*ART

Joseph Conrad places fiction in the schema of *art

— What is *ART?

As Maria Popova writes in The Atlantic on the subject of (the increasingly, nowadays, ‘controversial’) Joseph Conrad, “Much of his writing bears a profound philosophical quality, exploring the depths of psychology and other pillars of existence.” In this post I give you some of Conrad’s case for how strings of (“tired old”) words can be construed as a form of fine art. I would personally place literature (not music, as he does) at the pinnacle but, this is me and, I am not he:

A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. And art itself may be defined as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect. It is an attempt to find in its forms, in its colors, in its light, in its shadows, in the aspects of matter and in the facts of life what of each is fundamental, what is enduring and essential—their one illuminating and convincing quality—the very truth of their existence. The artist, then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal. Impressed by the aspect of the world the thinker plunges into ideas, the scientist into facts—whence, presently, emerging they make their appeal to those qualities of our being that fit us best for the hazardous enterprise of living. They speak authoritatively to our common-sense, to our intelligence, to our desire of peace or to our desire of unrest; not seldom to our prejudices, sometimes to our fears, often to our egoism—but always to our credulity. And their words are heard with reverence, for their concern is with weighty matters: with the cultivation of our minds and the proper care of our bodies, with the attainment of our ambitions, with the perfection of the means and the glorification of our precious aims. It is otherwise with the artist.
 
Fiction—if it at all aspires to be art—appeals to temperament. And in truth it must be, like painting, like music, like all art, the appeal of one temperament to all the other innumerable temperaments whose subtle and resistless power endows passing events with their true meaning, and creates the moral, the emotional atmosphere of the place and time. Such an appeal to be effective must be an impression conveyed through the senses; and, in fact, it cannot be made in any other way, because temperament, whether individual or collective, is not amenable to persuasion. All art, therefore, appeals primarily to the senses, and the artistic aim when expressing itself in written words must also make its appeal through the senses, if its high desire is to reach the secret spring of responsive emotions. It must strenuously aspire to the plasticity of sculpture, to the color of painting, and to the magic suggestiveness of music—which is the art of arts. And it is only through complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blending of form and substance; it is only through an unremitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be made to plasticity, to color, and that the light of magic suggestiveness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface of words: of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage.
 
The sincere endeavor to accomplish that creative task, to go as far on that road as his strength will carry him, to go undeterred by faltering, weariness or reproach, is the only valid justification for the worker in prose. And if his conscience is clear, his answer to those who in the fullness of a wisdom which looks for immediate profit, demand specifically to be edified, consoled, amused; who demand to be promptly improved, or encouraged, or frightened, or shocked, or charmed, must run thus: My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see. That—and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm—all you demand—and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.
 
Sometimes, stretched at ease in the shade of a roadside tree, we watch the motions of a labourer in a distant field, and after a time, begin to wonder languidly as to what the fellow may be at. We watch the movements of his body, the waving of his arms, we see him bend down, stand up, hesitate, begin again. It may add to the charm of an idle hour to be told the purpose of his exertions. If we know he is trying to lift a stone, to dig a ditch, to uproot a stump, we look with a more real interest at his efforts; we are disposed to condone the jar of his agitation upon the restfulness of the landscape; and even, if in a brotherly frame of mind, we may bring ourselves to forgive his failure. We understood his object, and, after all, the fellow has tried, and perhaps he had not the strength—and perhaps he had not the knowledge. We forgive, go on our way—and forget. And so it is with the workman of art. Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off. And thus, doubtful of strength to travel so far, we talk a little about the aim—the aim of art, which, like life itself, is inspiring, difficult—obscured by mists. It is not in the clear logic of a triumphant conclusion; it is not in the unveiling of one of those heartless secrets which are called the Laws of Nature. It is not less great, but only more difficult.
 
To arrest, for the space of a breath, the hands busy about the work of the earth, and compel men entranced by the sight of distant goals to glance for a moment at the surrounding vision of form and color, of sunshine and shadows; to make them pause for a look, for a sigh, for a smile—such is the aim, difficult and evanescent, and reserved only for a few to achieve. But sometimes, by the deserving and the fortunate, even that task is accomplished. And when it is accomplished—behold!—all the truth of life is there: a moment of vision, a sigh, a smile—and the return to an eternal rest.

1619

Lest we forget or indeed, in case we aren’t yet fully au fait, you may like to listen to or download even, the “1619 Project” podcasts.

“Elsewhere”

_ that’s where i am _

“Elsewhere”


Elsewhere Anchises,
 
Fatherly and intent, was off in a deep green valley
Surveying and reviewing souls consigned there,
Those due to pass to the light of the upper world.
It so happened he was just then taking note
 
Of his whole posterity, the destinies and doings,
Traits and qualities of descendants dear to him,
But seeing Aeneas come wading through the grass
Towards him, he reached his two hands out
In eager joy, his eyes filled up with tears
And he gave a cry: “At last! Are you here at last?
I always trusted that your sense of right
Would prevail and keep you going to the end.
And am I now allowed to see your face,
My son, and hear you talk, and talk to you myself?
 
This is what I imagined and looked forward to
As I counted the days; and my trust was not misplaced.
To think of the lands and the outlying seas
You have crossed, my son, to receive this welcome.
And after such dangers! I was afraid that Africa
Might be your undoing.” But Aeneas replied:
“Often and often, father, you would appear to me,
Your sad shade would appear, and that kept me going
To this end. My ships are anchored in the Tuscan sea.
Let me take your hand, my father, O let me, and do not
 
Hold back from my embrace.” And as he spoke he wept.
Three times he tried to reach arms round that neck.
Three times the form, reached for in vain, escaped
Like a breeze between his hands, a dream on wings.


Virgil, “The Aeneid” (Book VI). Translated from the original Latin by Seamus Heaney (1939-2013); published by The New Yorker in 2016.

^ I have now read this a dozen or more times and only now, is a meaning emerging. I’ve no context (((I could dig but I shan’t — i.e., I could read up on Virgil’s “The Aeneid” and/or look into a good half-millennia’s worth of essays and tomes that draw out and align his Roman founding myth with that of Ancient Greece’s — I did though happen across a few painted works of art on the subject and these are depicted below))) but what’s beginning to form in my mind is a passage depicting a dream, double vision, wanting a heartfelt wish to materialise, wanting beyond want a thing that is neigh on impossible to get or to have. More devastatingly so because, even if it were to be realised, the ramifications of it — I speak here more personally now — would soon act to indelibly taint and mar the realised dream. Back to the poem, some things can never be sated; sons and fathers reaching in vein to bridge breaches. Must there be fault-lines along this cline? I know not, if ever I had a connection, it has long since gone (I don’t feel beholden, I don’t feel denigrated). As my woman said to me, no response stings more than apathy. To elicit consternation and ridicule is better than a snoring Lecturer on student presentation day or, a swipe left without a second glance or a moment’s hesitation (I don’t recall if rejection’s a swipe to the left or to the right but, you get the point don’t ‘you,’ oh fic-fuckin-ticious you). Mums ‘n’ daughters; Freud (Sigmund) ‘n’ Freud (Lucian) & the Oedipal complex and, the impassioned lyrics “The killer awoke before dawn / He put his boots on / He took a face from the ancient gallery / And he walked on down the hall // He went into the room where his sister lived / And then he paid a visit to his brother / And then he walked on down the hall / And he came to a door / And he looked inside / Father? / Yes son / I want to kill you / Mother, I want to… /// was it ‘fuck,’ or just ‘kill’ too? Etc. etc. I’m sic n tired of relying on context for understanding, for my long-run weakness to blindly adhere to the interpretations of others. Literature is art, art is in the eye of the beholder, it is for me — in my isolation wing of solitary confinement — to decide what I see and what I feel when I happen across a piece of poetry.

Virgil reading “The Aeneid” to Augustus, Octavia, and Livia
By Jean-Baptiste Wicar (1762–1834) (1790).
“Aeneas flees burning Troy”
By Federico Barocci (1535-1612) (1598).
“Aeneas meets Dido”
By Rutilio di Lorenzo Manetti (1571-1639) (c. 1630).

Lit.’s “LIT,” literally

The wannabe wordsmith is redux
([{ coming in from the cold;
a final Parisian foxtrot.


I love my one&only as do poets love the poetry that kills them, as do sailors the sea that drowns them.

^ Adapted a little &, agreed:


The classics can console. But not enough . . .

