Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel ?

Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel ?

It now appears that Charlie Gard and his parents have lost their war. It seems that Charlie will die over the next few days and that his parents have decided that all hope of any improvement is lost. All they now seek is to ensure that their son dies with dignity and compassion.

They gave up their commendable battle when they realised it was now, after all the delays, too late to meaningfully help their son. They faced enormous challenges and met them with dignity and were, without any dubiety, an example to many of the power of parental love. The showed a steadfastness that was remarkable and kept on despite many difficulties.

In the last week there was a campaign mounted against them which is likely to have originated  from GOSH’s legal team. Articles appeared in the British press praising at the medical and nursing staff suggesting that they were doing their best for the child and his parents could not wish for better advocates for their baby.

It was then suggested that the staff had been intimidated by online harassment and threats. This is a common strategy by those under pressure as it has the two fold action of both stifling criticism and also suggesting that those on the other side of the debate are associated with violent thuggery. This was especially unpleasant as throughout this dreadful time Charlie’s parents remained dignified and reserved. They never called the motives of the staff caring for their child into question and said no bad things about them.

Charlie Gard will not see his first birthday. But in his short life he will hopefully have opened many peoples’ eyes to the dangers of giving away our freedoms to authorities who tell us that they will look after us. He and his parents will have achieved much more than most of us, they are modern heroes. Heroes don’t need to win their battles they just have to be heroic. Heroes are heroic not because they win but because they fought.

Listen up folk !

Listen up folk !

Listen up folk ! Zog our tribal leader has kept us safe from harm these last months. he has protected us from wild animals who wanted to devour us. He has protected us from other tribes who wanted to kill us. He even protected us from ourselves when he lead us away from mistakes and disasters we would have made. Let us give our young women and food to the great Zog so he continues to protect us.

Listen up folk ! Our King Albert has kept us, his loyal subjects, safe for another year. He has protected us from King Zog who surely wished to invade and kill us. He has wisely guided us and avoided many a disaster that would otherwise certainly occurred without his wise council.  Without King Albert the barbarians at the gate would surely have entered our lands; killing our men, raping our women, and butchering our babies. So let us give thanks as we give our labour and produce to our monarch and prepare for another year.

Listen up folk ! The church has again saved us;  not just our bodies but also our souls. Our priests have guided us well in ensuring we do not fall prey to heathens at the gate. We know the pagans sit and wait for the chance to kill us and take our women and children. The warn us and protect us from the work of witches and demons. Thanks also to the clergy who, through their wise advice, have kept our souls safe. They warned us of our sins and saved us from eternal damnation and the pains of hell’s fire. So let us arrange a tithe to give a portion of our wealth to the Church so it may protect us for another year.

Listen up folk ! The government has lead us safely through another year. Without them no roads would have been built, no one would have cared for the poor, our children would have been uneducated and ignorant and doctors would not have attended to our sick. Without our ruling class we would have descended into savagery killing and raping our fellow citizens. So let us feel pride when we pay our taxes as we are protecting ourselves for another year.


Check who is taking your possessions, check who holds the power. This will let you know who is your enemy.


 

On finding a bundle of stones

It seems that the artistic urge is an important aspect of us all. Even when we were, as a species,  little more than savage animals it seems that the urge to create things of beauty was there. The cave paintings of figures and animals are testament to this desire to create art. Primitive man spent time making objects, or decorating places, with no functional intent other than to please themselves and perhaps others. In a life that was hard and precarious this argues that this desire to create artworks is exceptionally strong.

In the modern world has been a tendency for this desire to be taken away from the populace and made into a commodity or skill which can be traded. Now we are much more likely to see ourselves as consumers, rather than producers, of art. But each time we doodle, whittle or whistle it should remind us that this creative desire is still there.

I was reminded of this when I was walking the dogs this morning and came across this piece of artwork  laid out on the wall at the side of the road.

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At first glance this may not appear much more than a pile of detritus gathered on a wall but it clearly is a work of art. Someone had obviously taken time to collect the objects needed – stones, flower, ferns, leaves and feather – and then spent further organizing them into a pleasing pattern with considered symmetry and planning. I an not see that this was done for any reason other than to please the person who created it. I can see no utilitarian aspect to its manufacture. It a work of art, something made purely for the pleasure of perceiving it.

It is probably more a work of art than many items we currently grace with that term, such as songs, statues, or paintings, as this was made with no plan of sale. There was no intention to trade this item for something else or for money. Its manufacture and perception were its purpose. Also unlike other works of art there was no intention for the artist to receive any other reward such as fame or renown. He, or she, has remained anonymous, content to have the pleasure of the object alone.

