The Standard Bearer Is The One Who Gets The Bullets

The heading image of this column is the rootin’ tootin’ flutin’ King of Prussia, supposedly striding out ahead of his loyal troops to inspire them. It may have been drawn from fact, or it may just be a German propaganda construct, but it points out the title of our piece admirably. The individual who makes a flag bearer of themselves can attract far more than applause – they can attract lead.

I don’t suppose many of us march into enemy guns these days with flags flying and bayonets charged – though I did just that a couple of decades ago – but we do tend to climb the Facebook ramparts and wave our opinions to attract attention. And in most cases we don’t even have a kingdom to defend by doing it. We appear to be attacking public figures for the sheer joy of it. Fortunately the public figures never notice us and most of the people who do would have no idea how to fire a spud gun, let alone a musket.

The only wounds we suffer are to the ego and the reputation. Grievous hurts, of course, but mostly non-fatal. Friendships crumple up and fall over, and that is perhaps the saddest part of it.

So what to do? I’m sure if you look far enough into Roman and Greek history you’ll find advice to keep yourself from party, as well as from lust or gluttony. If you pay me $200 I’ll tell you what they say about avarice.

I don’t tell people what to think or do – apart from this hectoring column. It is safer not to, and even better if I do not tell them what I think or do either. If it is necessary to throw rocks through their windows after dark it is best not to tell them who is doing the throwing.

Flags do need flying, and causes championed, and virtue signalled – and we can see it every day on our social media feed. But we should glance up at them carefully before we raise the pole. Fred’s got his family and the state on the stick there, and a good many armed Germans behind him – he’ll be fine as long as the French don’t spot him and lay a double canister round his way. Not so our Facebook warriors, who may be flying the flag of many foreign parties – replete with vulgarity and foolish appearance. ” Sharing ” the antics of idiots is allying yourself to them…and sometimes the flag that you think you are hoisting is a disgrace to all.

Note: I could be wrong. Friedrich might have just have taken a snout against his generals and is taking his flag and going home.

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I Talk And We Listen

I’ve been taken somewhat to task recently by a reader of another weblog column who complained that I did not write what he wished to read. I suspect that what he wanted to read was what he had written – and that if I had written to his mind I should equally have displeased him…for I should have stolen his story and portrayed it as my own.

And there it is for many authors…if they write their story they risk the wrath. And yet, in the end, their own story is the only one they can honestly tell.

This is no bad thing. Consider – if I tell something I know to you, you are not required to hear it – you can turn away unheeding. But I can’t tell you without telling myself, and in many cases I am the person who needs to hear that story. I need to get something straight in my own mind…to remember or to understand. The rehearsal of the facts helps me where it might just bore you.

The WordPress weblog columns can be therapeutic instruments for many people and I am impressed that they are made available to so many for such a little cost. I think mine have done me a world of good in the last six years and I would readily recommend the writing of one to anyone upon a trial basis. There may be no more Hemingways out there, but there are certainly writers who can toll their own bells.

 

” Will You Ever Shut Up? “

When people ask you this assure them that there will come a time, when you do, indeed, shut up. No life goes on forever and even if you leave behind video tapes and recordings of yourself scolding your neighbours and relatives, eventually the recordings will wear out and a blessed silence will descend.

Writers have a better chance of pressing their opinions on others long after they are dead. These may be good things, like P.G. Wodehouse novels or rubbish like Samuel Johnson’s writings. The only real end to a writer’s influence comes when they go out of print and out of circulation – Voltaire is still going and Euclid shows little sign of ceasing any time soon as long as there are parallel lines or right angles.

We might grant some eternal influence to politicians and statesmen but these reputations tend to tarnish and rot more readily than those of the writers. Territories and resources are much more desirable than ideas, and new people will always arrive trying to acquire them. In the process they remove the old rulers, then their remains, and finally their history and their names. The unlucky ones are kept round as curiosities in museums or powdered for Chinese medicines. At least the mummies that may be ground up for this sort of thing have the satisfaction of being able to make some modern Asian fool sicker than when they started out.

I am grateful for the internet as it allows me to monopolise people’s attention for five or ten minutes every morning and no talking back. I suppose one day it will disappear in an EMP but until then I have an extremely small portion of the public eye or ear to remember what I said.

And to ignore it.

 

When You Have To Be Honest…

When you have to be honest about some particular thing, you might just as well surrender yourself to the whole vile experience and be honest about everything. You’ll be cleaning up a damned mess, of course, but the thing won’t be any different than if you just told a little bit of the truth and clammed up about the other things you know.

Not that honesty is required all the time, mind. If you are dealing with magistrates and police officers and coroners and such you’ll have to be completely truthful, of course. Likewise you are going to want to be open and forthright with your physician, dentist, optometrist, etc – otherwise your own body will betray you. But there are other places in society where you can get a rest from being honest:

a. Facebook. No-one really expects to see a 100% honest day on Facebook. There are so many political, religious, and social memes out there just waiting for shares, and most of them are either too good to be true or too true to be good – the former ones outnumber the latter…

b. Instagram. You are encouraged to make things look better than they really are to attract the interest of people who want to attract your interest with their visual lies. Fortunately it makes a nice change from Pokemon and people are less likely to step into traffic while looking at Instagram. Unless it makes them really depressed.

c. The pub. Well, if you can’t tell lies in a place that serves diluted alcohol, what’s the point of going there?

d. Political rallies. Whichever side you are on and whomever you are against, you are never expected to be unbiased and fair at a political rally. You are there to root for your side and howl the rest down. You are often allowed to hold up offensive signs. You are never required to dress well. You are permitted to espouse the foulest creeds and howl the vilest insults. If it had nap time, it would be like kindergarten.

e. Religious meetings. You are required to be honest to God and honest to yourself, but everyone else there can be played like a harmonica. Profess anything that they want you to profess and damn anything that they demand you to damn. Recite creeds, prayers, anthems, and shopping lists if that is the custom of the place. Bob, weave, dance, sing, and perform any gestures that seem to be required.

