Thursday, 16 February 2017

Spring Garden – at the Birdfeeders

Pretty creature like a mouse,
Flittering about my house.
Gaudy bluetit in the sun,
Through the branches you do run.

Greenfinch come and greenfinch go,
On the roof then down below.
Goldfinch sparring with a sister,
Warring till it seemed you kissed her.

Starling speckled in shining black,
Pecking beak in sharp attack.
Pink a-flutter, collared dove,
With your mate a branch above.

Tiny dunnock, nervous, shy,
Clear depicted on the sky.
Blackbird, with your yellow bill,
Tense with life’s ongoing thrill.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Preposterous is the thought.........

Preposterous is the thought of our extinction,
That coloured light that blazed through mechanism
And shutter so divine should cease to pour.
A camera this unique to fall to such
Sad dereliction; creatures understanding of
extinction yet can be extinct? Can lights
like these go out so soon all over town,
Though other lights will kindle in their place?

Through evolution's baffles....(Anthony Gormley at Crosby Beach)

Through evolution's baffles, sickened bodies
Even, does consciousness protrude; intrude.
It bathes with light of knowing otherwise
Unviewed expanses. I can only speak
To you of them, indeed, because it's true.
A landscape with the human form is other
Than one unseen by man, that does not, then,

Monday, 13 February 2017

Endearments wrung from lovers

Endearments wrung from lovers in extreme
Will speak their Love, though Science says the Love's
Exacted as a ploy. The bond it makes
Will serve to propagate the race the best,
Thus subjugating Love to replicator
Genes. Science wants its story to the fore
Not noticing that bestial bonds allow
The glory that is Love and are its means.
Such battle being won by genes, then there
Would be no Love on earth to speak of here.
Which one is means and which is end - the key.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Cathy Newman Militant, Cathy Newman Triumphant, Cathy Newman Regnant

Crag-jawed, blonde-ringleted Cathy Newman has been unleashed from the slips in the Channel 4 bastions of rectitude and is in hot pursuit of her quarry, John Smyth. A slight, dapper, elderly man with a handsome lined face, he is confronted near a quayside by the intrepid anchorwoman while his wife clings to his side, her face a mask of polite and nervous inquiry. “Do you think what you did was Christian? Why did these young men have to bleed for Jesus? When will you face justice?” asks the breathless Newman on the hoof, similarly clinging to the man’s other side and thrusting an indecently large furry microphone under his chin. “I don’t wish to speak about this.” “How did you know I was here?” mutters in clipped accents the retired ex-patriot who now lives in South Africa.

This story has all the ingredients. It has class because the beaten boys were largely selected from the best British Public Schools such as Winchester College. It has hypocritical and creepy religion because the perpetrator used Christian Summer Camps to prey on his victims and it even has the additional tasty morsel of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, in a youthful former incarnation, on the periphery. Religion has been flushed out and is running scared, knowing that many of society’s ills are about to be pinned on it. The authority of the upper classes and establishment religion are revealed to be a mask for no more than perverted sexual gratification; in other words what we suspected all along. The ‘film’ opens with stills of crosses on churches and Madonna and Child icons. That the ‘mark’ is a barrister adds a cartoon element – we all envisage a bewigged judge, his hand resting on the Holy Bible, the wooden stall in front of him concealing the fact that he sits berobed on his bench in frilly knickers, suspenders, fishnets and stilletoes while grasping a cane. Much of Channel 4 News is given over to this story placed at the top of the programme’s hour long slot.

Most importantly of all the nature of the story – paedophilia at a remove of forty years with still living victims – makes the moral position of Cathy and her production team unassailable. She is, dare I use the term in the Trump era, unimpeachable in her pursuit and has a sense of full justification. She departs not with dismay but with glee, rejoicing in a crusading investigative stance which she senses to be impregnable and which gives her full license to be outraged. She is the Inquisitrix General and this is peak empowerment.

Posh boys now in their late fifties are taken back to the scene of their humiliation or interviewed in studios. They duly weep and tremble for the cameras confirming the irreparable damage which has been wreaked on them by the beatings meted out in his garden shed by the ‘upright’ Christian barrister. It is revealed that such ‘necessary’ purgatorial punishment was how he rewarded the confessions of onanism he extracted from them. We are told that some were beaten so badly they had to wear nappies.

I am acutely aware of the danger in which I place myself in writing thus. As I tiptoe across Newman’s moral minefield and as I notice her watchful eyes twitch open while she dozes on its periphery I know that if I put a foot wrong in what I write, if I am seen in any way to condone Smyth’s behaviour or if I fail to condole sufficiently with his victims I will be blown to moral smithereens and, to mix metaphors, instantly dragged before her Court of Assizes for arraignment and condemnation. The charges will be failure to sympathise and revile sufficiently. And yet I will take a risk. When I see these aging men crying and trembling I cannot help asking myself why they haven’t used their own agency to exorcise these events. Why have they not raged with good healthy masculine anger against their abuser and themselves for their own abjection and lack of spirit in letting it happen? Or, perhaps, why have some not ‘come out’ with the fact that they were complicit in it and even enjoyed it? Either way they could move on and live their lives instead of fulfilling the role so dear to Newman and her team of being eternal victims and excuses for indignation. Perhaps their keenest embarrassment is not at the pain they suffered but at having been taken for such mugs.

