What Do People Stand For?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

It is often said that the victors write history, but today history is being rewritten by people with niche agendas, and this is usually divisive and therefore ” a bad thing”.

In the USA and post-Soviet states, passions are running high about old civic statues of long-dead people – and some people are trying to bring this notion to Britain.

Afua Hirsch has asked for a revisionist review of Nelson and Churchill from a racist viewpoint. Why? What good would come of this?

It is true that modern eyes look upon the “olden days” with amazement – back then people freely took drugs, drank alcohol all day, smoked and were sexist, racist, bigoted with poor hygiene and no chance to vote.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

It is also true that some people were all for votes, equality for women, against smoking and the rest. This is because it is how things go – it is frankly silly to suggest that 100% of everyone was (for example) racist or pro-slave trade; there is always a natural spread of opinions that may well, in the end, give sway to a majority statistic in favour of racism, meaning that there will always be some percentage in opposition.

Afua Hirsch and others fail to realise that Nelson and Churchill can be “of that time” and that just because she has found some other people with different opinions doesn’t detract from that;  it is fair to say that the majority in the past did – openly and happily – have a tendency to white supremacy, however unpalatable that may be to us all today. Deal with it.

To help deal with it, I found it helpful to know that discovered and explored lands were tested against a tick box list to discover if the people were civilised or barbarian. The Indians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians and Chinese were found to be civilised, among others, and paid due respect, whereas many African tribes that failed the test were declared “barbarian” – which had an internationally agreed understanding – that these uncivilised/ uncivilisable creatures were equal to animals, and so could be owned and traded in the same manner as livestock. They simply were not considered “human”.

So let’s look again at Nelson and Churchill – yes, they were with the majority of the time, and yes there were some contemporary dissenters. But it’s not about judging them in any of the lights, now or then; it is not about excusing them nor apologising for them either.

Rather it is to know that whether these men held those opinions is unimportant because they did not become who they became in consideration of such views.

In other words, their views on racism make no difference to what they mean to us culturally; it just is not in the equation.

It is all to do with separating the man from what he represents, what he stands for. Both Nelson and Churchill represent victory, the triumph of good over evil, freedom over enslavement, the continuum of Britain as Britain.

It doesn’t matter if the man is gay, red-haired, short of stature, has a stutter, walks with a limp, has debts or is racist. Yet people don’t see that these days.

Today, increasingly, what matters is everything but the heroic, the inspirational, the Thing Represented.

That’s a shame.

Knowing Rock Hudson was gay didn’t matter a lot to me, but it did to others. I like the music of Richard Wagner – he may have been a Nazi sympathiser, but that is not what he – nor his music – represents. I may agree or disagree with Picasso’s political stance but still love his work.

People like Afua want to destroy what people represent, leaving nothing but a bad taste.

I am happy to remember the good and charitable work done over many years by Jimmy Savile. Savile – it seems – was a bad person in his private life, but he wasn’t representing that, he wasn’t advocating that view. He stood for charity, raising money and awareness, and as such was a force for good. People are complex, and it may well be that the allegations of sexual misconduct are true, but his good work was not done in that name.

You have to ask yourself what any historical figure represents – because that is greater and more inspirational than any fallible mortal man. In truth, there is no such thing as a real hero, so to have a hero, we must allow the bad stuff to be ignored/ forgotten. Most of the stuff we call bad today was less bad back in the day, and our hero has to fit in.

If we dig too deep, if we invade celebrity privacy if we snoop, if we use paparazzi – we learn too much, and if we know too much, then all that is good, all that may be inspirational and positive is destroyed.

Kevin Spacey is a great actor – but now he’s being erased from existence.

I am not asking for despots and murderers to be forgiven nor encouraged, merely that we are allowed to revere in ignorance, to allow ourselves to be inspired by people from the past – and not to have to think about the strange racist world they inhabited.

 

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Why The Pope Resigned

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

[Picture of Pope John Paul II]POPE JOHN PAUL II was charismatic, well-loved, and out-going. His almost 27 year-long papacy was outward looking, and that was a major problem for the Roman catholic church; it was falling apart both organisationally and doctrinally.

It’s difficult to put the view that John Paul II  was bad for the church because he was so universally liked. I am arguing that here that Pope Benedict was needed because John Paul was bad for the church, and because of what happened with John Paul in terms of infirmity and decline, Benedict had no option but to resign this week.

