The Morality Machine – Part One – A Self-Help Book For The Vicious

In case that sounds like I am advocating a Necronomicon that you get at Dymocks for $ 39.95, I must reassure you. The self help advocated is not to make the user worse, but better. Vice is to be abhorred and virtue upheld – if only on the point of a pike.

The self-help books that are commonly found in bookshops and libraries come in many forms – but they all have a common theme; the reader must absorb what they have to say and then practice it to become a better person. The betterment can be of many types – richer, calmer, wiser, thinner, happier, or more virtuous are some of the popular ones. Less common, but still useful are the books that will make you a better golfer, fisherman, skier, etc. There are even a few slim volumes that will make you a better stamp collector or photographer of fungi.

Still- they are all ex auctoritate sententia – you read and obey the authority of the author. They point and you follow.

I propose that the best self-help article or book is one that proceeds from the person themselves – they do the work and reap the benefit. Thus even if the reader desiring advancement can only write or say one thing to assist themselves, that one thing comes from a better source than any $ 39.95 paperback.

Of course you often can’t really say anything new to yourself – it has all been said before by someone else – but you can repeat it in your own voice, and that is frequently the only one you hear anyway. In this case you are doing nothing more than you might normally do – talking to yourself – but you can add something fresh; you can listen to yourself.

I’m trying it these next few months. First one I’m doing is Will Rogers’ line about never passing up a chance to shut up. The good effect of this might be negative, as I won’t know what trouble I’ve avoided if I’ve been successful…but maybe that’s the best form of self-help.

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Cleaning The Meme Off Your Shoe

Prior to subscribing to Facebook, I had never heard the word “meme”. After I leave it, I’m rather hoping that I never hear it again.

I am not resistant to ideas – nor to clever expressions. I look to the history of literature for wit and witticisms. However, I am afraid when I am dealing with this giant of the social media world, that I am getting only a portion of what I might. Half-witticisms, if you will, from the keyboards of half-wits. Vast concepts trimmed to the tastes of the half-vast.

Most items are reasonably harmless in themselves – cats, dogs, and otters and the occasional horse doing funny things. I like the Liz Climo cartoons -as well as a number of other small, harmless drawings. I can stand sunrises and pictures of the sea. I always like airplane pictures.

But some memes are not witty, nor are they pleasant, useful, or fair. If they are attached to politics or religion they are frequently picked up by the least thoughtful of the community and plastered about with abandon. Would that they could be abandoned long before they actually hit the screen.

In today’s political climate, I also wonder if the clever meme has been invented and inserted onto the platform by the disinformation teams from each party – thence to be repeated by the parrots of the net. I don’t value being preached to or railed at by friends on the behalf of strangers.

The answer? Well, that may be mild, or drastic. I’ll experiment with July’s crop of scolding and see which option seems most appealing. I would regret losing the connectivity of some parts of the social media scene, but I would regret losing my happiness and temper even more.

The Animatronic Version Of Jesus…

Delivering a simplified version of the Sermon On The Mount. In Florida – or Tennessee – or Queensland…

What a wonderful thing. Why, it would make people stop, stare, and marvel. They would be in awe of the mechanism and the lifelike realism that was created in silicon, plastic, metal and cloth. It would be as if a fairy tale had come alive – right there in the theme park.

Would they be quite as enthralled with a mechanical version of Buddha sitting there and not moving? Or an electronic Tom Paine asking them to damn all religion and just be moral themselves? Would they react with as much favour if it were a Houdin sculpture of Voltaire just sitting there minding it’s own business…?

I am increasingly amused, disgusted, and intrigued by the entertainment industry that feels it needs to draw its power from religion and/or philosophy. And I don’t mean just the rubber figure dolls of Disney’s amusement park – think of the popular culture motion pictures that have grasped some thin concept of morality, art, or intellect and puffed it out with mysticism and petrol explosions. And done very well at the box office, thank you for asking.

If you think this is sneering at Hollywood alone…you’re wrong. It is sneering at Hollywood’s customers as well. Been to the movies lately?

Hint: By all means be moral and historical and intellectual-for-ninety minutes. But do it with the original material – the books of the masters – and not with the videos of the mistresses.

Carrie Nation Has Risen From The Grave

And she still has the tomahawk…

Australians who frequent social media sites on the internet have just been served a moral googlie – we’ve been bombarded with a high-sounding call to abstain from the Demon Rum for the month of July. This is advertised as alternately a shaft of saving grace beamed from Heaven, or a warm and fuzzy feel-good socialist fire-side chat.

I prefer to think of it as a crock of shit. Let me explain…

The call to righteousness assumes that we are sinful – or at least wrongful. That we harm ourselves and our families and the planet and little fuzzy kittens by drinking wine, beer, or spirits in the month of July. There are dark hints that we must do better…or risk the disapproval of the people who want us to abstain.

That is interesting. Why should we care about the disapproval of unseen and unknown entities? Particularly if they are the sort of organisations that scold on Facebook. Are they the touchstones and guiding pillars of our lives? Along with Candy crush and ” What is your Viking name? “.  Is it possible that this is all a load of hooey?