As a work of art it has fulfilled the one other aspect of such items. It was left for others to enjoy. A work of art will usually be intended to bring pleasure to others. It would have been possible for the creator of this to make their artwork then brush the leaves and feathers off the wall leaving no trace. However, it was left on display to find and to please its audience, and, unlike many modern art displays, the audience did not have to pay either money or respect for the pleasure

Someone I will never know made something that brightened my morning and they will never know that they did that. The artistic impulse that has been with us from the dawn of our species still manages to break out and surprise us.

via Daily Prompt: Savage

Snack Music

Snack Music

A few years ago I was diagnosed as having Type II Diabetes. It was quite a shock as I hadn’t felt unwell and had not realised just how bad my diet was.  In the first year I used a low carb/high fat diet to get my weight normal and to be able to stop taking medication. Since then I have paid better attention to my diet and started to exercise regularly, I have stayed off medication, my blood pressure and lipid levels  are better than when I was a younger man and I am fitter. I also feel fitter and stronger.

When I look back to see what I had done wrong to end up in this state, it was clear that snack food had been my downfall. Looking back it was obvious quick, easy to eat, high carbohydrate treats had taken over my diet.  Snacks had done it; a sandwich, a cake, a pie, a biscuit, a sausage roll .. there were many ways I could snack instead of eating regularly. I had developed a bad habit of eating easy food with a quick reward. There was no need for preparation, little need for thought, just eat and go.

Over the years this had done considerable damage to my body. I was three stones overweight, no amount of leaving my shirt outside my trousers could hide my belly, I could not run, and eventually my body started to fail. Fortunately I started to have to get up at night to pee and thinking I might have the other old man’s friend (prostate problems) I saw the doctor who, alarmed at the high levels of my blood sugar, started medication immediately.

I use the word “fortunately” as I am glad I found out the damage I was doing to myself before discovering it, too late,  after a heart attack, an amputated foot or after going blind. I have turned some things around and hopefully reduced my risks somewhat. But I was clear that snacks had been my downfall, they had messed up my diet and consequently messed up me.

However, recently I have been trying to learn from my mistakes. If I did this much damage unwittingly, what other damage might I be doing ? Are there other dangerous snacks I have been overeating ?

I realised that in cultural terms I was wreaking similar damage in other areas by snacking. I decided to tackle these problems also before they started to cause problems or disability. I have started first with music. I was aware that over the years I have started to prefer small, easily digestible pieces of music; pieces of music that require little thought or attention and which catch you quickly and satisfy instantly. I prefered the snacks of the musicalworld.

I had been led to this by the mp3 and the download. Rather than listen to a concert or an LP I would listen to a single track. Instead of listening to the whole opera I’d listen to the popular aria made famous recently by its use in an advertisment. I noted that my musical tastes have been coarsened and  are now much more reliant of rhythm and beat – the quick hit, the ‘carbs’ of the music world. I noticed also that often I was guided to music by the accompanying video which makes the emotional impact much more effective while, at the same time, taking away the need to think and consider. I think it is no surpise that the videos are becoming more important as it is not really the music that is being sold now. It is the quick snack, the fast food of the music world, rather than a balanced healthy diet.

I’m starting to see results. This morning was improved by listening to “A night on bald Mountain” and last night was spent in the company of the Dance Macabre  of Camille Saint-Saens. This has been much better for my health and soul than my previous diet and hopefully, over time, I’ll see similar amounts of improvement. Certainly I feel better and I am also much more aware of what I consume musically and that, in itself, is not a bad thing.


Night on Bald Mountain

Dance Macabre


via Daily Prompt: Snack

Totally Free, Totally Independent

Totally Free, Totally Independent

A lot of territorial changes are anticipated in the wake of a letter from Theresa May to Donald Tusk. By triggering Article 50 it clear that the political map of Europe will need to be redrawn. There is a great deal of uncertainty of how Britain’s leaving of the European Union will be managed, what form trade arrangements will take, what new international arrangements will be made, how will new opportunities be handled. Although slightly apprehensive, I am optimistic that this is a step in the correct direction and one which will allow us to become more democratic, more responsible and able to have relationships with a wider range of people and places.

It is also likely that this change may lead to changes in the make up if the ‘United’ Kingdom itself.  The S.N.P. see Brexit as an opportunity to push for a second independence referendum and, were they successful, Plaid Cymru may follow suit. Although this is rather opportunistic of the S.N.P., I have no concerns over this. Smaller is better in terms of democracies and, in the absence of a federal or canton system in the U.K. , four smaller nations would be less undemocratic than one large unit. These smaller states would be more flexible and responsive than their larger progenitor. This could possibly, though not necessarily, lead to better economic and social systems.

My only concerns are that the S.N.P., with its large state policies and plans to seek continued membership of the European Union, is not promoting policies which bode well for an independent Scotland’s future. On the one hand their policies suggest a future reminiscent of the nightmare of Venezuela (Inefficient oil-backed socialism) while Europe’s policies sugest and equally unsavoury prospect of a Greek future (of externally imposed austerity and reduced public spending).