A while back, as per the curriculum’s instructions, I was discovering the works of Toni Morrison. Now a similar set of instructions invites me to investigate the works of Derek Walcott. Like flotsam I’m adrift, listing and teetering, buoyed a bit — only just — by the Gulf stream’s salinity (or should I say in fact the Dead Sea’s? You tell me for, what occurred in the arena and environs of what’s today named Palestine, really underpins all that we call the Western canon of literature). I dwell, I’m sure you’ve ‘deduced’ — you [2nd pl.], the fabled fictitious, as in you aren’t at all there, you; you [2nd sing.], the mercurial one whose mental whereabouts is a mystery to humankind n beast alike — in Arabia Deserta. That is, the region above Arabia Felix — from desert to orange grove, yeah right, no, think Queen of Sheba, the heat of a relentless afternoon in Sana’a and the incessant burn of insatiable internal desire; a constant unflinching flame — and, below Arabia Petraea — that I’ll expand and add to Palestine: ‘The Hebrew Bible’, Mesopotamia, Gilgamesh and, to hell with time and geographical rigidness, Homer’s epics too.  [1]


If I should die, think only this of me…
She’s gone, and all our plans
           are useless indeed
And say with conviction:
“Dulce Et Decorum Est”
But fa sure, consider this rejoinder to Horace:
is it? Is it really worth it…

I see it and read it in “Unspeakable, unspoken” and I see it and read it in “Omeros.” Time heals yeah? And believe you me I listened to 1619 — I even put the audio files here for posterity — but you see, we can lionise Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece because what happened there is past and what remains are beautiful things like democracy and underfloor heating and fa sure, fantastic fiction in both poetic and prose from. So yes I see colonialism and slavery as they rightly should be seen, but — dear reader — has not humankind always been unkind to fellow humankind? Us and them was not manufactured by the likes of Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama. No! It was there in Sumeria, it was there lurking in the orchard, it is, I brazenly say, within the fabric of humankind, part of the human condition.

The episode involving Odysseus's confrontation with Polyphemus in the Odyssey bears similarities to Gilgamesh and Enkidu's battle with Humbaba in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
“Polyphemus”
By Guido Reni (1575–1642) (c. 1640). __ Must’ve been a cold day? Right! ;P __ The episode involving Odysseus’s confrontation with Polyphemus in the Odyssey bears similarities to Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s battle with Humbaba in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Grindstone

Here are some pages of potential interest. I hasten to emphasise and underscore the adjective ‘potential’:

01. — On vocabulary (by J.H.K., 2020)
02. — On language (by Rouse, n.d.)
03. — Literary devices (by Bonnie & Clyde)
04. — “The Elizabethan era”
05. — “British literature of the 20th c.”
06. — “Global literature” (esp. Derek Walcott)
07. — “Comparative literature” (esp. Sylvia Plath)

In terms of public interest and the greater good, a duet of works by Walcott, for study purposes only:

📘 “Collected Poems 1948-1984”
— Initially, many were self-published (Editable PDF).
📘 “Omeros”
— A take on Homer (Editable PDF).


REFERENCES

Walcott, D. (1986). Collected Poems 1948-1984. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Walcott, D. (1990). Omeros. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux


Derek-Walcott's--Books
“The discontent that lies in the human condition is not satisfied simply by material things.”

 

 

— § —


NOTES

[1]   To try and trace the course or deduce the derivation of something is not always a scientific endevour. No! It can be far more speculative and subjective in certain circumstances. It was a long time in coming and the comeuppance was and is harsh. See:
“Empire of Deceit: entrapped in honey, money or, plain old power?”

Short-termism

the zeitgeist of now

See too: “Mask Wars” by J.H.K.

Abstract

The essay considers the prospect of large-scale, ethically motivated (individualistic) short-term sacrifice taking place for the assumed longer-term (collective) common good. Put differently, it considers the likelihood of the deferral of immediate gratification occurring; the not eating of one’s cake today so that one (or indeed, one’s offspring) can have it tomorrow. Put specifically, this essay will ask why it seems possible for world governments and international institutions to act quickly and decisively when met with a crisis like Coronavirus (Covid-19) yet seemingly be incapable of acting in such a way when it comes to tackling the longstanding issues of desertification, overfishing and rainforest destruction (i.e., the catchall: ‘environmental crisis’).[1]  In sum, I will argue that the reason is simple: today’s humankind have been conditioned to act and think in the short-term, to take pleasures today and bury their heads in the sand when it comes to dealing with the consequences. This is exemplified in activities such as binging on Netflix (resulting in overtiredness and the propensity to eat junk food the following day); spending on credit cards (whereby the hard graft of actually earning is deferred to a future date); overconsumption (that is causing unsustainable natural resource depletion) and, indulging in meat eating (which directly leads to yet more natural resource depletion and, greater likelihood of more zoonotic diseases, resultant from the homogenisation of animals and factory farming).[2]  I will argue that because Covid-19 is an immediate problem, government and citizenry seem able to forfeit a lot in an attempt to tackle it ‘now’; however, because the global environmental crisis is seen as a longer-term, abstract and theoretical problem, the political will to make big sacrifices—policies that enforce radical lifestyle changes—is lacking and are, it seems. easy to defer to a non-binding ‘future’ point in time.

Introduction

It has been argued that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an impressive level of large-scale inter-governmental coordinated action. However, the extent to which the action is coordinated or unilateral is not yet an established fact.[3]  Nonetheless, there clearly has been a great deal of collaboration (be it helping to repatriate citizens, the sharing of research for an inoculation etc.). So, if such collaboration on global issues has now been proven possible, would it not be possible to believe that something similar could happen with respect to the environmental crisis? To answer this question, we would first need to consider if the Covid-19 pandemic is in any way analogous with the environmental crisis? Incidentally, a strong case for directly linking this pandemic to the environmental crisis can be made (consider, e.g., factory farming, overpopulation, and rapid unregulated urbanisation). There are indeed many interconnected questions. What possible lessons might be got from the globe’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic for addressing the environmental crisis? What role may international organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) play in bringing about such transformative measures? As Weizsäcker and Wijkman (2017) point out, while leading governments now, “claim to recognise the need to change our way of life, “if we are to survive as a species,” it is far from clear if they actually appreciate, “just how radical that change needs to be.” Lastly, what can concerned individuals do in relation to self-sacrifice for the greater good—not eating the honey to ensure generations to come can have some on their tongues? Does the adage, “think globally, act locally,” still suffice?[4]

This essay will consider the role of ethical sacrifice in effective action on the current pandemic and how that might be extended to effective action on the environment. It will proceed as follows. Firstly, it will consider the issue at hand, the quarantine we in the Arabian Gulf and those in many other parts of the globe are placed under because of Covid-19 (“The issue at stake”). It then considers possible ways of addressing the environmental crisis in light of responses to the current pandemic from the theoretical standpoints of utilitarianism and deontology (“Hypothetical speaking”). The essay then moves on to look at how we tend to opt for immediate gratification even if we half think we would get greater gratification by delaying it, this is made into a honey today allegory throughout this text (“Short-termism”). The next section considers the mechanisms by which such acts of short-term self-sacrifice may actually take place in an ethically sound and non-coercive way (“Implications of large-scale coordinated action”). In the essay’s final part (“Concluding remarks”) research is referred to that implies there are ways to overcome humankind’s propensity to opt for a teaspoon of honey today as opposed to a very likely—but not guaranteed—tablespoon tomorrow.

The issue at stake

As I write all university students in the Arabian Gulf are in self-quarantine (as are many other categories of people; international travel has essentially stopped and most forms of social gatherings have been halted). This period of self-quarantine is in most countries mandatory, varying degrees of punishment are given for those not obeying these orders. The question this essay considers is more focused on the justification for the quarantine than the right of authorities to impose it upon us. Specifically, how can policymakers and think-tanks concerned with the environmental crisis learn from the measures and restrictions rapidly imposed by governments the world over and the general acceptance of citizens to accept these.

Environmentalists have a hard task (not least because overconsumption and going to shopping malls to buy things whether we need them or not seem to now be the pastime of all those in the world who can afford to or have credit cards). As O’Donoghue and Rabin (2000, p. 233) put it, “people have self-control problems.” Environmentalists have to somehow tackle the extent to which the idea of Social Darwinism has become the norm in schools, welfare systems and society at large. As Von Weizsäcker & Wijkman (2017, pp. 6–7) explain the way that Social Darwinism has become blindly accept as the way of things, “right and proper” and even “an iron law of nature” in which “only the most competitive should survive” poses a huge challenge. The notion of survival of the fittest, in my view, does not apply to all species and especially not social ones like us. However, it is easy to see why those wanting to maximise their profits and retain all of their wealth for themselves would propagate Social Darwinism as an immutable truism. Secondly, and in a not unconnected way, environmentalists need to tackle the de facto way in which businesses now operate today, a culture in which the free market doctrine of Milton Friedman is seen as gospel in public management systems worldwide (see, e.g., Klein, 2007).

If we take the point of view that this current quarantine is for the greater good, what arguments could we make to convince sceptics of the merit of self-sacrifice in relation to addressing the root causes of global warming? (i.e., what are the key points to make in order to encourage the public to accept and lawmakers enact self-quarantine legislation). We will also need to ask what a proper ethical framework for understanding the role of sacrifice and large-scale coordinated action with respect to such events ought to be. Such understandings will help give insights in how to better deal with the environmental crisis. Any such insight would need to articulate clear roles for international organisations—e.g., WHO, the World Trade Organisation and other UN bodies—governments and citizens to play. Such roles will need to be conveyed in a consensual way in order to be affective. The truth is most people would prefer a future of uncontrolled chaos than a future where everything is clean and green if the price to pay for the latter is to be bossed around and always told what to do.