It is.

The scolders who advocate a dry July, stretching as far as next century, want us to do something else – not with our time or our digestion – they want us to do it with our money. They want us to give it to them. Because we will then be moral, and presumably fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven…or at least the Kingdom of Zukerberg…

Do as you will. If you think you are a drunk because you down a bottle of wine a week and have immoral thoughts, smash the glass in the fireplace and set your mind on higher things. I intend to Up Spirits each afternoon at 15:00 hours and take beer with dinner. I am even prepared to join you in a toast Carry Nation and her tomahawk, but be warned – if you disrupt my table you will be thrown into the street.

 

The Screech Of The We’re-Idiot

The Irish used to fear the screech of the banshee. So did the landing crews of the HMCS BONAVENTURE, but that was a slightly different matter. The wailing and unearthly sounds in both cases portended doom and disaster, but in the case of the Canadian aircraft carrier it was their jet squadrons landing back aboard…

Now we have a new fear to chill us in the night – the we’re-idiot who uses Facebook as a sounding board for their political and religious opinions. You may not hear them, but you see them, and the sight of yet another Anti-Trump rant or Millenial Moan is enough to drop the social temperature a good ten degrees.

We’re -idiot? Derived from the expression ” We’re outraged “.

It will only get worse – though I’m happy to say that the very worst of it will echo overseas. The American election will occupy the net for months and while our local were-idiots will foam and snarl, it will be as nothing to the exchanges in the USA. We’ll get the occasional echo here as the locals try to develop adequate outrage, but by and large it will be small stuff directed at a Prime Minister who is made of beige in a parliament that is painted taupe. We lack really savage causes, even though we do have some pretty classic savages.

The best we seem to be able to do lately is to foam about a football player who is a fundamentalist. Many of us do not care for his opinion nor for his attempts to collect sympathiser’s money, but then many of us do not care for the witch-hunt that has prompted this, either. We would be happy if he, his detractors, and his supporters were to take their money and their memes and go away. We will not pursue them.

 

Nearly July, And I Am Going To Go Dry

Oh, I’m not going to stop drinking. Good Lord, don’t jump to ridiculous conclusions…No need for crazy talk.

I’m going to conduct the experiment on Facebook during July of not removing anything. No hiding ads or shares that people put up. No taking down rants and political propaganda.  No snoozing or unfollowing people. No unfriending. No untoward reactions to anything.*

It will be a strain. I will be forced to see, but pass by, the worst of the drivel that appears on screen. I will not post corrections of typos or humorous suggestions. I will not try to push people over the edge of madness.  The people I know teeter there much without any help from me.

I shall practice Will Roger’s advice about not passing up a chance to shut up – and I will see if I feel better or worse at the end of the month. I will either have been destroyed by the flood of folly or find myself completely unaffected by it. I can’t say right now which prospect is most appealing.

*  I may have filed one person away for 30 days, but that is to prevent homicide.

Do We Know Who Our Enemies Are?

And I am not talking about political enemies, class enemies, or national enemies…You can leave those to the government to deal with. They’ll make ’em for you and then arrange for you to meet them when it is most inconvenient.

I’m not even including hostile institutions or businesses – the organisations or groups that plot your destruction during secret meetings in dark caverns. These are a normal facet of life.

I’m thinking about personal enemies – private individuals who hate you. People who would get at you if they only could. They come in different varieties:

a. Someone whom you have wronged. Stolen their treasure, perhaps, or murdered their father in a duel. Seduced their wife/husband/partner/lawnmower man. These are persons who contemplate a blood feud but cannot decide yet which of your veins to open.

b. Someone whom you have done a favour or service for. This can be a potent source of enmity, particularly if the good deed was observed by others and required an equally good deed in return…that was never done. Your enemy is enclosed in a guilt-edged cage.

c. Someone of whom you have been contemptuous. Even if this is no more than a word or a glance, you can be sure that it is the deepest poisoned cut of all. If you have made your contempt amply plain in public, expect no abatement of their anger.

d. An ugly person, if you are beautiful, or a beautiful person, if you are ugly. Whatever a mirror might reveal, your enemy can see themselves in you, and they hate what they see.

Now, what do you do about enemies?

If you cannot think of one, leave it go at that. They’ll still be there, but if you don’t see them, it’s like having mice in the wainscotting.

If you suspect someone is an enemy, go to them and ask them if they are. If they aren’t, they’ll say ” No ” and if they are, they’ll say ” No”. Then they’ll ask you why you asked…and you can tell them that you were worried about it. Then they’ll have to start being overly friendly to defuse the awkward situation. Make them pay for coffee.

If you have proof positive that someone is an enemy, treasure this. An enemy is a very valuable person. They will always be interested in you and the best ones will know where you are at all times. You can ring them up and they’ll always answer – try this at 3:00 AM and see how true it is. Remember that as you are their enemy they worry about you far more than anyone else does.

Sort of touching, in a way.