Mar 30, 2008

The sovok

You know things are bad when Soviet-era language can easily be applied to your own country's situation. I think this goes equally for the UK and America, as well as maybe for Australia, to a lesser extent.

Matt Tiabi from here on in:

In Russia they have a word, sovok, which described the craven, chickenshit mindset that over the course of decades became hard-wired into the increasingly silly brains of Soviet subjects. It's a hard word to define, but once you get it -- and all Russians get it -- it's like riding a bicycle, you've got it. Sovok is the word that described a society where for decades silence and a thoughtful demeanor might be construed as evidence of a dangerous dissidence lurking underneath; the sovok therefore protected himself from suspicion by babbling meaningless nonsense at all times, so that no one would accuse him of harboring smart ideas.

A sovok talked tough, and cheered Khruschev for banging a shoe at America, but at the same time a sovok would have sold his own children for a pair of American jeans. The sovok talked like a romantic and lavished women with compliments, but preferred long fishing trips and nights spent in the garage tinkering with his shitty car to actual sex. It's hard to explain, but over there, they know what the word means. More than anything, sovok described a society that spent seventy years in mortal terror of new ideas, and tended to drape itself in a paper-thin patriotism whenever it felt threatened, and worshipped mediocrities as a matter of course, elevating to positions of responsibility only those who showed an utter absence not only of objectionable qualities, but any qualities at all.

We're getting to be the same kind of people. We can't focus for more than ten seconds on anything at all and we're constantly exercised about stupid media-generated non-scandals, guilt-by-association raps, accidental dumb utterances of various campaign aides and other nonsense -- while at the same time we have no energy at all left to wonder about the mass burgling of the national budget for phony military contracts, the war, the billion dollars or so in campaign contributions to be spent this year that will be buying a small mountain of favors for the next four years. And we... shit, I don't even know what I'm saying anymore.

I'm just tired of this tone that's always out there when these scandals break, like we can't fucking stand the existence of this Wright fellow for even a minute longer, not a minute longer! -- when we all know that come Monday, or Tuesday at the latest, Jeremiah Wright will be forgotten and we'll be jumping en masse in a panic away from the next media-offered shadow to fall across our bow. What a bunch of turds we all are, seriously. God help us if we ever had to deal with a real problem.

Mar 28, 2008

While everyone is concentrating on Obama's "crazy" pastor

I decided to do some digging into another candidate's odd religious links. I'm sorry, but hysteria bores me unless it is very funny, and all the Rev. Wright drama is showing is how out of touch white America is with black America, and how some conspiracy theories are pefectly acceptable for the media to believe in and accept, but others are not.

I think McCain's religious links are fairly well known, if contested in what they signify, so instead I decided to look into Hillary Clinton who, aside from her Bosnia sniper lies has kept a relatively low fuck-up profile of late.

And that's why I find so much of this interesting, because while it is being reported on the fringe news sites, it doesn't seem to have translated over into a general media concern. Not yet, at least.

I am talking, if you hadn't already guessed, of The Family, the strange religious group to which Hillary Clinton belongs. Very strange, given almost all of their members are part of the religious right, especially on Capitol Hill, where the sort of people who tend to belong to the Family (or Fellowship, they like to play fast and loose with names) include people like Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, most famously known in the UK for denying evolution during one of the Republican Presidential nominee debates.

So yeah, we're not exactly talking Methodists here.

But there is much more to the Family than a prayer group for Christians in DC. Much, much more. As Mother Jones goes on to explain, The Family is built along:

sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan.

Starting to feel a little worried?

You should be, because The Family not only says it wants to do these things, like so many groups of religious nutters, but it apparently has the means as well. In 1978 it secretly helped the Carter Administration organize a worldwide call to prayer with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and in 2001 it brought together the warring leaders of Congo and Rwanda for a clandestine meeting, leading to the two sides' eventual peace accord last July. But its power is not simply limited to waging peace. It also helped the US government forge relationships with Africa's brutal postcolonial dictators in the 60s, not to mention Brazil and Indonesia's anti-Communist military dictatorships.

As you've probably realized, at least during the Cold War, the aim would seem to be in building an anti-Communist coalition among the Third World, no matter the cost in money or lives. Suharto killed hundreds of thousands of supposed Communists, and I couldn't even begin to try and fathom how many were lost in Africa.

So...Christian and dedicated to anti-Communism, but with a decidedly Realist streak of cynicism when it comes to power politics. A question for the political science students: who does this sound like? If you said Reinhold Niebuhr, then give yourself a cookie. Niebuhr is considered among the pre-eminent early Realists. And just so happens that he is a favourite of one-time Goldwater gal Hillary Clinton, who learnt of his teachings under the leadership of Reverend Don Jones, shortly before she joined the Republican party.

I do this to illustrate that despite Clinton's apparent apathy towards religion except as a tool of power, there are links between her early life and the thinking of the Family, and that this should not just be dismissed by appeals to "triangulation" or cynical politicking.

You shouldn't make the mistake of thinking the Family is entirely part of the Religious Right either. They probably hate secular Democrats as much as any on the Religious Right do, but if someone is a Democrat and a Christian, they are more than willing to embrace them. Because their mission is a higher calling, they are here to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

One of the more well known members on Capitol Hill is David Coe. Here is a quote of a talk he was giving to, what he thought, was just a cell of Family members, but also included an undercover Harpers reporter:

You guys know about Genghis Khan?” he asked. “Genghis was a man with a vision. He conquered”—David stood on the couch under the map, tracing, with his hand, half the northern hemisphere—“nearly everything. He devastated nearly everything. His enemies? He beheaded them.” David swiped a finger across his throat. “Dop, dop, dop, dop.”

David explained that when Genghis entered a defeated city he would call in the local headman and have him stuffed into a crate. Over the crate would be spread a tablecloth, and on the tablecloth would be spread a wonderful meal. “And then, while the man suffocated, Genghis ate, and he didn't even hear the man's screams.” David still stood on the couch, a finger in the air. “Do you know what that means?” He was thinking of Christ's parable of the wineskins. “You can't pour new into old,” David said, returning to his chair. “We elect our leaders. Jesus elects his.”

Exactly. Chew on the implications of that for a while.

Mar 26, 2008

A list of things that wont happen in 2012, Part 1

plagues of locusts
the rise of the antichrist
the information singularity
Nibiru crashing into Earth
Russia, China, America, Iran, Israel, India and Pakistan all getting into a nuclear war
Alien overlords taking over the planet
the Mayan gods destroy the Universe
The Reptilian agents unasmking themselves
the poles of the earth exchanging positions, or
Michael Bolton ceasing to suck

Mar 25, 2008

Dick Cheney doesn't give a fuck about your whining

American war protestors: kick yourselves in the balls for thinking you could have any effect on the thugs in the White House. This clip tells you everything you need to know about Cheney.

The clip you want is from 3:17 in. For those of you who missed it:

: Two-thirds of Americans say it [the Iraq war] is not worth fighting.

Cheney: so?

Mar 23, 2008

Today's quote

"You stoned our envoy!" shouted Vorbis. "An unarmed man!"

"He brought it upon himself," said the Tyrant. "Aristocrates was there. He will tell you."

The tall man nodded and stood up. "By tradition anyone may speak in the marketplace," he began.

"And be stoned?" Vorbis demanded.

Aristocrates held up a hand. "Ah," he said, "anyone can say what they like in the square. We have another tradition, though, called free listening. Unfortunately, when people dislike what they hear, they can become a little . . . testy."

"I was there too," said another advisor. "Your priest got up to speak and at first everything was fine, because people were laughing. And then he said that Om was the only real God, and everyone went quiet. And then he pushed over a statue of Tuvelpit, the God of Wine. That's when the trouble started."

