Friday, September 27, 2002

This morning I woke up deaf. Rolled over and found it was just one ear, but worrying all the same.Tried multiple methods for loosening of said wax. (bath, finger, toilet paper.) Nothing fixed. Walking to work, I found myself in a ghostly bliss, everything chilled and foglike. Spent much time this afternoon waiting in one of those great new walk-in centres, until a nurse could look in my ear

"you've got wax" she said

"I know" I said

irritated by the failure of her diagnosis, she tells me to "spend 20 minutes lying down a day with an ear full of olive oil.

I snort and leave.
and get to the kerb opposite the pharmacy
and stop
and think
and squint
and go in.
And the pharmacist sells me a very expensive bottle of olive oil and a dropper with a fixed smirk on his wide face.

So I have spent the afternoon sat in my office with olive oil dribblin' out of my left ear. I feel like I've been had and my ear keeps bubbling.

O well. at least I can have a nice salad when I get home. And I know just the place to get the dressing from...

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Nepotism. Profligate disease or the most productive system yet found for the regulation of society? Ask a member of our ruling elite and you may suprisingly find the latter. A few bitter old sods, like yours truly, may claim the former but we can be dismissed out of hand for being failings of the system, ingrates unwilling or unable to work with other people who recognise their qualities...

I remember when I was but a small child I thought the patron-client system of Rome, whilst an efficient method for social progression and interaction, was totally unsuited to the administration of the Empire. But then I thought of the need for the patrons to have clients they could be proud of, ones who would reflect well on them. Only the best clients would do, surely? The ones best suited for the positions on offer?

And my thoughts circled back on themselves. The best clients for what exactly? Administration of the nation, requistioning of military supplies, the running of the law courts maybe? Well, thought my puppy self, these are interesting tasks, but side servings to the main meal: the progression through the ranks. Friends dragging each other from success to success, the division of labour between the two of them producing more success than could ever be achieved alone. I'm talking about factionalising now, the formation of self-serving cliques with nothing in common but the recognition of a desire to suceed in the face of other factionalisers. The happy honest individual could stand no chance against this will to power.

So, I thought, this happy system could only lead to the sidelining of any persons with talents which did not tend to their self-success, and therefore to a less-efective government, and decline and fall: but, thinks I, this system happily did die with byzantium, in fact was conducive to the fall of that golden empire.

Then I get to my university and see through shlock-grimed eyes people advancing through a democratic system, not by the merit of their excellent minds so throughly suited to solving thorny problems (if that were the case Wilde's saying about a 2:2 being the only respectable Oxford degree would have long fallen out of use), but by the shmooze. That is, no matter how repugnant your views, and no matter how imbecilic your character, you can 'get by' as long as you 'get on'.

I looked back at my vapid memory of the history I'd read; back at Pericles, Charles I and his Buckingham, to our friends Pashmina and Mohair; and I realised, fool that I was, that that sickening system that kept one man ahead of another on the merit of his place in the gene pool and doubtless slowed progress by generations, had been extant through those long centuries and all our talk of advancement had been with it as a caveat: mankind burdened by a sack of smiling sloth...

Churchill is ruthlessly overquoted as saying something like "Democracy is the best of a whole lot of bad systems." I wonder if that glutinous aristocrat also thought the same about the roundel of nepotism that is a modern political party: who you know and how readily you can smile, over what you know. (I'll talk about the reptilian nature of local politics another time, as there's only so much acid I can spit, vitriol I can swallow in one night. Age is making me an anarchist.) I wonder if he chewed on his fat stogie and said to himself sat in his bath of a lunchtime (whilst gentle war carried on without him):

"Hrmmph, yeerss, a bad system put me where I am, a man suited to the rant stuck in the position of ultimate power over 40 million people... but what better system can I see? Who chooses, who rules, in a meritocracy? Skill... there's a word. One man may call me a great orator... another may label me an old windbag... are they both right? If they are a choice has to be made, and why not... what was it called..? Amoral Familism? At least I can be sure my son isn't bloody awful..."

And the back of his hand would splash at his rubber duck pensively, his cigar would droop towards his silver-haired flaccid gut, he would carry on playing with his boats. And we are left with that, from our great war leader. Because there is no certainty about how good anyone is at something in most consumer-insensitive fields (like politics, accountancy or law) but yet a decision has to be made, why not this method of choosing which seems to eliminate the worst by social pressure and select for skills which might be useful, if not essential for the job.