Intermittently, during the film, Newman sits, picked out against backdrops of stained glass and carved choir stalls. It is intended to evoke the church which, for Channel 4, is the real criminal here but one can’t help thinking that it evokes the holiness of Newman’s calling in making this piece. One can almost see and smell the incense of her sanctity rising behind her. Newman the indignant sits in judgment on the Church of England secure in her own moral purity and her right to preside over others in this trial by media. The Christian church which she is delighting in associating with this sorry and ridiculous tale tells us that the worst sin is that of pride and the judgement of others. People who do this might be referred to as whited sepulchres, sepulchres whose gates are the gates of Hell – concealing browned bones, black dust and deaths heads. Perhaps that’s too strong but it comes from a different moral universe to the one we see paraded before us here. Those playing the roles of hero and villain were once very different.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Universities: garnering profits from teaching the obvious.

Recently hospitalized by a kidney stone I was delighted that Science has bestowed medical knowledge on such as my son who is currently studying for a degree in nursing. I am also delighted that he is learning the pathology and aetiology of diabetes as, with such knowledge, he will be able to help a lot of sick people. Such science is a wonderful thing. Then I read one of his essays – one that addressed the contentious proposition that a ‘holistic’ approach to a patient was the most beneficial one. Apparently various ‘studies’ (I apologise early on for the plethora of quotation marks that you will encounter in this piece – the content just seems to lend itself to them) have suggested that it is best to view Mrs Dawkins in bed 12 as not merely a case of icterus or jaundice due to hepatitis, exhibiting skin discoloration amongst other things, but as a human person unlucky enough to be suffering from such a condition. It is also, apparently, important to take into account that she has emotions and is part of a social, familial and cultural network. These conclusions have been arrived at using both 'quantitative' and 'qualitative research methods' the studies inform me. They are based, thus, on sound psychological method. Similarly, my daughter, pursuing a degree in Business Studies showed me an essay in which she felt obliged to quote various studies which had ‘discovered’ that ‘toxic’ leaders of corporate business organisations were generally a bad thing when it comes to commercial ‘outcomes,’ measured in terms of profit and loss.

My immediate reaction to the above is to say something vulgar like “No shit Sherlock” and then, following on, to notice a strange choreography going on. My children both know that patients in hospitals are real people and not just disembodied medical conditions and they could easily guess that ‘toxic’ leadership is seldom successful, but, in their role as learners in our universities they have to learn the steps of the dance. Step one is to put such common sense aside. Step two is to ape a kind of gaping ignorance which does not know these things and then, step three, having read the requisite studies with their dates, their list of names and their peer-reviewing and replication studies, affect, gratefully, in step four, to have ‘discovered’ these astonishing news items. They are asked, in this choreography to behave like religious acolytes who have just received a revelation handed down form on high by a Moses-like authority. In their essays they then cite such authorities, demonstrate that they have learnt the new gospel and are waved through the various hurdle gates that represent progress in acadaemia. They will have joined in the academic gavotte and been duly rewarded with the qualifications they need to take up a career in their chosen areas during which they are far more likely to assume rather than discover the edicts of common sense.

When one pans out and surveys this academic ballet – largely centred around ‘studies’ in the discipline of psychology as opposed to the old –fashioned sciences of physiology, maths, chemistry etc – one sees a vast self-justifying industry dedicated to the discovery of the obvious and to dressing it up as epiphany. Whole careers and university departments are founded on this process and, for the most part, society and the media go along with it. And yet, given that my children knew about toxic leadership being, generally, undesirable and people being people before they even set foot on the threshold of acadaemia, can this vast superstructure of ‘learning’ not be seen as a vast and redundant luxury larded on top of the human condition?

In philosophy there is a device, first invented by the 14th century scholastic philosopher and theologian William of Ockham known as Ockham’s razor. This advances the idea that, in explanation and theory building one should use the principle of parsimony. That is to say that if one can explain something without assuming this or that hypothetical entity there is no ground for assuming it. Now, if one applies a form of Ockham’s razor to modern psychology-based acadaemia and pares away all the intellectual blubber and unnecessary superstructure of studies that discover the obvious, the commonplace and the everyday as revelation one might remove a whole unnecessary and self-perpetuating industry from our universities. Indeed, based on nothing, it might simply implode as the famous South Sea Bubble did in the 18th century or as the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac subprime mortgages and credit default swaps did in 2008. That the western universities can indulge in such pointless and questionable intellectual luxury is, in itself, revealing. Were real world economics to shift so that this vacuous dance could no longer justify itself the whole apparatus of teaching the obvious might crumble so that only useful and real learning remained. The dance would be over and the accompanying instruments unstringed.

The problem is, of course, that there would be enormous resistance from those who benefit from this industry and from the universities themselves who put a large number of bums on seats by ‘teaching’ its content. They would almost feel they had lost their raison d’ĂȘtre should such a loss occur. This is due, perhaps, I might daringly aver, to their raison d’ĂȘtre having become the creation of profit rather than the furthering of real learning.

Form where does all of this derive? It derives from a peculiar psychological model that considers itself to be based on a rigorous intellectual discipline. It assumes that human beings are tabulae rasae about whom we know nothing and about whom everything is to be discovered like a new species of rodent found in the jungles of Borneo. However, this assumption is a fallacy because before we don our white coats, take up our clipboards and enter the psychological laboratory we are already endowed with enormous quantities of knowledge and common sense without which we wouldn’t be able to even interpret the first sentence in the psychology text books. To pretend that all this prior knowledge is absent in ourselves, in others and, particularly, in our students, and that we enter the lab as erased units is simply to push intellectual contortionism to unfeasible limits. It is on this mistake that the teetering architecture of the edifice of psychological studies is based.

Saturday, 14 January 2017


Women want a man more than they want feminism.

And, of course, men want a woman.