"Are you proposing to tell me he was struck by lightning?" said Vorbis. Vorbis was no longer shouting. His voice was level, without passion. The thought rose in Brutha's mind: this is how the exquisitors speak. When the inquisitors have finished, the exquisitors speak . . .

"No. By an amphora. Tuvelpit was in the crowd, you see."

"And striking honest men is considered proper godly behavior, is it?"

"Your missionary had said that people who did not believe in Om would suffer endless punishment. I have to tell you that the crowd considered this rude."

"And so they threw stones at him . . ."

"Not many. They only hurt his pride. And only after they'd run out of vegetables."

"They threw vegetables?"

"When they couldn't find any more eggs."

"And when we came to remonstrate-”

"I am sure sixty ships intended more than remonstrating," said the Tyrant. "And we have warned you, Lord Vorbis. People find in Ephebe what they seek. There will be more raids on your coast. We will harass your ships. Unless you sign."

"And passage through Ephebe?" said Vorbis.

The Tyrant smiled. "Across the desert? My lord, if you can cross the desert, I am sure you can go anywhere." The Tyrant looked away from Vorbis and towards the sky, visible between the pillars.

"And now I see it is nearing noon," he said. "And the day heats up. Doubtless you will wish to discuss our . . . uh . . . proposals with your colleagues. May I suggest we meet again at sunset?"

Vorbis appeared to give this some consideration. "I think," he said eventually, "that our deliberations may take longer. Shall we say . . . tomorrow morning?"

The Tyrant nodded.

"As you wish. In the meantime, the palace is at your disposal. There are many fine temples and works of art should you wish to inspect them. When you require meals, mention the fact to the nearest slave."

"Slave is an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave," said Vorbis.

"So I understand," said the Tyrant. "I imagine that fish have no word for water."

- Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

Mar 22, 2008

Deconstructing Pagan Authoritarianism, Part 2

Apologies for the gap in time between the previous article and this. I've been busy attending to personal issues and have only recently had the time to put the finishing touches on this section. With that out of the way, we shall continue with the critical evaluation of the How to Keep Your Coven from Being Destroyed.

The second part of that essay starts with a restatement of the original principles and conclusions of the previous entry, namely that conspiratorial thinking about the cause of conflicts are good things, that negotiation is letting the terrorists, I mean trolls, win, and that despite all of this being a natural process, it should somehow be confronted and dealt with, presumably because many Pagans are only in favour of nature when its inoffensive.

However, the purpose of this section of the essay is to identify the difference between a (supposed) troll and a (supposedly) normal coven member. Eran likens the troll to a “tarantula or scorpion”, while an ordinary coven member is apparently more akin to a “pet hamster.”

I find the imagery here very interesting. Troll, scorpion, tarantula. The former is a creature from Northern European that many are familiar with, from stories involving goats and bridges to Tolkein's myths, often used as the scary elements within a child's tale. The latter are creatures to which we have a natural aversion, thanks to evolutionary biology gifting us with more common sense than, say, the writer of this essay. In short, he is using the text to evoke these feelings of discomfort and buried, irrational childhood concerns, and then presenting the 'troll' as the perfect outlet for such feelings. It is a technique that works well, especially on people who think in mostly visual terms, but is hardly the mainstay of a serious debate (of course, neither is my mockery, but I have to be me, and I do try to keep it to the sidelines).

On the other hand, we have the normal coven member, or the hamster. They're small. They're fluffy. They're kind of cute, in an inoffensive way. They're utterly defenceless and rely on you entirely for their protection and needs. Here, in contrast, we are invoking the feelings of benevolent paternalism. The coven leaders are defending you against the big, bad trolls, because you're too nice and naïve to understand the brutal realities of the world. I don't know about you, but I grew out of the need to have a parent try and second-guess my every decision quite a while ago, and have found doing my thinking on my own to be no great burden. Of course, some people have not, but we have institutions for such people, like the Southern Baptist Church, or the Conservative Party.

Anyway, the use of the discomforting analogies is a lead-up to the solution provided in the previous section, which is of course ejection without a moment's delay. You see how this works, now, I assume, so I shall not labour the point. Create revulsion and discomfort, link to a phrase, offer solution that immediately remedies the feelings. Naturally, this should be done without recourse to anything like public debate, formal hearings etc because they may contradict the leader. Did I say contradict the leader? I meant, just give the troll what they want. Of course. Yes.

Eran sounds what would seem a sensible note of caution about his own list, which makes me further question his suitability for writing such an essay. If he is only able to clarify, in broad terms, what constitutes trollish behaviour, and overlays it with so many warnings about how some people can have off days, but on the other hand no troll will show even most of the signs he has listed, then I have to question the use of his list at all. All this does is hand over a check-list for any aspiring coven autocrat to use as they see fit.

Furthermore, concentration on the behaviour, over the causes, ignores the legitimacy that any of the listed actions may in fact have. By removing the cause of behaviour from observation, all we ever end up doing is reaffirming the boundaries of the currently existing power structure, regardless of how good or bad that structure may be.

Anyway, lets turn to these supposed traits, and see what they actually consist of.

Amazingly Likeable. Trolls often have the ability to be liked almost immediately. They can be very ingratiating, and seem incredibly open and friendly. It isn't necessary to be suspicious of someone who gives a very positive first impression. Some wonderful people also have a great deal of personal charisma. Instant, karmic connections can happen (and, in Paganism often do); but coupled with other warning signs, this could indicate an attempt at manipulation. Trolls tend to be likeable - it's what keeps them from being immediately recognized. It probably kept them from being beheaded at a young age.

Hmm. Just a little different from his earlier description, that of someone who has, and I quote “very low self-esteem, little regard for those around them, often a rather loose grip on consensual reality, and frequently possess a fair measure of paranoia.”

As far as I have found, those who tend to be likeable individuals usually have incredible self-esteem, which is part of their charm. The motto of such people is often “I'm OK, you're OK”, which breeds mutual respect. Likeable personalities often take a genuine interest in those they engage with, and deal with them in a positive and constructive way. Doesn't sound very paranoid or lacking a grip on reality to me.

Of course, I did mention the psychopathic personality type in the previous entry, but not only are such people genuinely rare, they contradict his own previous assertions about the nature of these trolls. Of course, I agree that trolls I know do in fact fit the above description provided by Eran, but I am not trying to convince everyone that trolls are mentally ill. It also smacks just ever so slightly of jealousy – that a person can come along and be well liked without having to rely on some sort of rank or authority to get such respect.

Gushing Praise. This is related to being Amazingly Likeable. Does the person seem to be trying to butter you up, to identify your insecurities (everybody has some) and to play on them to give you strokes and lull you into acceptance? Does the person give gifts out of proportion to your level of intimacy and acquaintance?

I think my jealousy angle may be in fact correct. This just reeks of it. If someone is likeable, chances are they will praise good work by people involved. That's part of their likeability, that they are not overly critical or dismissive of efforts done by the people involved. As for gifts – some people are naturally generous, or have better incomes and means than others. I would expect someone adept within social situations to generally be capable within the workplace and possibly involved either with management of people, human resources, public relations or other areas where one could expect relatively decent pay.

Gotcha. Does the person seem to find joy in pointing out other people's errors or slips, mistakes and goofs, faults and bad habits? Does the person seem to imply these mean he or she is smarter or better suited to be a leader than is the one who goofed? Does the person sometimes ask questions he or she already knows the answers to, just to see if you know?

