Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Loser Worship

Our capitalist society is understandably based on the adulation of ‘winners’; those rare individuals who have cracked open the head of success and feasted on the goo inside.  But alas, to ‘win’ - in and of itself - means nothing, without those who make it all possible: the losers.  For what is success if everyone is successful?  As the saying goes, ‘It’s not enough that I succeed, my friends must fail’.

To lose is often a lonely and silent affair - which makes it all the more painful - as one often takes to believing that their grief is unique, and that they have been singled out for misery by the gods.  It often comes with connotations of shame and disgrace, and people think that their defeat must be hidden from public view as much as possible.

In truth, we are all losers, in one way or another.  To lose must be one of the most common occurrences in the modern world, with the vast numbers of people vying for limited resources and positions of success.  Indeed, each and every day we are swimming in an ocean of defeat, yet most of the time we are blind to it, whether due to our proclivity to hide our failures or our tendency to fall victim to sample bias, whereby we overestimate the likelihood of winning because we base our expectations on a small sample (of winners).

To paraphrase Stalin, ‘A Single Loser is a Tragedy; a Million Losers is a Statistic’.  Indeed, a million losers is a requirement, for if the majority of people were ‘winners’, to ‘win’ would become passé, and the definition of ‘winning’ would simply extend further to those at the extremity of success .  To make it to a first world country like Australia may be considered ‘winning’ while in a developing country, but for the new arrival, the success is likely to be short-lived as they grow accustomed to a new, higher base level of success.

Even though they are a necessity for winners, the sheer ubiquity of losers means they are never quite given their credit in the success of others.  While we could publish all of the losers of the lotto every week in thanks for providing the winnings for the lucky few, it is much simpler to just congratulate the winners, and provides a much needed point of focus.

Thus, akin to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, The Spear proposes a monument to the Universal Loser, to act as a point of focus for all of those who have risked something - whether it be their body or their time or their reputation or their capital - and have come up second best or worse, so that somebody else may succeed.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Bleeding Hearts

There once was a time,
When to whinge and to whine,
Was seen as unbecoming.
To be tough and chipper,
A stiff upper-lipper,
Made self-reliance stunning.

Now, venerable vulnerability,
Competitive sensitivity,
Make Outragism super!
To take offense,
Proves best recompense,
For those sans Sense of Humour!

You’re a racist and bigot,
A sexist hate spigot,
A Nazi, for keeping it real.
Forced to sing Kumbayahs,
Self-flagellate our scars,
We ensure bleeding hearts never heal.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Parental Descent

There comes a point for most of us when we finally come to see our parents for what they are: people.  No longer are they enshrined with the parental aura of infallibility, omniscience and safety that nature imbues upon them in our youth.  They lose that special shine - that superpower status - devolving into regular people, albeit with whom you have a very special relationship.

The Spear can think of a few distinct reasons for this change in perspective:

1.       Physical balance of power shift

The immediate reality is that once you were small and they were big, but that is no longer the case.  You are now just as physically imposing, if not more so, and this balance of physical power will continue to tilt in your favour as your parents slide into old age.

2.       Monetary balance of power shift

Similarly to (1), you once were a dependent, but are now increasingly self-sufficient.  You don’t need to go begging for a few dollars allowance to fund your lifestyle, and your income is on the rise.  On the other hand, your parent’s best earning days are behind them and they will in all likelihood become reliant on handouts of their own in the form of a government pension.

3.       Intellectual / Experiential balance of power shift

You were once light on education and experience, but have now gained a degree of expertise in an area of which your parents know nothing.  You are technologically savvy, while your parents are heavily dependent on the ‘smart’ in smart-phone.  You have travelled and are wise to the latest trends and political arguments.  You have experienced different ways of doing things, different ideas and lifestyles, while your parents appear to be trapped in their ways.  Advice travels both ways, not merely downwards.

4.       Relationship balance of power shift

They were once the most important people in the world to you, but now there is more competition.  As you grow your own family and network, the pecking list of priorities will chop and change.  Although you may always be their eternal child, their number 1 priority, will they always be seen as yours?

