Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Art and Expression

One thing, which is largely disconcerting in Western culture, is the approach and view we have towards expression – primarily artistic expression. It seems that expression in some way presents an individual as being conceited and pretentious. As though that individual has a superiority complex and values themselves above all others because they can express themselves. Malsow, in his nominal work ‘Motivation and Personality’, sums this up perfectly. He purports that, “The United States particularly is dominated by the Puritan and pragmatic spirit, which stresses work, struggle and striving, soberness and earnestness, and, above all, purposefulness.” Art and expression is viewed as an uncontrolled and effortless practice. Whereas the table is a practical item, used to serve a purpose the painting is merely for show. Where the plumber offers a service, the artist is, on the contrary, an uncontrollable menace. And this view undercuts all of Western society. The differences can be observed within philosophy. Whilst the German sect was considering the soul and phenomenology, Britain was preoccupied with Calvinism, the practical and almost stoical view of religion and theology. 

 

As a result, we promote a culture of repression. The theme of repression and sublimation is a motif in much literature throughout the 19th and 20th century. The idea that one had to subvert the cultural norm to be true to oneself is common in works such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Even here we see an authoritative figure brainwash and recondition an individual to think exactly like we ought to think – pragmatically, with practicality and a purpose.

 

Moreover, we are a society and a culture obsessed with justification and meaning attached to our lives and acts. How often do you hear the expression “that doesn’t make sense” and indeed, perhaps it doesn’t. T. S. Elliot, in my interpretation, deals with this very well in much of his poetry. The elusive and tenuous, yet abundant, allusions within his work to other poetical works often leave us none the wiser after reading and studying further. We’re often left bewildered by what the work meant. What was its purpose? Why did he say that? He said it for no reason. He said it because it sounded elegant; it was beautiful; it was expression.

 

We constantly aim to confine ourselves within rules and constraints. A kind of bureaucratic way of living our lives, we are categorizing each individual instance so it has purpose and meaning. But spontaneity is too easy in the eyes of an authority. Youthful abandon is naïve and we should move on from this, apparently. Instead we should aim for purpose and a strict role to perform. This idea is all so mundane. Alternatively we should direct our efforts to a Taoist life and promote a kind of action through non-action; perhaps, one can argue, a modern wu wei.

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Brian Coleman’s Diatribe

Brian Coleman – possibly known entirely for his sexual assault in May and his subsequent expulsion from the Tory party – wrote a soul-crushing 6,000 word diatribe in which he embarks upon a verbal crusade against a number of other Councillors. A few of my personal favourites are below: 

Cllr Rowan Quigley Turner – “Decided to add his wife’s surname to his when he got married (against advise) which makes him sound like a snob or a poof or even worst a feminist”

Cllr Bridget Perry – “Brighter than she looks”

Cllr Stephen Sowerberry – “Engaged to a very nice girl he met on the Internet .”

Cllr Reuben Thompstone – “Recently married a nice girl from Nigeria he met on the Internet.”

Cllr Lisa Rutter – “always looks a million dollars despite being no spring chicken”

Besides already being a complete pariah, he decided to nonetheless publish the post knowing that he has until May 2014 before being excommunicated. Council leader Richard Cornelius responded: “It’s all very unnecessary but I’m never surprised by anything Brian does these days.” 

I prefer Gary Coleman to Brian. 

 

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Is there a god?

Although I don’t truly reject the possibility of there being a god of some sort – that being an omnipotent god in general, not “God” – I do find that an unravelling of the arguments which support the idea of a god does need to take place in order to answer the questions purported, therefore enabling us to offer an intelligent, intellectual response to questions which may interrogate our beliefs.

Therefore, it must be duly noted that we can assume we are the only animals that are consciously aware of their inevitable death. We understand that life is finite and eventually we will perish. Some claim to have come to terms with this; Existentialists, for example, offer the view that “existence precedes essence,” thus meaning that a god of sorts doesn’t determine who we are and our purpose but we in turn do or have to.

Returning to the idea of being aware of our inevitable death, Julia Kristeva offers the theory of “abjectment” in “The Powers of Horror.” As Kristeva puts it, “Abjection preserves what existed in the archaism of pre-objectal relationship, in the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be.” This, therefore, marks a moment between where we become disassociated with the other or ‘the mother’. This leads me to a couple of ideas: one is that we are suddenly encumbered and overwhelmed with an enormous sense of responsibility – whether we are consciously or subconsciously aware of it, I don’t know – although I do suspect it’s likely to be subconscious for a large part of our lives (perhaps repressed) and then we become consciously aware later on. We were used to being provided for on a daily basis without having to request it. Now, in this new system, we have to find a way to voice our concerns through biological noises and eventually linguistic development (See Halliday’s 7 stages of linguistic development). Eventually we become used to this idea of borders, rules, laws etc and become used to this system of establishment and of order.

The second idea, however, is the sense of having to find new orders and establishments or a sense of authority. We fear that we’re “doing it wrong,” as Milan Kundera points out in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, we have nothing to compare our lives to and subsequently fear it is all wrong. This leads us to establish a form of authority and a form of leadership which promotes virtue and offers a direction. God, in this instance, would appear to me to be a superficial creation from man in order to establish guidance as a resort to this primal existence – a longing to be back within the mother’s womb (as grotesque as that may seem).

However, if the establishment of an authority and principles isn’t the cause for the creation of god then abjection offers the former idea I purport – the overwhelming sense of responsibility coupled with our recognition and acknowledgement of death. Kristeva says:

A wound with blood and pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death. In the presence of signified death—a flat encephalograph, for instance—I would understand, react, or accept. No, as in true theater, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being.

It is this clear distinction  between the knowledge of death and the awareness of death which forces a rational being to regress to the most primal of our outlooks. The awareness of death no longer being thrust aside disrupts our whole being and existence because, although we’re knowledgeable of it, we’re never constantly aware of death. When death “infects life” we call for this order and a response to the chaos and so we create the prospect of a god which offers a form of salvation for our suffering. We justify our suffering by saying “this is the best of all possible worlds” and say that our reality is a form of perception and the perfect form lies beyond this – this is what god has created, not that which we can see. We become confronted with our superficial structures and systems breaking down and so we create something seemingly transcendental in order to reinforce them. The god, however, is superficial and is just another crumbling system which, in itself, is breaking down too.

I feel that this is what the Existentialists hit on; this idea that the system of religion and gods is breaking down and a regression into the most primal of states frightened them. We need to quantify the unquantifiable and so we do so in all the ways we can – even by creating more faulty systems of belief. We are all, in some ways, Stoics.

Nonetheless, the prospect of a god can never truly be disposed of to me. I often believe there is something transcendental.

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NEWSLETTER

NEWSLETTER.

UKIP’s Rise

Much political time as passed since the Local Elections which saw UKIP’s power and following truly illuminated. The response Farage has culminated over such a short period highlights a number of concerns within British society. However, the way in which the three main parties have chosen to combat the rise of Farage is, in my opinion, completely misguided. 

Farage has inspired a debate regarding the future of Britain’s position in the European Union; however, this is more a cultural debate, rather than a policy-based debate. That meaning, the three main parties, or perhaps primarily Labour and Conservatives, are choosing to address this through the typical political way: a debate leading to a decision on a referendum. However, what UKIP highlights is a major anxiety which undercuts British society; Farage is looking at culture, rather than politics – to which most people are seemingly apathetic. Of course, the irony of this is that as a political party, UKIP would most likely be completely disastrous – one only has to observe the £120bn black-hole within their budget policies

There is a fear within society that jobs are being threatened by mass immigration. Not only jobs, but general freedom: of speech, of appearance, etc. Indeed, much of these fears may be myth, and jobs are threatened by bleak economic outlook rather than mass immigration. Nonetheless it seems innate human nature that the individual has to quantify the unquantifiable: this inexpressible and misguided hate has to be directed and attributed to something or someone, and usually that is the minority. As a consequence, parties like UKIP and BNP see a rise in votes because they offer short-term solutions, or speak for the “common man” when, in fact, the short-term is just papers over the cracks. 

Digression aside, Farage and his party have the right idea. They address the core and the centre of the issue; they do, in fact, voice the concerns of the common man, whereas the major parties voice the concerns of the actual economic and political outlook. As horrible and shallow as this may seem, government has diplomatic relationships to maintain whilst also public confidence and support. Yet, the diplomatic relations is what keeps the high streets booming and the job market sufficient. That is the harsh reality. UKIP, however, ignore the diplomatic aspect and say what people want to hear. 

I personally see Farage as a opportunist, feeding on the fears of modernity and change, rather than offering any remedy to the political, social and cultural ills. Whether they will continue to rise into 2015 will be interesting the track. Much alike the 2010 election, they will replace the Liberal Democrats: the wild-card party who really think they will offer a new change only soon to disillusion the voters. 

K Independence Party former leader Nigel Farage talks to friends at his local pub in Downe, Kent

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Thatcher: Legacy and Legend; divisive in life and death.

