July 2006


    ‘Thank you,’ said the Doveston. ‘Thank you all for coming. Now you all know why this meeting has been called. The harsh winter, followed by the sweltering summer has led to an economic crisis. Everywhere there is talk of revolution and there have recently been several more bombings of cabinet ministers’ homes by the terrorist organization known only as the Black Crad Movement. We all want these senseless dynamitings to stop and none of us want the government overthrown, do we?’
    Heads shook around the table. I looked at Norman and he looked at me.
    ‘And so,’ continued the Doveston, ‘I have drawn up a couple of radical proposals which I feel will sort everything out. Firstly I propose that income tax be abolished.’
    A gasp went up around the table.
    ‘I’ll give that the thumbs up,’ said Norman.
    ‘Please calm down,’ said the Doveston, ‘and allow me to explain.’
    ‘I am calm,’ said Norman.
    ‘He wasn’t talking to you.’
    ‘As we all know,’ the Doveston said, ‘no matter how much money you earn, the inland revenue will eventually get all of it. It is damn near impossible to buy anything that does not have a tax on it somewhere. Allow me to advance this argument. Say I have one hundred pounds. I go into an off-licence and buy ten bottles of whisky at ten pounds a bottle. The actual whisky only costs two pounds a bottle, all the rest is tax. So the man in the off-licence now has the difference, twenty pounds. He uses that to fill his car up with petrol. Tax on petrol represents seventy-five per cent of its market price. So now there’s only five pounds left out of my one hundred pounds. The chap at the petrol station spends this on five packets of cigarettes. And we all know how much tax there is on fags. Out of my original one hundred pounds, the government now have all but one. And whatever the man in the fag shop spends that one pound on will have a tax on it somewhere.’
    ‘Yes yes yes,; said old silly-bollocks. ‘We all know this, although we wouldn’t want the man in the street to know it.’
    ‘Precisely,’ said the Doveston. ‘And we’re not going to tell him. Now this same man in the street is taxed roughly one-third of his weekly earnings in direct taxation. What would happen if he wasn’t?’
    ‘He’d have a third more of his money to spend every week,’ said old silly-bollocks.
    ‘And what would he spend it on?’
    ‘Things, I suppose.’
    ‘Precisely. Things with tax on.’
    ‘Er, excuse me,’ said what’s-his-face, the Foreign Secretary. ‘But if everybody in the country has a third of their money in their pockets to spend and they did spend it, surely the shops would run out of things to sell?’
    ‘Precisely. And so factories would have to manufacture more things and to do so they would have to take on more staff and so you would cut unemplyment at a stroke. And you wouldn’t have to increase anybody’s wages, because they’s all be getting a third more in their pay packets anyway. You’d have full employment and a happy workforce. Hardly the recipe for revolution, is it?’
    ‘There has to be a flaw in this logic,’ I said to Norman.
    ‘There has to be a flaw in this logic,’ said old silly-bollocks. ‘But for the life of me, I can’t see what it is.’
    ‘There is no flaw,’ said the Doveston. ‘And if you increase the purchase tax on all goods by a penny in the pound – which no one will complain about, because they’ll have so much more money to spend – you’ll be able to grab that final pound out of my original one hundred. You”l get the lot.’
    All around the boardroom table chaps were rising to applaud. Even the woman with the bald head, who usually wears the wig, got up and clapped.
    ‘Bravo,’ cheered Norman.
    ‘Sit down, you stupid sod,’ I told him.
    ‘Yeah, but he’s clever. You have to admit.’
    ‘He said he had a couple of radical proposals. What do you think the second one might be?’
    ‘Now, my second radical proposal is this,’ said the Doveston, once all the clappers had sat themselves down. ‘I propose that the government legalize all drugs.’
    ‘Oh well,’ said Norman. ‘One out of two wasn’t bad. Not for a bloke who’s Richard, anyway.’
    Chaos reigned in the boardroom. The Doveston bashed his fists upon the table. Chaos waned and calm returned. The Doveston continued. ‘Please hear me out,’ he said. ‘Now, as we all know, the government spends a fortune each year in the war against drugs. It is a war that the government can never win. You can’t stop people enjoying themselves and there are just too many ways of bringing drugs into this country. So why does the government get so up in arms about drugs?’
    ‘Because they’re bad for you,’ said what’s-his-face.
    ‘You are amongst friends here,’ said the Doveston. ‘You can tell the truth.’
    ‘I’ll bet he can’t,’ said old silly-bollocks.
    ‘Can too.’
    ‘Can’t.’
    ‘Can too.’
    ‘Go on then,’ said the Doveston. ‘Why does the government get so up in arms about drugs?’
    ‘Because we can’t tax them, of course.’
    ‘Precisely. But you could tax them if they were legal.’
    ‘Don’t think we haven’t thought about it,’ said old silly-bollocks. ‘But no government dare legalize drugs. Even though half the population regularly use them, the other half would vote us out of office.’
    ‘But what if they were legalized, but the man in the street didn’t know they were legalized?’
    ‘I don’t quite see how you could do that.’
    ‘What if you were to take all the money that is wasted each year in the war on drugs, go over to the areas where the drugs are originally grown, the Golden Triangle and so on, and use the money to buy all the crops. Ship them back to England, then market them through the existing networks of pushers. You wouldn’t half make a big profit.’
    ‘That’s hardly the same as legalizing them, or taxing them.’
    ‘Well, firstly, the people who take drugs don’t really want them legalized. Half the fun of taking drugs is the ‘forbidden fruit’ aspect. They’re much more exciting to take if they’re illegal. Only the government will know that they’re legal, which is to say that the Royal Navy will import them. You can’t imagine any drug-traffickers wanting to take on the Royal Navy, can you? On arrival here, the drugs will be tested and graded, they could even be trademarked. They will be top quality, at affordable and competitive prices. Any opposition in the shape of rival drug-importers will soon be put out of business. The profits you make can be called ‘tax’. I can’t think of a better word, can you?’
    ‘But if the rest of the world found out..?’ Old silly-bollocks wrung his hands.
    ‘You mean if other governments found out?’ Well, tell them. Tell them all. Get them to do the same. It will put the Mafia out of business and increase government revenues by billions all over the world.’
    ‘But the whole world will get stoned out of its brains.’
    ‘No it won’t. No more people will be taking drugs than there are now. And fewer people in this country will be taking them.’
    ‘How do you work that out?’ old silly-bollocks asked.
    ‘Because a great deal of drug-taking is done out of desperation. By poor unemployed people who have given up hope. In the new income-tax-free society, they’ll all have jobs and money to spend. They won’t be so desperate then, will they?’
    ‘The man’s a genius,’ said Norman.
    ‘The man is a master criminal,’ I said. ‘No wonder he’s so into security. He’s probably expecting the arrival of James Bond at any minute.’ — Robert Rankin, Snuff Fiction