It’ll all be the same thing. Would I lie to you?

 

 

 

 

Morality Plays Upon The Phosphor Screen

The medieval morality play was a religious exhortation tricked up into a theatrical form. Most European nations did not have television in the 1200’s ( Though apparently it was invented by the Russians in 1068 according to the late Soviet regime…) and the peasants did not understand the words of the Latin Mass. So travelling shows and church festivals used plays to entertain and instruct.

The various kings, dukes, earls, barons, and sheriffs used the axe and the rope to instruct, as well. It was not until the late 1700’s that a French doctor was able to return the compliment with a mechanical device.

But we are straying from the topic; morality played out or taught on the computer screen. It’s not just done by means of Hollywood crime dramas – sometimes it is in simpler form. Sometimes all that is required is  a crusading cartoonist or someone who likes to put memes onto Facebook. I see both of these daily – and while they do not form or reform my mind, I can see that they might do so for others.

Take the case of ” Sinfest ” – a rather well-drawn daily strip by a chap in America that has been going for over a decade. It features very stylish art and some quite novel concepts of God, the devil, supernatural beings, Time, etc. It sounds moralistic, and it is moralistic, but the longevity of it shows that there is a market for its biased view of the world. If you are a bad person it castigates you and if you are good one it praises you…but the thought eventually must arise in the mind of the viewer that the artist is putting himself forward as  the sole judge of good and bad. If his pronouncements are a little puerile they are at least redeemed by the pretty drawings.

” Least I can Do ” is also successful and enjoyable…and equally as plonking in some cases, though there is a different form of puerility evident – the writer delights in shocking the viewer if he can. At least the artist is a brilliant illustrator. Still, when the tenor of the strip gets political and snarky with it…you wonder whether the fun is worth the scolding.

If you go off and google the strips and follow them for a while you’ll probably see what I mean. In a way, they are no worse than Lil’ Abner was when Al Capp decided to beat his political drum.

The Facebook meme is the one that has me reaching for the mouse most times. I do understand that people like to score points by appearing smart and trendy, but I would be more likely to award them this opinion if the things they had to say were from their own mind, instead of being a parrot squawk of someone else’s prepared smarminess. But that would expose them to criticism of themselves, rather than of the anonymous source… Now that we have 30-day ” rest ” periods for the worst offenders, I can read the social media with more pleasure.

 

Possible Is Not The Same As Probable

And neither of them are proven. All three terms are separate in the language and the law. Time to separate them in social media.

Let us take the case of a public figure: Ronald Gump, the President of the Republic of North Mexico. Mr. Gump has the problem that his election angered his political opponents to such an extent that they have never let him be in peace to actually act as president.

They’ve found that the astute use of the social media can keep the man in the firing line of constant abuse and ridicule – even if there is no basis upon which to found this. All they need is people who are of the same mind* as they to keep passing and re-passing the memes – to keep suggesting and sneering and accusing and hinting. Once they start these things off, all they have to do is put in some suggestive headline – no matter how trivial  – to keep the ball rolling.

Mr. Gump would have been wise at the start of his presidency to ignore the social media entirely – as notice taken or anything said merely serves to fuel more hatred. The quick internet response can be a very damaging phenomenon.

The gravest casualty of this whole affair has been the faith which sane people used to put in the media – a credulity that has been largely destroyed. The term ” fake news ” has supplanted the older ones of ” propaganda ” and ” lies ” and makes things seem somehow more amusing and less harmful. ” fake ” is fake, and fake is never good.

*  I may have used the wrong word there. It probably should have been ” mindless “.

I’m Politically Incorrect

Yes I am. I know I am. I’ve got Facebook and I match all the memes. Don’t you dare tell me I’m not incorrect.

I still use the words ‘ boy ‘ and ‘ girl ‘. But I use them only when I meet a human boy or girl. I never refer to steam engines used in mine pumping or to zucchini in gendered terms. I also never refer to the current prime Minister of Canada in gendered terms. I’m not that much of an expert.

I do refer to women who serve drinks and food on airplanes as stewardesses and women who try to tell me how to vote and behave as actresses because I still retain enough eyesight to see that they are, indeed, female. I can also see that their male counterparts are subtly different. Subtle, but enough to earn the titles of ‘ steward ‘ or ‘ actor ‘. As I have nothing to do with what their training is or how much they get paid for these services, I do not propose to enter into their verbal games regarding these designations.

As far as referring to other people’s racial or ethnic origins, I am prepared to be guided by what they would prefer – provided that their choice allows me to do it in less than 20 letters. Past that it becomes a pose and a wank and I refuse to play along. When they get to two hyphens, I cease to care.

When it comes to operating my vocabulary, I desire no help. I’ve been managing it for decades and will continue to do so upon the old lines. You may keep your scolding tongue to warm your nose in winter.

When it comes to being publicly virtuous, I’m certainly prepared to uphold the use of correct ideas. Some of the ideas I think correct are made by Boeing, and some of them are made by McDonnell – Douglas. Some of them are made by Ruger. The Electric Boat Company has always been correct by me.