First, allow me to assert that I make no intention on “bashing” the death of Thatcher. I merely wish to analyse, from my personal opinion, her role as a minister and a formidable leader. 

Indeed, she was a formidable leader. She redefined the political spectrum, and consequently the United Kingdom. She transformed us from an industrial power to a financial power house. Dubbed as a modernisation, the rate at which she transformed Britain was such that it aggravated a winter of discontent and the epoch of misery for many working class families and communities. Her role within the Conservative party was seen as an attack on the livelihood of a huge number of individuals across the north of England. She attacked the little that remained for the working classes and whoever makes an attempt on a man’s life, on a man’s liberty, on a man’s honour, inspires in us a feeling of horror analogous in every way to that which the believer experiences when his idol is profaned. 

I would argue that Thatcher’s legacy denounced Unionism and Communitarianism, forcing Britain into crass commercialisation which reduced society to nothing more than a vast apparatus of “purchase” and “exchange” on credit and debt, disguised as liberty and individualism. She made it exceedingly clear that within her society communal life is, in fact, impossible without the role and existence of interests superior to those of the individual. 

Commendations can be made upon her determination, conviction, and the role and importance for women who felt disillusioned or disenfranchised in 1980’s Britain, but as it has been made clear by Glenda Jackson this view may be somewhat distorted by an increasingly flattering press. Yes, she was a formidable leader due to the vast array of changes she made and the sheer extent of them; an excellent orator who is undoubtedly skilled in public addresses, but nonetheless an individual whose policies destroyed communities. 

However, in regards to those who have celebrated her death without the knowledge of her true impact and rather relies on hearsay may be wildly misinformed. The controversies of yesterday only give superficial expression to a more profound disagreement, and an opinion which is far more divided over a question of principle rather than a question of fact. One must hear the arguments which have been exchanged on both sides in order to reach a justified and well-judged evaluation. 

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George Osborne: Disabled Parking

I rarely show support for the Tory party as I am a Labour supporter (not New Labour. Labour.) However, I find the recent “scandal” of Osborne parking in a disabled bay somewhat pedantic, tedious, and puerile. Indeed, it comes at a dreadful time after he has just made substantial cuts to the welfare system – and has gone on to criticise it more after the Phillpotts incident – but it detracts away from any real issues at hand. It’s a mistake and one we have probably all made. Rather than criticising the fact he’s parked in a disabled bay, let’s criticise his ineffective policies; let’s criticise Iain Duncan Smith for being … well. 

You only have to take a look at the papers which are reporting the incident, and the level of “journalism” which follows it to see that this isn’t a scandal at all, and that there are much bigger things to be concerned about. It’s a cheap assault and one which lacks any substance or dignity. 

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North Korea: Nuclear War

Kim Jong-un, the egocentric megalomaniac, has recently declared nuclear war against South Korea and, consequently, America and all those who wish to support America. The nation then went one step further in restarting recent nuclear power facilities which could be running within a year, thus leading to a major international crisis as the North Korea threat now moves from idle to substantial. 

One of the primary concerns with North Korea was whether the bellicose rhetoric would be followed by action, and it certainly has done. Recently releasing the statement on the state controlled news network, Rodong Sinmun, a spokesperson said: 

The on-going do-or-die battle is a just and patriotic war to settle accounts with the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces with arms of Songun, not with words.

 

Which is obviously a huge cause for concern. North Korea have argued that this aggression has been born out of a response to the increasing military presence of the American’s in the South. Indeed, America have been running drills, but with the recent activity from the North it is somewhat justified. It seems, therefore, that much of this military aggression does, in fact, derive from Kim Jong-Un’s desire to prove himself to a cabinet. A new leader with a huge – albeit propagated – legacy to fulfil, he has to in some way prove himself. Certainly, his recent actions will have amounted to much commendation from his cabinet, and with the yearly “financial figures” being released, it seems that Kim is doing pretty well in the role. 

America’s response is commendable, however. Yes, a military presence has increased and they have released a statement formerly stating that they would defend the South as much as possible; but one should not neglect the truly diplomatic response they have taken to the issue. For instance, in Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Israel, throwing money and weaponry appeared to be the logical foreign policy; yet, in circumstances such as these, it appears they are taking a much more tentative approach – much unlike, for instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

North Korea went on to offer the promise that: 

Whether it is the five islands of the West Sea, the areas along the Military Demarcation Line or other regions where the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean warmongers make a military provocation, that will develop into an all-out war and a nuclear war, not just confined to a local war. There is no doubt about it.

