Very little survives a man’s death. I have commented before that most of the “Great’s” from history did not write much down for themselves and Gandhi is no different. For while he did write many letters (all available online) he did this not because he wanted to leave lessons for you and I to follow or to build a movement around, but simply because he didn’t have a telephone. If you are looking for published books then you only have one to find; his autobiography “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”.
I have a copy of it, I picked up in Mumbai, and it is not what you might expect.
The recent riots got me philosophically thinking and the following analysis is the results of those thoughts. Much of the behavioural science is from the book “Predictably Irrational”, which I highly recommend.
I realised upon seeing the chaos on our streets that we were dealing with many different groups of people with different agendas. The following is my take on those who casually looted during the riots. Particularly these two idiots I heard on the radio:
The mechanisms used by such people to loot during the recent sequence of UK riots are not well understood. Normal analysis of the behaviour of people has one enormous presumption: that the person was rational at the moment they made their choice to loot. But, to me, this doesn’t tally with their actions. I say they were irrational choices, but they must have had some mechanisms to assist them in making their decisions and in later justifying them (so drunken and stupidly) on the radio.
The behaviour of those casually looting elicits a number of different reactions and comments from “normal” people. Most respond with a large slice of “they’re just wrong’ns” vindictive spleen. It is as if once someone has committed a crime they somehow stop being human altogether and are instantly transfigured into Martians. While I too have very little sympathy for the fate of people committing crimes like this, I do feel it is very important to understand what was going on in their minds in order to be able to prevent such happenings from occurring again. This is not just important in terms of stopping future crimes, but also important in terms of preventing ill thought out, knee-jerk reactions such as, for example, blaming social media.
You are in possession of the one of the universe’s most mysterious objects. Your personal copy of this object differs in function only slightly from all the other similar objects in our solar system. It is the part of you that feels pleasure and yet it is also the part of you that knows pain. It is a part of your body that you cannot see, but it is also that which you rely on to make sense of what you observe. It is built of more than 33 billion neurons, linked in a mesh up to 10 thousand times each, making a total number of connections greater than the observable stars in the sky. It is the true wonder of planet Earth; for it grew here in the same way apples grow on trees.
It is your brain.
And while we can explore the furthest reaches of light-enabled space, we cannot claim to have begun understanding this small lump of tissue we each possess. Our sciences regarding it are crude at best and mostly replying on mere observation. That sum of knowledge eventually comes down to this: which bits you should not poke. On the other hand, our mental science experts, doctors and scientists try to reduce the functions of the brain down to an increasingly morbid collection of faculties about which they then bicker and argue about endlessly.
And every single one of them has missed the point… […]
Kick Ass is a film that draws a line in the dirt and invites you to place yourself on one side or another. Or, rather, it hands you the stick and asks you to draw your own line. The super hero action genre is ripe for satire as Superman, Spiderman and Batman are leftovers from the 50’s that have had to move from their post WWII, Reds under the Bed, pro America trope to trying to come to terms with modern times. Many movies have travelled this territory by satirising the ridiculous background stories, powers and cringeworthyness of modern super heroics such as the recent Watchmen. And perhaps unintentionally in the form of the Spiderman movies, which are so beyond pathetic that the only thing I can remember is a wet T-shirt.
In Kick Ass we have all the elements of a standard “super hero” journey. The voice over, the sad life in school, the lust after the school’s best looking chick, the bullies and the obsessive compulsive masturbation fantasies. Yep, all present. Geeks must truly have inherited the earth, and must be earning millions, for films to try so hard to show them in such a positive light. Then the first person dies and it is the only person in the film who doesn’t die violently. It is Kick Ass’s mother, who drops dead in the opening montage. Nothing is made of this and she sort of fades from view. Nothing changes for the “hero”.
My Spidey-sense started tingling at this point.
The first line of Philip Pullman’s novel reads:
This is the story of Jesus and his brother Christ, of how they were born, how they lived and how one of them died.
Despite the use of the definite ‘the’ in the first line of Philip Pullman’s new novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, it is not actually claiming to be the real back-story of the influential spiritual leader. Rather it is a telling of a myth; a fable. And in doing so makes us face what the story of Jesus really means. All stories of the Gods are the subject of myth and they all have within them the patterns that stretch directly into the mind and subconscious. As with other tales of half remembered, but not forgotten, ancient wisdom, the story of Jesus has meaning beyond the telling. His is the hero’s story told again and again through the ages, and its lessons are to be read and dwelt upon over many tellings. So, as he steps though the doors of his life – the foretold stages of his journey – we step with him and arrive on the other side together.
The layers of understanding, which come with changing from child to man, are ones I remember clearly. At 10 I was always told that Jesus was also a God. Or was the Christian God himself in a certain form. This lesson led to my childlike wondering of, given the immense creative powers ascribed to this God, how it was that Jesus allowed himself to be nailed up in the first place. Why did he not use his godly power to save himself? Such are the practical thoughts of the child.
To an adult, the answer to this question is Gnostic and illuminates the spiritual level, understanding and beliefs of the speaker. The story sold to me at my Sunday school was that Jesus let himself be executed because he wanted to save us. This was something my young mind could not understand and, I presumed at the time, I would have to ‘grow up’ to realise. In the same sense that one finds an answer to Santa Claus’s apparent ability to travel around the world in one night, I did. In the sense of coming to an understanding of the churches’ view of Jesus, I did not. Growing up involved coming to terms with the world, my limited place within it and to walking some of the steps of the spiritual journey within myself. Together with the practical teachings of my schooling, the categorisation of reality scientifically defined in certain ways, this meant that the Christian God did not fit into my life.
As with my first article expounding my political thoughts, philosophical views and religious methods, a reader has kindly taken the time to compose a question and view point long enough to require 3000 words to answer!
The question is this:
alexander hiboux. Further to your post of the 7th, and having taken some time to consider same, I agree that if someone were to act unlawfully in a moment of insanity, that persons temporary insanity should not absolve him of blame as to his actions, because, to return to a view expressed in my earlier post, a difference must be drawn between “temporary” and “permanent” insanity. If someone acts out of temporary insanity, then by definition, for the prior, and presumably post, act period, that person is in a state of sanity and as such they are aware of what is right and wrong, and thus must be aware of what could loosely be termed natural justice. Ergo, they have at sometime understood right and wrong, and presumably do so again. The fact that this was rejected for such period as to “allow” the act to happen should be no basis for a defence. However, if a person has always been “insane”, then that person may well have never understood the concept of right and wrong, and perhaps never will. Thus there has been no rejection of right and wrong, but rather a fundamental inability to understand the concept at any time, not just at the time of the act itself. The fact that the rest of society understands the concept should not be imposed upon the individual, otherwise we are moving towards a point where any deviation from popular and societal norms may be considered unacceptable, and in the extreme, criminal. Thus, whilst, for the safety of the rest of the population (the moral majority, if you will), the permanently insane should be kept from harming others, perhaps by effective imprisonment, (or hospitalised in a secure unit as the more p.r. conscious would term it), it is for the safety of others, and not for the permanently insanes inability to understand right from wrong, or his actions, that this should occur. Of course, if the “permanently” insane person were then to be medicated to a point where they were no longer deemed to be insane, and such that they no longer posed a threat to society, that would then open up a whole other argument…Here we go!