Hypothetically speaking

Philosophically speaking we could adopt a utilitarian or a deontological perspective in order to justify self-quarantine as the ethically and morally appropriate thing to do. We may then extend the same logic to further acts of individualistic self sacrifice in order to tackle the environmental crisis. To be clear, in the theoretical sense, “utilitarianism” places the focus on the pros and cons of the consequences of any given set of government policies or personal lifestyle choices; it looks beyond self-interest in the here and now and focuses on the common or collective interests of others at a later point in time. The “deontological” differs in that it focuses on the ethical implications (rights and wrongs) of the actions now and not the consequences of those actions at a future point in time.

As we know, democracy is compromise and as we know too, being too dogmatic in one’s views is neither progressive or likely to result in new inventions and forms of creative art. Therefore, it seems to me that in the real world, thinkers and philosophers should not advocate exclusively utilitarian or deontological arguments for dealing with the environmental crisis (and/or the current Covid-19 pandemic). It might help to think of the “carrot or the stick” analogy. As opposed to it being a binary choice, a one or the other, it should be a combination of the two: a bit of carrot and a bit of stick. The question then becomes how much carrot and how much stick?

As Fisher (2019) points out, the discounting of the needs of future generations is analogous to “burying a shard of broken glass in a forest.” The logic is as follows: if a child steps on the glass and cuts themselves today (‘now’) then a discount rate suggests this injury is much worse than a child hurting themselves on that same piece of glass in a millennia or so from now (in the ‘future’) but basically and ‘ethically’, “there is no difference between the two.” Giving in to temptation (e.g., scrolling through an infinite number of Instagram posts as opposed to finishing the research essay) leads to immediate gratification (e.g., happiness from effortlessly looking at satisfying things), but also to delayed negative outcomes (e.g., anxiety and a lower score for a essay submitted after the deadline date). On the other hand, resisting temptation (e.g., drafting and redrafting the research essay) does not make one feel good in the here and now but should result in delayed positive outcomes (e.g., a well received essay with a high grade awarded to it)—see the research of Magen and Gross (2007) on ‘temptation’; a key human tendency.

If we watch TED talks or listen to Big Think or Intelligence Squared debates it seems to be so that the longevity of humankind depends on us reducing our honey consumption rather radically to enable (in theory) our grand and great grandchildren to partake in this heavenly delight too. They key questions seem to be (1) is it, or can it become, part of human nature to be altruistic enough to care about people we will not even be alive to walk and talk with? And if so, (2) what will it take to break free from the short-termist ways so many of today’s humans seem to have adopted?

Short-termism

Modern society is suffering from “temporal exhaustion”, the sociologist Elise Boulding argued in the mid 1970s; “if one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future.” Just imagine, Fisher (2019) ponders, how would Boulding react to today’s “relentless, Twitter-fuelled politics” and the non-stop fashion advice etc. that we are bombarded with on a daily basis as a consequence of the internet of things and our love/hate affair with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. As Fisher (2019) states, it is little wonder that “problems like climate change feel so hard to tackle right now.” He asks, “how often do we contemplate the impact of our decisions as they ripple into the decades and centuries ahead?” (see Appendix B). As Magen and Gross (2007 p. 415) put it, today temptations surround us—“sugar-coated donuts [and] distracting TV shows—critically these things all have one thing in common, the “promise [of] immediate pleasure and delayed suffering.” They go on to articulate how less obvious forms of temptations are also potential sources of harm to us and others—e.g., “driving too fast, speaking angrily, and procrastinating”—and caution that the struggle against temptations is “constant, and success is far from assured.”

In a seminal study that sought to investigate the antecedents and correlates of choice behaviour with respect to the delaying of gratification, Mischel and Gilligan (1964, p. 411) observed that

Yielding to temptation—in a situation in which attainment of achievement rewards is contingent upon deviant (cheating) behaviour—was conceptualised to be a function of (a) the strength of the motivation to attain the prohibited gratification, and (b) the inability to delay immediate gratification.

Some psychologists have used the metaphor of a “horse and rider” to describe this tension between our rationality and urges, “the rider knows it is smart to think longer-term, but the horse has its own ideas” (Fisher, 2019). This begs the question, if we are susceptible to ignoring the wellbeing of our own health the day after tomorrow, it is even harder to imagine how most people will have real empathy for their yet to be born descendants. This focus on self-interest and short-termism is most obviously seen in politics (doing what is necessary to be popular today and not what is best for the given country’s longer-term interest) and economics (consumption over and above necessity).

As Semuels (2016) has argued, once upon a time, what was good for many business tended to be good for the country as a whole, “companies invested in their workers and new technologies, and as a result, they prospered and their employees did too.” Today things are different. They are different because people want to have their honey today, not to delay for a possibly larger and possibly tastier quantity of honey tomorrow. There is now widespread concern that businesses are too focused on short-term profits and are thus not, “investing in their workers, in research, or in technology—short-term costs that would reduce profits temporarily” (Semuels, 2016).

Implications of large-scale coordinated action

Beckstead (2013 p. ii) has put forward the following thesis, from a global perspective, “what matters most (in expectation) is that we do what is best (in expectation) for the general trajectory along which our descendants develop over the coming millions, billions, and trillions of years.” This sounds and seems to be utilitarian in nature for it suggests that future generations are of more import that our current one. We most of us have tasted some honey, those yet to be born certainly have not. What right do we have to deny them this delicious opportunity? The issue soon becomes technical and difficult because who knows what are the best actions for us to take ‘now’ to ensure that we can best ensure there is honey available to be tasted in the ‘future’?

One way of trying to measure this is use Social Discount Rates (SDRs). SDRs might be used to put a present value on costs and benefits that will occur at a later date” (LSE, 2018). In the context of tackling the environmental crisis, SDRs might be used to calculate and forecast how much today’s society should invest in trying to limit the impacts of climate change for tomorrow’s generations. In other words, they calculate how much self-sacrifice will probably be needed in the here and now in order to ensure the generations of the future will still have a natural environment to enjoy and utilise in a sustainable way. SDRs are designed to weigh future people’s benefits against the costs borne by us today (we self-sacrifice by self-quarantining; we could then self-sacrifice by reducing the number of times we travel by air for holidays and pleasure).

This all gets complicated because nobody really knows how much we should sacrifice. Imagine for instance international travel, should we tell rich people to only take one holiday per year, would they accept this? Which government could win elections with such promises? According to Hodgkinson (2014), the main issue in terms of addressing the environmental crisis is that, if the world’s key governments and institutions were to agree to reduce carbon emissions now, “people living in the future will benefit, not those living today … but it is we [who will] bear the costs of reducing such emissions.”

Remembering the extent to which Social Darwinism is seen as a law of nature (it is not) and the extent to which most business leaders and world governments have adopted the economic philosophy of Milton, it is hard to see how anyone (be it a liberal democratic institution or a concerned individual) advocating frugality, reusing as opposed to throwing away and repurchasing is likely to do well. The thing is this, free market economic policies are causing the overexploitation of the natural environment and businesses are all encouraging people to spend big today and forget about tomorrow. The few businesses or governments that might want to self-sacrifice will likely be put out of business or become unelectable as short-termists will price them out of the market. As many have suggested, the dominant view prevailing view at the international level about action on climate change seems to be, “Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” And it is those views about what future generations are worth that will determine whether or not we are actually able to deal with the world’s most pressing issue, the global environmental crisis (e.g., Hodgkinson, 2014; Martin, 2015)

While I argued that short-termism is the current zeitgeist, politically, economically and in terms of humankind’s consumption and lifestyle choices, and that it is short-termism—“The Century of the Self” as Adam Curtis (2002) calls it —that is the main reason for there being no clear roadmap to address the environmental crisis, I am actually a rational optimist.[5]  I will dwell a bit and now ask you to dig deep, in a thinking sense, to what Andersen wrote in 2012. She argues, and I paraphrase, that humankind must consciously put aside their own pleasures and preferences for the greater good, because it exercises a kind of ‘moral muscle’ in us. She continues, such selfless acts can actually strengthen us by showing us that we are not simply selfish, hedonistic creatures. Acting in such a way, she contends will probably lead to, “stronger bonds of trust and mutual respect” amongst human beings, reminding us that “living on this planet is a group endeavour; that none of us can survive alone.” We must begin to accept (with the ‘carrot’ of improving our ‘moral muscles’) that making ethical choices that may not be comfortable or lucrative are sometimes, simply put, the right thing to do. I would say that too much of a draconian ‘stick’—like the authoritarian tracking of citizens to, monitor their temperature as some states are doing now—will ultimately backfire.[6]

Concluding remarks

As Magen and Gross (2007, p. 415) point out and then ponder, “many of us succumb to temptations, despite knowing that we will later regret doing so … how can such behaviour be avoided?” I can reply with experience, “such behaviour cannot easily be avoided.” However, referring once more to the seminal work of Mischel and Gilligan (1964, p. 417), two important findings are drawn, both of which do offer us hapless sinners some ray of light (a possibility of there being some honey and happiness both in the ‘now’ and for the ‘future’). First, they did observe that responses to temptation are not “simply a function of internal controls” and that conceptualisation concerning behaviour in a temptation situation should take into consideration the reward value of the prohibited gratification. Secondly, they concluded that “individual and situational differences in preferences for such immediate gratification.” O’Donoghue and Rabin (2000, p. 247) talk about ‘naïfs’ and ‘sophisticates’ and they demonstrate that with education and increasing the awareness of the implications of behaviour today and its impact on them tomorrow may result in changes to short term behavioural patterns. They back this up by saying the sophisticates were in some ways more able to delay immediate gratification as they were more aware of its possible future adverse consequences.

