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C is for Chattri.

C is for Chattri.

 

The First World War was a truly global event. The Chattri marks the place, on the Downs above Brighton, where Hindu and Sikh soldiers, who succumbed to their wounds, were cremated.

Indian troops formed a significant percentage of commonwealth support, more numerous that Australian, or Canadian for example. Their stories are mostly lost. Partially for political reasons, India was seeking independence, and that was a painful and bloody process. This unfortunately sidelines their contribution in Western accounts, either consciously or not. Another major factor was that a lot of the Indian troops were illiterate. A huge amount of Western collective knowledge about the first world war is from the writings of individual soldiers, war poetry, letters, accounts. There is not the scale of surviving material from Indian troops.

One of the places wounded Indian soldiers were treated, was the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. This 19th Century building was built in a classic indian style, so this appears to be a deliberate choice, or perhaps it was just a coincidence.

 

Officially opened in 1921 by The Prince of Wales, and maintained ever since, it is a lonely and moving place. Access is by foot, following a long path through grazed farmland. The world takes a back seat.

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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.  

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.