Showing posts from 2011

The New Year's Eve Post

Right. So it's the last day of 2011, we're going into 2012 really doesn't feel like the end of the year. All the same, it is, and I've decided to do a blog post attempting to sum up 2011.

I guess when people call it the year of revolution, they're right: the year started with the Arab Spring and protests only spread and spread. Now we have Occupy as well, and all this only looks set to continue. We want our voices back, we want change - and yet it's also been a year of repression, with governments in the western world cracking down further, both on the streets and by floating, or trying to pass, measures that roll back or completely trample over civil liberties. If anything, both these trends are set to continue in 2012, and while I want to believe that we'll one day end up with a better society, I honestly have my doubts.

The persistent theme, particularly as the year draws to an end, is that we're running out of time to make things bet…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 14

Well, looks like I screwed up somewhere along the line, and now 14 Days of Freedom will finish today instead of tomorrow. Not the biggest loss in the world, but it does make me feel a bit like an idiot...oh well, tomorrow I can make the last blog post of the year all reflective and profound.

...So how do I sum this up? I'll start from the beginning, I suppose - it makes sense to. Do not acquiesce to power, especially when basic freedoms (like those of speech and expression) are being trampled on. There's a line there - a very stark line, I must say - and disregarding human rights crosses that line. Build your own communities, not those built by the self-interested. Stick your neck out, other people be damned, and work together. Don't stereotype others. Think for yourself. Be inclusive, not elitist.

If a system oppresses many more than it helps, it is wrong. Humans are resourceful and good at changing things - even systems. We've done it before and we can do it again. D…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 13

Well, I'm not superstitious or anything...but this is Day 13, the one day you'd expect to be associated with bad things. The universe seems to have conspired against me in this as well, so...

...One thing I've learned about activism - in fact it's a lesson that I've had drilled into me by experience (though I'm young and haven't done much myself) - is that it's really, really, really hard work, particularly in places like Egypt. It's not an easy thing to do. It requires sacrifice. Some will leave because it gets too hopeless - and that reflects more on the population at large than it does on the activists themselves.

I know people who would cheer at this. They make me absolutely sick. They are cheering at suffering and at loss of hope; they are cheering as good people, some of the best I've ever known, decide to throw in the towel because the weight of oppression is too much for them to bear. And they are cheering because it means their precious…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 12

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I know I quoted the last two lines of the poem; well, there's no law against it. Who said I had to quote the first two, anyway?

There is not a day when the news does not get worse and worse. There is not a day when our rights and liberties are eroded further. There is not a day when an even worse dystopia does not inch closer and closer. To me, any good news, any hope, is a change from the constant flood of cruelty and general atrocities. At times it feels like a small core of people are the only ones resisting, and at times it feels like we can't do anything, that we suffer under the weight of a system and that we cannot throw off our burdens. Often I feel that we are marching, slowly at first, than more and more quickly, to our doom. Not all of us are, that's true, but the great majority will quite passively submit to dystopia. It is very painful to see one's loved ones doing so.


14 Days of Freedom: Day 11

A note about this post. I am suspicious of governments and corporations, with very good reason. Whatever stereotypes you were thinking of, put them out of your head and actually listen to what I'm saying.

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving a free and humane society isn't them - the people in power, the global elite, whatever you want to call them - it's us, their subjects. For every person trying to raise awareness of the massive, massive problems there are - and while most people can see the external manifestations, they can't or won't see just how deep the roots of the problem go - there are 99 sheeple who still think governments and corporations are our friends.

Let's start with corporations first: they're easier to deal with. Capitalism and corporations let people exchange abstract entities (yes, money is abstract) in exchange for shiny stuff. That's about the only good point. Capitalism and corporations let people have shiny things. No, this…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 10

A big part of all this activism and freedom-fighting is hopelessness, strangely enough. On the one hand, you have the righteous and upstanding pillars of society (read: sheeple) claiming that "protest never changes anything" (I debunked this a couple of days ago), and on the other hand you have the ones who fight the good fight...well, they don't give up, but at some point every activist is going to sigh and wonder why they got themselves into this in the first place, why they waste their time trying to convince people who will never listen of a cause which many think is little more than a pipe dream. If you're an activist and that hasn't happened to you yet, it will.