What are those skills selected for by patronage/nepotism? Is there really a cororally between them and good powers of administration. These answers, I'll leave up to you...

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The reason my writings for the last few days have hardly been prolific is a vague sense of misery that's been hanging over me. Whether it's from the ending of work on this month's magazine or the slow solitude I'm developing as I settle too far into my role here and stop doing the things a young man should (again I live my life in anticipation of becoming a better man) I'm not sure.

What's certain is that I've had a little bogle settle onto the depression of my gut and poke jack frost fingers into me. Another option for his presence could be my current poor relations with my flatmates: they're hyper-sensitive types and I, known for my bluntness in all things, am not used to handling people with kid gloves, other than to maintain a shallow silence.

So no drooling wisdom falls from my lips tonight, no attempts to pass myself off as the tenth muse (my sex precludes that hopefully.) Just a little introspection, a little Elvisneer at my own imperfection, and little hoping that this, this ridiculous bout of depression, that it will soon end.

Monday, September 16, 2002

My ideal of the perfect person then. And my ideal of what I can achieve. I'm sure Aristotle says something about this in the Nichomachean Ethics, something about there being two best lives that should be lived, that which is the ture best life, only livable by gods, and the bst life for a man. Or that could have been my interpretation of Plato. Or my reading of someone else's thoughts on Aristotle's ambiguity. It doesn't matter, what matters is that he (whoever) thought that the godly life of contemplation of the divine was not for man, because to get near to this man needed to spend time in politics, and on food and drink, and amidst society.

My ideal is not that like that, it's not so clear-cut, more selectively harvested. My ideal person could be a great dictator, could be a tramp in the street, but the defining feature is not of physical success, but of breadth of knowledge. Enough ideas packed into one head to make a renaissance man from this clay, a man who will balk at no task, even if others are better suited. Not brilliant at anything, but good at most things. Not superbly bright, nor superbly likeable, but above all committed to truth and accurate knowledge.

This image needs refining, but my filters are bugged up with sweat, welled up from the office's tight grip. Having tired of diving under looms for the day (which I do in the hope that one day someone will recognise my braining-avoidance skills, and let me be the one throwing other naƮfs into the mill) I find myself unable even to play this little game for very long.
Strange, got up this morning, after a 90-minute lie-in, readily got dressed cos was already late for work, and found myself thinking about shoes. Smelt my shoes I’d been wearing all weekend and, let’s say they didn’t smell of victory. Or napalm. More of damp crematoria. So, methinks, I’ll just wear me classy waking boots instead. I run upstairs softly besocked, and find my boots in the stair of disrepair I’d left them on Saturday morning, smeared with leather repair formula the laces lying like drowned worms.
So I force my feet into the dank corpses I’d worn all weekend, and hurry Lowry-stooped from the house.
Now I’m just thinking to myself, "I’ve got to get some new shoes, variance is next to godliness, money is no longer a concern", and as I cross the road the doctor’s door opens and a block of leather emerges. The rest of the leg follows, as if obliged, and an old man, with a gigeresque remedial shoe, starts stumping down the street. I’m just gawping at the mental coincidence, when a father emerges from his car just in front of me, carrying his child, and she’s shouting out, ‘daddy, my other shoe, daddy my other shoe!"

I'll stick with me boots I think.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

"If travel is searching and hope is what's been found, I'm not stopping. I'm going hunting."

Those are the stied lyrics from a bjork song, but they express my mood at the moment quite well. For an Oxbridge Cnut, I'm strangely unconcerned about wealth, and as for success
"Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it"

Of course, my ego still cringes at being judged for being less than I am, so my current trawl through comics troubles me. I am a reader, a hunter of knowledge: like all mankind I have an ideal, ill-defined, doubtless contradictory, of who I want to be. (I also have an ideal of who the perfect person is, but thankfully I'm excluded for contending for that role. I'll talk of that another time.)

And comics give me two problems. First, normally they give easy answers, monochrome morals are their field of expertise, puritanically idealist they romp through the carefully constructed artifices of the liberal mind, throwing to one side or another.