Somewhat of a contrast to the entry above. However, if we study the context of the language more closely, some details come out. The problem here is critical evaluation of the coven leadership. “Other people” in this entry does not mean the people to whom the supposed troll is praising and being friendly with”, but the troll's “betters”. Because god forbid something could be wrong with the leadership. If a leader is making mistakes, and is lacking in knowledge, then they probably shouldn't be a leader. It's that simple. Eran obviously disagrees with this, because rank is in and of itself more important than anything else, especially spiritual growth and learning, which could be accelerated by a leader who doesn't consistently screw up, or doesn't know their stuff as well as they should.

Coven Hopper. Does this person have a history of moving from Coven to Coven, usually (or always) leaving on bad terms? Does he or she have nothing but negative things to say about the leader(s) of previous groups? Does the person exhibit a dislike of Pagan Leaders in general?

On one hand, this could be a valid criticism, but on the other hand...have you actually met many Pagan leaders? I can only go by the ones I have encountered online, but many seem little more than petty bullies interested in lording it over the serfs – that is, the rest of their coven, and demonstrating their authority at every chance they get.

And chances are, if someone does leave several groups, then they are going to say bad things about some leaders. That many moves suggests a problem of some sort. However, it doesn't tell us if the problem is with the individual (as Eran obviously believes) or the system (which is more towards my beliefs). Its a purposeful fallacy, the use of this description, because it picks a sample group where resentment and anger against other Pagan leaders is likely to be high, regardless or not if it is justified.

Name Droppers/Initiation Collectors. Does the person expect you to be impressed by the people he or she has met, or the number of groups or Traditions he or she has worked with? Is there frequent reference to his or her marvelous and unmatchable experiences, skills, and knowledge? (Real sages can let their light shine without constant boasting).

Sounds like the green-eyed monster again. Usually, the people most guilty of this are in fact coven leaders, who cant help but boast about their seemingly extraordinary past and contacts within the Pagan community. I suspect the problem here is being shown up for being a fraud, or feeling threatened by someone who actually does have some ability beyond pretending to be all quiet and sage like.

'Sage' is a cover term for timid, normally, which suggests a lack of confidence in ones abilities. To be sure, you don't need to show off at every turn, but equally you don't have to squirrel away your sage-like knowledge and and skills so no-one ever sees them. Unless you don't actually have them, of course.

Excessive Rulehating. Many Pagans are very independent people. However, if someone is going to work within an established group, they need to be willing to follow whatever guidelines that group has, however loose or restrictive those guidelines might be. Trolls hate such restrictions. Healthy people who dislike a given group's rules are willing to admit that particular group may not be right for them, and to look elsewhere without animosity. Trolls will be angry at you personally for running a group which does not suit them.

Damn, I've been caught out! I'm a rule-hating troll!

Now, lets examine this in some detail. Apparently, Pagans are very independent people. But they are only allowed to express that independence in the right way, which means never questioning the rules. Where is the independence in submission? See, this is what happens when you allow Rush Limbaugh type dittoheads to dominate the national discourse for more than a few years. Word meanings go all Orwellian. Independence means never questioning things. Individuality means conforming. War is Peace. And we have always been at war with troll-kind.

Urgh. Secondly, remember who said this:

Once a Coven Leader realizes there's a troll in the midst of the coven, all that needs to be done to get rid of the troll is to tell him or her to go away. There doesn't need to be any red tape or formal hearings or anything of that sort. Trolls love red tape, and can usually tie up a whole organization in such a proceeding for months, or even years. Trolls need conflict the way healthy people need food, and a formal hearing - even one whose purpose is an attempt to eject the troll - is exactly the arena in which they thrive.

Yeah, Eran not only says trolls love red tape (in direct contradiction to this) but also...wait for it...hates red tape himself! Of course, there is a difference when it comes to ignoring and reducing rules when you are the coven leader, and rules for the “little people.” Little people, i.e.; everyone else in the Coven, is held to a different standard to the leader.

And of course, if someone who is 'healthy' disagrees, they should leave anyway, since the group is not right for them. So in Eran's world, you're allowed to be an individual, but only with some other coven. Also note how this ties in with the description of those who travel from group to group or are outspoken against Pagan leaders. If this is the standard of most Pagan leaders, no wonder there are a segment of bitter, disenchanted and independently minded people out there. He's helping to perpetuate the very problem he says he is trying to cure.

Echoes and Re-runs. Is this person frequently involved in arguments and destructive conflicts? Do conflicts seem always to occur and re-occur when this person is around? Does the person accept responsibility for his or her role in previous disagreements, or are these problems always blamed on someone else?

Useless without context. If the structure is the problem, then the same conflicts will reoccur until either the structure is changed, the individual is crushed and made to conform, or is run out. Eran's lack of ability to distinguish between collective, systemic problems and individual ones is his main, great failings.

Unnamed "Others". Are "others" always to blame for this person's problems? Do "others" always agree with this person's concern? Does the person carry tales told to him or her by "others"? Is this person always vague about just exactly who these "others" are?

Given the way Eran seems to think a coven should be run, as a personal fiefdom with him as the Theocrat in Chief, I'd want to keep my criticisms of the leadership as anonymous as possible too. I'd also likely go to the person I trust and like a lot, and the person who has already shown some level of criticism with my concerns as well. Eran's lack of understanding of the processes here are incredible.

Living One's Religion. Does this person exhibit unethical or dishonest and destructive behavior in other areas of his or her life? A destructive person won't stop being destructive in Circle, and trolls object to having you look at other areas of their lives. Someone who is destructive or dishonest in their personal lives will be equally destructive and dishonest in their Craft lives.

What if one's religion rewards those smart enough to get away with dishonesty for the greater good? What if destructive behaviour is only directed at those unethical institutions, groups or individuals who deserved their fate? I have partaken in deception before, to infiltrate groups or deflect suspicions from myself, and have undertaken acts which could be classed as destructive (I prefer disruptive, but since Eran's not too fussy with his terminology, I suspect this would be included). What if one's religion involves having a good time and giving hell to any idiot stupid enough to try and deny you that?

Eran would have you believe every Pagan (at least, every True Pagan) is some goodie two-shoes type, meek and mild-mannered. You'd think for someone who not so subtly gives the impression that he is used to the harsh realities that lesser coven members are not, he'd understand sometimes having an effect on the world around you involves reference to a different moral code than one of quiet contemplation and spiritual growth. The monk and the knight were both Christian, but their actions could not be further apart. And there is even greater disparity within the many strands of Pagan belief than there are of expressions of religiosity in Catholicism.

The fear here is of someone with power, outside of the official power structure, and someone who is capable of planning ahead (as dishonesty and deception, by necessity, involve thinking ahead to the consequences of ones actions). Such people are generally dangerous to those who derive their power from their station or authority and little else.

Liar. Is the person often caught in outright lies? Are there excuses and slick explanations always at the ready? Excuses can get pretty imaginative. A common technique is to frequently claim to have misunderstood or misremembered the conversations in question. One troll even invented the condition of "aural dyslexia" to "explain" his frequent false statements.

A liar is a liar, but the reasons behind their lies can be many and often non-offensive. And again, I've seen far more Pagan leaders who are liars than followers, especially when it comes to questioning their authority, where they can get positively revisionary about past conversations, rules and statements. And clarity of rules should be of paramount importance. If a leader leaves the rules vague and undefined, then it is their fault when people take advantage of that.

As an aside, auditory processing disorder is in fact an underlying condition of dyslexia, and may affect up to 60% of dyslexia sufferers. Again proving Eran has no grounds for his use of psychological terms and language. If Eran knew anything about psychology or biology, he'd know dyslexia was a neurological problem, and such problems can have effects on other sensory processes. Instead, he labels someone a lying troll and (presumably) expels them. Nice.