Pope John Paul promoted a lot of the ‘wrong people’ into powerful positions, and one of his favourites was the Rev. Marcial Maciel of ‘The Legion of Christ’ — who grew utterly corrupt, and extremely powerful and wealthy under John Paul during his last years with Parkinson’s Disease.

The church’s finances were questionable, and behind the scenes was an ever-growing corruption of many types. Nothing had been done about increasing number of the sexual abuse allegations reported about in the papers, and no-one feared the Pope in his many long years of declining health and ability.

Under Karol Józef Wojtyła as John Paul II , the Roman Catholic church had shrunk considerably, it was falling apart, and it seemed to be never out of the press for all the wrong reasons.

If only John Paul II has resigned before things had got so bad.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had taken a job that no-one else wanted, Read the rest of this entry »

How Design Really Changes Lives

Monday, 28 February 2011

IT IS often said that no-one notices good design, but everyone notices when cupboard doors collide, window latches cannot be reached, or games consoles break.  Everyone knows bad design.

It is true that we all put up with badly designed road traffic systems, and we know that cars could be designed better. There are many products, buildings, and organisational structures that could be improved upon with a little consideration and care.

Design — good or bad — is far more important than it gets credit for.  Design affects us all very deeply indeed.  It you think again about the phrase used to open this article —  if no-one notices good design, then it must be the case that it operates on an unconscious level.  So design is affecting us all the time, whether we know it or not.

Design can give us repetitive strain injury, design can help save lives. It is a wonderful thing, and I hope to show here how recent changes in design have changed us into 21st century people, and that it has affected our culture and lifestyles, and that it may continue to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Be A Boss

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

[Penguin leadership picture]A LOT of people say they want to be a boss without realising what it means for them.  You always have to give up something to get something else, and the trade off here is something that comes as a shock to many.

Ask any good boss — they will tell you that they found out early on that this means no friends in the workplace, and you have to accept that as the deal, but this causes problems for a lot of folk starting out.  In any workplace, it is easy to spot the serious, ambitious ones.  They shun small talk and fun in favour of climbing the corporate ladder. They do not need friends — that is the message.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why You Have to Be Nice

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

[Picture of a fanned out wad of dollar bills]EVERYONE ultimately has to be nice for survival.  This may appear counter-intuitive in a dog-eat-dog, cut-throat ambitious, capitalist and competitive world, but I shall prove it here as it is based on solid scientific evidence.

Psychologists Neils van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg and Rik Pieters of Tilburg University have shown that envy can be benign or malicious.  Benign envy can be “a good thing” in that the person being envied suffers no ill, and the person doing the envying gets motivated to at least try to become like their hero.  Malicious envy is more interesting (and surprising). Read the rest of this entry »

Why Lie to Children?

Monday, 1 November 2010

[Picture of archetypal Halloween thing -- the pumpkin lantern]HALLOWEEN is completely made-up; there’s no truth in it whatsoever. Every year it grows bigger and bigger, yet it is all lies.  Why? Why do we do this — why is this happening?

There are no werewolves.  There are no Vampires, mummies and no zombies.  Frankenstein’s monster is fiction. There are no witches, no warlocks, and no wizards. Magic is fiction; there is no black magic, no white magic and no spells.  Voodoo is hoodoo. I know this may come as a shock because they are so commonplace and acceptable to everyone from about the age of two upwards.

[Picture of Boris Karloff as a monster] [Picture of Lon Chaney as an Egyptian mummy in movies] Read the rest of this entry »

How Good Are You?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

[Picture of Simon Cowell on Red X Factor sign]MY ESSAYS on this site are about correcting so much that I encounter that is misunderstood, misinterpreted or wrong. I mix the anecdotal and personal with the scientific and philosophical — and even the religious. My aim is always to guide my reader to use his or her brains, to reconnect their experience to the truth, and not to correspond to the media’s revisionist version.

I like to think that I am not stating that I am 100 per cent right and everyone else is completely wrong, I just go on my own hunches, memories and knowledge base, and I ask my reader to consider the evidence and make up his or her mind.

Thank goodness too; the truth is that we are all very poor at estimating how clever we are, how skilled we are or even how stupid we are!

Round about the year 2000, came out the published experiments of David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University.  They came up with what-is-now-known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect has something of a wow-factor, and so I felt that I just had to share it here as it might prove useful to be aware of its existence. Read the rest of this entry »