Already I feel my mental weakness growing, the need to buck authority (which I've never needed before, seeming to have a knack in that particular field. Amazing what a loose tongue, no dress sense and touch of sociopathy can do for your anarchist credentials) flourishing in the environs so arid of common sense. I am a pluralist, and this commitment to good and bad, doesn't fit. My only commitment is to diversity of moral opinion, which comics ultimately cannot adhere to, because there's no sticking ground to plant your banner, because their users need rigidity and solidity of opinion to support them, make them think they're living those right lives again.

Secondly, there's social connotations to comics, which do seem to fit the people who read them. Strange-looking, curiously angry introverted young men. I saw a cluster of them at the comic shop, and they reminded nothing more glibly than junkies needing their fix of irreality to get through the day. They were waiting for their delivery, the shaven headed stickman, the inappropriately besuited, bespectacled youth, and the grizzled veteran of many an inconclusive inkgod battle. Put simply, I don't want to be that sort of person, the propped man, stuck on Dali's crutch.

I know I have to choose. I remember Sartre in the Age of Reason says as much, when Mattieu, the lifelong philosopher who refused to choose finds himself stuck in a dull limbo created by that choice not to choose. We have one life to live, and refusing to choose is refusing to live. I will not go with the flow, slide with the tide. An Oxbridge Cnut I am, I shall try to hold back the tide no more, let the sea rush in, decorate the void.

Still I feel pain at the choice. It was difficult enough choosing this job, this aim over any other, the restriction of myself slashing at my ideal of who I could be, but to choose a personality, readjust my mindset which has been bulked up against the day of choosing, grown fat on ideas in the hope that I will be a better person, a less lazy person, one halycon day.

Maybe for another day will be saved my explication of why, and who I want to be but more urgent concerns are intruding, food and the like, and while I'm sure you'll appreciate my reaching out, you'll also appreciate the cessation of that reach. Till tomorrow then.

A thing you might note about my diatribes is is that I am totally motivated by ideas: the real world (as you'd call it) seems to intrude little: that's cos I too am to some extent an idealist: but not in the normal sense, in the sense that I believe the imeediate objects of our perception are so carefully refined by our automatic processes, and filtered through the rest of our biological structure, that what is left from the outside is indistinct and ultimately indeterminate.

It's just an opinion though.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I remember that Rouseeau used to drone on about the great library in Alexandria, y'know the world's ultimate repository of knowledge, lost for millenia: just another one of those great creations of mankind that are meant to be floating around somewhere.

Anyway his version of the story was that when the turks or the ottomans or whoever invaded egypt and captured the city, the great general, let's call him Pashmina, messaged his boss, the Sultan, asking what to do with the library, it being the end of all ends, magnificent jewel of orient, etc. The sultan (let's call him Mohair - this story needs a little life), Mohair says, has this library got anything more than the Koran in it? And has it got anything less than the Koran in it?

"Of course" Pashmina goes, "yes, of course it does: It's gotta have one or the other, basic logic innit, me ol' cocka sparra." (Sorry about the cockney accent but in my experience most pashminas are seen in the east end)

'Ah' says Mohair

"Ah?" says Pashmina "guv?" (continuity of character - that's what I admire in a two-thousand year-old turk. Oh, and a respect for personal space.)

"Well, if the library contains anything beyond the Koran, it must be burnt as blasphemous" says Mohair,

"I think I can see where this is going" says Pashmina "do you mind if I pop to the loo while you finish the story?"

"Not at all. And if it contains anything less than the koran..."

"ah...yes..?", says Pash's voice, echoing slightly from his position in the porcelain tabernacle

"...there's no point keeping it: waste is a sin, and paper makes a good fire."

"right." Pasmina says, as he emerges from the land of ablutions, tugging tight his drawstring pants "you weren't one of those kids who used to use magnifying glasses on crickets were you?"

"Off with your head" says Sultan Mohair

"You can't chop off my head! I'm merely an illustrative tool used by a 21st century layabout to represent the thought processes of a seventeenth century philosophe" Sez Pashmina, fading back into the ether...

The point is, Rousseau said, this is all academic, the sultan was completely wrong, the library should have been preserved for future generations, it belongs in a museum, etc.

But Rousseau said also said that if they'd been talking about the bible, the sultan would have been spot on.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that this is my blog. It's meant to hold all my thoughts, feelings, etc. (though at this rate I may have to build an extension). Values are malleable, they're individual, and you and I have gotta accept that there's no right and wrong in them. I just hope that accepting that, you also manage to enjoy my exegesis a little more than most.

Oh by the way: