0401. on differing opinions, the Superficial Socialist podcast, & feminism

Regardless of your political inclinations, everyone should download and listen to The Superficial Socialist podcast, in which two millenials relay in universal and understandable terms the modern movements of the political left, discussing culture, politics and the media in society. The episodes are generally short and snappy, and if you’re feeling particularly uncharitable you can play at 2.2x speed on your chosen podcast app, for a listening time of less than ten minutes. (2.2x is the fastest speed that I find I can still safely consume most — but certainly not all — podcasts). As you can guess, they speak from the point of view of the left, and sound with low tones and knowing condescension like two middle-class white champagne socialists, but that need not affect the points they make, and in fact lends a much-needed perspective.

As noted by the mainstream media recently, there are consumer-friendly algorithms on social media to the point where if you click like on some articles and not on others, in no time at all you are only being shown the perspective that you agree with. Juana Summers, a political editor for CNN politics, said that social media is in effect an enormous marketplace for ideas, where every idea will come up against every other one, and the truth will be found for the betterment of society. But this has not been happening. For all the fuss about censorship on Twitter, my recommended feed is now almost entirely one-sidedly right-wing. Make a habit of buying the opposite newspaper one day, or subscribing to a dissident mailing list. I do not mean to infer the argument that the left is wrong; the right is wrong; the truth is somewhere in-between, but, for example, if you consider yourself right wing, you must understand and explore that which you disagree with, otherwise you’re just as bad as a group of 65 year-olds reading exclusively Marxist economics and barking about the Virgin Fields.

Anyway, the new episode is an exploration of pop culture and feminism, with the question Can a pop star ever truly be a feminist? I had to take it down to 1.2x speed for this one. About halfway through, Marxine seemed to define a feminist as a woman being a woman, which I think holds some credence. A woman who, though society may have moulded her in some way in the same way that society moulds any man, does what she wills in the purest way. A female, feminist artist, for example, is not necessarily her who takes up the banner and cause of feminism in its crudest definitions, but simply she who rises above such influence and drama to create the art that she wants to. This necessarily involves a stark realism, and is not a value judgement at all. This does not define feminism as a good social movement, but instead implies that a feminist — or egalitarian — society is one in which a woman can will. If a female, feminist artist created, in all honesty, a terrible piece of work, judgement could only be upon her, and it would still be an expression of a woman’s right to create. This is in contrast to the commonplace phenomenon of viewing a certain movement as progress — and therefore good — then being forced to justify its worst outcomes [the second part of that article], because of the umbrella term.

The conversation then drifts to familiar territory; misdirected fawning, negative energy and disdain for modern consumerism, the latter of which is of course an important topic, if a bit tired.

0508. on illfitting clothes

Most of my clothes now don’t fit. When I bought them they were slightly too small, but I could—with some struggling—get them on. I bought them one size too small because I thought they would get the ball rolling on my losing weight. (As an aside, this works especially well with expensive (for me), very good-looking clothes. I bought an £89 pair of woollen trousers from COS, & for weeks afterwards I stuck to a caloric deficit effortlessly in the attempt to look good in them.)

And then I lost more weight. And then I lost some more. In fact, it is extremely surprising to me just how much fat the body can fit in places where your silhouette / look doesn’t change much, but your waist size can change so radically again and again. Six months into going to the gym and intermittent fasting, I thought “only a couple more months and I will lose that last bit”. I have thought that a few times since, and keep getting proven wrong. In fact, I now think it again, even though I will probably be proven an idiot in a couple of months as my body finds another reserve of fat to draw upon. Perhaps I have another secret set of love-handles!

I have now poked two new belt eyes into my belt, and I still have a good amount of excess fat about my waist. All my trousers, in fact, are now suffering unfairly under a belt, material crumpled together and any semblance of shape and style gone.

This is a very happy kind of inconvenience.

0108. on quitting multitasking

Multitasking is the enemy.

While I was at University I made a conscious effort to increase my capacity to multi-task, whether this was as simple as playing a video game and watching a television show at the same time, or something more ambitious such as having two conversations at once. I think it comes from two things: firstly, the universal problem; a culture of single-purpose friends, an undesirable offshoot from the age of social networks, and secondly, a personal frustration with my own productivity.

Firstly, the single-purpose friends is a concept taken from Fight Club, but instead of a friend who has a single serving, they have a single purpose. This was more pronounced when I was younger, but it still retains truth today; I will have a friend for talking about films, a friend for talking about politics, a friend for talking about romance, and our interactions and relationship will be stunted by this semi-conscious definition—in the same way that an adolescent group may have “the funny one,” and entertaining a meaningful conversation with them is a rare thing. The second facet is easier to unpack; I have a mental inadequacy when it comes to doing something that I have been told to do. Whether it comes from a misguided mistrust of authority or misdirected masculine pride, it is something that leads my life to be very productive personally and creatively, but lacking in achievements both institutional and social. If I am directed by an authority figure—or in all honesty, even a friend—to research a topic, or complete a task, I will be unwilling to do so, and it will take a great deal more energy than if I had come across the topic myself, or if I had thought the task needed doing independently.

