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A Culture Addicted to FREE—How FREE is Poisoning the Internet & Killing the Creatives

Exposure used to be the treatment/cure, but the world has evolved to be exposure-resistent. Exposure is like tossing regular penicillin at flesh-eating MRSA and expecting it to work.

Source: A Culture Addicted to FREE—How FREE is Poisoning the Internet & Killing the Creatives

7 Things I wanted to tell the boys at school.

Q: It is easily aroused, can maintain an erection, make a female pregnant and can hold its own in a fight. What is it?

A: It is probably a dog.


Q: It is easily aroused, can maintain an erection, make a female pregnant, and cannot resist its need for sex. What is it?

A: It is a dog.


Neither of the statements in the questions above defines a man. Having sex does not make a boy a man, it makes him a boy having sex. Dogs can have sex. Rabbits can have sex. Snails can have sex. If you want to be more than a dog, more than a rabbit, more than a snail; if you want to be a MAN you need to be capable of much more than having sex.

A well-trained dog understands the word ‘no’. You are less than a dog if you do not understand the word ‘no’.

If you can get a girl to do something she really does not want to do, it does not make you a man, it makes you an abuser, and an abuser is worthless and despicable.

You will never amount to anything, never ever be a real man, unless you can respect yourself, and you can only respect yourself if what you do, every day and to everybody, is worthy of respect.

Be able to like yourself. Then, maybe, you will become a man.

Simply Grieving

“I don’t know how you can cope.”

They stood by my daughter’s hospital cot and shook their heads. Parents/carers with their own children receiving attention, some for epilepsy, some for infections, some for bone breakages or burns.

She was massively handicapped, had a cocktail of problems that nothing, in the end, but death could cure, and our hearts were broken.

Down in the waiting room, the one place you could smoke then, I listened to a woman rant at her husband about the delay they were having, waiting for a medic to get back to them about her daughter’s broken arm.

A broken arm? Part of me thought. Jesus, what’s that?

And then it struck me. This was her child. There was no scale of bad-to-terrible for her, it just hurt, and hurt and hurt.

She wasn’t making an unnecessary fuss. She was simply grieving.

Does morality need a God?

I’m re-posting and extending an FB post from yesterday.

In a recently viewed online ‘conversation’ a contributor agreed to be arguing that as an ‘atheist’ (I’m actually an atheist, so I’m not quite sure what he is) he could interpret social morality to his own advantage.  He appeared to be arguing that he could appear to conform, appear to be the nice guy, by making use of conventional moral expectations essentially to screw other people.

Somewhere in the turbid rationale there appeared to be an idea that for morality to exist it had to have some supernatural element – a God or, in the terms of the on-going argument – a Santa Claus.

As someone who was raised in the Christian tradition but went on to discount the existence of the Christian – or any other – God, defining a morality involved a lot of thought and heart searching. I knew that doing what was right did not depend on the expectation of an afterlife or on being afraid of some boogeyman who, as a god, was represented as being less merciful and less forgiving than I was as a mere human.

Yesterday I finally put some of my thoughts on record. I was over-tired, awake with insomnia and had imbibed/was in the process of imbibing a tad more alcohol than is usual for me, so I wondered if what I had written was affected. It doesn’t appear to have been. Essentially – I may tweak a little here and there – this is what I wrote:

Real morality has nothing to do with the supernatural. Real morality is simply pragmatic. For me it comes down to this:

All animal species are at some level social species. Humans are possibly the most social species of them all. According to the leading lights of ethology (the study of animal behaviour {I think}) there are far more instances of co-operation in the animal kingdom than there are of predation. Look at pilot fish attaching themselves to whales, the oxpecker bird on the back of a rhino, bees carrying pollen, birds transplanting seeds and many, many, many more.

We are a co-operative species, a species in which each individual is inexorably connected to others. Imagine, for instance, being born and – whilst having your physical needs met – never named, never spoken to, never interacted with. You would never know who you were, never form an identity. Others give us our names at the start, others define our sexual identities (congratulations – it’s a boy/a girl) and from that point on we are dependent and we are vulnerable.

Very simply put, that interdependency results in this: I cannot steal from you without, in effect, sanctioning stealing. I cannot rape without sanctioning rape. I cannot lie without sanctioning lying. It is the key to the concept, here expressed in Christian terms only because it is memorable and succinct, that you must do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I cannot judge you for doing to me what I have done, or allowed to be done, to you or to others. I cannot steal a man’s land or his wife without implying sanction to anyone who would steal another’s land or wife.

That is how I know what is right. If I wouldn’t want it done to me, I don’t do it to anyone else. No god, no spirituality has anything to do with this, it is merely a method of living life in some degree of comfort and security.

I cannot live entirely for myself, simply because there have been and will be times when I will depend upon others. Given the richest parents in the world and the most comfortable surroundings, fed on the best possible diet, receiving the best of medical attention, one could not survive without the input of other people and if one were the socially ignored individual without a name, receiving no words, no thoughts of others, clinically tended but socially completely isolated, no amount of wealth would undo the psychological damage of being cut off from what, in the end, is most human.

Nor, given that wealth, given great material success and comfort, can I live to the end of my life without having to depend on other people. Ill or old I will need others’ care and support, and in a society which consisted entirely of the self-serving I might pay for that support, but its quality ultimately depends on the nature of those providing it.

To live selfishly and self-aggrandizingly under the pretext that the non-existence of a supernatural power means that morality is a fiction I will, ultimately, pay a price for it. Not on a day of judgement among the clouds, but among my fellow men. Unsympathetic, I should expect no sympathy. A taker, I should expect to have taken from me. And it will be my doing.

Moreover, to live so, I would deny myself that which is actually best about being human, the ability to give, the pleasure of receiving from those who wish to give, the ability to love and to be loved.

My morality is real. I have behaved, in my own view, immorally on occasion in the past and will not repeat the same mistakes. I will not do to another, or watch done to another without some attempt at intervention, that which I would not want to have done to me.

As to what is moral, the starting and principal question for me is; who is harmed?

Not Free.

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “The Social Contract”

Another book I have started reading but never quite finished, I don’t know whether what I am about to argue supports his thesis or otherwise, but I can promise it will be shorter.

I’m going to re-write that dramatic opening line, substituting the word ‘mensch’, which is respectful to the human being of any sex or gender, and the combination ‘s/he’ to indicate the same. The line thus becomes:

“The mensch is born free, and everywhere s/he is in chains.”

You’ll perhaps see where I’m going with this in due course.

First modification, however: the mensch is NOT born free.

The mensch is born into a society which may be a society of any size or complexity, from the family to the tribe to the state. Regardless of size each such society has rules, and it is this which means that the mensch is not born free. S/he is born to live according to other’s rules and expectations.

The ‘free’ mensch, finding ‘theirself’ hungry, would be able to pick fruit from the tree, hunt animals for food, live where they chose, labour only to meet their own needs. Totally ‘free’ the mensch would be able – as in the far distant past some were able – to hit another mensch over the head and make off with such property as they could take for their sustenance.

Such is not a freedom most of us want, but freedom predicates freedom of thought and action, and few if any of us find that. We settle instead for a compromise and we call that compromise ‘freedom’, though it isn’t.

How much of a compromise freedom is depends on the society in which we live. The undisciplined child has perhaps too much freedom in certain families, the burglar, the rapist has too much freedom in setting themselves apart from the rules of their society, but most of us accept and regard as freedom a compromise which follows particular rules.

We are more free in a democracy than in a dictatorship, but we are still not free. We must work according to the contract insisted upon by our employer, for the hours s/he dictates. We must drive on the specified side of the road, halt at the specified stop signs, give way at the specified signals, stop or proceed likewise. If we are unemployed we must pursue such opportunities as our society allows us to pursue and complete such forms and statements as we are required to complete. We are not free to not follow the rules.

Most of all we are not free to withdraw. We cannot really – a few individuals do try it – resign from society.  I was born in England, became therefore automatically a British citizen bound by rules and customs determined by those who had power before, at and since my birth. And whatever my government does, I cannot resign. I cannot go to some piece of the landmass that is not England and say ‘here I shall live as I choose to live with no thought for the rest of my country’, cease paying taxes, cease obeying laws.

I am bound by a contract into which I was entered, at birth, without consent ever being asked for or given.

This is a fact of life which most of us do not even think about, but from the moment we enter any society we are contractually bound to obey its rules and laws, and in being so we are never really ‘free’.

Crucially, this applies to all individuals within a society and always has. The only ones who can escape some of the obligations are those whose wealth raises them above it. They have land and travel opportunity enough not to be too trammeled by laws of trespass, they have money enough not to have to fear unemployment and the social rules and regulations to which the unemployed must submit. No policeman is ever going to knock on the doors of Buckingham Palace to tell them to reduce the noise they make because neighbours are finding it a nuisance, and dogs in hundreds of acres of grounds are never going to result in a citation for fouling the pavement. Even the responsibility for driving on the correct side of the road and in an uninebriated state can be transferred to their chauffeur.

So there are some in every society who have considerably more freedom than others and, essentially, the poorer you are the less freedom you have, the more rules there are to constrain you and the more constrained you are by the boundaries of poverty.

Again, from the moment we enter any society we are contractually bound to obey its rules and laws, and in being so we are never really ‘free’.

We call what we have ‘Society’. Many of us belong or have belonged to other ‘societies’. It may be a professional society, a de facto ‘white collar union’, or it may be a social club, a photographic society, a society of authors or – to borrow an analogy used in the movie ‘Gettysburg’ – a gentleman’s club.