I want to concentrate on the second manifestation of hopelessness today, since I've dealt a little with the first one already. I'm no blithe optimist, no ignorant idealist, and I don't believe flat-out denying problems makes them go away. I know how hard it is to convince people; I know …

14 Days of Freedom: Day 9

Well, as you are all aware, it is BuyshitmasJesus-wasn't-born-todaymas Christmas. Seeing as it's pretty much the most commercialised holiday of the year, maybe you weren't expecting a post at all, or you were expecting one about greed is good, or something like that.

Good for me that I'm not a particularly predictable person, then! You see, the message I take away from Christmas isn't the one about our Lord and Saviour being born today (atheist, so no chance of that one), or about how presents are everything (I'm an anti-capitalist, you seriously think I'd be cheering for such consumerism?), but about how we really should be spreading peace and goodwill to everyone, even though we never do because it's too much effort and because peace and goodwill are intangible things that you can't actually buy so therefore few are going to bother with them...

...And how am I going to link peace and goodwill to freedom? Peace is more than just the absence of war;…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 8

Something a lot of people say to me to encourage me to remain passive is that action doesn't work. Since those same people also say to me that action is dangerous (and since it wouldn't be dangerous due to government crackdowns if it didn't do something, no matter how trivial), I am forced to conclude that they really need to take a look at the flaws in their argument...but I digress.

There are many problems with the "action doesn't work" line, but really they can be boiled down to to major ones: 1) what does work and 2) the mass of evidence flatly contradicting this position.

Action is, put in the simplest possible terms, doing stuff. If doing stuff doesn't work, what does work? Wishing really, really hard? Depending on the kind of action taken, where you live, how many people are doing it with you, etc., yes, some actions may be more effective than others. Some actions may be ineffective or counterproductive, but any action is pretty much guaranteed, ju…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 7

Something I've noticed more and more, and something I really should have been seeing less and less of, is that even though we're supposed to have a democracy - you know, rule by the people and all that - most people are very passive. They put faith in their elected leaders and in the unelected corporations who, directly or indirectly, run much of the world, trusting that these smart people know what they're doing.

Well, the financial crisis should have put paid to that notion, but some people just don't learn...

...I've noticed something else as well. Quite a lot of these people are hung up on the notion of personal responsibility, which once upon a time used to mean acting wisely and is now an excuse to blame the oppressed for their situation. Yet they're not willing to take responsibility for themselves or their society; they're not willing to stand up for themselves or for other people, because they think that it's not their place to do so.

In a free…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 6

A note about this post: I personally am anti-capitalist but will work with literally anyone who supports a free and humane society. I use defenders of capitalism as an example in this post because capitalism is the example that popped into my head first. If you are a capitalist who supports a free and humane society...I have gone into detail on Twitter about how the two are more than a little contradictory. I will work with you, I do not make personal attacks, only group ones, but I'm not going to shut my mouth to make you feel comfortable.

A lot of people defend the status quo by saying "this is the best we've had it" or "capitalism is the fairest system that exists". This is a shitty justification, most likely untrue, and requires some very lazy thinking.

Let's assume, just for a moment, that since they're the ones making the claim that capitalism is the fairest system we've got, that the burden of proof is on them. (I do believe anti-capitali…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 5

One of the worst traps to fall into is that of elitism: they are stupid, they are cruel, they are unworthy, they do not deserve freedom as much as we, the worthy ones, the Elect, do. Let them rot in their own filth.

I understand the appeal of elitism. I understand it all too well. I've told people who have pretty much openly told me that they want to remain stupid and ignorant that they can go die in a fire, that they can rot in their own filth for all I care, that they make me ashamed of humanity. I could have said and done much, much worse, but it was neither the time nor the place. For any person, there is a temptation to see it as me, my group, the good ones, the Elect, versus the evil, stupid, ignorant masses who are beyond saving.

This is the point at which I sound naive, idiotic, childish, any number of things. Throw enough insults at me and some of them are bound to stick, I guess, but all the same...if you're only going to fight for a better society for "those wh…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 4

Free your mind and your ass will follow. That's something the very wonderful @nagoul1 has said before, and the more I roll the phrase over and over in my brain, the more I realise he's right.

