Sunday, 12 June 2011

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

I am going to offer you the most exciting opportunity of your life, and it comes in the form of university education. You could have the opportunity to pay just £18,000 a year to be taught by Mr Modesty himself. You will spend 3 years surrounded by the wealthiest of the bourgeoisie learning exclusively that most respected of disciplines - the humanities*. Reccently hailed "Jamie's university", those of you who love the made-up style of teaching from extremely prejudiced lecturers (including everyone's favourite, Richard Dawkins!) can experience it first hand, and at such a reasonable price!

So who is 'Mr Modest'?
Anthony Clifford Grayling is a philosopher who has left his position at the University of London, on the basis of claiming that "what's happening is terrible" and having decided to do something about it. His liberal views know no bounds, having made strong arguments about equality and showing support for the public education system. Hence, his decision to create a private university. He is a self-accredited "modest" man who likes to be "withering in his dismissal of those he considers his intellectual inferiors". And you, yes you, could have the opportunity to be taught by him. With such modesty, he will clearly respect and educate his students with all the love and attention their money deserves.

If you need further persuasion, he has the strong backing of Boris Johnson, who has himself considered "setting up a 'Rejects' College' for bourgeois children who failed to get a place at Oxbridge".

If I know you as well as I think I do, I will warn Mr Modesty to expect to find your applications
flooding in.

*I have nothing against the humanities. I'm a philosophy student. I'm just being facetious.
If you would like to know where I stole all this from,
click here.

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Blogs are like buses.

Just to warn you, I have 3 blogs buzzing around my head at the moment, so after another long pause it would seem you will be getting lots again.

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I decided to compose, in my head, a series of letters to the culprit. Unfortunately, the 'in my head' part didn't last very long so I wrote them down. And now you get to read my passive aggression.

Dear Resident Tutor,
Next time you plan on getting lots of sleep, I will throw a very loud party. As least, I would, but I'm not that much of a dick.

Dear Resident Tutor,
I would come and yell at you, but you're a policeman. And you're Scottish.

Dear Resident Tutor,

I can only assume you and your friends have invented a game of who can rattle hangers in a wardrobe the loudest. It sounds like fun. Oh wait. That's not fun I can hear.

Dear Resident Tutor,
You're supposed to intervene when
we're making too much noise, I wish there was someone who was supposed to come and kick your ass.

Dear Resident Tutor,

I wish there was some point before the end of term you would have exams. Then I could make as much noise as possible when you're trying to sleep. I could see how well you do then.

Dear Resident Tutor,

If you're going to keep me up, you could at least give me decent music to listen to. Having said that, I too am holding out for a hero.

Dear Resident Tutor,
I hate you.

Back in reality, I found this awesome quote from someone I've never heard of:
If you didn't know what sleep was, and you had only seen it in a science fiction movie, you would think it was weird and tell all your friends about the movie you'd seen.

They had these people, you know? And they would walk around all day and be OK? And then, once a day, usually after dark, they would lie down on these special platforms and become unconscious. They would stop functioning almost completely, except deep in their minds they would have adventures and experiences that were completely impossible in real life. As they lay there, completely vulnerable to their enemies, their only movements were to occasionally shift from one position to another; or, if one of the 'mind adventures' got too real, they would sit up and scream and be glad they weren't unconscious anymore. Then they would drink a lot of coffee.'

So, next time you see someone sleeping, make believe you're in a science fiction movie. And whisper, 'The creature is regenerating itself.'"
George Carlin

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Monday, 23 May 2011

Open letter to philosophers everywhere

To whom it may concern,
I have become increasingly frustrated with the way you write your articles, books and general ramblings. Either you don't know how to write sentences shorter than a page, spectacularly mis- and over-use commas (I thought I was bad before I started reading these texts) or (well, probably 'and'), my current frustration, you feel the need to use stupidly long words.

Do you realise that humiliating your reader into submission is not a good way to be convincing? The idea is you actually give a decent argument rather than just trying to sift out the people with enough sense to go, 'I'm not going to wade through this crap just to be left feeling wholly unsatisfied. There are enough people out there who can leave me feeling unsatisfied without wasting quite so much of my time.' Then, the only people who are left, will go 'oh yes, it was brilliant, quite brilliant indeed' because they don't want you to realise they don't know what most of the words meant.

