I love those, ‘well, fu**ing hell!’ moments when your preconceptions are challenged. We live in a world where everything is disputed, people that don’t share the same world-view are morons, ‘so called’ experts are torn-apart, and those that have no knowledge whatsoever are considered trusted advisers! And if you think that’s not you, picture this. You find a lump on your person. You know it’s not muscle cos you’ve been sitting on your ass during COVID like everyone else. Are your first thoughts concerned with getting to a doctor, a person dedicating their life to medicine and the study of the human body? Nope, we search the internet. We google. We then may see a doctor if the situation persists, but if we don’t like the outcome, we get a second opinion. We live in an age where facts are only relevant if you agree with them. Well try this out, Trump is far from a know-nothing imbecile. He is a manipulative, master persuader.
After finishing the utterly dire Wuthering Heights during the week, where I constantly hoped the next sentence was ‘ . . . and after tea, when Catherine could barely countenance another scornful remark by the awful villain Heathcliffe, everyone died a slow and painful death’, I’ve picked up Understanding Jung (a little bit of psycho-analysis, because that’s what you need when living alone in month four-thousand of lockdown), and the other-worldly Scott Adams’ Win Bigly. The latter is unputdownable, even though it's on audio, so in fact is exactly that. What’s wonderful about the book is that Adams, a self-described ultra-liberal, hypnotist and a man of academic persuasiveness, uses the latter in the book on you. He even tells you so. He’s persuading you of Trump’s persuading capabilities.
The Dilbert cartoonist predicted Trump’s win in 2016, and goes on to elaborate on the baboon himself. Am barely halfway through, and I can see the patterns. This week Trump decried whether he will accept the outcome of the election, a complete masterstroke. He has cemented ‘he will continue’ into people’s minds, that he ‘has the power’. It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t got that power, but that’s what people are focusing on, Trump continuing. They’re talking less about the wall, his failures in business, his marriage and numerous scandals, his pu$$y-grabbing, racism, incestual thoughts about his daughter, about the disastrous COVID, about ignoring the wishes of a dying judge. Everyone is focused where he wants them: the election, and Trump staying put. Additionally, he has pre-empted any loss calling it ‘a fix’, so his supporters will be outraged should anything less than a win be granted. It’s a wonderful pantomime. He’s poked holes in democracy, disputed ‘facts’ to the point his followers will believe anything he says. It’s a dogma. As Adams points out, he could literally run with Bernie’s policies and still win. There is nothing like a US election.
The biggest mistake people consistently make are dismissing those who oppose your world-view as know-nothings, believing that presenting facts will sway them. All ‘they’ need is a bit of education, right? Well they think the same. It’s fascinating. Adams’ spends considerable time in the book on cognitive dissonance, cognitive bias and the perceptions of reality i.e. your reality being different to the reality of others. Adams also states that although we claim to base our opinion on logic and reason, we actually form our opinion and then hunt for facts to suit. It’s like I’m reading two Jung books, whilst eating a Jung steak with a Jung basting, with a side of Jung, washed down with a fresh-Jung smoothie, sitting in a Jung tracksuit. I may not escape COVID with my sanity yet.
Spent a little time outside with my macro lens this weekend, lovely to be out in the sunshine!
Equal Societies and Cockroaches
I don’t want to eat cockroaches. Just, no. And yet! A story popped up this week of cockroach farms in China housing a billion cockroaches which consume restaurant food waste, are then ground up and used as high-protein animal feed. Those familiar with the film Snowpiercer will be acquainted with the jellified nutrient bars of the future for human consumption, and I realise it’s feasible and probably quite practicable, but I want to opt out. Give me almost anything else. Except olives, can’t do olives. Or coffee, that smells. All the stuff of nightmares in Chez Reed.
I’ve been reading a few things this past fortnight, an eclectic mix of meditation, overt drug use, classic literature and social inequality. Calm no matter what by Paul Wilson welcomed daily meditation back into my life and Bronte’s Wuthering Heights so far offers a maudlin, frustrating affair of ‘he said, she said’. I suppose there’s something in the writing that makes one so emotionally intertwined with the novel, even if it’s with vehement wish that all the characters die suddenly in some kind of caustic olive-coffee-cockroach timebomb. Thinking I was going to need a ‘fix’ to get me through the book, this has been quashed by William S Burroughs Junky scaring away any scintilla of interest, especially as the audacious 1950’s novel is based on real-life-experience by the Naked Lunch author. Who knew that if junkies blow their arm veins, they can often find success injecting between the toes? Ouch!