Note Takers and Journal Keepers. Trolls like to write things down - slanting the record, of course, to make themselves look good, and to make everyone else look bad. They'll pull out their journals from time to time to "prove" how mean someone else was, or to back up their own incredible claims. Of course, even healthy Pagans often keep magical workbooks and notebooks, so simply keeping a journal - even a highly subjective journal - doesn't make one a troll. But does the person sometimes use these subjective personal accounts to back up a claim? Are these accounts filled with extreme adjectives and intimations of others' imagined states of mind? Does the person seem unable to realize that their journal is subjective testimony, and not an objective and accurate, proven account?

Of course, no Pagan leader would ever slant the record with their own subjective judgements either. And if I had to deal with a duplicitous leadership, you can bet I'd be recording what was said and when as well.

Also, every account is going to be, to a degree, subjective. You're a human, not God (sorry Satanists, I'm sure you'll get over it, one day), you are bound by your perceptions, senses, models of human behaviour, past experiences, social status and a bunch of other factors. You can try to minimize these, but if someone is quoting back your exact words to you, that's about as objective as you can ever hope to get.

Excessive Sarcasm. A ready wit is a good thing. A consistently sarcastic and caustic wit, which constantly belittles others, is not. Does the person seem unable to comprehend the painful and destructive effects of his or her own sarcastic statements?

Of course, someone who has been thrown out of several covens for not accepting their (likely ludicrous) rules and repression, upon seeing it again, would never engage in sarcasm at all, would they?

Some people have naturally caustic wits. Some people can't help but point out hypocritical or pathetic behaviour on the part of some leaders. Sometimes, these people get beheaded and have their hands cut off, like Cicero. Other times, they get called trolls and expelled from covens. Also, I very much doubt someone who was so hurtfully sarcastic to the entire coven would be very likeable. So again, I suspect Eran means sarcasm directed at the actions of the leadership.

Pests. Is the person constantly calling with questions, suggestions, personal problems? Does he or she expect you to be willing to drop everything to deal with any and all concerns? Is he or she offended and angry if you can't?

Sounds more like someone who joined a coven for personal reasons relating to support. I can't see much of this being very trollish, even given the contradictory definitions given so far. Of course, labelling them a troll then allows the leader to get rid of them without feeling much in the way of guilt, and yet also proves this isn't about trolls at all, but about inconveniencing the all mighty coven leaders, and dealing with those problems in any way possible.

Causes. A social conscience is a Good Thing, and many Pagans are very active politically. But great social causes can also be a mask for selfish demands, or for a desire for personal power. Does the person heap scorn on those who don't have an equal zeal for the same causes? Does the person use these causes as excuses to start fights - even when it's time to settle down to other work?

Funny how these causes can be a mask for selfish demands and personal power, but a coven is not, of course. And if I felt strongly about a cause, then yes, I would heap scorn on those who only pay lip benefit to it. Why? Because I feel strongly about it.

The problem here is not the cause, or personal power seeking. The problem is that the sort of person attracted to causes often has a highly developed value system, including some abstract absolutes. And than means if the Coven leader, who may or may not be a power hungry jerk, transgresses these, obedience to them will not mean as much as righting the wrong that was committed. Again, its the problem with personality types who fight back and wont accept certain actions.

Bad Losers/Bad Winners. In arguments or disagreements - or in games and leisure activities - does the person react well to resolutions? What kind of impression does the person give about past conflicts? Is there excessive gloating when the person wins, or harping and whining when he or she loses? Are personal disagreements often depicted in terms of winning and losing, rather than as attempts to resolve differences? Does a loss provoke retaliation? Does the person use various forms of intimidation, or passive-aggressive techniques, to get what he or she wants?

In short, does this person follow the implicit advice of Eran, who has shown absolutely no interest in conflict resolution whatsoever?

Excessive Privacy or Secrecy. Information management is one of the most powerful tools of a troll. Be wary of anyone who tells you too many things "in confidence," or who warns you away from talking to people he or she knew formerly, or people involved in his or her tales. Of course, this does not apply to legitimate Oaths taken in a religious context. Many paths require Oaths of secrecy, and respect for the privacy of others

If you've got nothing to hide....then you should be very worried about people who have an excessive interest in your personal life. Information is a tool of power, and any relatively sane, independent individual who recognizes this will of course attempt to place limits on what a coven leader knows. My personal life is just that. If I want interfering busybodies snooping on me, I'll go join Opus Dei. Last time I checked, Paganism wasn't a cult, and that means respecting peoples privacy. Only despots and autocrats believe that privacy is a bad thing.

Oathbreakers/Braggarts. Is the person only too happy to tell you all the secrets of some other group or tradition? He or she will also treat your privacy with just as much contempt. Is the person inordinately proud of knowing Secrets which other people are not privy to?

Breaking oaths and telling secrets is probably bad form...but lets be honest, if I can find your group's secrets with half an hour's research on Google, chances are so can anyone else. Its not really a secret when you can turn up 50+ pages on the topic. And besides, secrecy within religious groups is a tool of power and coercion. Individuals have the right to privacy, but when groups engage in it, it becomes very sinister. Sharing knowledge can only lessen abuses and potentially open up fruitful discussion on a variety of topics.

Projection and Inconsistency. "When you complain about something, it's malicious gossip; but when I do, it's just sharing feelings, or warning someone about something." "When I call you nasty names, it's just an accurate description; when you talk about me behind my back, it's slander." Trolls are unable or unwilling to apply the same standards to themselves which they apply to other people. They will violently criticize others for actions they engage in themselves. Does the person seem to have an inability or unwillingness to consider other viewpoints?

But they're so likeable! How do they manage it, being so likeable yet totally incapable of understanding someone else's points of view? And of course, if there is an inconsistent standard being applied from above, by those with power in the coven, then of course there will be inconsistency in actions undertaken by those without power. That you, the leaders, set the rules of the game when it comes to such things, demands an element of inconsistency, if articulation of the problem is impossible.

Change Your Focus. If a new person joins your group, does he or she insist on having a better way to do things? Does the person always want to bend the rules of your group, or do away with them? Remember: Paganism is big, and you have no responsibility to provide for the needs of everyone who comes to you. If your group isn't to the liking of a potential member or a new member, there's nothing in the least wrong with insisting that person seek fulfillment elsewhere.

Change is bad! The old ways are best! Now let us eat our raw meat and retire to the trees for the night!

Um, yeah. Perhaps if someone has a way that is supposedly better, you should give it a try and see if it works? I mean, assuming you want to be fair about this and aren't simply clinging to relics of tradition because it is the source of your authority. I also like the restatement of accept the rules as they are, or be expelled. Great attitude there, the “never question me” gambit.

Inappropriate Application of Pagan principles, such as the value of love and trust, or the Rede, subjective realities and creating your own realities, "going with my feelings," following one's own sense of ethics, 12-step "recovery," and so on. Does the person use Pagan ideals and Newage jargon as excuses and covers for unethical behavior?

Only Coven leaders are able to decide what the appropriate applications of Pagan principles are. Its kind of like the old Catholic priesthood, only the meaningless jargon is in English, and you don't get a sip of wine (which is a shame, because some churches actually have some rather fine wines). Why do Pagans put up with this crap? Have you considered the example of Martin Luther, at all? The breaking away from the established and corrupt orthodoxy bit, not the virulent anti-Semitism part. If your so-called leader doesn't know their shit as well as they should, relies on power games and appeals to authority for their decisions, and is basically incapable of arguing their point within the confines of your select religion, why the hell should they be allowed to dictate the correct and incorrect application of Pagan principles? They should be ridiculed, then tarred and feathered. Literally or figuratively, I'm not fussy.

