Showing posts from January, 2013

Linking Things

A lot of being human seems to be about splitting things up. There's the distinction between you and other people, and then there's the distinctions between various groups of people. There are distinctions between different disciplines and there are distinctions between different types of what are essentially the same things.

Now, I'm not going to argue that distinctions as a whole are bad things - distinctions between the self and others are certainly a very good thing, for example. What I will argue is that having too many distinctions creates artificial barriers between different disciplines, and that it hampers associative thinking.

At this point a lot of people might gasp at my use of that last phrase. It's not always been associated with good things - indeed, one Torygraph article from a couple of years ago goes as far as implying that associative thinking and traditional linear thinking (the type of thinking required to, say, read a book or an essay) are incompa…

You Must Be Healthy!

Firstly, I apologise for not posting for about two weeks; I'm a full-time student, pressured into doing a shitton of stuff, with a lot of work to do and little time to do it in, so forgive me if I'm not around.

Does it ever feel like you're pressured into being healthy?

A lot of people probably think I'm talking complete bollocks here. After all, health is a good thing and we all want to be healthy.

Right, guys?

I was doing something I do far too much of, which is thinking - this time about the scourge(!) that is drugs. From a very young age, we're all told about how bad drugs are, that they'll mess up our health and make us die young...

...But why's that so bad? If an adult is taking drugs in the privacy of their own home and not driving, operating heavy machinery, or otherwise doing anything that could reasonably harm another being, and they're aware of the risks of taking these drugs, nobody is being harmed without consent and there's no justific…

(trigger warnings: bullying, suicide, suicidal ideation) Stop Bullying!

Every day, teens attempt suicide over being bullied. Many fail - the American Association of Suicidology reports that for every successful suicide 25 failed suicide attempts are made - but many succeed. And out of those thousands and thousands of teens, every so often one's death becomes a cause célèbre. Twitter and Tumblr flock to mourn their newly-minted martyr and decry the evils of bullying - but within a day or two that dead teen is forgotten as quickly as they rose to fame, to be relegated to the ranks of all the nameless suicides. Meanwhile, people preach about how bullying is bad.

I won't ask you to forgive me my cynicism, but I will ask you to hear me out. I don't jump to eulogise each dead teen, because I know how many there are. I know that this is not a unique event, that this is endemic. And while I hate bullying, I won't join in the preaching. Let me explain why.

I was bullied from a very young age all the way to about 15 years old, which socially isolate…

Left or Right? Neither

I have come to the conclusion that the terms "left" and "right" are so broad as to be meaningless.

Half of you are probably rejoicing that I've finally seen the light, and the other half of you are probably wondering why I would say this. After all, one of the reasons we stick with these terms is that they provide some kind of way to group some ideologies together and differentiate others.

My argument is that these labels don't even do that - and here's why.

The classic idea is that the Left argues for big government, nanny states, and the rights of the oppressed; frequently they object to capitalism. They are unwilling to go to war, either. Meanwhile, the Right argues for a small state and the power of business, and is unafraid to bomb other countries to get what they want. I'm not even going to go into liberty, because it's become such a loaded and meaningless term that both sides could justify a claim and chances are neither would actually do…

Why I (try to) recover

People might be wondering why I'm so damn happy for a depressive. The answer, apart from my being an anomaly in the universe and just generally bad at being a human being, is going through recovery.

And then people might wonder why I try to recover, where I find the strength to not just give up and die already.

Despite months of therapy, I'm still not sure I could give anyone a straight answer to that. Sleep, decent diet, and having less pressure on me (although my term's just started, so hello stress) all help, but they're not the main things. Actually, at times I've not been quite sure how the hell I made it through the last few months; I think my partner and family were basically dragging me by the hair through each day. Perhaps the one thing I could say is that at the time, I was very desperate; feeling like a dead, rusted machine and being ripped apart by psychogenic pain does tend to pull you out of your comfort zone a little, and it also tends to make you pa…

On Kindness

I am not often this sappy. You get one chance to see my soft side and that's probably it for the year, okay?

I started thinking about this (which is not actually as rare as you might think) because someone thanked me for being "really kind" not so long ago.

Had I scooped this person out of the path of a car? No.

Had I saved this person from drowning? No.

Had I pulled this person to safety after being about to fall off a cliff? No.

So what had I actually done?

In actual fact, this super amazing kind thing that I'd done was send this person some words of support as said person was struggling through a severe depressive episode. I consider that basic decency more than anything else, but that might reflect what I consider to be really kind - which requires doing a supererogatory act (in layperson's terms, something that is above and beyond what is necessary). I do not consider kindness above and beyond what is necessary, because firstly it's a very basic comfort…

The Sciences and the Humanities

The public perception of the sciences and the humanities is that they're separated by some endless gulf. The scientists work nine to five jobs, and often longer, researching cures for cancer and string theory and all sorts of boffin-y stuff, while the philosophers and classicists either really think and feel, unlike those cold scientists, or they piss around pretending to look clever, depending on your viewpoint. Scientists do things boringly; philosophers and classicists have deeper insight. And of course, scientists think the humanities are too soft, while professors of the humanities think the sciences are soulless.

Frankly, I think anyone who thinks that has a brain full of bullshit and, if they're a scientist or working in the humanities, pretty piss-poor at their job. It doesn't look like it, but both rely on the same skills of linking things together while also being able to analyse things deeply. It also doesn't look like they can help each other, but they can…

On Folk Music

Call me corny, but I really do like folk music.

...Right, now that I've been summarily pelted with corn, let me explain myself. Unless anyone reading this is a folk and protest music aficionado, or even has a passing interest (which I guess is very few of you), you probably think of folk music as someone strumming three out-of-tune chords and making a mockery of singing, while wailing about some lost woman or cow.

Let me disabuse you of these illusions. Yes, there are some folk singers who can't sing or play - a terrible recording of bagpipe music comes to mind. But folk traditions are rich and the repertoire is varied, with much room for personal interpretation and improvisation. Some of my favourite folk songs aren't the ones you might hear bawled out a couple of painful times a year, but the ones that few people hear - ones about rakes in debt, or people leaving their loved ones, or sailors abandoning beautiful women, or cautionary tales about getting pregnant. Folk son…

Education is Liberation

Yep, I said it, and people aren't going to like it: learning makes you free.

Now, there are a lot of objections to this, and I understand them. In our capitalist society education, like everything else, has a price. Particularly with higher education, it happens to be a very hefty price that will leave you thousands of pounds in debt. There's also the objection that formal education (for example, going to school) either does nothing or actively turns you into an obedient drone. Those three are generally the main overt objections - there is a nastier and more covert one, but I'll discuss it later.

I'm going to let them pass. I'm going to accept them as true. Education up to 18, if not post-18, is mostly about "teaching" students to pass exams and be obedient, and even after having come out with a degree in something or other a lot of people are still incredibly stupid and ignorant. Not to mention paying for that degree will enslave you to your debt.

What I…