It's doubtful whether one can have a truly free and humane society when people are brainwashed and unable to think for themselves. It's almost certain that, when those same brainwashed people live in an unfree society, they will be unable to break free of it - at least, not without freeing their minds.

A free or unfree mind is in many ways a dangerous thing to talk about, because there's always a risk of mistaking "disagrees with you" for "brainwashed" (no, they're not the same thing). The key to identifying an unfree mind isn't by whether they agree with you or not, it's by how dogmatic and illogical their beliefs are, and the dishonest lengths they will go to so that they don't have to give up those beliefs.

A lot of people have unfree min…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 3

Do stereotypes normally enter into a discussion of freedom? Certainly I haven't seen any discussions of it, and at least superficially that makes sense: stereotypes are social, freedom is political or socio-political. The two don't really seem like they would go together.

Thinking about something that happened yesterday jolted my mind. I love singing and I love Occupy, so once I heard about a mass sing-up at St Paul's my heart was set on it. After much wrangling, some guilt-tripping (not from me) and almost wrecking the delicate social structure (that was most definitely me), I went to the 3-hour rehearsal yesterday at the Bank of Ideas. OK, so I had a bit of trouble finding it due to being directed to the back entrance, but once I got there it was amazing! The atmosphere was absolutely wonderful - so full of hope - but I guess I should stop talking about singing and start talking about what this blog post is actually supposed to be about. (One last note: if you want to be…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 2

I pride myself on my leftism. I'm young, so I haven't been to many protests; I spent much of my life as a capitalist sheep, so I haven't spoken up much. I plan to change that. I want to march in the streets - fight, if that's what it takes.

The people (or should I say sheeple?) around me seem rather disturbed by this course of action. Ostensibly they fear for my safety - really, I think they fear for my sanity and their social standing (for the record, I'm the sanest and happiest I have ever been, and I don't give a fuck about the society game).

If standing up for basic human rights, if standing up for what I think is right - as should be possible, nay desirable and encouraged in a free and humane society - means that I risk anywhere between arrest and death (while people aren't dying in the UK yet, people in other countries are), I'll stick my neck out and risk arrest and death. Someone's got to do it, after all.

Someone once remarked to me "C…

14 Days of Freedom: Day 1

Good news: It's the holidays and I can blog and tweet to my heart's content! (Well, I could if I didn't have revision...oh well!)

NDAA comes into effect at 12am on New Year's we have 14 days of freedom. 14 days to say whatever the hell we want before they arrest and kill us as terrorists. In honour of this, for 14 days I'm going to be blogging about freedom-related things. My posts might be long, they might be short, they might be well-thought-out, they might be complete crap...All that matters is that they're to do with freedom in some way.

There have been reports of Twitter censoring NDAA-critical tweets. While I'm cautious to call censorship on anything, I'm definitely worried by this. Most worryingly of all, it shows that we can't trust self-interested corporations with our data and our speech - and yet we do, because their services are popular.

I see one ingenious method to get around this: a social media service by the people for the …

Polite Society

Fuck polite society with a shovel. I'm really quite sick of playing the society game: I do like some of the people in it, but it's tedious and very nearly pointless. Polite society is focused on repression, on the avoidance of conflict at any cost, and on not-so-subtle social power plays and status grabs. In short: deathly boring and sickeningly dishonest.

I much prefer impolite society, the kind where anything goes and everything needs saying, where people flirt and flatter and argue and where anyone can speak freely - though whether anyone listens is another matter entirely. They laugh, cry, swear, praise, fight, make peace, fuck, smile, swear, grin, scowl, show the whole range of human emotions and then some more. They debate. They do things that the politer classes of society would be simply shocked at - and they love it.

This is my world, the world of laughter and tears, of peace and war, of everything in between; the world where people are more honest and true - both to …

Things People Should Know

Right. I know I haven't blogged in a while - and I have a very good reason for that; namely, everything in my life is piling up at once and I simply haven't found the time to write anything more than 140 characters long. (My Twitter account, on the other hand, is alive and kicking.)

I decided to write this because, well, there are a couple of things that I've been saying on Twitter over and over again and I think people are getting a bit sick of them. I also have a problem explaining things in 140 characters or less...yes, it really is rather difficult. More than that, they're also things that pretty much underpin me - so this is getting very close to who I am as a person. Have fun ripping it to shreds, guys.

