Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Vote Remain for so much more

When I was young I lived in a dangerous world in which two superpowers threatened to destroy civilization. I thought that there must be something better than this. What must happen is for countries with economic and political power to come together in a union which could turn to the other superpowers and say no - enough - the world deserves better. Such a union could be more than just a partnership of commerce - it could combine resources to support great projects - to promote and spread human rights, to deal with poverty, to research and develop new technologies for the production of energy, to support initiatives to help its members live in a cleaner and safer world. I was happy to see us join the Common Market, and extremely pleased when it became the European Union, and I was proud to become a European citizen. So much could be achieved, and we could become a new form of political community, a European super-state within which each country maintained its identity and uniqueness, with government at the appropriate level, and with citizens being able to live and work without barriers from the Northernmost tip of Sweden to the warm shores of Sicily. That was my hope, and my vision.

Things are far from perfect in the EU. The situation regarding Greece has been a huge crisis, both financial and humanitarian. The EU has also expanded far too fast for my liking, with countries like Poland having a deeply unpleasant record on human rights. I would have hoped for a smaller and more stable EU, giving things time to evolve socially and politically.

But, so much of my vision has come to pass. The right to travel and work and live within the EU is wonderful and powerful. The income from membership of the EU has been hugely beneficial for the British economy. The work the EU does towards the environment is vitally important, as is its substantial organisational and financial support for science.

I want more. Much more. I don't fear a European super-state, I want it passionately. I want a European army. I want an alternative to NATO that isn't treading on the toes of Russia and always looking towards America. I want a Europe that has the financial power to compete with China, and to not 'catch a cold when Wall Street sneezes". I want the large economy of the UK to help build the engine of such a European state, not splutter in isolation.

So much of the discussion of the EU has been about finance, about counting the pennies of contributions and refunds. So much discussion has been about the fear of other Europeans, as if migrants are wolf packs coming to ravage our country, not people with families who work here, pay taxes, and contribute to our culture. (It's ironic that in towns where a night out is usually to an Indian restaurant, voters state their fear of immigration).

We are better than this. We should not be fearful penny-pinching accountants, hostile to change. We should be working together to change the world through our combined strength and wisdom, and goodness knows the world desperately needs us to do this.

Don't vote just for 'remain' - vote for a positive, progressive vision of a better, safer, saner world, a world where we don't talk any more about 'The West', but about 'Europe', a new power yet with deep roots, a place of exciting ideas based on thousands of years of history, the birthplace of the Enlightenment where science and reason have never been stronger, a place where freedoms and rights and secure. Vote 'remain' for a world that can be so much better, because we can make it better together.

Monday, 30 May 2016

If you don't vote

If you won't vote to stop Trump getting in you are an enemy of reason, of freedom, of equality, of science. If you don't vote to stop Trump getting in you will be knowingly standing by while others vote for a violence-promoting bigoted thug. You will have had the chance to help stop him by doing nothing more than casting a vote. By standing by you reject decades of work by brave fighters for racial equality, for equal rights for women, for reproductive rights, for marriage equality. 

You have probably read Sagan on science being a candle in the dark, but you don't care if that candle is snuffed out. You have probably read Hitchens on separation of Church and state, but you don't care if Jefferson's wall is trampled.  You may have read the critical work of Gore Vidal, but you don't care if freedom to criticise politicians is lost. If you don't vote to stop Trump getting in you don't deserve the right to vote, because every vote is a chance to change the world, and you will have abandoned the world, and sacrificed millions to the narcissistic delusions of a bully.

So vote.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Doctor Who is at its finest, really!

Moffat has returned things to Doctor Who that has not been around for decades - horror, pace, creepiness, and serious drama.  Russell T Davies' style of Doctor Who can be summed up the 9th Doctor's shout of 'Run!'  It was fast-paced, almost cartoonish, and exciting. It was also filled with absurdity and self-indulgence, which reached it's peak at the end of series 4 with Stolen Earth/Journey's End. 

Moffat has been far stronger on plot, and allowing characters to develop, and with Capaldi in the lead we have seen the finest acting and drama that there has ever been on 'Who', as in the magnificent and innovative 'Heaven Sent', and the Zygon two-parter in series 9. There has also been real horror as in Flatline, with the strangest and creepiest monsters the Doctor has ever faced. 

The Master/Mistress has had a far better treatment under Moffat than Davies.  At the start of series 9 we saw the return of the Master we knew and loved in the 70s  as the Mistress showed that she could be charming and even friendly, while being utterly mischievous and untrustworthy.  

