Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Put your Arms around the World

So, the EU has been badgered into lifting the arms embargo on Syria. A country being torn apart by violence, where more than 80,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million have fled since the uprising against Mr Assad began in 2011 (UN estimates). The idea is that by allowing countries like Britain and France to sell weapons to the rebels/insurgents (currently the good guys in most western media), we can help to "stabilize" the situation. It's genius! When you look at it closely, it's so clearly the LACK of weapons that is causing all this bloodshed! Which is why Britain and France have been calling for an end to this arms embargo for some time... Because they care god-dammit! Russia, in the spirit of fair-play, have announced that they will now honour a contract made before the embargo to provide the Assad regime with some new weapons as well. Namely a shiny new surface to air missile system apparently to deter the Israelis from blowing more shit up and slow down any Western military intervention. Again Russia's decision is purely humanitarian, aimed at trying to create a peaceful, harmonious Syria in which everyone gets along.

Even if we suppose for a moment that this is not about money, power, weakening Iran or any of the other usual suspects, I am still at a loss to understand how people buy this "arm them to save them" rhetoric. It's like the old NRA argument: more guns = less violence and more freedom. The problem, they tell us, occurs when some people have guns and others don't. If everyone has guns, then we all revert to a Gandhi-like pacifism and live harmoniously together in fear. Well, it doesn't seem to be working for America, with one of the highest murder rates on the planet. No, I'm more inclined to think that all the weapons that we funnel into Syria will, at some point, be used to kill people. Maybe, if we're lucky, they'll even be used to kill the bad guys... until we switch sides. We spent years arming Saddam, and were happy with the situation as long as he was using the weapons against Iran. We even privately supported his decision to use chemical weapons against the Kurds. It was only when he had the cheek to attack Kuwait, a western backed oil nation, that the weapons we had sold him were suddenly deemed to be "in the wrong hands". Until we can separate business and politics we are doomed to keep repeating these mistakes... if you can even call them mistakes. To the arms industry, this is all just business as usual...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

God vs. The Universe -- Ultimate Smackdown

Ok, so once again I've decided to try and get back into a bit of creative writing, and the trusty old blog has been resurrected! Let's see how long I last this time... :) I've decided to make this separate from the "News Updates" section of my website, as what I write here tends to be not so much "news", as just a random mess of rambling, ranting, and witless observations about the world around me. I recommend reading my blog from 10 years ago though, from back when I was younger and funnier... archives on the right...

So, let's just jump straight in and tackle some big issues why not? It's gone midnight, I should be asleep in bed, what better time to tackle the big questions? Ok, so here goes...

Does God exist?

Short answer... most probably not. But that's way to easy, and sounds like I haven't thought it through, so let's jump back in time... it's 1982, I'm 5 years old, E.T. has successfully visited the earth and managed to make a crude mobile phone using a Speak & Spell, and some kid at school has just introduced me for the first time to the concept of "God". He was very surprised that I hadn't heard of him, what with him being so mightily important and everything, and I was pretty surprised too, as I considered myself to be a pretty clued up little 5 year old. Despite his best attempts to convince me, I remained a little sceptical about the whole thing, but then he explained that I was going to burn in Hell, which sounded rather unpleasant, so I thought I'd better look into it. That evening, after school, I asked my mum about this God fellow, and whether he was real. To my astonishment she said that she personally didn't think he was real, but that I would have to make up my own mind about it! I mean that just took the biscuit! When it came to completely inconsequential things like whether I could have Sugar Puffs for breakfast instead of muesli, or a wagon wheel in my lunchbox instead of an apple, she was always adamant that I had no choice, but now that something truly big had turned up, something that could, judged wrong, lead to an eternity of hellfire, I was being told that parental advice was no longer an option, and that I had to go it alone! Well, despite her appalling lack of good judgement on what was the best breakfast for a five year old, my mum had generally seemed pretty good at getting things right, so I figured she was probably onto something. Nevertheless I decided I'd better do a bit of research myself to be sure.

As the years went by I became more and more fascinated by the fact that sooo many people did believe in God, so I chose to study theology at college. I thought that this might give me some insight into what had convinced them. 2 years and about 50,000 words of essays later, I had pretty firmly established that The Bible was quite possibly the most bizarre and boring book I had ever read. It had also become fairly clear that all it really proved was that people had believed in God for a long time. So, no closer to an answer, and starting to think that Christians might actually be mad, I decided to spread the net a little wider. I starting reading books about Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, listening to talks by the fantastic philosopher and theologian Alan Watts, getting thoroughly confused by the Zen ideas of D.T.Suzuki, and gradually I started to form my own idea of what God might be. I began to form a picture of God not as a sentient individual who hears our thoughts and watches over us, but instead as the "Ground of Being" as Alan Watts describes it. As the basic unified source from which all existence comes into being and to which it ultimately returns.

I have had experiences in the past, sometimes with the aid of magic mushrooms, sometimes with meditation, where I have felt as if my body has expanded out to the edges of the horizon, and the constraints of language and labels have fallen away, leaving all objects in my experience merely aspects of one, ultimate object, of which I was a part. We could name that ultimate, unified system of interconnected aspects "God", and many people do. But we could just as equally name it "The Universe", or "The Cosmic Wagon Wheel", and after many years of thinking this one over, I'm starting to believe that it would make more sense to do just that. Using the word "God" in relation to these ideas and experiences has the unfortunate effect of blurring the boundary between what are essentially ideas of philosophy and science, and those of Religions, with their omnipotent, omniscient, and extremely judgemental deities. I think the human race desperately needs to move on from these ideas of a Creator who watches from above, and start to recognise our place as an integrated part, not just of this beautiful planet, but of this vast and mysterious Universe. Evolution has brought us this far, but now we have to make up the rest for ourselves, and I think it's vital that we recognize that we ARE making it up! People ask "what is Human Nature", I would rather ask "What would you like it to be?"

As for God: God is simply a figment of his own imagination...

Next week: Toes - Do we really need them?