Parental descent is sad in a way, but it is merely part of the overall process of growing up, whereby we cross items off the list of the possible.  Of course our parents were never really super-people, but to a child they certainly do seem to tick a lot of the boxes, and to come to the realisation that they are just regular people is like learning that Santa Claus isn't real

But that real people, unlike a mythical Santa, are ever able to fill the role of supreme beings - even partially and for a limited time - is testament to the sacrifices parents are willing to make to give their children a good upbringing. 

As these sacrifices become obsolete with our own independence, it is only natural that our parents should lose their special aura; an aura which will perhaps be bestowed upon us as the cycle turns.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Sun Death Woes

For the first time in a long time, The Spear found himself in a Planetarium the other day.  They happened to be running a show of sorts – as a Planetarium is wont to do – which, aside from a bit too much storyline fluff, wasn’t too bad. 

The Spear is sure if he was still a boy he would have found it very informative, but alas, he found himself dutifully playing the role of the man-boy who knew too much (so far as primary-student orientated planetarium shows go).  Yet if the sobs of one young girl in the audience are any indication, he is quite glad that some of the factual knowledge of the presentation didn’t come at quite so early an age.


Yep, that’s right.  The Sun’s gonna die, bi-atch.  Blow up in a big fucking ball.  KABOOM.  Can’t handle that?  Well time to toughen up Princess, because mummy isn’t gonna be around to hold your hand when the sun explodes and envelopes the earth in a great fiery ball – because she’ll be dead too.

Thus was the not-so-subtle message delivered to the horizontally-declinated children, staring with their doe-eyes at the dome projection, their mouths agape as a vision of inescapable doom was directly imprinted onto their psyche, forever.

For the purportedly well-educated adult, the knowledge of Sun Death comes as little shock; it’s just another kick in the nuts in the perpetual nut-bashing fest that we call life (and at least it is very, very distant).  But for the young and still full of hope, knowledge of the death of the Sun must be distressing.  What fucking hope is there of anything when even the most permanent and beneficent thing you can think of is going to up and fucking die on you and wipe out the planet and the human race in the process?

At least most adults have come to terms with their own mortality before learning of Sun Death, making it a novel non-event for most.  These poor little bastards, who probably thought they were going to live forever, just had their fucking minds blown by a mortality bazooka.

The Spear doesn’t really know if there is a good way to introduce children to mortality.  Modern society seems to have kept the reality of death pretty much out of sight (hospitals, nursing homes, lack of war and famine) and consequently out of mind for most.

As The Spear has previously argued, as we are so keen on delegating all education to state curriculum, couldn’t we make some room in the syllabus for some sort of discussion of philosophical matters such as mortality, outside of the ‘religious education’ of any particular doctrine?  At least before the visit to the cold science of the Planetarium…

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Black Swan Predictions

As chance would have it, The Spear has recently been reacquainted with Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan (2007).  In his treatise he rightly points out that Black Swan events are by their nature unpredictable, and hence to ask for, say, a list of the ten next potential Black Swans is quite the exercise in futility.

Nevertheless, The Spear thought that it might be interesting to take the opportunity to at least try to think outside the box, and come up with some macro Black Swan events (the kind that would have worldwide ramifications) which conceivably could happen, but at this moment would be considered ‘unexpected’ by most.

Needless to say these aren’t going to be too specific…

1.       Dissolution of the EU due to build-ups in member-state creditor/debtor imbalances (the need for independent monetary policy eventually winning out over the will for political integration)

2.       Super-virus breaks the internet, rendering Kim Kardashian’s butt, and your blog, redundant

3.       Worldwide epidemic (say mutated flu or other new pig/bird/choose your rodent virus)

4.       Exposure of massive corporate fraud at a leading institution (FIFA was hardly unexpected)

5.       Machine A.I Rapidly evolves into sentience (and then in all likelihood artificial depression)

6.       East v West War sparked by geopolitical tensions in Greece / South China Sea / Mid East

7.       Major political leader assassinated (hopefully not resulting in another world war)

8.       Rapid global cooling (hey, it’s still ‘climate change’, if that’s what you need for your Grant or Power grab, and there was that little ice age not that long ago)

9.       Splintering of the USA due to heightened ethnic tensions / class revolution

10.   Natural disasters galore: Superstorm, Supervolcano, Asteroid/Meteor, Solar Flare

11.   Extra-terrestrial intelligence makes contact with Earth (this could prove really bad or really good)

12.   A new tide of socialism / anti-capitalism / communism due to growing income inequality and a new generation of idealists (would probably also need increasing ‘standard of living inequality’.