Doctor who always changes. That's the point. Moffat has allowed change to continued to make the character the most interesting one in sci-fi, and with Capaldi in the lead we have seen a new Doctor who brinds together old and new series, with touches of Hartnell and Bakers (Tom and Colin) showing us that the Doctor doesn't have to be a young action hero to save the world- as Rassilon said: "words are his weapons", and Moffat is a damn fine writer.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Palin endorses Trump - what I heard

I managed to hear a small section of Sarah Palin's speech endorsing Donald Trump.

"We are all true Americans and we are all here to tell Donald that it isn't all about him or me but the great people of which we all love and respect for those we cannot and will not forget and the immigrants from Mexico and Obama in Kenya who came over here with their singing and their children who won't respect our walls and Hillary's medicare costs for those of us who just cannot and will not forget the Benghazi which keeps Donald and me from sleeping when we dream of our great nation which is feared by those who fear us everywhere even Putin won't stand for our weakness and Nato and next time he crosses borders of Uganda we'll show him that we aren't Obama and we will never be Obama and the price of peace is more than Hollywood liberals and New Yorkers like Tom Cruz and as Ronald Reagan said "Let us never forget Princess David the Iron Lady" and that's why ISIS can't get to the heart of the respect we have for our children and our families and our Lord Jesus who blesses us all."

I think that makes her position clear.

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Garden

The Garden

Alice came here every day, to sit on the wooden bench in her garden and watch the pigeons fly down from the trees and strut across the grass in expectation of breadcrumbs. Why they did this, she did not know, as no-one else was ever around and her pockets were empty; but every day, here they came. She had lost count of the number of days she had sat here on the long park bench, but that didn’t bother her. She was content. She was always content. At some point she would have to walk away from all this, there were other matters to attend to. At least she had a feeling there were. But there was plenty of time - she had only just arrived anyway. At least she had a feeling she had. It didn’t matter. There was peace, the trees, the birds, the wind and the Sun.

But today was different, there was something unexpected. Alice realised that she was not alone. Beside her sat a girl, dressed in grey, with a wild mess of white hair. The girl turned towards her, smiling. Alice felt a shock as she noticed the girl’s eyes: featureless, black, and yet she felt no fear, only the slight thrill of strangeness.

“Hello Alice” said the girl. “Beautiful day”

“It always is” replied Alice.
The girl stood up and held out her hand. “Please come with me. We need to talk”. Her words were polite, but left no possibility of refusal. Alice took the girl’s hand and they started to walk. “I have a story to tell you.” Sun, grass, birds, all faded.

Once upon a time there were seven beings, seven avatars of reality, the Endless: Delight, Despair, Desire, Destruction, Destiny, Dream and Death. Older than gods yet younger than time, they shape reality through their thoughts and actions. Though powerful, the Endless could suffer the fates of mortals, including change, and even death, of a kind. As eons passed, Delight had become Delirium, and both Despair and Dream had taken on new aspects.

Each of the Endless has a realm, a home shaped by their natures. The realm of Destiny is garden of paths without end, paths which are walked by every sentient creature since the beginning of life. Destiny stands in his garden, tall and robed. With one hand he holds his book, chained to his wrist. In that book is everything, every spin of an electron, every planet’s orbit, every life, every death. Destiny is blind, but he knows the book and the book is everything. He turns a page, the first he has turned in an age, and reads:

“At a time so distant from the origin of all things that stars had been mere sparks in the afterglow of the Big Bang, a crystalline ship slowly circled a vast black hole that was the corpse of a galaxy. Within the crystals flowed thoughts so slow that species had risen and fallen in the blink of an eye. The thoughts were those of the last human mind, preserved in a way intended to challenge eternity, frozen in a timeless world of imagination. In that imagination a young girl, Alice, re-creates a single day from the time of worlds and stars. In his garden, Destiny had become aware of a presence.”

Destiny lifts his head: “Well met, sister”.

“So formal as ever. Today, of all days, say my name.

Destiny pauses and frowns. Del..? Dis..?” He asks. “You aren’t in my book”.

“I’m sorry Destiny. You always forget this time. I’m in your book now. I’m on every page. Look closely. Destiny needed no eyes to read.

“As the first stars were born, you were the delight of beginnings. As minds dreamed, desired and despaired and decayed, you became the mistress of their increasing delirium. As even suns and worlds at last fell into ruin and the last minds pass into Death’s domain, you have become the Lady of chaos. You have become Disorder. All reality has become your domain.”