If we belong to such a society and it fails us, if we belong to such a society and see that others for some reason draw far more benefit from it than we do, or if its rules prove inimical to our interests, we can sometimes vote for change but, in the last extreme, we can always resign.

We can resign from a society, but we cannot resign from ‘Society’.

It is that inability to resign which is the final measure of our lack of freedom, which determines that no-one who belongs to ‘Society’ can ever be truly free, that suggests to me that there is an obligation on Society to meet the needs not only of those who most benefit but also the needs of those who benefit the least.

It is and should be a contractual requirement. It is not a matter of taking care of the poorest and most damaged in Society out of humanitarian, moral or other grounds, but simply the fulfillment of a contract, the meeting of an obligation incurred by a Society that allows no resignation, no withdrawal and which, in the process, confiscates as of right the freedom we are supposed to be born with.

Lifting up the downtrodden is not a kindness – though it can and should be kindly done. It is an obligation.



Square Peg, by Vivienne Tuffnel

According to Kindle on my PC I have 188 books in my Kindle collection. You can deduct half a dozen for the freebies, but then you’ve got to boost that number for novels in collections – Dickens, Austen, Trollope and heaven knows who.

I’ve scarcely reviewed a handful of those books, yet here I am, reviewing a second book, ‘Square Peg’, from the same author, Vivienne Tuffnel, whose ‘The Bet’ was my most recent review.

This tells you something of how struck I was by ‘The Bet’. I read it and immediately reacted ‘gotta read more’ and ‘Square Peg’ was the result.

The ‘square peg’ in question is an individualistic young woman who is married to a trainee clergyman, living adjacent to a training college for clergy among a community of such trainees and their families. For an atheist like myself, the setting itself was likely to prove challenging, but I was ready to ‘give it a go’ and I’m glad that I did.

As in ‘The Bet’, ‘Square Peg’ is an acute study of human psychology, of relationships, loss, grief, humanity and inhumanity, and just like the first book I was riveted from the first word.

Despite a minor smattering of typos, particularly toward the end, this was yet another great book, thoroughly enjoyed, mentally logged for re-reading somewhere in the future just so that I can enjoy this skillful work again. Very much recommended.


Dissing belief.

A thinking man, the Paris attacks – and their precursors in Beirut and elsewhere – just won’t go away.

Even now the British government is trying to secure a consensus for bombing Syria. I have my doubts.

It occurred to me earlier to wonder… is all this because Christians are not Christian enough, because Muslims are not Muslim enough?

I know the Bible fairly well, the Koran much less so. In fairness I did try to read a translation of the latter (as indeed one is compelled to read a translation of the former) and – in translation – it just read too much as a rant and I couldn’t get a grip on it, really didn’t like it. Nor do I like the Bible much. Taken as a whole there’s an awful lot of nasty stuff in it.

But I’ve known a lot of people who called themselves Christians, and they seemed a fairly likable lot, and I’ve known a good many people who call themselves Muslims and they’ve been – overall – no less kind and accommodating, and no more mad, than the Christians.

So there’re these millions of essentially rather nice people, of both faiths, and the impression I have is that, collectively, they all want a nicer, more tolerant, kinder world, and they manage, somehow, to make their rather weird holy books fundamental to that nicer, more tolerant, kinder worldview.

Yet we still haven’t got that world. The world remains a crappy place for an awful lot of people.  Whether it’s the girls abducted by Boko Haram, the people slaughtered by Daesh (I don’t care that ISIS don’t care what they’re called) or the physically and intellectually malnourished kids who receive in Britain – and it seems in the US – a third-rate education.

And okay, us humanists and us atheists haven’t done an awful lot to make it better, though a great many are trying, but (a) we haven’t been visibly around all that long (the believers would mostly have killed us if they’d known) and (b) we do not collectively have the organisation and the money that the religions could lay their hands on.

I thought it striking that in commenting on the shit-head (I’ve forgotten his name and wouldn’t enshrine it in text even if I could remember it) who was the ‘mastermind’ behind the Paris attacks, it was mentioned that he recruited from among offenders in prison and from the disaffected in the lower orders of society.

Well, Christians, Muslims and others, how does it happen that there are still such vulnerable people around? How is it that the poor remain poor, that the disaffected remain disaffected, that conditions and punitive perspectives in prisons remain almost Victorian, that kids go hungry and abused in the richest nations on earth and the poorest?

Why is it that the greatest memorials to faith are in pieces of architecture visited extensively by tourists? All that wealth, all that organisation, yet still the world has scarcely changed for the better.

We can find the money to fight wars, whether they’re against drugs, against terrorists, against rogue states or hostile ideologies – and in the process we can make any number of politicians and arms-developers wealthy – yet we seem unable to make war on the inequalities and social policies which provide the enemy with his recruits.

2000 years to get to this?  What have you been doing?