If we are going to try to use nation states to break up bigger units and bring power closer to people we have to be careful that we manage to do this. Break up the United Kingdom by all means but break up the European Union also.  Don’t bring powers back from London simply to send them further away to Brussels. If we are going to ‘Cry Freedom’ lets go for full freedom and independence. Fully free we can work out our economic and social plans for ourselves.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Territory

Standing up to Trump (via Spiked)

Standing up to Trump (via Spiked)

The Daily Prompt today was “resist”  and initially I was going to give this one a miss. However, the worry that many people have about the changes in America under President Trump is causing much discussion on issues of resistance.  However, much of this initial resistance seemed very unfocussed and, at times, even anti-democratic. It almost seemed that people wanted to oppose the democratic result itself – a wail against the result – rather then looking at specific political points that need to be addressed and, trust me, there is no shortage of these issues.

Spiked, the online magazine has been a valuable source of good critical political debate and I thought that this article by them gave a good summary of where some of this activity could be directed. There are clear good initial pointers to action. There are also some good general points about the political changes.

In particular, we need to be very careful about the direction of “anti-politics”, as the article reveals, this can be very dangerous :-

Trump … “Your pose as the anti-politician, the man who hates the political class, is getting wearisome. It has crossed the line from criticism of he establishment, which is good, into a trashing of politics itself, of the very business of people getting together and talking and voting in order to make things happen. When will your anti-politics shift into a conviction that you alone should decide how things should be run? That’s the logical conclusion to anti-politics, whether it takes the form of demagoguery (you) or technocracy (Hillary).”

Spiked also makes a direct call to Trump :-

“In short, Trump, do not interfere with individual autonomy, freedom of speech or reproductive choice; do not promote the politics of fear; do not keep fighting the disastrous ‘war on terror’; and do not expand the power of the state over people’s lives. Respect freedom and choice and trade and growth: true, good liberal ideals.”

Given, that I fear, it is likely he will reject this advice, the other pointers to practical  ways to resist him will prove invaluable.

 

via Daily Prompt: Resist

Flattery; a dangerous foe.

Flattery; a dangerous foe.

via Daily Prompt: Flattery

Flattery is an insidious and dangerous foe. It works best when it is aimed at our blind spots. We can all recognise flattery when it addressed to areas where we are relatively self-aware and know our failings.

I know that I pass as “plain” on a good day, while on a bad day people might cross the street to keep out of my way. I can even shock myself were I to  I catch an unexpected glimpse of my own reflection. I am fine when I have posed my expression and stance and readied and told myself what to expect when I look in the mirror. Using words such as mature, wise, sage and other adjectives –  words that are rarely used on dating sites. The shock comes when I don’t expect it and I catch a glance of this old dolt in the mirror. Good grief .. .. stomach in .. .. stand upright .. .. back to the sage expression .. .. that’s better .. .. shock over .. .. phew,

So, for example,  flattery over my appearance rarely works. I am wise in this area. When young attractive women passed positive comments on my appearance, or style, in the hotel bar when I was abroad at conferences I knew this was flattery. I knew they were ‘at work’ and my allure was my credit card rather than my resemblance to a young Adonis. When shopkeepers praise my fine taste and ability to be ahead of the fashion curve, I know I am being soft soaped and that my wallet is being gently opened. Similarly when the negotiator praises my acumen and perception I know I am missing something from the deal.

Flattery is dangerous, however, when it is applied to areas where one has a degree of confidence. We are more likely to believe the sycophant when we already have a high opinion of ourself. Vanity is  the obvious patsy for flattery. It is this form of flattery that is so successful in financial scams. The “I can see that you are an astute investor…” or “You are somebody that obviously likes to be ahead of the crowd” are common opening lines of financial scams. But this problem can rear its head elsewhere also.

When I was much younger and working as a doctor I would often see patients referred after failed treatment or dissatisfaction with other doctors. Sometimes this was part of a much bigger issue, when the doctor-patient relationship was, itself, part of the problem. I was often proud to be called on to give my opinion or to try and assist when others had failed.

These consultations would often start with a very flattering opening gambit …

“Oh My Dr. X, you are so much more understanding than that Dr Y I used to see !     I can see that you are much nicer and I can tell you things I never could with them.     I am sure you will be able to help me.”

I grew to be able to recognise this dangerous opening for the flattery it is though when young I sometimes missed it. When I failed to see this flattery, and I was blinded by my own vanity, I unfortunately could reply along the lines of …

Oh thank you Mr Y. You are so uncommonly perceptive

Having fallen for the flattery and, worse, having given flattery in return we were both trapped in a relationship which was never fruitful, nor helpful, for either of us. Flattery had lead us to positions which were not tenable.

Flattery, a dangerous foe, especially when you think that you are on safe ground.


Trying to follow the daily prompt : Flattery