When I've typed 'define: ...' into google more than 5 times while trying to read a philosophical article, I usually start to get a bit frustrated. It's all very well being elitist and aiming at a higher audience, but unfortunately some of us are forced (or at least optimistically expected) to read your bullshit. Philosophy is not (should not be?) about confusing and embarrassing people. It's about being convincing if you have something worthwhile to say. So from now on, if you're not going to let me understand what you're talking about, I'm going to assume you're attempting to hide a bad argument behind long words. Then I'll go back to reading books about Winnie the Pooh (the original text is a bit hardcore for me...).

Yours faithfully,

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Edit: There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it

Words I never expect to think, until I start trying to revise:

"I feel like going for a run"
"I might go on facebook chat now"
"These seems like a good time to go to Costcutters"
"I wonder what I can do with my hair"
"It's windy outside"
"It's still windy outside"
"I know... Stumble!"

Everyone likes a game of tennis.
Mmm sexy stuff.
My colouring-in feels pretty inadequate now.
What goes on in your mind?
And if you're really bored.

So now you can procrastinate too! :)

p.s. I'm excited by what Google analytics is showing me (not that i wish to imply I'm getting much traffic) because the places people are visitng from are, among a few obscure visits, Coventry, Egham, Southampton and Royal Leamington Spa. That's a mighty familiar list of places! :)

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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

I voted for the first time in my life the other day, it was a pretty exciting prospect. Exciting enough to warrant singing the suffragettes song from Mary Poppins ('Our daughters' daughters will adore us as we sing in grateful chorus: Well done, sister suffragettes!') very loudly as I put my x's in the boxes. Just to clarify, I had a postal vote so I was singing within the bounds of my own home (though admittedly in the garden).

Anyway, I have been thinking about the alternative vote/first past the post referendum a lot recently (generally a good idea when you're deciding what to vote for...) and I've realised why I think AV is positive, but also why it reveals a side of me I'm not so proud of - or at least that I find very conflictual with my staunchly upheld principles.

The thing that makes AV so attractive to me is that it entirely represents what you want. I can tell the world I would rather have the Lib Dems in power than the Tories, but also that I'd never consent to a BNP government. But I can do so without being forced to vote for a single one of those parties as my first - or more to the point only - choice because my only realistic choice is Con/Dem, when in truth I want neither of these parties in power, they are simply the (much) lesser of a number of evils.

One problem with all these jollifications is that as long as AV involves constituencies it could still be a case of tactical voting (something I am opposed to, but will willingly do as long as we have FPTP). Under AV or FPTP I'm aware that Labour have virtually no hope in hell of being elected in my constituency, and that a vote for them is potentially wasted if a majority can be formed without looking to labour voters' second preferences (which would be good in that I can say 'LABOUR' with the suffix 'but not Tory'). Instead, I think AV could solve many of the problems with our current system if a hybrid of it was created with proportional representation, in that you have preferences but only vote on a national level. There would be no need for tactical voting, but your all important second and third choices may still play a part.

But, I fear, the reason this political system is so appealing to me consists in that part of me I'm not so proud of - I'm a closet fascist. This is beautifully illustrated by a conversation I had with Andrew earlier today. We were in a lecture (yes, I'm ashamed to admit I was talking in a lecture...) and American creationists were briefly mentioned in reference to 'intelligent design' being taught in schools, to which I mimed machine gunning down said people. I know, I'm a bad person. I swiftly said, 'I'm a closet fascist' to which Andrew replied 'don't you think I know that?' I was forced to respond 'maybe I'm not so closeted'. To conclude? I'm just a fascist.

Anyway (sorry I'm being so rambly), I have a (not-so-)secret belief that we should have a right to free speech and votes, but that some people really ought not be able to vote for those that they do, or indeed be allowed to shout about them. I'm not talking about tories or other such parties who are fundamentally okay, just 'not my type'. I mean members of the BNP or the british people's party or other such extremist, prejudiced people who are willing to insight racial hatred (and in too many cases, wish to do much worse). To sum myself up: I'm a fascist when it comes to fascists. Woops.