 

It appears that the threat is extremely serious and imminent. Unlike other shallow and idle threats, it appears that this one holds much weight and the presumed nature of Kim Jong-Un’s personality has only lived up to expectations. 

It seems rather illogical for North Korea to attack South Korea, however, considering  that a reported 38% of its exports is to the southern peninsula. A state of M.A.D seems to have been engaged and, as Ban Ki-Moon rightly asserts, the threat has “gone too far.” 

I fear how far such rhetoric could go; not only the action side of things, but the implications on other nations. With Chinese officials condemning the actions anonymously, and Russia siding with America, it appears that support seems relatively strong. However, the recent military aid to Israel could cause hostility from Iran meaning they could, in theory, support North Korea. On the contrary, this is all outrageous speculation and relies on a number of outlandish factors. 

The possibility of the weapons being utilised is obvious unpredictable but also unlikely. I think it’s just ongoing shadow boxing and will be suppressed in coming months by both condemnation of the international community and, perhaps, insurgency. 

 

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Divisions beyond repair: Class warfare and austerity Britain

Although condemned for their free-riding of the state welfare system only recently, a horrific incident led to the massacre of six innocent children at the Philpott’s household when petrol was poured into their home, unleashing an uncontrollable blaze. 

However, as those who survived the blaze have to somehow rationalise and deal with this atrocity, Carole Malone – the notorious ultra-Tory who hates anybody that doesn’t have a 6 figure salary – argued on national television that it was, virtually, their own fault and they brought it on themselves.  “This family became a target a couple of years ago,” she argued on ITV’s This Morning; they had “probably upset a lot of people” by being a family of 17 who were receiving state benefits. “I suspect they have many enemies out there because they were seen to be on benefits,” she suggested. With the country in such a dire financial state, “People have seen families – maybe like this – wanting to take advantage.” Referring to the “culture of the family” and the fact they had brought “attention to themselves”, Malone concluded that “six innocent children have died as a result”. 

Although I won’t try and argue that there isn’t a free-rider issue, of course there is, it’s a basic economic issue when goods are provided free-of-charge, the way in which Malone attacked the family showing no compassion was completely outrageous and insensitive. Malone, after the Karen Matthews incident claimed to “live next to a council estate full of people like Karen Matthews” implying that they’re some kind of sub-human race. She later confirmed this view by saying that they are “sub (human) class that now exists in the murkiest, darkest corners of this country”, as though Karen Matthews is some how representative of all people in Britain. 

However, much like Mitt Romney’s facts and figures were inaccurate when attacking similar sects of American society, so were, too, Malone’s. A recent study showed that just 3.4% of families in long-term receipt of benefits have four or more families. So where does the real issue lie? 

Prejudice against those receiving benefits is rife in Cameron’s austerity Britain. Rather than attacking the root cause of the issue, Cameron turned attention to public spending as the cause of financial dismay. However, the issue arose when he had to justify cuts to welfare, and so a campaign of demonisation had to be enforced in order to crush sympathy.  A campaign of people scrounging from the state whilst taking multiple holidays on low-budget airlines whilst having several humongous TV’s paid for courtesy of the taxpayer. 

Yes, benefit fraud exists (and the government should know..). But according to the Government’s estimates it accounts for only less than 1% of welfare spending, but the absolute extreme examples are passed off as representative of the fraud. We’ve seen Sunday Times articles in which journalists have blazoned their perverse views of the benefit system and argued that they wish to turn disabled in order to earn as much as “they” do; when in fact this is all nonsensical propaganda. It’s belligerent journalism like this which leads to prejudice against the most indigent and destitute people who, without the support of the state, would simply suffer an unimaginable life. 

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Announcement: Women’s and Gender Studies Conference Today and Tomorrow!

AMS :: ATX

Today and tomorrow, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies presents “The Feeling Body—Feeling the Body, ” the 20th Annual Emerging Scholarship in Women’s and Gender Studies Conference. This graduate student run conference offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to share their research on issues in women’s, gender, and/or sexuality studies. The theme of this year’s conference addresses the relationship between feminist theory,  affect, and the body.

wgs

The following comes to us from the conference program:

Affect is an emerging new direction in feminist theory, generating fascinating conversations around the role of the body and feeling in producing knowledge. How are other disciplines writing about and engaging with affect? How might this new direction shift how we think about the role of the body in academic research? The panelists will examine these topics, exploring the ways in which the body shapes knowledge.

The conference will feature a…

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