I am pro-truth and anti-bullshit. I have no political position on this - I will call bullshit on anyone, anywhere, if they're spouting it. Why? For various reasons (social conditioning, having an existential crisis when I realised I was living a lie, faith in …

Riches I Heed Not

It kills me inside when I see people whose only aim in life is to be rich. Not be happy, not work hard, not do something actually useful for humanity. Just be rich.

Fuck capitalism with a shovel. (And yes, that was a blatant promotion of my Twitter account.)

It's a sad reflection on our society that this is what we've come to. Money is fundamentally an abstract entity exchanged for tangible things, the lubricant of a system based on hurting, oppressing and marginalising every living thing on the planet in various different ways. What these people tell me is that they don't give a shit about all that. They just want to get to the top of the pile and can't even be bothered to put the hard work in. Why? Because they want to buy shit, of course! Our society is centred around youth, sexual attractiveness (not beauty - that's a different kettle of fish altogether), wealth, and power, all shown through the acquisition of material goods and services. And, like good little s…

Happy 1-year anniversary!

I've been keeping this blog for a year now. Time to do some reflection, methinks...
...Originally I started this blog to keep track of all my random thoughts. Well, that didn't really work out - look how many times I've gone on hiatus. The name didn't fit either - most posts here aren't about freedom, they're about the random shit going on in my life.
One of the things I noticed is how stupid I was when I was younger, and how stupid I was even a few months ago. Based on current trends I'm just going to keep being stupid, I guess. It makes me cringe how cruel and idiotic I can be - and yet amongst all that there are still a couple of half-decent articles.
So where am I a year on? I've started up a new blog all for my Latin-related stuff; I've probably become a worse writer (though that's partly compensated for by me being slightly better at maths than I was last year), and I've hopefully become a deeper, smarter and more secure person than I …

Paint it Purple

This post was originally written for the Paint it Purpleblog carnival (run by the fabulous Pixel Project), but I was too late to enter.

I'm fortunate enough never to have had someone beat, hurt or rape me for being a woman; others I know have not been so lucky. From being struck in the ribs to being touched by guys who can't keep it in their pants, all the way up to rape, I haven't seen it all but I know I've seen too much for me to keep my mouth shut. What's just as bad is that these girls and women have their experiences played down; either society trivialises and outright lies about what happened to them (they say that she "wanted" to be sexually harassed or that she willingly slept with her rapist) or the women themselves try to rationalise what has happened to them, absolving the abuser of all blame or blaming themselves. I know this is anecdotal evidence, but it's all I have and it's what has made the biggest impact on me.

Though I was lucky…

Feminism is a Fail Agenda

There! That got your attention, didn't it?

It might be worth pointing out now that I'm a raging feminist and totally disagree with the title. Unfortunately, most of Western society agrees - including a rotten core of hostile misogynists, one of whom gave me the title for this post.

Misogyny is one of my triggers for righteous anger, as is pretty much anything which assumes it's acceptable or ethical to oppress another group of people for no good reason (actually, is there ever a good reason for oppression? No). Hence this blog post.

Today, I learnt to laugh at it.

No, that doesn't mean I think misogynists are trivial. I don't think that rape jokes are funny or a thing of no consequence. I don't think that being regarded as a man's property, for him to do with me what he will, is at all unimportant.

I do, however, think misogynists are some of the most incredibly stupid people on the planet - and stupidity is really quite funny. It's depressing and makes…

Shameless self-promotion time!

OK, I know I haven't posted for about two weeks. The real world, unfortunately, calls me to do actual work and that's why. I do, however, have quite a lot of stuff to be working on - and a new blog! I love Latin to bits, so I set up a blog dedicated to it: I'll put up posts in the days and weeks to come - all Latin-related, of course...see for yourself if that sort of thing interests you.

The Presumption of Goodness

I am a humanist and a sceptic. I also take great pleasure in snarking and watching others snark - and being a good sport some of the time, I don't mind if others snark at me. I'm a little jaded, quick to imagine motives, and I always question statistics with reckless abandon (and probably very little knowledge of the subject).

I'm also a wild idealist.