Therefore, it seems to me that if leaders and role models can really sell us the idea of delayed pleasure (e.g., the foregoing of (some) honey for the common good of tomorrow’s generations) can bring us happiness in the sense of the feel-good factor of being a nicer person, then we can hope to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic response. We can then realistically dream of averting the impending climate change catastrophe. It is very important that we do not be totally utilitarian or totally deontological in approach. I will say that a mixture of the two is both ethically and morally sound and critically, more likely to bring to us the end we want without making the means too unpalatable and difficult to endure.

— § —

Notes

 
 
[1]   In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic; the extent to which it has impacted on GDP growth and international travel by air is unprecedented and is projected to result in the biggest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s (Gopinath, 2020). The ‘environmental crisis’ includes the following features, all of which human population growth and consumption choices cause: biodiversity loss (a load of fauna and flora are threatened with extinction because of the destruction of their natural habitats and direct exploitation—think of Wuhan’s animal market and overfishing of the seven seas), climate change (global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion), deforestation, desertification (soil erosion and degradation) and the scarcity of clean fresh water.

 
 
[2]   Refer to Sheahan et al. (2008); “Zoonotic SARS-CoV likely evolved to infect humans by a series of transmission events between humans and animals for sale in China” (p. 2274).

 
 
[3]   As I write this essay, China and the USA are playing a blame game. Basically, both governments are attempting to shift attention from their own mistakes by seeking to turn the public attention to the mistakes they allege of each other (see Appendix A). More recently still the U.K.’s government has accused Russian spies of seeking to steal British research insights into Covid-19 and, the very next day (‘…you took it all away’) the U.S.A.’s government accused Chinese spies of seeking to pinch American research insights into Covid-19. (see: Walker (2020) and Gramer (2020), respectively)

 
 
[4]   For instance, see the Intelligence Square debate on this motion “To Stop Climate Collapse, We Must End Capitalism”: intelligencesquared.com/events/to-stop-climate-collapse-we-must-end-capitalism/

 
 
[5]   In this wide-ranging video documentary, we hear a lot about consumerism and commodification and links this to contemporary view on fashion. It makes the argument that superficiality benefits big business. what is interesting is that this was made before social media. So, the points made almost 20 years ago are even stronger today. The last US election was not about politics and policies, it was about media manipulation, showmanship and ad hominem gone wild.

 
 
[6]   China is using big data to control and monitor everything its citizens do, where they go, what they do and who they meet. Many others are following China’s lead in increasingly monitoring every move of their citizens be it Hungary, Thailand, or the Philippines (Gebrekidan, 2020). Closer to home, we see this happening too in Egypt. As Magdy (2020) writes, Egypt’s President has granted himself more powers using Covid-19 as a cover. While some of the new powers can be linked to Covid-19 human rights groups say, others such as the power to now ban public and private meetings, protests and even celebrations, can not.

— § —

References

Andersen, E. (2012, 26 May). The Noble Art of Self-Sacrifice. Forbes. Retrieved, https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2012/05/26/the-noble-art-of-self-sacrifice/#3588ff7136ac

Beckstead, N. (2013). On the Overwhelming Importance of Shaping the Far Future. Ph.D. Thesis, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Retrieved, https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/40469/PDF/1/play/

Curtis, A. (2002). The Century of the Self. Retrieved, https://youtu.be/eJ3RzGoQC4s

See: Bidoonism’s Adam Curtis anthology

Fisher, R. (2019, 10 January). The perils of short-termism: civilisation’s greatest threat. BBC. Retrieved, bbc.com/future/article/20190109-the-perils-of-short-termism-civilisations-greatest-threat

Gebrekidan, S. (2020, 14 April). For Autocrats, and Others, Coronavirus Is a Chance to Grab Even More Power. The New York Times. Retrieved, nytimes.com/2020/03/30/world/europe/coronavirus-governments-power.htm

Gopinath, G. (2020). ‘Global lockdown’ will cause worst recession since Great Depression, says IMF. The Guardian. Retrieved, theguardian.com/business/video/2020/apr/14/great-lockdown-recession-great-depression-coronavirus-imf-video

Gramer, R. (2020, July 22). U.S. Closes Chinese Consulate in Houston Amid Surge in Chinese Espionage Cases. Foreign Policy. Retrieved foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/22/us-trump-china-escalation-tensions-spying-closes-chinese-consulate-in-houston-chinese-espionage-cases/

Hodgkinson, D. (2014). Thomas Piketty, climate change and discounting our future. The Conversation. Retrieved theconversation.com/thomas-piketty-climate-change-and-discounting-our-future-30157

Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. London: Penguin. Retrieved https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cpmRBAAAQBAJ

LSE. (2018). What are social discount rates? The London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/faqs/what-are-social-discount-rates/

Magdy, S. (2020, 9 May). Egypt’s president expands powers, citing virus outbreak. The Washington Post. Retrieved, washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/egypts-president-expands-powers-citing-virus-outbreak/2020/05/09/849af3e0-91f2-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html

Magen, E., & Gross, J. (2007). Harnessing the need for immediate gratification: cognitive reconstrual modulates the reward value of temptations. Emotion, 7(2), 415–428. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.7.2.415

Martin, R. L. (2015). Yes, short-termism really is a problem. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved https://hbr.org/2015/10/yes-short-termism-really-is-a-problem

Mischel, W., & Gilligan, C. (1964). Delay of gratification, motivation for the prohibited gratification, and responses to temptation. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 69(4), 411–417. doi:10.1037/h0048918

O’Donoghue, T., & Rabin, M. (2000), The economics of immediate gratification. Journal of Behavioural Decision Making, 13(2), 233–250.

Prasso, S. (2020, 6 May) Lawsuits against China escalate Covid-19 blame game with US. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-06/lawsuits-against-china-escalate-covid-19-blame-game-with-u-s

Rachman, G. (2020, May 4). The US and China’s dangerous blame game will do no good. The Financial Times. Retrieved, ft.com/content/ffc6ac00-8de0-11ea-9e12-0d4655dbd44f

Semuels, A. (2016, 30 December). How to stop short-term thinking at America’s companies. The Atlantic. Retrieved theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/12/short-term-thinking/511874/

Sheahan, T., Rockx, B., Donaldson, E., Sims, A., Pickles, R., Corti, D., & Baric, R. (2008). Mechanisms of zoonotic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus host range expansion in human airway epithelium. Journal of virology, 82(5), 2274–2285. doi:10.1128/JVI.02041-07

Trofimov, Y. (2020, 8 March). Democracy, Dictatorship, Disease. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved, wsj.com/articles/democracy-dictatorship-disease-the-west-takes-its-turn-with-coronavirus

Von Weizsäcker, E., & Wijkman, A. (2017). Come on!: capitalism, short-termism, population and the destruction of the planet. Berlin: Springer. Retrieved books.google.co.uk/books?id=nWA-DwAAQBAJ

Walker, A. (2020, July 17). U.K. ‘95% sure’ Russian hackers tried to steal coronavirus vaccine research. The Guardian. Retrieved, theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/17/russian-hackers-steal-coronavirus-vaccine-uk-minister-cyber-attack

— § —

Appendix A: The blame game


Appendix A: The blame game
Note  Illustration by James Ferguson (Rachman, 2020).

Despite there being many instances of global cooperation etc., not everything is ethically minded and being done altruistically. According to one viewpoint, historians of the future might record that, “the Covid-19 pandemic marked the start of a new cold war between China and the US” (Rachman, 2020). As Prasso (2020) makes clear, mistakes in relation to the virus were made on both sides—cover-ups and arrests on China’s part, downplaying the virus’s contagiousness and suggesting the injecting oneself with household bleach may be a remedy on America’s part.
 
Point: “Coronavirus, explained”
 
Counterpoint: “Once upon a virus…”

— § —

Appendix B: Me, myself & I


Fisher-2019-a

Fisher-2019-b
Note  Illustrations by Nigel Hawtin (Fisher, 2019)

As Fisher (2019) stresses, today’s population of 7.7 billion is small if balanced against all humans who are to be born. If Homo sapiens endure for thousands of years to come, billions of yet to be born individuals do rely on us to do the right thing regarding the environmental crisis. Intangibly it will benefit ‘our’ peace of mind; the benefit to ‘them’ will be very tangible.

Seemingly deceitful

“The Devil’s Trident” et al.

Simply put an illusion is something that is not real. But we most of us want to believe in things that science and reason tell us, by verifiably replicable experiments and observations, are not real; are “illusionary.” They say we see with our eyes, but let us be clear here, our eyes simply act as conduits to our brains, it is our brains that decipher and decide. For those fortunate enough not to be blind, we do like to be titillated by objects of beauty, panoramic views, the flickering of a fire, the waves rolling in and, optical illusions. The latter are a subject of much interest, writing in 1976, Coren et al. (1976, p. 129) pointed out that in the 120 years since Johann Joseph Oppel published the first systematic work on visual geometric illusions, “nearly a thousand papers have appeared that deal with distortions evoked by simple two-dimensional patterns of lines.” In the past 20 years with the aid of computers (to analyse) and social media (to share) the interest in optical illusions has grown further still (Alter, 2013; Hogenboom, 2015; Schultz, 2013). In this short essay I will discuss a number of such illusions, the way/s in which they trick the brain (alongside the human visual system) and the psychology behind them. But first I will discuss the workings of the eye and how it, like the human brain, is very susceptible to chicanery and trickery—to being deceived.

In the beholder’s eye

We know that the human eye works like a camera. When we look at something, light reflected from that thing enters the eyes through the pupil. Bizarrely it comes in upside down and this light and colour info is focused through the optical bits and bobs within the eye (see Appendix A). As Whitaker et al. (1996, p. 2957) point out in relation to the typical functioning of the human eye:

Judgment of the relative position of objects is an important feature of the human visual system. We seem able to perform this task effortlessly across spatial scales. Thus, whilst we can view two objects and estimate their separation, we are also aware of the relative position of internal features of the objects themselves.

However, the human eye, as with the human mind can easily be tricked. Optical illusions occur because our brains automatically try to interpret and make sense of what we see, usually they get things right, that Apple iPad ‘is’ an Apple iPad but, magicians and sellers of snake oil (and psychologists and visual artists) have long known eyes can be tricked because the human brain is partial to seeing myth as fact and fact as fake. Optical illusions fool our brains into seeing things which are there when they are not actually there or are not seemingly there when, in fact, they actually are.

Perception—what we think, what we think we see—is the interpretation of the things that enter our minds including via our eyes. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is subjective. Therefore, the same object will not be seen as the same thing by any two people. As pointed out by Hogenboom (2015) Aristotle wrote that, “our senses can be trusted but they can be easily fooled.” This was in the context of him looking (not into Nietzsche’s abyss, but) into a waterfall for too long. He observed that, if we watch something moving quickly for too long, and then look at an inanimate object next to it — like the rocks beside a waterfall — they will appear to move in the opposite direction; a phenomena now classified as the “motion aftereffect” or, “the waterfall illusion.” Neuroscientists have argued that this can be explained by the fact that it takes a lot of energy and effort for the eye to compute fast moving and continually ‘forward’ moving objects so that when it suddenly switches to seeing a stationary object if over emphasises the lack of movement and moves the object slowly ‘backward’ (Hogenboom, 2015).

There is a theory attached to all of this and it is called the Centroid Hypothesis. It states that judgments of distance between visual objects are influenced by the brain’s computation of the “centroids of the luminance profiles of the objects” (Whitaker et al., 1996). Concerning the Devil’s Trident (see Appendix B), the Müller-Lyer arrows (see Appendix C), the Penrose triangle (see Appendix D) and similar illusions, the pattern of neural excitation evoked by contextual flank overlaps with that caused by the stimulus terminator, thereby leading (due to the shift of the centroid of summed excitation) to its perceptual displacement. The relative displacement of all stimulus terminators leads to misjudgement of distances between them; that is, the illusion occurs as a side effect due to necessarily low spatial resolution of the neural mechanism of assessment of the relative location of the visual objects.

The Devil’s Trident 🔱

Devil's Trident -- an optical illusion
Figure 1: “The Devil’s Trident,” Masterton and Kennedy (1975, p.107).

The Devil’s Trident (a.k.a., “The Impossible Trident”) was first noted in the academic press by an American psychologist—Donald Schster—who is said to have been inspired by an advert he saw in a magazine (Schuster, 1964). Accounts of the “Devil’s Trident”—see Appendix B—stress that the middle prong, “appears to be in two places at the same time” and that it involves, “incompatible surface depth cues linked as though they were compatible” (Masterton & Kennedy, 1975, p.107).

Knowledge of optical illusions is not a recent thing. Like all good things, we can go back to Ancient Greece to find initial thinking on the subject: Aristotle and the waterfall (as mentioned above). Indeed, as Bach and Poloschek (2006 p. 21) say, Plato also alerted us to the discrepancy between perception and reality in his “Allegory of the Cave.” Philosophers remain intrigued to this day. As Donaldson (2017) argues that impossible figures prove problematic for sense-data accounts of perception that contend that, corresponding to every visual human experience, there are mental objects (sense-data) that we are aware of—and that sense-data have the properties that the objects that our experiences tell us they do. The problem is that sense-data would have to be impossible objects … surely, impossible objects can’t exist!” There are other explanations. For example, illustrations like the Müller-Lyer arrows (see Appendix C) confuses the brain (in some cultures, according to Alter (2013), not all) and it overcompensates, “making the line appear bigger — as it would have to be in real life to produce those kinds of proportions” (Hogenboom, 2015).

Concluding remarks

To sum up, we can assume that we will never be able to suddenly see true reality with crystal clear clarity and 20/20 vision, be it the waterfall’s rock, the shadow play in the cave or the Devil’s Trident. But this is the magic of reality. This is something we should embrace and revere, not fear. Just because we do not know what lies within black holes or what exists beyond the edge of the universe does not mean we need to create myths to fill in the gaps and then dogmatically and religiously follow them (see Dawkins, 2011). Personally, I like that art can trick us it actually says to me we are human. Also, I feel that visual illusions are actually logical and explainable by reason and science: our brains have evolved to need to constantly predict what is about to happen so, illusions demonstrate our brain being logical and telling us what we should ‘typically’ see not what we rarely physically see.

References

Alter, A. (2013). Are These Lines the Same Height? Popular Science. Retrieved, https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-03/are-these-walls-the-same-size-your-answer-depends-on-where-youre-from/

Bach, M &, Poloschek, C. (2006). Optical Illusions. Visual Neuroscience, 6(2), 20-21.

Coren, S., Girgus, J., Erlichman, H., &, Hakstian, A. (1976). An empirical taxonomy of visual illusions. Perception & psychophysics, 20(2), 129–137. doi.org/10.3758/BF03199444

Dawkins, R. (2011). The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. London: Bantam Press.

Donaldson, J. (2017). “Impossible Trident” in F. Macpherson (ed.), The Illusions Index. Retrieved, https://www.illusionsindex.org/i/impossible-trident.

Hogenboom, M. (2015). How your eyes trick your mind. BBC. Retrieved, http://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/story/20150130-how-your-eyes-trick-your-mind/index.html

Howey, T. (2016). “How the eye works” Retrieved, https://www.tomhowey.com/How-the-Eye-Works

Masterton, B. &, Kennedy, J. (1975). Building the Devil’s Tuning Fork. Perception, 4(1), 107–109. doi.org/10.1068/p040107

Schuster, D. H. (1964). A new ambiguous figure: A threestick clevis. The American Journal of Psychology, 77(4), 673. doi.org/10.2307/1420787

Schultz, C. (2013). Are Optical Illusions Cultural? Smithsonian. Retrieved, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/are-optical-illusions-cultural-6633978/

Whitaker, D., McGraw, P. V., Pacey, I., & Barrett, B. T. (1996). Centroid analysis predicts visual localization of first-and second-order stimuli. Vision Research, 36(18), 2957–2970. doi.org/10.1016/0042-6989(96)00031-4

Wikipedia (2020a). “Impossible trident.” Retrieved, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impossible_trident

Wikipedia (2020b). “Müller-Lyer illusion.” Retrieved, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCller-Lyer_illusion

Wikipedia (2020c). “Penrose Triangle”. Retrieved, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penrose_triangle

— § —

Appendix A


How the Eye Works
(Howey, 2016)

— § —

Appendix B


Devil's Trident -- an optical illusion
Note: The devil’s trident (or ‘tuning fork’) is a drawing of an impossible to physically construct object. As articulated by Wikipedia (2020a), “it appears to have three cylindrical prongs at one end which then mysteriously transform into two rectangular prongs at the other end” (see also: Masterton & Kennedy, 1975, p.107).

— § —

Appendix C


Note: The Müller-Lyer illusion typically comprises of three arrows and we think the stems of these arrows are different lengths but, as the diagram shows, they are in fact the same length; as far as we know it was first devised by the German sociologist Franz Müller-Lyer in the late 1800s (Wikipedia, 2020b).

— § —

Appendix D


Impossibility in its purest form” is how the so-called Penrose Triangle is described. It is another of these object which can be drawn but cannot exist as a solid object -- just like this paper’s 'Devil’s Trident'
Note  “Impossibility in its purest form” is how the so-called Penrose Triangle is described. It is another of these object which can be drawn but cannot exist as a solid object (Wikipedia, 2020c) — just like this paper’s “Devil’s Trident” (see Appendix B, above).

📙 Sophie’s World

— by Jostein Gaarder (1991).

Do please allow me to introduce to you, Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder (by the by, it was published in Norwegian in 1991 and then in English in 1994). It is a novel of sorts that seems to align with Bertrand Russell’s 1945, History of Western Philosophy. I say “of sorts” because essentially I see it as a way — one of many, see e.g.: “Put simply” — of making the key philosophers and their main ideas more accessible to the likes of me.

📙 Sophie’s World
inspired by Bertrand Russell’s:
📙 History of Western Philosophy


REFERENCE

Gaarder, J. (1994). Sophie’s World. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


The novel centres on Sophie Amundsen, who is introduced to the history of philosophy by one Alberto Knox, a lecturer in philosophy by way of a number of letters and various other, often somewhat cryptic, mediums.

يا صوفيا 🍉 هلا و غلا


Every day, a letter comes to Sophie’s mailbox that contains a few questions and then later in the day a package comes with some typed pages describing the ideas of a philosopher who dealt with the issues raised by that morning’s questions. The philosopher, Alberto Knox, sends her these packages via his aptly named dog, ‘Hermes.’

Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder (1st ed. 1991)
Lets delve, together you and I, into the rabbit hole.

Alberto first tells Sophie that philosophy is extremely relevant to life and that if we do not question and ponder our very existence we are not really living. Then he proceeds to go through the history of Western philosophy. Sophie (and us readers) gets a reasonably coherent extended review from the Pre-Socratics to Jean-Paul Sartre. We get by way of Alberto, key points regarding the Renaissance, Romanticism, and Existentialism, as well as Darwinism and the ideas of Karl Marx. I thought it might be interesting to consider his categorisation, it is stated as being focused on ‘Western’ philosophy so the omission of the other canons is an acknowledged one.

Ancient Philosophy

— The Pre-Socratics
Including: Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles & Democritus
Socrates, Plato & Aristotle
— Ancient Philosophy after Aristotle
Including: the Cynics, the Epicureans, the Stoics & Plotinus

Catholic Philosophy

— The Fathers
Including: St Augustine & Pope Gregory
— The Schoolmen
Including: St Thomas Aquinas

Modern Philosophy

— From the Renaissance to Hume
Including: Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke & Hume
— From Rousseau to the Present Day
Including: Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Byron, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx & William James.

I don’t like to paraphrase the following remarks but life ain’t always gunna b nice to you so, here goes, a reviewer at Publishers Weekly (familiarly known in the book world as PW and, they say, “the bible of the book business” has been printing out literary reviews since 1872 and somewhere along the timeline decided to drop the apostrophe) did write something along the lines of this: Regardless of age many readers will be tempted to skip over the somewhat “dryly written” philosophical lessons — which are not particularly integrated with the “more engaging” meta-fictional story line. This reminds me of something Li Yu is said to have said in his Carnal Prayer Mat.


How low contemporary morals have sunk! But if you write a moral tract exhorting people to virtue, [you] will you get no one to buy it.

Which is akin to the marketing adage/joke:


SEX
— Ah! Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about something completely different. . .

Providing a polar opposite perspective is Steven Gambardella. He writes that Sophie’s World has changed the lives of millions of people and is the “red pill of literature.” It is “the best place to start reading about philosophy” and “eloquently captures the wonder of philosophy, the giddiness you feel when you realise you are floating in space.” The rabbit is sketched to be representative of the universe. In the book, we humans are compared to tiny insects in the rabbit’s fur. Some of us burrow down into the warmth of the fur, while the philosophers among us climb to the tops of the hairs “to stare right into the magician’s eyes.” As Gambardella states, it was written by a high school teacher with a passion for the subject, became a bestseller and has now “sold over 40 million copies.”

The red pill and blue pill is a meme representing a choice between taking either a “red pill” that reveals an unpleasant truth, or taking a “blue pill” to remain in blissful ignorance. The terms and concept are taken verbatim from a scene in the 1999 film The Matrix.
rabbit-hole
Run rabbit run, take me into the abyss — the deep and bottomless midnight zone of eye & ur innermost consciousnesses.
Going [reaching || falling] down the rabbit hole
Falling / Going / Reaching down the rabbit hole, is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a ‘troublingly’ (or possibly too ‘wonderfully’) surreal state or situation.
The Persistence of Memory
“The Persistence of Memory”
By Salvador Dalí (1931). One of the most recognisable works of Surrealism [Spanish title: La persistencia de la memoria].
By hook or by crook, let them — these contemporaries of Sappho and idols of Catullus — reach down into your rabbit hole; let Freud & co. sweet-talk you there, bent over, cowering under or splayed out on the psychologist’s faux-leather, mock-Chesterfield couch.
On a tangent of his own Gambardella says that philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom — knowledge is merely instrumental and is applied to get us by — it is thought about thought. Knowledge of philosophy, he argues, allows us to enhance our pleasures and diminish our pains of our own accord. He quotes Seneca as saying:


Without [Philosophical pondering] no one can lead a life free of fear or worry. Every hour of the day countless situations arise that call for advice, and for that advice we have to look to [it].

Me, well I’m a dipper (skinny I wish) and this applies to all that I read and my writings and musings too. The chalice or urn is neither overflowing or bone dry. It is, I submit to you, bang in the middle. The purpose of this book in my view is to encourage us to think for ourselves, question things that are taken as given and doubt dogmas, as Gaarder writes, “my concern [, dear Sophie,] is that you do not grow up to be one of those people who take the world for granted.” I’d take the red over the blue, politically and metaphorically speaking and in relation to the pleasures and pains of love too.

I’ll end with a nod to who I’m guessing was an influence on Gaarder: Bertrand Russell. Russell was an English philosopher and campaigner for freedom (of expression and from authoritarian control). Reassuringly — to me anyway — he said do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once seen as being eccentric.

The History of Western Philosophy


Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell


The fundamental cause of trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell


p.s.
Consider visiting Bidoonism’s page on Philosophy and/or reading her recent reviews of the following works:

Eldridge, R. T. (Ed.). (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gottlieb, A. (2000). The Dream of Reason: a History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Gottlieb, A. (2016). The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Grayling, A. C. (2019). The History of Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Kenny, A. (1998). An Illustrated Brief History of Western Philosophy. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Russell, B. (1945). A History of Western Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Mayday, ((m’aider))

venez m’aider (“come and help me”)

The Handmaid’s Tale stresses the importance of reading to our freedom…

This book is usually, and quite rightly, placed in the same category of dystopian fiction as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, but has a particular focus on the tyranny of patriarchy (the Aunt’s being the lapdogs so to speak). **I do though get confused by Offred because, well, yes you’ve gotta adapt to survive, but she seems somehow accommodated to her trysts with Commander fRed and in to her dalliances with the driver. What happens to Molly? how exactly did her daughter get wrested from her bosom up by the cold river?** The book’s ending pleasingly open-ended, because come on — dear J — there ain’t no such thing as black — 000000 — and white — FFFFFF. __Context — our sub-text & reading in between the lines my Only.One — is everything; ain’t it m8? Atwood stresses this by emphasising how changes in context impact upon behaviours and attitudes. We read the phrase “Context is all” in the book several times: Think scramble. And yeah, I loved it how our Ofred believed that she’d won round one and let him take the second, but after several “games nights” realised his superiority at this particular board game.__

… it also stresses the trap that academics may fall into: the risk of misreading and misunderstanding historical texts.

Snippets


There is more than one kind of freedom. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy it was freedom to, now you are being given freedom from. (p. 24)

⁓Total Control⁓


Men are sex machines, said Aunt L, and not much more. They only want one thing, you must learn to manipulate them. Lead them around by the nose, this is a metaphor. This is nature’s way. (p. 143)

⁓Total Control⁓


So there it was. Out in the open: his wife didn’t understand him. That was what I was there for then. The same old thing. It was too banal to be true. (p. 156)

⁓Total Control⁓


The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you’ve been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil. (p. 193)

⁓Total Control⁓


“Nature demands variety, for men” he says. “It stands to reason, it’s part of the procreational strategy. … Women know this instinctively … they buy so many clothes to trick the men into thinking they are several different women.” (p. 239)

⁓Total Control⁓

B02BACD9-6C87-42CC-AA9A-FA6A6FCA7008
George Orwell’s “1984” is often juxtaposed with fellow English author, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”

Who controls the past controls the future /
Who controls the present controls the past.


p. s.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday”
Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice-procedure radio communications. The “mayday” procedure word was originated in 1921, by a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. The radio officer—one Frederick Stanley Mockford—opted for “mayday” from the French m’aider (“help me”)—a shortened form of venez m’aider (“come and help me”)—because he had a thing at that time for a fine young thing from Paris.