“As our sister Death once said, we have always known this, but never remember. You must remember now.” said Disorder. “It's time for my final duty in this cosmos. When I am everything, then there is nothing. Even time loses its power. There must be a new beginning and so
I need your book.”

“The book at I are one”, said Destiny.
“I know that brother”, said Disorder, “But even so you must give it to me.”
Destiny took his book with his free arm and held out the chain.
Disorder gently touched the chain and it collapsed into dust. She lifted the open book from Destiny’s hand. She turned a page, and saw nothingness. Now alone, she whispered to herself “Goodbye brother. Until the next time”. She closed the book and carried it away into the mist.

“No mortal before you has been free of Destiny. You are truly free to make your own future, and so this is the choice I give you”, said Disorder, “try to wait out eternity in a simulation, never dreaming yet not truly awake, never dying but neither truly alive, having no desires and sealed beyond destruction and yet your end will come, or you can take this book and help shape a new beginning.”

Alice reached out for the book. As her fingers touched the cover she knew all that had ever been. An image entered her mind of a tall robed figure, with a book chained to his arm, the book she now held. She knew who this was, who he was, and that he was blind and yet saw all that was, all that had been, and all that will be.

“Destiny…” she whispered.

“Yes, that was him. Now that will be you.” said Disorder.

“Will I be blind, chained, and so very grey?” asked Alice.
“That’s up to you” said the girl. “My brother liked to follow tradition.”

Alice came here every day, to sit in the sun and watch the pigeons fly down from the trees and strut across the grass in expectation of breadcrumbs. This was her garden, Destiny’s realm.

She sat down on an old wooden bench, took some bread from a pocket of her long white robe, broke it and threw the pieces towards the birds. Then she turned and saw beside her her book. She picked it up, opened it to the first page, and read the first few words with a smile. There, in the language of reality, were words that created a cosmos:

“In the beginning…”

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Guardian and Gamergate

I'm honestly puzzled as to why the Guardian publishes this nonsense. It's supposed to be a paper that promotes free thinking, not slavishly following dogma. #gamergate was a response to corruption in the gaming industry. There was real corruption - journalists not revealing if they did or did not have associations with game writers. This created understandable anger. The result was there was a campaign associated with a hashtag #gamergate. It's not an organised group. Some of the anger went too far. Some anger always goes to far when you are dealing with an online group of tens of thousands. It's deeply dishonest to then insist that gamergate was 'really' about hatred of women, and continually cherry pick to make that case. There are plenty of women gamers who have supported the gamergate campaign, and some of those women have been subjected to harassment and and threats too. These don't get reported as they don't fit the 'gamergate hates women' narrative.

What the Guardian is doing is supporting this dishonesty, and this kind of dishonesty is becoming an increasing problem: diverting the message of a movement to fit an agenda by cherry-picking. We had this with the awful atheism+, now just about everything online is about misogyny. There is real misogyny in our cultures, but it's rarely specific to individual movements. It has to be addressed as what it is, and not supposedly part of 'gaming', or 'secularism' or whatever.

'Gamergate' has not gone - it has won. It's now standard practice in the gaming interest to list any connections that have that might prejudice what they write.

I want to see journalists have to work harder to discuss real issues in constructive ways. The Guardian should do better.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Richard Dawkins on Twitter - nothing to apologise for

The media are at it again.  Richard Dawkins starts to discuss a controversial topic and his tweets are quoted because they seem to be either shocking or putting forward a strident point of view.  Some bloggers do the same thing, often advising Richard to keep quiet or get some sort of advice about what he tweets.

I find the reactions just a bit silly.  Richard Dawkins is an eminent scientist and science educator.  Richard is not a politician. He is not a religious leader.  He is not an elected leader of anything (at least not anything I know about).  He is an individual who is posting his opinions on an open forum.  He posts opinions which are often challenged, and he reads those challenges and sometimes changes his mind.  In doing this he is acting exactly as any supporter of reason should.

There are some who treat Twitter as a global soap-box; a place to make pronouncements, and to preach to the world your view of anything you want.  But that's a real waste.  The power of Twitter is communication, exchanges of views and feedback.  It's a source of much nonsense, of course, but it's also a source of great expertise.

If you want to treat the contents of a conversation by Richard as if they are pronouncements of doctrine then you are the fool.  If you want to get value from Richard's presence, then for goodness sake talk to him.  That's one great thing Twitter enables - conversation.