Anyway, Eran promises to show in the next part how trolls (who hate rules, don't you know) will, um, use rules and red tape to tie up formal organization. Because apparently following your own rules is bad or something...

Just an update

South Side of the Sky can now be found at this link, because GoDaddy are stingy pricks.

Mar 20, 2008

Some days, I worry about creeping authoritarianism...

Then, on other days, I remember most people involved in such projects are really not very smart. And then I feel happy again.

Mar 19, 2008

Our Brazilian friends

It might not be evident or obvious to everyone, but apparently there is a fair following of Discordianism in Brazil. While we have only had a few pass through on, Google searches etc, as well as their own testimony would seem to back this up.

So if you're fluent in Portuguese, or have a decent translation engine and want to check out some talent from the Southern Hemisphere, I would suggest Schrödinger's 1001 Cats, Rev Cekemp's Orkutcidio (you may recall Rev Cekemp is also responsible for the Portuguese translation of the Black Iron Prison) and the downloadable Discordia Brasilias, which I have mirrored here.

Anyway, just bringing that to your attention.

Mar 18, 2008

John Gray kicking up a storm on Comment is Free

While some of you may remember that I was not totally impressed with the conclusion to John Gray's book, Black Mass, I nevertheless found it a good and enjoyable read, which tied up the links between utopianism, religion, the Enlightenment and secular extremist movements rather well. Gray's got a lot of perspective in his worldview, which I like. He instinctively understands both the historical context of the movements and how that applies when considered in the current context of events.

Which is why I am enjoying his book review/Comment is Free article. Gray committed the hideous crime of knocking down a few New Atheist sacred cows, and so the usual suspects have come running, howling and moaning with their usual strawmen about atheist inspired terrorism, totally ignoring the context of the argument or addressing any of the issues.

I have yet to see a commenter actually address his point about repressed religion being much like repressed sexuality, or the origins of secular liberalism being tied into the history of Christianity, and Nietzsche's critical attacks on this. I have yet to see someone either deny that belief in such secular follies as free markets, global revolution or the global spread of democracy and progress are any less ridiculous than belief in a god, or try to claim they are in some way different.

Sure, the comments page may be filled with 300+ screaming monkeys trying to make Gray look like an idiot, but if they think they succeeded in this task, they're only fooling themselves.

Even a committed agnostic such as myself can take pleasure in such a spectacle.

Mar 17, 2008

Washington - the new Chuck Norris

Blogging Civil War!

A little bit of hilarity that I was alerted to by Jon Swift. It looks like the Hillary supporters at Daily Kos have had enough of the Obama supporters and so are "going on strike" or, more accurately, are taking their ball and going home.

Fortunately, I don't seem to be the only one who finds the whole thing somewhat stage-managed and planned in advance, what with the anti-Kos site stickers showing up shortly after the walkout started.

Now personally, I have to admit I think Obama is probably a better choice than Hillary, not least because it seems that Hillary is hated by about half of America, and America has already had 16 odd years of that. But I'm not that attached to his winning the primaries. If Hillary wins, that means at minimum, I get 4 years of bashing left-wing authoritarians, as exemplified Algere's opening post, asking the mods to censor things she doesn't like to see. I also have this cool fake conspiracy theory relating to Hillary, the NWO, 2012 etc and although it will likely work equally well with any incumbent President, Hillary suits it the best.

And if McCain gets in...well, then the NeoCon giggle-ride wont stop! Maybe a little less religious nuttery, in the homeland, but those foreign adventures will keep on rolling!

Either way, the split is significant, and interesting. While the majority of Americans are not bloggers, and do not get their information from them, those who are politically interested or active likely do, and Daily Kos is a hugely influential site for the Democrats. A split there shows that the campaign strategies being used so far are only helping to divide the Democratic base - in some cases, to the point of Hillary supporters saying they will not vote for Obama if he wins the primaries, simply because of how they feel they were treated by his supporters.

It also ties in neatly with a pet project of my own that I have been whispering in select ears over the internet, that of creating a split between the anti-interventionist/Libertarian wing of the Republican party with the GOP, and that of a split between the progressive elements of the Democrats and the main party. Both splits would break the backs of their respective parties and while the dissenters do not agree with each other, they seem to have far more in common with their respective dissenting 'opponenents' than they do with the mainstream ideology of their own party.

And the reverse is true for the main party's themselves. More than a few mainstream GOPers have expressed sympathy for Hillary and how her supporters are being treated by Obama fans - much in the way they were treated by supporters of Ron Paul.

If anything, this election is bringing out the real weak points in each party, and the main splits between them. All it will likely take is a couple of Black Swans and someone savvy enough to take advantage of those events.

Mar 16, 2008

Deconstructing Pagan Authoritarianism

Part one of many

As a Discordian, I often feel it is not only an obligation, but occasionally a duty to undermine, question and, if necessary, personally destroy authoritarian systems of control and coercion. Sometimes I do it out of deep-seated distaste, sometimes out of boredom and sometimes for profit, but that is another debate.

Furthermore, I subscribe very much to the views of the noted child psychologist, Jean Piaget, who considered that socio-cognitive conflict was a critical part of the learning process. While researchers have rushed to note that this does not necessarily mean confrontation or opposition, these are in fact important facets of socio-cognitive conflict. If we wish to learn and evolve, it is only through disagreement and conflict that we can ever hope to mentally improve ourselves.

Therefore, when I see groups who not only approve of creating an authoritarian system that stifles this dissent, but that it hypocritically takes this position under the mantle of some philosophy or religion, I get somewhat annoyed. And when I see groups or individuals giving out advice on how to perpetuate this state of affairs...well, that has to be answered. Especially on the internet, where such advice may be put to immoral use, even if that was not the original intention of the author. Such an article would be, for example, How to Keep Your Coven from Being Destroyed by David Petterson (aka Eran). Under the guise of saving covens from villainous trolls, he gives very sound advice on how to maintain systems of control, and his work has been fairly widely disseminated.

I intend here to critically analyze his arguments, both in order to show this is in fact the case, and to highlight the authoritarian strain that it helps legitimize. A follow-up counter-essay may follow, but for now, this alone will do.

Eran starts off by laying out what he sees as “the problem”. Namely that

We've all seen Covens fall apart, or larger umbrella organizations torn by internal strife. Sometimes, this is simply part of the natural cycle of creation and dissolution, an outworn group dissolving to make room for new growth. But at other times, a group with much promise can be damaged or destroyed while seemingly still young and healthy.

There are a number of problems here, right off the bat. Firstly, there is the false distinction between a “natural cycle” of strife and the (presumably) unnatural once he dislikes. What counts as natural, and what does not? As you'll find out from the rest of his article, what he means by not natural is that it was an intended outcome, or one that arose from purposefully created strife. However, can we really say that is not natural? Purposefully created strife may be the product of legitimate grievances that can be resolved in no other way. Since humans exist in a state of competition as well as cooperation, any conflict resulting from that must be 'natural', if we are using the most widely accepted definition of the word. A similar vein of thought might conclude that any group that did succumb to internal strife lacked the necessary legitimacy to make it effective anyway. A group with solid foundations and that has not sought to create grievances should be able to deal with a level of internal dissension. If it cannot, there is clearly a crisis of legitimacy going on.

Secondly, his comment about groups that seemed to be young and healthy. Firstly, its an anecdote, which should make anyone suspicious right away. Secondly, how do we know his perceptions are not faulty? A coven may have many problems or structural weaknesses they wish to hide from outsiders, in hope of attracting more members, attaining certain goals, etc etc. Unless one has intimate knowledge of the group in question, how can one come to a conclusion about its actual potential? It seems very...convenient to lay the blame on some outsider, some scapegoat.

