Archive | March, 2006

Does the narrative shape our behaviour?

31 Mar

From this excellent post by Chagnon, on Diary of a Sceptic: –

Narrative does not play a central role in affecting outcome. Narrative is developed instinctively to explain history, to usefully give names to events and movements, to aid us in categorizing what has happened and will happen next, but narrative is not the cause of events. The coexistence of narrative and outcome misleads us into assuming a certain causal relationship. In reality, we act in certain ways because it is basic to our nature. We commit violent acts in vastly different cultures at different times in history, against widely differing narrative frameworks. The narrative changes, the historical context changes, but the actions, in their basic nature, remain extraordinarily similar.

I think the concept that the narrative is not a direct cause for violence is essentially nihilistic and fatalistic. In that, Chagnon suggests we have an innate tendency towards violence, and that the narrative merely facilitates its justification.

I completely accept there is something in the scientific premise, that we are naturally aggressive animals, always one step from violence (Hobbes?), but I can’t accept that this primal urge is any more potent than the natural urge for procreation, and the need to create a safe environment for our progeny. In effect the narrative, of which Chagnon is right to suggest is entirely subjective, produces an environment where the conflict between primal emotions are shaped.

Take the Middle East. Israel is torn between aggressive responses to attacks and the necessity to create some semblance of peace for its people. The battle between the political right and left, in times of discord, is rarely about bloodlust, but about territorial integrity and safety – both prerequisites for creating an environment for ones offspring. The right suggest that safety can be attained by pre-emptive aggression, and the left argue that causes must be addressed. Both sides want stability.

There are, of course, agendas that distort my argument. Racism, religion, ambition, arms dealing, and economic reality, all queer the relationship between stability and aggression. As Chagnon, rather insightfully suggests, we engineer our reality, and those with an agenda will skew the message – prior to our interpretation – in order to pander to one particular emotion.

I have no doubt that our Asian British are not, as we speak, all strapped into suicide backpacks, just waiting for justification to blow us to smithereens. No, the anger and resentment that the 7/7 bombers felt was created very much by the narrative – their interpretation of the reality. The anger and feeling of isolation would have been wrought by the message, and their interpretation of it. Therefore the narrative does, directly, instigate human action.

I don’t accept that the narrative is merely a postscript after the event. The narrative has always created feelings of anger and resentment, and affects the future in many ways, especially with our modern access to rolling news.

The differences between peoples are overwhelmingly manifested by their differing interpretations of the reality, this is true; hence Chagnon’s presumption, the narrative is not the cause but a consequence. But this consequential account of reality begins to, itself, influence action and therefore becomes, not a reflection but a cause.

Time to cancel the 2012 Olympics?

31 Mar

You have to worry about the London Olympics in 2012.

If we – in league with a dastardly Aussie construction firm – can’t muster a single stadium, then what hope do we have to construct an Olympic Village?

Yet again, professional incompetents Multiplex have announced another delay, this time slipping back into 2007 (the stadium was supposed to be ready for May’s FA Cup final). Whether this is because most of Britain’s construction industry is permanently stoned, or because they’re genuinely useless, is unclear. What is clear is that we – with the 2012 bid – have bitten off far more than we can chew.

Multiplex have already admitted they will lose £183m on the project, which is already knocking on for the £1bn mark. The whole debacle is an embarrassment.

Wouldn’t it be better to give the Olympic authorities in Lausanne a call, explaining that it’s probably best they give the games to someone more competent? I’m sure the French will be laughing their socks off as obstructive cranes and smelly portaloos mar the opening celebrations.

It’s just not worth the self-flagellation and humiliation.

The cat is back

30 Mar

Some people in the news have the power to polarise opinion and generate vitriolic responses. Take a look at the Guardian’s new blog comment is free; the posts, on average, garner a handful of reader comments, yet ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway has already received over a hundred comments on his latest post.

Your government is laughing at you

29 Mar

Does anyone else, just not buy the official line on the Cash for Peerages scandal?

Do you actually believe, that the government did not promise peerages, to those who lent money to the Labour Party? Even though those lenders, who had not already been honoured, were recommended? Does anyone out there believe that the three parties did not intentionally mislead the Electoral Commission?

Well as Simon Jenkins points out today, to be complicit in “assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a title,” one is to be punished with a two-year custodial sentence. Lord Levy and Mr. Blair should be worried, as it clear both have been involved in the sale of peerages.

Are you going to just let this pass?


Are we going to let this, sanctimonious and authoritarian rabble of feckless pretenders, squirm and spin their way out of criminal prosecution? This is your government, legitimised less that 12-months ago, in a general election. The government that has created hundreds of new criminal offences, ordered you to carry ID cards, and erected CCTV and speed cameras up and down the land, to catch you breaking the law. They have broken the law of the land and they refuse to own up to it, they refuse to be accountable.

I hope the ongoing investigation, by Met detective John Yates, lifts every stone, demands every document, and interviews every single insidious character that poisons our body politic. And I hope he crucifies everyone guilty.

If you lie down, and let the criminals who occupy the benches of our parliament, get away with this, then you don’t deserve to live in a democracy. Write to your local MP, your national and local paper, telephone the BBC, and rant on your blogs. Do not let these people piss on our sacred democracy any longer.

You’re governed by liars and cheats. Stand up for yourself.

Hello and Thanks

29 Mar

Well I’m finally here on – hello all

I have transferred all my old posts from my old 20.six blog, and will endeavour to transfer my posts too (including comments), although there is a way to do this automatically using RSS, but I’m unawares as to how this is done, as of yet; research needed methinks 😦

I must also sort the blogroll, so don’t be despondent if your blog has disappeared, it will be back!

First of all let me thank Robert Bateman, and his assistant Kate Carson, for allowing me to use the beautiful Siberian Tiger image that adorns the site. You can read more here.

Also I would like to thank Kaushal Sheth who designed the blog, and did all the technical work behind the scenes. I can certainly recommend Kaushal to anyone who wants to run WordPress themselves, but doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with the programming. The pricing was very competitive and the service top notch. Kaushal can be contacted on his site.

I would also like to thank my wonderful partner Olja, who has suffered while I laboured writing, and financing, this blog.

And lastly I would to thank all those who post on this, and my previous, blogs. Special mentions to effervescent reader Jose, and of course Chagnon, who was the very first poster to the new site.

Thanks all.

Now the sickeningly saccharine Oscar speech is finished, I can get back to being bitter and sceptical. 😉 | Coming Soon!….UPDATED

28 Mar

I’m busy transfering posts accross from my previous two blogs to the blog. Please feel free to comment on the new blog. The prize of my ‘eternal gratitude’ is awarded to the first!!!!!

Bragg’s tribute to Rachel Corrie

28 Mar

British folk singer, and long-time activist, Billy Brag has written a beautiful song about the peace activist Rachel Corrie. I’m not going to write about Rachel when she can speak for herself: –

Leaving Olympia

We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone.

What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?

If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality.

And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.

This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges.

I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.

I can wash dishes.

Rachel died 3-years ago when she was run over by an IDF bulldozer. She has since become a beacon for leftist activism in Gaza.

Recently a play about Rachel’s life, My Name is Rachel Corrie, was cancelled in New York because the subject of her story has become so incendiary. Probably the most disheartening aspect of the story is the way she has become a hate figure for the American right.

I adore the line, in Bragg’s song, that goes:

Is there no place for a voice in America
That doesn’t conform to the Fox News agenda?

You can listen to the song, and read the lyrics, here.