Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Welcome to Hell. Please Wipe Your Feet

The art of war: the artist who sketches under cover at arms fairs

In this article, the artist has sketched what appears to be a woman next to two missiles in a pose more suited to that of women draped across the bonnets in 1970s car shows. I suppose that this is just a side-show to the general perversity of commerce in this line of business. The fact that these events  try to keep out anyone not directly involved in the buying and selling of weapons and all their terrible peripherals, perhaps indicates some measure of shame at what goes on at these places. I'd like to think that this shame might be the wedge for their downfall but I am probably wrong. I am not sure how the marketing department for the missiles in question thought of using glamour to sell their deadly products; it strikes me as spectacularly inappropriate but maybe it just distracts from what the abominable end purpose of the product actually is.

I've always had a problem with arms fairs. They seem to attract the representatives of some of the worst regimes in the world, dazzling them with crowd-control devices which are illegal to use in this country. Many of these things look like something that would be carried by various special types of Star Wars Stormtrooper. Let's suggest that this country cannot produce or sell on anything which is illegal to use domestically. The trouble then is of course how do we know how much actually is illegal here. This is where my lunch hour fails me because I can't really do the research from my desk. Let's say what would be immoral to use in this country regardless of it's legality. And now a level up I begin to worry about the many people hiding behind keyboards who state they would happily do horrible things to anyone daring to express an opinion a fraction of a degree to the left or right of their own beliefs. Morality is a flexible thing. This is of course ethics and therefore introduces a whole new level of complexity. I have to tell myself that spinny-chair generals would never act on these threats and that their feeling of safety and immobility while using social media, like excess alcohol, accounts for the lack of filters.

We are delicately balanced between anarchy and civilisation and I have to believe that in the long term, as it has been with my little country for my lifetime, it will stay as it is, hopefully at some point without arms fairs.

Monday, April 09, 2018

On the Loss of Cousins

Charles Evans, Charles Geraint Payne, Henry Marten

I grew up without any first cousins, my aunts and uncles did not have children though later on I had step-cousins. Recently I have fallen headlong into researching my ancestry which has revealed many relatives, some of them quite famous, some from long ago being actual kings and queens within what must be an enormous margin of error. It is obvious that everybody is related to everybody else; the thing is to prove that link with double and triple checks on sources.

All of this is not the point of this post. The most sobering thing about the recent past is how many of my various nth cousins n-times removed were killed in the First World War. The tree stops short so many times with various reports of death or missing in action. The most poignant of these is that of Charles Geraint Christopher Payne who was killed in action at Neuve-Chapelle, France on the 12th March 1915.

This is not the end of his story though. Geraint (as he was known) was engaged to Kitty Clausen, the daughter of the painter, Sir George Clausen who was inspired by Kitty's grief at his death, to paint Youth Mourning. The details of this are in The National Archives.

Youth Mourning by Sir George Clausen RA © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4655)

 This especially but also the great many other premature ends to branches of my family tree have made me wonder how different the world would be without just one of them. Just a single person taken out of history removes a massive potential from the universe. Add in all their sisters and brothers in arms on top of the inestimable political differences that would be in force should the war and its continuation also be taken out, and it becomes certain that we are living in an alternative reality. Somewhere in that role call of victims is perhaps the inventor of Warp Drive or an unimaginable medical advance. All this is lost to us. History is fluid and humans are stupid enough to let this week's nationalistic target to get in the way of just living. We must look on the bright side and hope that all these lost ideas have been tossed forwards to a later more peaceful generation. But think of where we could be now. Just one Tommy who survived rather than was killed and the Starships of a United Earth are just now coming out of Hyperspace near the closest star. We have to keep hoping.

This is my father's father, John Joseph Brown, just young enough to join the war only as it closed. He had a long, happy and productive life. 

Sunday, April 08, 2018

On Why We Don't Blog Anymore

Respect What You Have Lost
Literally because there is too much else which can fulfill a need for a second or two of complex interest before passing. I have to leave all devices in another room simply to be able to read a book these days. My fortnightly reading of Private Eye (Other satirical magazines are NOT available) is punctuated by quick dives into the Internet to check a name or fact. On top of this I think that my mind has become rewired (like a Taxi Driver doing The Knowledge) to work better with short, complex images and phrases to the extent that longer prose does not quite sink in as it used to to. 

This is of course a bad thing and we have to do something about it. My first action should be to delete my Facebook account. I have been considering this for sometime now and the recent revelations regarding the obviously immoral harvesting of data have just made this more likely. Facebook is just too darn distracting. The design of its pages is flaky, and pretty much set up to drag the eye over whatever bit of information is to be promoted. It is micro-propaganda, the insipid feed of nudges in what is considered the right direction. We need to return to long reads which is why (after prompting by some in the family) I am hoping to return to proper blogging. 

Yesterday a friend of mine mentioned the fact that Molly Ringwald has invoked #MeToo in reference to John Hughes and The Breakfast Club, However, my friend had not read the New Yorker article which Molly Ringwald had written. The article is here. It was not a spittle-flecked denouncement of John Hughes, but rather a nuanced and well-structured analysis of the whole issue. It refers to the three films that MR and JH did together and examined the areas which would be a problem today. The article was not designed to express outrage but rather to point to complexities. Drama and literature are more often designed to be entertainment rather than moral lessons. These complexities can not be expressed in a Tweet, a platitudinous, moralising or motivational statement in Facebook or a single image in Pinterest. All you can do in this new media is express outrage, your disagreement, how upset you are with a point of view. 

There are things in the world which deserve simple, black and white outrage and it is sad that these things don't make the cut for Twitter/Facebook etc. Think what they might be as they are far more important for the future of the world that most commentary we see these days.

See you soon.