13.   We crack the ageing problem and all live forever, really pissing off the environmentalists.

Whatever the next big black swan will be, you can bet that we won’t see its feathered arse coming until after the event.  This fits in with Adam’s law of slow moving disasters, which basically says that the human race will avert major disasters if given enough forewarning.  That probably explains why Greece’s highly likely upcoming default doesn’t seem to be causing many waves in the financial markets outside of Greece, unlike in 2012.  That said, The Spear is certain that it will put in motion many things which the markets have yet to consider (military coup? Portugese default? Greek prosperity?).  Only time will tell.

Honk honk.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Honour Killings and Domestic Violence

Ruby Hamad has published an article today titled ‘Is there any difference between [western] domestic violence and honour killings?’, in which she heavily insinuates that no, there isn’t any difference, or at least none that matters.

She writes,

Of course, domestic violence plays out differently in Australia compared to honour killings in the Middle East or India. In the former, the target is usually the partner of a sole perpetrator, whereas, in the latter, the victim is usually a daughter, with multiple family members often involved in her attack.

While the reasons for these differences have to do with cultures that celebrate individualism versus those which prioritise the family as a unit over its separate members, noted feminist writer and academic Phyllis Chesler used them to declare honour crimes more reprehensible than "ordinary domestic violence"…

...How does an American man beating his partner almost to death for sleeping with another man really differ from a Pakistani man beating his daughter to death for marrying a man against his will? If only she hadn't cheated on me, I wouldn't have had to beat her. If only she hadn't married that man, we wouldn't have had to kill her.

Where does The Spear even start…  Probably a good start would be to read THIS ARTICLE, by the very Phyllis Chesler, which at least attempts to use some form of statistical analysis to highlight some of the many differences between what we would term as domestic violence and honour killings, including:

1.       There is family corroboration and planning of the killing
2.       A large percentage of killings are carried out by multiple perpetrators
3.       Over half the victims are killed for being ‘too western’
4.       There is a cultural pattern of fathers and other family members killing their teenage or young adult daughters specifically
5.       There is a degree of justification and valorisation of such murders by the wider family
6.       There is justification of such killings by the perpetrator’s religion, religious leaders and legal systems [which often overlap]
7.       >90% of perpetrators of these types of killings are Muslim.

While some may say Ms Hamad is doing nothing but trying to elevate the seriousness of domestic violence, The Spear would say by equating the two, when one is quite evidently a demented, barbaric and very extreme form of the other, Ms Hamad is diminishing the seriousness of Honour killings and paving the way for their eventual acceptance by a public which has been shamed into silence via equivocation, much as already has happened with domestic Islamic terrorism and mental illness.  No, they aren’t terrorists, they are just deranged psychos.  No, they aren’t honour killings, they are just incidents of domestic violence.  

The whole gist of her article seems to be ‘you are just as bad anyway, so stop throwing stones in glass houses’.  To her The Spear would say, if you want to really tackle the problem, it is first necessary to admit what the problem is, rather than muddying the waters.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Aphoristic Enterprise 4

1.       At the core of my self-belief is self-doubt.

2.       When it comes to weight control, the best exercise is the exercise of restraint.

3.       When it comes to the job market, the best degree is Pedigree.

4.       Money allows for the transformation of prudence to exuberance.

5.       If you’re not sure how to go about something, just start doing it and incorporate feedback from the universe.  Soon enough it will be done.

6.       It actually is one big popularity contest.

7.       The price mechanism is kind of like alcohol; it lowers inhibitions and makes things happen.

8.       The fact that people willingly zoom through the air in giant steel tubes without any desire to witness some form of quality-assurance documentation amazes only so much as the rarity of their catastrophic failure.

9.       Death sprouts where inattention meets the ordinary - so pay attention.

10.   You can choose to take a break on your terms or wait for your body to choose the terms for you.