a pint of two, what with it being a busy week, dying, finding out all life as know was utterly pointless, and now my new role, which was also utterly pointless. Quite a lot things needed to be washed down. Microsoft, for example,  was created to punish us for the cold war. I think we all suspected that, but come on. Apple was set up as an experiment to see how gullible we were, and examine the impact of marketing on the developing brain. Apparently we were a lot more gullible than they thought.

There is no money here, your level entitles you to so much food, so much space and so on. In return, you work, as directed. The food is dreadful, but tonight I was entitled to two pints. A scratchy electronic recording told me I could have two more next month. Given the weak battery acid aftertaste, that might not be a bad thing. The facilitators had tried to encourage us to aspire to promotion through hard work in our new roles. Some of us even make the low twenties. Nice to find out your a low grade species, who in the General Outerworld Developments corp could actually aspire to the dizzy heights of junior cockroach. Did I mention there were over five hundred levels of promotion?

After an hour or so of enforced cheerfulness, without really knowing the alternative, we were ushered out, and directed to our pods for the six hour sleep. Here it really was a twenty four hour day. I call it pod, because that’s a nicer word than box. Just enough space to lay or sit, space for a box of papers, and this place ruins on paper, tons of it.

Alongside is not the Hi Tech  paradise you think it should be, not at level five. Level tens have access to microfiche, if I get that far. There was a cautionary input about getting promoted before your entire box is full of paper. That one gave me a disturbed nights sleep, trying not to think of a mattress of pink assignment reports. Carbonated forms, white to management, pink to keep, yellow to stores.  

Today is the first day of my unwanted role within G.O.D. It started with a brief ceremony at the stores building. Here I returned the faded pink jumpsuit of a novice, as well as the slippers. The receipt was signed, witnessed and countersigned. After a few minutes in the altogether, new ( to me ) essentials were issued. One pair of boots, sturdy. Two pairs boot laces. Three pairs of socks, three pairs of pants, two pairs of heavy serge trousers, one pair braces,  two shirts, long sleeved. One woollen jumper, with faux leather elbow protectors, one knee length cotton jacket, button up, in brown, three ball point pens, one pencil, one pencil sharpener, the clipboard, and one satchel. We hurried to get dressed, the stores manager yelling, the facilitator yelling, and making notes. Everything had to be signed for, witnessed and countersigned for. Three of us got a reprimand. Failed to check inside the satchel, failed to count the needles in the clothing repair pouch. I’d signed to say I had two, there was only one.

Needless to say this caused a lot of smugness from fellow members of my cohort, and near apoplectic rage from the stores. The missing needle was replaced after a very impressive full five minute bollocking.

I looked and felt like a bit part actor in a 1950’s documentary about a factory foreman.

The only concession to technology was the PES. Personal Environmental Stabiliser. This generated a personal bubble of temperate calm, to ensure the paperwork didn’t get smudged.  

So now I am alongside you. You might call me a ghost, or a spirit, but that would be wrong. The world is cluttered with clipboard wielding folk like me. As a level five counter, I have four levels to look down on, but four hundred and ninety four looking down on me. Pays to be aware of that.

Counting the leaves on an oak tree is not a bad job, quite restful. I am too lowly to know G.O.D.’s reason, but I was fortunate.  My tree, and they encourage ownership of the job, is in a park. I can see another clipboard wielder counting and weighing dog poop.

I must of done something right, before after life…..