However, on a lighter and less toe-curling note, the book on social inequality is a tour de force of ‘wow’. The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better is ridiculously good. There are many, many charts, but these are simple to understand and use United Nations statistics, rather than a dartboard and the Trumpian guidebook to horseshit. An excerpt: If a country does badly on health, you can predict with some confidence that it will also imprison a larger proportion of the population, have more teenage pregnancies, lower literacy scores, more obesity and worse mental health scores. Additionally, more equal societies have a greater sense of public responsibility and trust, recycle more, produce less carbon emissions and have less homicides. And if that wasn’t enough, more equal societies work less hours per week. Convinced yet? Read this book, it’s amazing.
Surprisingly Australia and New Zealand often come out middling to bad, the UK is awful, and the USA are setting records in being reprehensible. They’re so terrible they should, and often are, held in contempt. The Scandewegians and Japan are far ahead, showing that if you invest in universal healthcare, good education and fundamentally a more equal society, it is beneficial to the entire country not just those less well off. A rising tide of equality, basically. Who would have thought that short-termism and constant tax-cuts to service the rich and fuck the unknowing poor into a coma would benefit society?
In other news, as Australia waltzes out of winter with a spring in its step, protests against wearing a mask happen every weekend, raising much needed coffers to pay back country debt. Get out their people, protest like your life depends upon it! Which it doesn’t, it’s the antithesis of that. Meanwhile across the rather large pond, American jurist, equal rights campaigner and all around good-egg Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away this week, finally succumbing on her fifth battle with cancer. Talk about tenacious! With her avarice for life in mind, I shall get outside into the sunshine. Since my hair is long and I’m wearing a mask and glasses, I’m entirely dependent upon the bridge of my nose to soak up as much Vitamin D and energy as it can. Otherwise I may have to look at those protein and health shakes to make up the shortfall, which have very recently become far less appealing.
They key to pulling chicks when a teenager was to have an ugly friend, apparently, or preferably friends. The theory was to shine amongst the throng: surround yourself with a bunch of greasy-haired, drooling baboons (teenagers, basically) that additionally talked of warlocks and smelt like a fetid badger had sex with a durian fruit, and you were positively magnetic. Maybe it was the liberal application of Lynx ‘Old Sox.’ It never worked for me of course, but my friends seemed to be fighting the ladies off, sometimes it got so bad that me and my warlock buddies had to intervene. We were never thanked.
I think in that little microcosm of pubescent life lays a simple message: others can have it worse. Some poor bastard out there renders your own problems infinitesimal. Yeah ok, you may have the fashion-sense of someone that got dressed in a typhoon, in the dark, and lost a bet, from the 1970’s, but somewhere is an equally challenged chap with dandruff like snowflakes and a club-foot the size of a watermelon. But still, this feeling that someone else has it worse still pervades, even during the face of Stage 4 lockdown extension until the end of September or October. The hope is they’re still talking about 2020.
Travelling has always given me perspective, as too has just seeing other people. I used to take solace in others: I mean, look at that guy with teeth like broken picket-fence, and that girl with the nose the size of a potato! And then just when you think the world can’t teach you anything, another lesson: apparently, it’s considered rude to say all this in front of said misfits, pointing and staring like they’re behind glass at a zoo. But now all these people fit perfectly into life. No longer can I holler across the road, “oiii, teeeethhhhh!!!” when 90% of their face is covered in hair or a mask. In future copies of Playgirl, they’ll just show a mouth, and people will be swooning in the aisles. “Oh my goodness”, women will quiver, touching imaginary pearls to their chest. “I saw that man’s upper lip, the shame!”
I just finished Bill Bryson’s The Body, and along with Malcolm Gladwell’s superb The Tipping Point, it presciently calls out the danger of an oncoming flu. We were warned and it was all right in front of us, just like our masks. It’s with some succour that if a future goddess had come back to warn us, all we’d have heard from behind her mask anyway would have been, ‘fnufff n fnuefff feefffffufff’, which is some pretty racy stuff if you’re a warlock.
Writing and writing...