What did you think when you read that last sentence? Did you think I was stupid? Naive? A little cuckoo, perhaps? That's what happens when I try to discuss things with people (and no, my age doesn't help). I'm told that I'm too radical, too unworldly, too...well...I guess my ideas upset them a little, because I'm constantly reassured that the world doesn't work that way and that everything is okay - or that it's better than anarchy. (I disagree with them on just about every point there.)

One of the most idealistic parts of me is my faith in humanity - my presumption of goodness, if you will. I ass…

This has to stop.

Yeah, I'm a Twitter addict...and this time I found #RIPSophie trending. I don't know if I should put a warning on this post, but it discusses bullying and suicide. If those count as triggers, this post has them. (You can never be too careful.)

The story goes that a Wanted fan called Sophie (@JaythanILoveYou) killed herself over bullying. Another story goes that she hasn't actually killed herself and the story is fake.

I want to say this: even if the whole thing's a hoax, that in no way mitigates the fact that too many - I don't have the numbers to hand, but it's too many - teens actually do kill themselves because of bullying, and that it's a real, despicable problem. Faking a suicide - and I really don't know why anyone would do that, not because I'm naive but because it's a hell of a lot of work and brings a lot of negative press - may be vile, but it pales in comparison to the vileness of driving someone to take their own life.

Even sadder? I…

What is Feminism?

A big, BIG disclaimer here: I am an upper-middle-class white cis female. I am quite aware of my privilege. I want the same privilege for everyone else.

I've been reading a lot of feminist material lately and following a lot of feminists on Twitter - one more reason to love it. Now, I'm not strictly speaking a True Feminist - I have not yet been involved, for example, in some infighting. Neither have I taken any classes on it. I haven't even read the seminal works of feminism, poor ignorant thing that I am - for I was never aware of them. I used to think that all the major struggles for women's equality were over and that feminists were just strident science-haters.

I was an idiot when I was younger, OK?!

My views changed right about when I started connecting with actual feminists and found that no, they didn't hate history, science or men - they hated being objectified. I started to warm up to them.

I can't remember the exact day when it hit me. But it hit me h…

About Scott Olsen

I've been thinking. This is not necessarily a good thing.

Those who read the news or who follow what's going on via Twitter will probably have heard about Scott Olsen, the Iraq veteran who was hit in the head with a tear gas canister at Occupy Oakland. He has a skull fracture and brain swelling, and the part of his brain dealing with speech was affected; though he can communicate with his family, he cannot speak and his spelling is "not near what it used to be", according to Keith Shannon, who served with him in Iraq. He is currently under observation to see if he needs surgery.

Right...update over for those who hadn't heard the news. Now, Occupy supporter or not, one would expect people to rally round him and condemn the actions of the Oakland Police Department - which went far and beyond what is legal and ethical.

Stupid idealist that I am, I expected that to happen. Apparently not. For example, there have been right-wingers claiming that he started a site crit…

Ugly Girls Are Not Allowed

I do love Twitter...sadly, some of the Top Tweets are complete shit, like #UglyGirlsAreNotAllowed.

Why is this trend shit? I shouldn't really have to explain - it should be incredibly obvious. Apparently, however, people missed the memo's pretty much the height of stupidity to focus on looks alone when brains and personality get you further, for a start. I have known many people who didn't quite understand this and haven't done particularly well for themselves as a result. It's also psychologically damaging to people's minds to be told that they must be beautiful or they're worthless - as in, my-self-esteem-is-totally-fucked-up-and-I'm-going-to-kill-myself damaging in the very worst cases.

If you still don't understand, suicide isn't funny. It is not funny when someone tries to wipe themselves from existence because it just hurts too much to keep on existing. It is not funny to push someone into that. It is not funny when your friends or…

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I found this tweet about a very beautiful space photo today. The links are well worth clicking on.

Ever since I was very little, I've been fascinated by space. It's big, it's beautiful, we still don't know that much about it, it's very very old, and we're just one tiny part of a massive universe. I find it very difficult to explain why I like it so much, so a quote from Paul Erdos might help to explain:
"Why are numbers beautiful? It's like asking why is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don't see why, someone can't tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren't beautiful, nothing is." But yeah, that's why I like space. It's really helped me as well - because I was so fascinated by space as a child, I got into cosmology and then jumped into theoretical physics, which is now the thing I want to do for the rest of my life. Well, that or mathematical physics. (I know I don't speak much about either - this…