The process by which this happens sometimes seems mysterious and incomprehensible. At times, it's impossible to clearly see what went wrong. Looking at the tragedy after the fact, it seems as if everyone did everything right. There were, perhaps, misunderstandings and miscommunications. But most of the people involved honestly and sincerely tried to understand everyone's point of view, and they did all the correct conflict-management and conflict-resolution kinds of things. But somehow, everything they tried simply made matters worse.

There is an inherent presumption here that the divide or problems are surmountable, that the group can be “perfected”. Sometimes, no matter how sincere a person is in their beliefs, and no matter how much they want to end the conflict, this is impossible due to irreconcilable viewpoints. You have heard of irreconcilable ideas, yes?

It's almost enough to make you paranoid, and wonder if there's a cowen plot to break the will of our most dedicated and ethical people.

Yes, its the devilish tricksters, the Cowan, out to break those of the Old Religion! Ahahahahaha! Or, possibly, you have a problem with taking responsibility for problems that arise in your community and constantly make references to external agents as being the problem. I know which I think is more likely.

A while back, Isaac Bonewits published a review of a book which explored this subject. The book is called, Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict, by Kenneth Haugk...Isaac highly recommended this book, in spite of it being written from a Christian perspective and intended for a Christian audience of ministers and lay leaders....For a modern Witch or Pagan, reading Haugk's book frequently gets tiresome, because Haugk honestly views conflicts within Christian groups as ultimately being the work of the Devil out to destroy the True Church. But putting aside the Christian apologetics, there's an amazing amount in there which is useful and incredibly insightful.

Again, I can see a number of problems here. You are essentially taking your model for conflict from an absolutist and somewhat paranoid interpretation of Christianity, which lays the blame on the Devil. The only difference between yourself and Haugk is that he uses the Devil, and you use outsiders. The form is otherwise exactly the same, an original and totally committed source, external of course, that creates all this conflict and disorder.

Here's a very important insight: Such conflicts don't "just happen." The really destructive ones, the really vicious fights which tear apart Covens or larger groups, conflicts which break the spirit of the most dedicated Elders, these conflicts aren't accidents, and they aren't the consequence of simple misunderstandings or miscommunications. No; they happen because particular individuals made them happen. There is a class of personality traits which makes certain individuals crave conflict.

How convenient. I suppose blaming it all on a personality type means you can avoid the need for any sort of self-analysis or critical questioning of your own handling of the issue. Also, the conceit that such conflicts are always planned is incredible. As someone who has experience as a conspirator and instigator in some conflicts, I like to consider myself an actual expert in the area. And I can tell you this much: there is no such thing as a single, original cause of any fight. A vicious and destructive fight can be totally sincere and honest, or it can have multiple origins, some legitimate and others done for self-gain, or other reasons entirely.

The personality traits they possess can be identified, and their techniques can be thwarted or rendered ineffective. To handle them properly takes prior knowledge and preparation, however. It also requires a willingness to take firm action, and to freely exercise your legitimate authority as a Coven Leader.

Presumably, any technique that works on such a personality obviously bent towards conflict and destruction would undoubtedly also work on anyone who raised legitimate problems or issues which a Coven leader decided they did not want to address or resolve. After all, if they are not good enough to work on such “dedicated” individuals, then they are worthless, and if they are good enough, then they have multiple applications.

How useful that it also allows the Coven leader to exercise their “legitimate” authority over others. How is any sort of authority legitimate, least of all within religious groups? From whence does such authority derive? Do you have control with the consent of those you exercise power over, or is it based within your religious structure, your “advanced knowledge” or indeed other factors? Many covens are susceptible to nepotism, corruption and the Big Fish in a Little Pond Syndrome, all of which don't sound especially good sources for authority at all.

Since this is a religious context, I'll also give some thoughts on the theology of it all. Regardless of how Haugk views the matter, as Witches we needn't see it as a conflict of good vs. evil, but rather as a case of treating the people around us in the ways which are appropriate to each individual person. Nor is it a case of a cowen plot, but rather of processes which are entirely natural, though discomforting - in the same way a plague or a flood or an earthquake is entirely natural. Though the Gods of Nature throw such disasters at us, we needn't stand passively and merely accept the destruction. If you live on a floodplain or geologic fault, you can, and should, make proper preparations to minimize how badly you'll be hurt.

But wait a minute, you just said above that this is not a natural process? So which is it? Are these people part of a natural system of universal checks and balances on autocratic jerks, or are they not? You contradict your opening statements, which makes the coherency of your train of thought suspect.

And if you build your house on a floodplain or geological fault line, then you're an idiot, or you have to accept the element of risk in your actions. I mean, if we're going to extend metaphors here.

Really destructive conflict is caused by people who are driven to engage others in unwinnable contests. Such people generally have very low self-esteem, little regard for those around them, often a rather loose grip on consensual reality, and frequently possess a fair measure of paranoia. Their low self esteem makes them want to tear others down, in order to make themselves look better by comparison. Having little or no regard for others, they won't care about the damage they cause, and frequently won't even recognize they've caused any. Being unable to distinguish reality from their own rich inner fantasy lives, they will be very convincing liars, because they honestly believe the incredible things they say. And their paranoia is often justified; when they act on their inner drives, they start causing damage, and people stop liking them. Paranoiacs frequently do have many enemies, and few friends.

I question Eran's psychological credentials. For starters, this is taken directly from the description for paranoid personality disorder. Does Mr Eran have any proof that such people actually suffer from such a disease? What is his evidence? Or is he just using mental illness as a particularly nasty and underhanded slur against people who upset the status quo? Surely if these people are sick, then they deserve our sympathy and medical attention, not scorn and belittlement.

I of course question the entire psychological profile put forward here. Again, from personal experience, those who are most suited to creating real, debilitating conflict are usually very sophisticated and adept in social situations, and have a very good grasp on social dynamics and human behaviour in general. They would have to be, in order to create the sort of problems that tear a Coven apart. Unless it was a very weak coven in the first place, of course, in which case my criticisms about legitimacy apply.

All this makes them very guarded and closed-off and secretive, though they'll frequently hide behind a carefully-constructed mask of outward friendliness. One such person was overly fond of the most famous quote from Machiavelli: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." That kind of deceit and duplicity is something to look out for.

A Machiavellian personality is nothing like paranoid personality disorder. Goddamnit, if you are going to pretend to diagnose people with serious mental illnesses, as least keep some coherency in your argument. Such a person would likely tend towards psychopathy, because while they can understand and model their behaviour according to social expectations, they themselves feel no real compassion, benevolence or sympathy because of that empathy.

And again, we are assuming a priori that there is some sort of mental issue going on here. I find this pattern of implicit dehumanization of critics both worrying and somewhat disgusting. Some people enjoy conflict out of boredom. Have you never seen two cats start a fight simply because they can? And, as always, it overlooks legitimate or accidental conflicts entirely.

In a Pagan context, it wouldn't be appropriate to use this imagery of Eternal Conflict. We'd do better with an image more in keeping with Pagan myth and symbolism.

Something like "Shiva" or "Kali" would be an improvement. After all, destruction is a natural process, though one which we don't want to stand too close to, if we can help it. But then, destructive people get most of their strength from the fear and worry they can inspire in their targets, and putting on them a label like "Kali" gives them far too much power. Better still would be a term which, while not minimizing the danger, doesn't give them more respect than they deserve. The Books of Raoul say, "Every ecosystem needs maggots," and so I've heard the term "maggot" used effectively, though that seems to go too far the other way. A word I've chosen to use is "troll."