My hero: George Orwell by Margaret Atwood
I grew up with George Orwell. I was born in 1939, and Animal Farm was published in 1945. I read it at age nine. It was lying around the house, and I mistook it for a book about talking animals. I knew nothing about the kind of politics in the book – the child’s version of politics then, just after the war, consisted of the simple notion that Hitler was bad but dead. To say that I was horrified by this book would be an understatement. The fate of the farm animals was so grim, the pigs were so mean and mendacious and treacherous, the sheep were so stupid. Children have a keen sense of injustice, and this was the thing that upset me the most: the pigs were so unjust. The whole experience was deeply disturbing, but I am forever grateful to Orwell for alerting me early to the danger flags I’ve tried to watch out for since. As Orwell taught, it isn’t the labels – Christianity, socialism, Islam, democracy, two legs bad, four legs good, the works – that are definitive, but the acts done in their names. Read on…

Lust and Lambast
A hand left poignantly unshaken; a republican party, quite unstirred.

Writing concisely is not my style yet, as column inches for anything other than celebrity gossip, consumer reviews and self-help are now such a precious commodity, I must be succinct. Even if I were allowed to go wild with the word count, it would probably demonstrate only the validity of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Nowadays smartphone shortened attention spans need to be taken into account. In order to gain wide readership on matters of current affairs, being parsimonious with prose is a necessity. Gone are the days when waxing lyrical in verbose flowery language on issues of international political economy was considered a mark of distinction. Read on…

Reading is key

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book
— Axel Scheffler & Julia Donaldson (2005).



Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.

John Locke


Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

Sir Francis Bacon

Book Art (02)
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
John Steinbeck
Bookcover Art (13)
“Love and work… work and love, that’s all there is.”
Sigmund Freud
Bookcover Art (16)
“When we are not sure, we are alive.”
Graham Greene
Bookcover Art 14
“Many artists and scholars have pointed out that ultimately art depends on human nature.”
Steven Pinker
book___03
Joseph Conrad also wrote The Secret Sharer (oh Jay)
Book Art (01)
“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
Franz Kafka


If you do not like to read, you have not [yet] found the right book.

— J. K. Rowling

Fiction as truth

or, vice versa?

This is a review of sorts of Robert Lane Fox’s 1991 The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible.

REFERENCE
Fox, R. L. (1991). The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible. London: Viking.

Robin Lane Fox, in The Unauthorized Version, sets out to discover how far biblical descriptions of people, places and events are confirmed or contradicted by historical fact: external written and archaeological evidence. As Penguin the publishers do say, “the bible is inspirational and endlessly fascinating but, is it true? From a rather different viewpoint Richard Dawkins — author of The God Delusion (2006) — says that “the God of the [bible’s] Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Dawkins also says:


We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in.

With regard to The Unauthorized Version, Barton (1993) writes, anyone who hopes that this book will totally ridicule the bible and mock the religious establishment for continuing to propagate its stories as ‘gospel truths’ will be in for disappointment. I would say that Fox does his best to be objective and not offend those who still believe in religion. Another reviewer wrote that Fox’s work, “brings many examples that will help neophytes to probe the historical veracity of the bible” and that, “it is clear that there are lots of contradictions within and in between the bible’s stories.” I note that various reviews of this book consider that it is poorly organised — I myself would have liked a clearer chronology and for chapters of the book to follow the chapters of ‘The Book.’ Joel Swagman (2013) in his review of The Unauthorized Version provides the following sound advice to all wannabe book reviewers (a.k.a., me, Anna, Anna Bidoonism) and it is this:


The cardinal rule of book reviewing is to review the book you’ve read, not the book you want/wish to have read.

Now, I won’t even pretend that I’ve read all of this book and I am defiantly new to all of this (I’m a neophyte). I have tried a few times and I have dipped in and out. But what I see from this book is that a lot of the Bible is actually from stories that occurred well before Christianity itself was born. In fact, I am fascinated by the subject of this book because so much art and literature is based upon biblical stories. As an English Literature student, I see no alternative but to gain a good working knowledge of the bible, as it has become — for the Western canon — the most influential work of scripture… I mean, I mean, ‘literature.’ As they say, don’t shoot the messenger…


Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.

John Locke

Knowledge is key (and need not be value-laden)…


The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.

Anaïs Nin

In light of this, here are some interesting audios (along with partial transcripts, hats off to Yale) — I am talking well over 50 hour’s worth. I’ll say this, these audios are organised in a fully chronological way, not that Fox’s work was ever designed or meant to be. However, for me to one day be able to actually appreciate The Unauthorized Version and critique it in any meaningful way, I must first listen to, and read along with, these:

THE OLD TESTAMENT
39 parts: c. 1200–165 B.C.
•   •   •   •   •   •
Divided into three groups: (A) ‘The Law’ or ‘Pentateuch’ which covers ‘Genesis’ to ‘Deuteronomy’ (B), ‘The Prophets’ and (C), ‘The Writings’ which includes ‘the Psalms’ (songs and prayers), ‘the Proverbs’ (sayings of wisdom) and ‘Job’ (the nature of suffering).
THE NEW TESTAMENT
27 parts: c. 50–100 A.D.
•   •   •   •   •   •
Divided into two groups: (A) ‘The Letters’ or ‘The Epistles’ and (B), ‘The Gospels’ which includes the story of Jesus, ‘Revelation, ‘the Battle of Armageddon’, the tale of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the tale of the ‘Hideous Beast no. 666’ and, ‘the End of Days…’

THE OLD TESTAMENT
01. — The Parts of the Whole
02. — The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting
03. — The Hebrew Bible: Genesis 1–4
04. — Doublets and Contradictions: the Historical-Critical Method
05. — Critical Approaches
06. — Stories of the Patriarchs
07. — Israel in Egypt
08. — From Egypt to Sinai
09. — Cult and Sacrifice
10. — Biblical Law: JE (‘Exodus’), P (‘Leviticus’ & ‘Numbers’) & D (‘Deuteronomy’)
11. — On the Steps of Moab: Deuteronomy
12. — Deuteronomistic History: Life in the Land (‘Joshua’ & ‘Judges’)
13. — Deuteronomistic History: Prophets and Kings (1 & 2 ‘Samuel’)
14. — Deuteronomistic History: Response to Catastrophe (1 & 2 Kings)
15. — Hebrew Prophecy
16. — Literary Prophecy: ‘Amos’
17. — Literary Prophecy: ‘Hosea’ & ‘Isaiah’
18. — Literary Prophecy: ‘Micah,’ ‘Zephaniah,’ ‘Nahum’ & ‘Habbakuk’
19. — Literary Prophecy: Perspectives on the Exile
20. — Suffering and Evil
21. — Biblical Poetry: Psalms and Song of Songs
22. — The Restoration: 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah
23. — Visions of the End: ‘Daniel’ and Apocalyptic Literature
24. — Alternative Visions: Esther, Ruth, and Jonah

THE NEW TESTAMENT
01. — Why Study the New Testament?
02. — From Stories to Canon
03. — The Greco-Roman World
04. — Judaism in the First Century
05. — The New Testament as History
06. — The Gospel of Mark
07. — The Gospel of Matthew
08. — The Gospel of Thomas
09. — The Gospel of Luke
10. — The Acts of the Apostles
11. — Johannine Christianity: the Gospel
12. — Johannine Christianity: the Letters
13. — The Historical Jesus
14. — Paul as Missionary
15. — Paul as Pastor
16. — Paul as Jewish Theologian
17. — Paul’s Disciples
18. — Arguing with Paul?
19. — The “Household” Paul: the Pastorals
20. — The “Anti-household” Paul: Thecla
21. — Interpreting Scripture: Hebrews
22. — Interpreting Scripture: Medieval Interpretations
23. — Apocalyptic and Resistance
24. — Apocalyptic and Accommodation
25. — Ecclesiastical Institutions: Unity, Martyrs, and Bishops
26. — The “Afterlife” and Postmodern Interpretation


More books by Robin Lane Fox:

Other books & ephemera:


REFERENCES
Barton, J. (1993). The Good Book and True. The New York Review of Books.
Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. London: Bantam Books.
Dawkins, R. (2011). The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. London: Bantam Press.
Fox, R. L. (1973). Alexander the Great. London: Allen Lane.
Fox, R. L. (1991). The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible. London: Viking.
Fox, R. L. (2005). The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian. London: Allen Lane.
Fox, R. L. (2008). Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer. London: Allen Lane.
Hayes C. (2015). What’s Divine about Divine Law? Early Perspectives. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Martin, D. B. (2004). Inventing Superstition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Martin, D. B. (2010). Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press.
Swagman, J. (2013). The Unauthorized Version. Random Book Reviews.

POST SCRIPT

Bloodthirsty
Having or showing a desire to kill and maim. — “He really was nothing more than a bloodthirsty dictator.”


Capricious
To have sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behaviour. — “A capricious and often brutal administration.”


Filicidal
The killing of one’s son or daughter.


Genocidal
Relating to or involving the deliberate killing of a large group of people of a particular nation or ethnic group. — “He really was nothing more than a genocidal dictator.”