These two problems, each of which could require a counsellor if I was a child of the 00s rather than one of the 90s, make it so that I have a predilection for multitasking, or to put it in a more honest way, an inability to concentrate. Watching a film becomes a background activity as I choose to prioritise Instagram or Snapchat, reading an article—who am I kidding?—reading the first two paragraphs of an article becomes a ten-tab venture into how the material I’m reading fits in with the rest of my life, and what social network would be best for sharing the article to, to more accurately project interests that I clearly do not hold.

So each time I find myself doing two things at once, I will try to ask myself, Would I be doing either of these things if I had to do them by themselves? And if the answer is no, which I imagine it will be much of the time, I will stop doing both of them, as they are not worth my time.

This has been my first go at an article since deciding to blog again last week, and it is a jumbled mess of ideas not fully fledged and not adequately conveyed, but it’s a start! And for clarity, I concentrated wholly on the writing of this article, with only music in the background, and I only checked my phone once—yes, that’s an accomplishment!

2807. on returning, or trying again

I made this blog in the run-up to the General Election, when political interest was piqued, and inevitably, afterwards, in a slow decline, I lost interest, but I feel I should return to it in some meaningful way. My brother encouraged me to become more productive again, and I hardly need much convincing nowadays. So I am going to write about my voice and views. First step is finding some blogs to follow, and then thinking of things to write about.

XXXIX. on cultural isolationism

A short plugging of the American Conservative University Podcast, first, which is a fountain of knowledge. It is rarely “fair”, as “both sides of the argument” are not considered on much of the excerpts that the podcast publishes, but if you have an interest in truth and justice (and parenting. I am 24 and I’ve got a number of years before raising children, but I have listened to probably ten hours of parenting tips over the past few months just because they are so radical and intriguing), you should listen to the podcast.

Anyway, cultural isolationism in all forms is harmful to a people, a society, and ultimately all of civilisation. All cultures nowadays are amalgamations of a traditional essence of a people (of which there are many forms) and a massive number of borrowed traits. Most of the time these traits can be mixed up and switched out depending on their effectiveness. For example, if an immigrant to another country can swallow his pride enough to learn the language and culturally appropriate the mannerisms of that country, while also keeping his own culture in his heart, he is more likely to succeed in that new home (look at the Jews, the Chinese or the Lebanese). This is not to say that one culture in essence is better than another, just that there are more preferable and less preferable traits within those cultures, an understanding which is ignored or intentionally suppressed in modern society.

The data is out there—for anyone interested, please read Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective by Thomas Sowell—but I will give just one obvious example of cultural isolation: Spain translates more books into Spanish in one year than the sum of all the Arabic nations have translated books into Arabic in the last thousand years. This wide dispersion of culture teaches tolerance within western society over the past two hundred years has brought overwhelming equality, respect and insurmountable progress, things which a number of Arabic nations do not have, and even vehemently oppose. Nowhere is this clearer than in America, where positive cultural traits were adopted by all and negative traits were forgotten, in the Melting Pot, that experiment which has led to human prosperity, well-being and freedom the like of which no one on the Earth ever thought possible just one hundred years ago. The trick, which America (and all of humanity) is still learning, is how to know which cultural traits are good and which cultural traits are bad. The fact that there are drawbacks with this system (lost culture, diffusive minorities) does not always mean there is a better option.

XXXVIII. on changing conservatism

This post was conceived to be mainly about British politics, but really applies to conservatism everywhere. In short: America has saved the world.

At a medium length: the explosion of positive, fact-based conservatism that has arisen from America’s classic liberalism has created in the world a widespread revolution in conservative thinking. Conservatism in most places, Britain being my firsthand example, until very recently in history, meant royalism, elitism, and a return to class systems—the latter arising from the others; social mobility was very difficult if not impossible for most.

Then came liberalism, and the American way, and the Great Experiment, and individualism, and self-rule, and the world’s first modern republic arose. There were inalienable rights that were universal for all men (eventually). For a long time, rights were understood to be given to you by the king, or by the law, or by your keepers, but rarely by a creator (take from that what you will, of course). And then over the next two centuries, America, through agriculture and industry, became the greatest nation to have ever existed (in terms of economy, welfare, culture and militaristic benevolence).

Then Marxism gripped the world, or tried to, three or four times (1890s, 1930s, 60s, and now), and anti-historicity became the way of the world; what was old was unjust, and tried, and there must be something better. There was no individual, only community; no individual rights, only the welfare of the society. And this new idea was not conservative. In fact, somehow, it became liberal.

Over the years, then, classic liberalism became known in America as conservatism, and socialism became known as liberalism. American conservatism, in its best incarnations, is still as radical and moral as it was almost two hundred and fifty years ago; perhaps more properly seen as constitutionalism. And this conservatism, perhaps because of its historical context and economic validity, or perhaps because of its compatibility with other historical, economically valid principles: free market capitalism and freedom of the press, has gradually seeped into worldwide culture.

The royalism of old conservatism has receded into arguments about tourism, the elitism has become solidarity, and the class warfare has become class-blindness. At least in the modern strains of conservatism, those newer parties or those smarter leaders, those following the American brand, politics is being saved. My point becomes clear when we compare that to modern liberalism, where there are a number of truths that are not true: all royals are inbred and ancient: evil and corrupt, all elites are right-wing: they control the media, all the upper class are pigs: eat the rich. By these mantras and a few others, socialism is once again rearing its ugly head, but it seems that American values have safeguarded us to some extent, and may still yet save us.