Wow...hate Hindus much? Both Shiva and Kali have very important roles within Hindu cosmology, ones that are mirrored elsewhere by deities like Coyote, or Hermes, or Eris. I note the objection to the use of the names of the destructive deities isn't the implicit insult to other religions either, but to not give them too much credit or power. So instead you steal an internet phrase.

In much of European mythology and folklore, giants, trolls, and ogres are embodiments of the forces of Chaos, natural forces which often batter at the walls of civilization or even at the orderly forms which Nature Herself creates. Chaos is not an "evil" force. It's simply the flip side of the creative impulse. Seeing destructive people as chaotic rather than as evil helps to place them into a useful and meaningful Pagan context. Of all these chaotic embodiments, trolls are sometimes among the strongest - yet they also have an unintentionally comic side, as we're reminded by fairy tales such as the "Three Billy Goats Gruff," or modern stories such as Tolkien's "The Hobbit". Trolls can be easily outwitted, if you know something about them, for sunlight turns them into harmless boulders. An understanding of the true nature of destructive people is the sunlight which renders them impotent and ineffective.

Oh wow. This is incredible. You're actually being serious here. If we're going to talk folklore, then fine. To extend the metaphor, yet again, the giants of Norse mythology were a destructive force because the Gods denied them immortality. They jealously kept the apples which granted them immortal life in Asgard, and refused to share their powers. The hierarchy between the giants and Aesir looks a more likely cause of conflict than anything else you care to name. But after all, you've already decided those who engage in conflicts are mentally ill, so I doubt rational arguments will sway you much.

Secondly, conflating chaos with destruction and evil, opposed to order? What is this, Christianity 101? I think a generation of avant-garde artists want a word or two here, not to mention several thousand Discordians. Chaos is value neutral, and can as often lead to creation as destruction, since its primary element is that of change. Order can easily be as oppressive as chaos, if not more so, because with oppressive order, the possibility of change or difference is removed. Classical Greece is a perfect example of creative chaos, and the Roman Empire a perfect example of oppressive order.

Thirdly, will you please make up your mind? Are trolls scary and uncontrollable, mentally ill individuals who can reduce entire communities to strife, or are they easily dispatched? You can't have it both ways. This is starting to sound like a Bush speech, hype the threat, then promise the supposedly easy cure. Which of course begs the question no-one ever asks, that if the cure is so easy, why is the threat so dangerous?

Frequently, trolls are unaware of the damage they're causing. A cornered mongoose doesn't really want to rip you to pieces; it just wants to get away. So too, a destructive person will usually deny wanting to cause pain. .... This is the key in a nutshell: trolls are not healthy people, so they can't be expected to act in mature and healthy ways. And treating them as if they were mature and healthy is like treating a cornered mongoose as if it was a beloved housecat. The results are not pretty.

A mongoose or a plague-carrying flea is not likely to change into something else. Neither is a troll. Unless you are very, very skilled as a counselor, nothing you can do will help a troll get healthy. In fact, things you'd normally do to help other people will just make matters worse. If you are understanding and patient in response to a troll's dishonest or destructive acts, what troll learns is: dishonesty and destructiveness is rewarded by patience and understanding. This encourages the troll to continue being dishonest and destructive.

Ah, pseudospeciation at its best. Trolls are not only mythological creatures, they are mongooses, and plague-bearing fleas. And, just like terrorists, they cannot be negotiated with, since they are supremely irrational (except when they are being deviously Machiavellian and manipulating people into doing their bidding, one presumes).

Because trolls need conflict, they are very practiced at it. Experience is a good teacher, and most trolls will have had an enormous amount of experience by the time they are old enough to join a Coven. If you wind up being the target of a troll's attacks, fighting back is not a good idea. Trolls are very, very good at turning any frontal assaults to their advantage. They are even better at finding and manipulating more subtle responses. One of the most powerful defensive tricks they have is pretending to be the victim. Once you respond - in any way, regardless of how measured and controlled your response is - they begin telling everyone they know about how mean you are, and how cruel and vicious and vindictive you're being. It's a good way to turn your own friends against you, and begin making you feel isolated and paranoid. This tactic has the additional advantage of turning attention away from whatever unethical acts the troll was doing in the first place.

Unless of course, they weren't involved in any unethical conduct, and they really are a victim, that you are victimizing. This paragraph says to me “ignore anything the so-called troll says! Everything will be a lie, they can't be trusted!” So much for the truth winning debates, instead the solution would seem to be isolation and ignoring the points raised. Again, avoiding the necessity of, oh, perhaps taking a critical look at yourself and your role in the conflict or drama.

So, patience won't help; retaliation won't help; love and support won't help. Explaining the situation won't help, and neither will proposing solutions or compromises, nor will mediation or engagement in any sort of dialogue. If you wind up in any dispute or argument with a troll, doing any of these things will simply make matters worse, and will probably result in incredible pain. Yet these are exactly the approaches you should use with most people who are not trolls. Most people are healthy. Trolls are not, and should not be treated as if they are. Trolls are not healthy; they won't get healthy, they don't want to get healthy, and keeping them near you will eventually let them harm you.

WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERR-UH, TROLLS. So you may as well not bother engaging any person who is causing any sort of minor upset, since they are a troll (supposedly). The only thing that can be done is to remove them as soon as possible, and ignore anything else they say or do. Only then can our pristine and perfect world can be restored.

That is part one of both this essay and my response completed. The next should follow shortly.

Japan first country to ban filesharing

Japan has decided to beat France and the United Kingdom (both who have similar proposals) to become the first country to ban file sharers from the internet.

Oddly the agreement to do so has not come from the Japanese Government, but from Japan’s four internet service provider organizations after pressure (not surprisingly) from the record and movie industries. According to Torrent Freak, the agreement would see copyright holders tracking down file-sharers on the Internet using “special detection software” and then notifying ISPs of alleged infringers. File sharers will initially receive a warning for a first offense, then be disconnected for subsequent offenses, eventually be disconnected from the internet permanently (it wasn’t clear whether the agreement is a three strikes proposal).

The process will formally commence in April and will primarily target users of Winny, the most popular file sharing network in Japan.

(via Techcrunch)

Needless to say, I'm not impressed, and I very much doubt this "special detection software" can tell the difference between a legitimately downloaded file from a P2P network, and an illegal one. Consider for example the latest NIN's album, available for free download. Not to mention it puts copyright holders in charge of investigating infringements. I can't see that going wrong at all, oh no....

On a related topic, Matt Mason, the author of The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism has an interiew which you can download here (mp3).

Mar 12, 2008

The last refuge of a scoundrel

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I want to talk a little about patriotism.

In this modern day and age, for some strange reason, patriotism has become a very important issue indeed. We are, after all, supposedly engaged in a war of values against a merciless and cunning, yet at the same time, dogmatic and stupid enemy, who will stop at nothing to impose their values on everyone else. Whether I'm referring to the modern day rulers of the countries we inhabit, or the Jihadists I leave as an exercise for the reader to answer.

In such a situation, a war of values is very important. Unless you wish to live in a democracy or something. In recent years, it has been interesting to note the threat used against dissenters is “either you share our values or else...”. Now, I was under the impression that within a democracy, the point is you can have whatever values you want, even if they run contrary to democracy itself, but apparently I was wrong. I still believe however, that a democracy asserted via threats and blackmail only ends up undermining itself and becoming, instead of a democracy, another form of autocratic rule, even if it keeps the functions of free elections and rule of law.

Now, keeping this in mind, it puts the New Labour project under Commissar-uh, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, of promoting a 'British identity' into a very suspect light. I would say in fact it was symptomatic of their desire for control over the population, and their awful belief that the purpose of the citizen is to serve the state, not the other way around. By taking it upon themselves to enforce a view of 'Britishness', top-down as it were, instead of letting such a feeling organically occur, from the bottom up and with the consent of the individuals involved, they are trying to recreate the identity of the nation.