Now you see my problem, as a socialist-fascist I have some issues. It's not always possible to promote liberty and freedom as well as enforce strict controls. The only solutions to silencing these people is either to prevent them from voting, re-educating them (too extremely fascist options, which I can't bring myself to endorse) or simply accept my internal conflict and vote 'yes' to AV.

You'll never guess what I did.

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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved

Today, I want to tell you about someone I admire.

I've been friends with them for a long time now, they've been trustworthy and reliable when I've needed them most, when I've felt like they were the only one I could talk to. But I don't want to tell you why they mean so much to me. I want to tell you why they have so many friends, why they are admired and respected by people far older than them, why they mean so much to so many people.

If there's one thing I find amazing, it's when someone has a natural ease with people. I'm sure you've met someone who can talk to anyone, never forgets the little things about people and makes friends wherever they go. While my friend was great company when I first met them, they were not the person I just described. They worried a lot about what people thought, they couldn't remember everything anyone ever told them, they made friends, but they also made acquaintances. In short? They were human. But this human did something that most other humans will never bother to do - they taught themselves to be better at all of those unattainable social skills. They read books, they observed others, they talked about what they wanted to achieve, and they put what they learnt into practice. And the result? They are approachable, warm, communicative and open. They have so many friends, who respect and appreciate this person in the way they deserve. And the best part is, they're happy.

If there's one thing I find more amazing, it's when someone has the clear-sightedness to know who they want to be, and then has the courage to achieve it. This person, the one I'm so lucky to call my friend, had both of those things and I want to say how proud I am of him. To see the person he has become, through his own hard work and determination, is truly inspiring and makes me hope that one day I will be able to say I achieved a fraction of what he has.

So, to you, my friend, I want to say a few things. You deserve every bit of the confidence and self-assurance you have given yourself, and I hope that both will continue to grow. It makes me so happy to see how proud you are of yourself - to hear you say that you are now the person you always wanted to be is wonderful. The person you have become is someone I truly look up to, though, if what my mother says is true, I always did think you were pretty amazing. Thank you for every moment of the last two years.

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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.

So I'm sitting here in my university room, surrounded by privilege and good fortune, but all I can feel is indignation about how unfair it is. I'm currently attempting to write an essay entitled 'is the making of art more or less free than the making of craft', but I can't help thinking that art is swiftly becoming one of our most restricted pursuits, and you'd better be a fucking good craftsman if you want to keep doing what you do.

I just read this blog, as linked by the lovely Katie, and it has made me furious. How can art or craft be free if the government is going to drain both of all their resources until they're dried up and ignored by everyone who is choosing not to look at them because they're afraid it will rinse out any money they have left in their pockets?

I'm a philosophy student, at a renowned university and I'm so grateful I made the decisions that I did which got me here. Like being born in 1992 rather than 1994. That was an awesome decision, but maybe I should give my parents credit for that one. But no matter how pleased I am that my tuition fees are in the humble £3000's rather than triple that, I'm still going to be here when funding for arts subjects are cut at university, when pointless subjects like philosophy get what they've had coming for all these years. Why should the government pay for me to write essays on the freedom of art? Where is the value in that?

Never mind that all of these people studied philosophy in some capacity at higher education. Including, I feel I ought to point out, a number of high profile politicians, including Nick Clegg who wrote a thesis on political philosophy and David Cameron who studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford.

But you want to know something more ironic that I discovered on Clegg's wikipedia page? He was in the Cambridge student theatre, alongside Helena Bonham Carter.

How can this person make such extensive cuts to arts, all across the board? It's horrifying, and I'm afraid we will see a decline in the things which help to make our culture so rich, which it will take a long time to recover from. As a real fan of Propeller theatre company, and a friend of Katie, the idea of cuts to theatre, and all arts subjects, is awful. And my biggest fear is that it's not going to do the country any good, mindlessly forcing people into unemployment doesn't seem like an obvious solution to a recession as far as I'm concerned.

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