Homophobic
Having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people. — “Most religious texts contain homophobic tracts.”


Infanticide
A person who kills an infant, especially their own child.


Malevolent
To have or show a desire to do evil to others. — “There was a flash of dark malevolence in his eyes.”


Megalomaniac
A person who has an obsessive desire for power. [and/or] A person who suffers delusions of their own power or importance.


Misogynist
A person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women. — “Donald Trump is a renowned and unrepentant misogynist.”


Neophyte
A person who is new to a subject or activity.


Pestilential
Relating to or tending to cause infectious diseases. — INFORMAL: annoying — “What a pestilential man!”


Sadomasochistic
Characterised by or deriving sexual pleasure from both sadism (the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others) and masochism (the tendency to derive sexual gratification from one’s own pain or humiliation).


Vindictive
Having or showing a strong desire for revenge. — “The way he criticised her was far too vindictive in my view.”


Veracity
To conform to facts; to be accurate.



Download selected sections of The Magic of Reality (Dawkins, 2011):
pp. 12-13, “What is reality? What is magic?”
pp. 32-52, “Who was the first person?”
pp. 118-139, “What is the sun?”
pp. 246-265, “What is a Miracle?”

⁓Total Control⁓

of our movements & mind

It is coming. Total control is coming. It is coming in the form of facial recognition, machine learning and the extant desire of man to control other men and, almost needless to say, to control fauna, flora, natural resources & women too.

Within this — within Facial Recognition (FR) — I’m including iris & fingerprint scans (which are now sort of ‘old-school’), one’s gait, one’s heartbeat, one’s breathing and one’s vocal idiosyncrasies (the grammatical structures & lilt one unwittingly employs and deploys). With FR, AI can now lipread effortlessly and almost without flaw. Perversely, oh irony of ironies, the last recourse for libertarians may well be to don a loose-fitting abaya and adopt the shayla with a niqab to boot (yet, letter-box style, such garb will be forbidden in due course in the name of national security; just look next door to KSA to see what I/m on about).

When I say Total Control is coming, I more accurately mean that it is basically already here. But I consider it latent and laying low for now. Under the radar, it is biding its time, it is potent, it has portent, it will be omnipresent and predominant. Men of good fortune, you see, they have all the time they need (after all, they’ve us where they want us to be and we are dancing diligently to their drumbeat).

Faces open phones
Snapchat has filters
Instagram takes selfies
Facebook now 'auto' tags
TikTok takes the bloody lot

Total Control you see, and the men of good fortune behind it, have us by hook (line & sinker) and, they have us by crook too (because if liberal state entities desist, your invisible-hand, capital-seeking company sure as night follows day won’t hold back and refrain). It is already in situ at our shopping malls,[1] retailers use Bluetooth to detect our smartphones as we roam around, allowing them to proffer us with real time special offers [sic]. They also track us to see where we linger to ascertain what’s hot and what’s not (i.e., in front of which product do we stand and look longingly at for the longest). There’s no real recourse to escape Total Control’s clasp, only the off-grid recluses have yet to succumb to its virtually all encompassing G P S enabled digital creep and seep.

Karen Hao et al.[2] suggests that while it is fashionable to fret about the prospect of super-intelligent machines taking over the world by say 2050, we should rather concern ourselves about the actual dangers that FR etc. do now present:

A.
FR is a formidable way to invade people’s privacy. AI tech.’s superhuman ability to identify faces has led countries to deploy surveillance technology at a remarkable rate. We know well that FR enables us to unlock our phones and automatically tags our photos on social media. It moreover enables anyone to find out about us via software such as Amazon Rekognition — take or get a picture of anyone, in the lecture theatre, in the mall, then feed it to Rek, it’ll tell you who it is and once you’ve their amalgamated social media profiles and web postings, you’ll — in seconds — know rather a lot about them. They could be sitting their listening diligently to the professor’s lecture on logical positivism and borne of boredom you silently photograph them and moments later you could be swiping through their Snapchat twerks and their Pintrest tips on yoga poses for better posture (and never quite getting the import of Wittgenstein’s change of mind).

B.
The fact that AI tech. is used by political manipulators like Cambridge Analytica to alter election and referendum results, undermine healthy debate and, isolate citizens with different views from one another has been with us for a good six years now. Our media feeds are tailored and we all exist in echo chambers whose outer walls are soundproofed padded cells.

C.
The proliferation of “deepfake” videos is another real and present danger. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), which involve two competing neural networks, can generate extraordinarily realistic but completely made-up images and video. Nvidia recently showed how GANs can generate photo-realistic faces of whatever race, gender, and age you want. Forget fake celebrity porn and idle tittle tattle, think: virulent political smear campaigns and claims based on false science. Think of The Tango, Rude Guliano, alternative facts and fake news.

Big Hands
^ my case in point

Many demand there to be appropriate safeguards in place and for a moratorium on biometric FR technology ((so, so true but capitalism’s been unleashed, the greed and ego of man is both clear and obvious, the proverbial genie’s been let out of Pandora’s box)) so while certain jurisdictions may halt their own agencies using FR tech., multinationals and nefarious individuals are hardly going to pay heed. It is known that presently FR tools generate many of the same biases as humans do, but with the false patina of technical neutrality, we are less likely to call out or even notice such biases. Greater accuracy is not however the only or even main bone of contention. No. It is that Total Control will soon rob us of our liberty and ability to think freely. As Kate Crawford says, “this technology will make all of us less free.”[3] Unfortunately, the idea, frankly, of us harnessing technology is, and I quote, “fanciful.” To hold that we can keep technology in check and use it only for the common good, may with hindsight, be seen as having been a rather naive contention. As I hear it said, be careful what you wish for, and in the lab, be careful with what you develop. No… that sounds wrong! Wish (in a daydream like way) for anything your heart craves and don’t hold back on any form of experimentation whatsoever but, ‘but,’ it is critical we think things through; ‘think before you speak.’

You know what’s the motto of America’s New Hampshire, don’t you: “Live Free Or Die.” Well, it is as moving as it is quaint. It was previously used by the French during their revolutionary years — Vivre Libre ou Mourir. This motto is so me… so much so I want it to be so . but alas no , I did all I humanly could but it wasn’t enough ; it could never ever be close to being enough unless the result is all of you, every sinew every single second : it is all {or} it is nothing at all . I am left with nothing and I feel not free but I have not yet been able to will myself to die. The Greeks said a similar thing and carry it today: “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος” (“Freedom or death”), I’m with them in mind, I am with them in desire but (1) I am alone [yet I’ve still not been able to consciously force myself to pass away] and (2) I am knowingly under Total Control’s auspices as much as every other person I know, if not even more so: I scroll, I refresh, I obsess [& again, I’ve not mustered the willpower to self-combust and abscond this mortal coil].

According to Anna Mitchell et al.,[4] China is perfecting a vast network of digital espionage as a means of social control ((and don’t we all just love cheap Chinese product nowadays)). In China, it is said, when you step outside your door, your actions in the physical world are swept into the dragnet: the government gathers an enormous volume of information by way of C C T V. According to some, one hundred percent of Beijing is now covered by surveillance cameras ((it ain’t just China, where I live there are cameras on every traffic light and all over the university campus)). As is so most everywhere, the main stated goal is to capture and deter criminals. Yet, the massive risks to privacy are there in plain daylight. As Anna Mitchell paints it and I paraphrase it:

Imagine a society in which you are rated by the government on your trustworthiness. Your “citizen score” follows you wherever you go. A high score allows you access to faster internet service or a fast-tracked decision on a welfare payment or a hospital appointment. If you make political posts online or, for instance, question or contradict the government’s official narrative on current events, however, your score decreases. … To calculate such scores, private companies in partnership with government agencies will unceasingly trawl through vast amounts of your social media and online shopping data alongside your G P S movements and hangouts; you may be allowed to know your score but certainly wont be allowed to know the heuristics upon which it is derived.

In such ^^ scenarios ^^ — which I submit to you are basically underway if not yet overtly rolled out and, when they are rolled out will be, on the grounds of national security, bellicosely championed by state-backed sycophants and media outlets — citizens will refrain from any kind of independent or critical expression for fear that their data will be read or their movements recorded and their citizen score reduced. Indeed, my dear reader, this is the whole point and purpose of it. While we should monitor and denounce this sinister creep toward an Orwellian world, we… me… we mostly just do nothing at all.


Relevant past posts:
Poetry & ProseBooks1984
Poetry & ProseBooksBrave New World

Orwell's---1984


Live Free Or Die

— General John Stark (1809)


p.s.

Bellicose
Demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight.


Bide one’s time
This phrase means to wait quietly for a good opportunity to do something. — “She patiently bided her time before making her bid to escape and roam free.”

* Read the Nature magazine 2019 article by Kate Crawford,

Editable PDF: “Regulate facial-recognition technology”

which comes with the wonderful pull-out quote:


These tools are DANGEROUS when they fail and HARMFUL when they work.

— Kate Crawford (2019)