This ridiculousness has become almost painful to watch within the last week in particular, with two particular suggestions from the Krem-uh, Downing Street. The first is that our soldiers and troops are being told to wear their uniforms in public, so we, the cowed and weak masses, can gratefully fawn over the torturers and killer-uh, Our Brave Lads, who went off to fight the Islamic Horde and in no way were complicit in any crimes that our press frequently accuse the USA of.

Secondly, we have the foolishness of the “oath of allegiance”. It has been suggested by the very politically connected and influential Lord Goldsmith that all school leavers have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Queen and monarchy. Ignoring for the moment that somehow aping the United States of America will make people here more British....really? I think this tells us everything we know about the party who “have no objections to people getting filthy rich”. Swearing allegiance to the Queen reinforces the fact there is a social hierarchy in this country and you, the serf, the subject, are at the bottom of it. Again, we are back at the idea of the subject serving the country, and that this state of affairs can only be maintained by blackmail and sabotage.

One of the greatest things about the UK that I, as a long term outsider, have noticed, is the way the British in general reject overt displays of nationalism and mock those who partake in them. Putting aside football matches, at least. Saluting the Union Jack, singing the praises of the stratified social system, serving the state religion...none of these things have anything to do with the current British character, and Eris forbid they ever do. What is British is irreverence to authority figures, eccentricity on a level only other nations could dream to reach, disgustingly unhealthy food and football riots.

Nonsense like making people swear allegiance to a sponging foreigner who practises waving her hand all day, and her idiotic brood, are laughable and will likely only promote more hostility to the monarchy (which I cannot really complain about), but there is also something rather sinister in this sudden prominence of debates on “Britishness” and emphasis on pathetic nationalism. It comes at a time where more and more those who do not “fit in” are being told to conform or leave, regardless of if they were born here or not, and often based on their skin colour and religion. It comes at a time where military-linked think tanks are bemoaning a lack of a firm national character to act as a mirror image to the Jihadists. It comes at a time where attacking “multiculturalism” and pluralism in general is very much in vogue.

I'm reminded that the system often creates its own enemies. The more tightly you define something, by definition the more exclusive it becomes. And when that tight definition of identity pushes out the Muslims, the Jews, the secularists, the republicans, the white working class...well, you're manufacturing the perfect recipe for civil unrest and disturbance. Normally, this wouldn't disturb me, because I like and thrive among that sort of confusion and chaos...but I have to wonder, whose purposes does such chaos serve? I am many things, but I refuse to be a useful tool for someone else's designs.

There seem to be two contradictory forces at work within British society right now, the dynamic of which is a cancer eating away at the heart of the country. The first is obvious, and that is unitary centralization. One State, under One Tightly Defined Concept (to be named later), Forever and Ever, Praise Tony. The other is more sinister, the exclusiveness, the drive to division and separation. Beware the Other. The Other takes many forms...he is the Muslim who seeks to establish a Caliphate on the burnt shores of this pleasant and green land...he is the Working Class Man who looks to his own self interest instead of seeing the self-evident wisdom of his masters in Whitehall...she is the antiwar protester supposedly spitting on the troops...they are the insane proponents of 'foreign' ideas like human rights and justice. There are plenty members of the Other's to completely Balkanize society, which is exactly what will happen if the state tries to hard to enforce its current course of centralization.

And I cant help but think this plays into the hands of the elite of society. “Leave the fanatical sub-human Muslims and puerile working classes and the antiwar idiots and everyone else to fight it out among themselves, while we can exist in our own little British versions of Green Zones.” I may be wrong, but its a hypothesis I am willing to put out there. It may not even be a conscious drive by our own political and economic movers and shakers, but a far deeper, symptomatic drive buried within our own brand of late-stage disaster 'capitalism'. I don't know, and I freely admit it.

All I know is this: imposition of order = escalation of disorder. The drive for purity, be it of thought, action, political system or identity always, sooner or later, involves the “elimination” of dirt. But what happens when the dirt organizes itself and attacks the cleaning implements?

Mar 9, 2008

Watchmen costumes revealed

Watchmen still has roughly about a year to go before it is released, and will likely not be anything near as good as the comic it is based on, but I still can't help but be somewhat excited by the idea of the film.

Which is why I'm totally stoked at seeing the costumes from the film, as released by, which shows how The Comedian, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Rorschach and Silk Spectre will appear in Jack Snyder's film.

(found via Technoccult)

Mar 5, 2008

Garfield Without Garfield

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness in a quiet American suburb.


Some days, I just despair of Wikipedia....


Thats the only reasonable comment I can make on this.

Some days, I really hate YouTube

As you've probably noticed, YouTube has already taken down the clip of the Colbert Report that I uploaded on Friday. Why?

"Copyright claim by Viacom."

Now, to refresh your memory, that was a thirty second clip. 33 seconds, to be precise (uh-oh, Masonic connotations there). Oh teh noes, we might've cut into Viacom's oh so terribly slim profit margin. How many CEOs will go hungry tonight because of our reckless action? Etc etc Not to mention it was basically free advertising for the show, aimed at a new audience. If anything, Viacom should be congratulating us.

Now I suppose I'll just upload it to another twenty or so video sites and link them all here, in protest. Sigh.....

Eris is going to pwn the Solar System

Or so I hear.

Now, I didn’t know about this, which is rather surprising, since I spent some time lurking within the conspiracy genre of sites around the web. It could just be because my natural inclination is towards more political theories, or it could just be that I dont take any theories really seriously, and never paid enough attention to notice this at all.

But anyway, it seems that the recent discovery of the Planet Eris has been latched onto by conspiracy theorists as being the planet Nibiru. For those of you not up on your fringe theories (and shame on you indeed) Nibiru is supposedly a giant tenth planet that has a long elliptical orbit that takes it in and out of the solar system in a manner reminiscent of Pluto, only far more severe. Severe enough, in fact, that it somehow managed to to smash into another hypothetical planet between Mars and Jupiter, where the present day asteroid belt is. This second planet is called Tiamat, naturally after the Dragon, whereas Nibiru is assosciated with Marduk, in Sumerian mythology.

Now, part of the planet Tiamat that broke off eventually became our own dear home planet, while Nibiru continued on its merry way through the solar system. However, there is more. Nibiru is supposedly the home of an advanced race of alien beings known in the Bible as the Nephilim…or to scholars of conspiracy theory and alternative Sumerian history, the Anunnaki, made famous as the reptilian shapeshifters of the theories of David Icke (among others).

Nibiru should, allegedly, be swinging back through on another pass of this part of the solar system around…oh, 11.11 UT, December 21st, 2012. I never saw that one coming. Anyhow, when it does swing around, we should expect all sorts of crazy seismic activity and, if we’re lucky, a pole shift.

As can be seen from this particular blog entry, Eris is now considered within some conspiracy circles as being the same as Nibiru:

The real cause of climate changes, volcanoes activity, intensification of the seismic activity etc., is the planet Eris’s getting closer to our solar system, intermediary named 2003-UB-313 and known in Antiquity under various names as: Nibiru, Marduk, Nemesis, Hercolubus, The Gods Planet, the Planet of the Empire, the Planet of the Cross, the Red Planet.

So there you have it, people. Eris is going to pwn this planet good. Quite what role the reptilian shapeshifters play in this space drama remains uncertain, but I’m sure we will hear about it sooner or later.

Mar 2, 2008

Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Lail

Lulz is the Law, Lulz under Lail.