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Diego Rivera was the famous husband of Frida Kahlo. He was also an artist. This particular picture – Man in Control of the Universe, or Man at the Crossroads, can be found at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. The original was painted for the Rockefeller family, it was destroyed for its controversial content.

 

Hagakure (‘In the Shadow of Leaves’), a poetic name for a poetic book. Hagakure is a book that captures the words of Yamamoto Tsunemoto, it is a book by the samurai for the samurai. It is a collection of sayings, short stories and codes of behaviour, it does not follow the traditional rules of a story or a manual. It is written in a style that is mostly unknown in the West, yet it carries all the more weight and interest for those who can only imagine what the book is trying to portray. Hagakure does not seek to explain the philosophy of the Way of the Samurai, instead it explains the ground rules that will turn a samurai into a servant of truth, his master and himself. The logic that is followed throughout the book is that of absolute determination and complete clarity at any point in one’s life – only through this way can a man achieve perfection. It is an attitude very different to that of the modern world, the focus is on intutition, logic is mostly frowned upon. Why indeed should one listen to logic, if through being in the correct state of mind and knowing one’s purpose and liabilities, any situation is resolved before it even happens.

The Way of the Samurai is a way of immediacy. It is also a way of servitude, for everything is done in service of one’s master. It is a way to follow by living as if one was dead at any and all moments. Only through accepting one’s death at any given moment, may a man live without fear of death. In Hagakure it is told that death should be celebrated, not feared.

A certain swordsman in his declining years said the following: In one’s life there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others. In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This man has worth. In the highest level a man has the look of knowing nothing.

These are the levels in general. But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his own life thinks that he has succeeded. He has no thoughts of pride but with self-abasment knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyu once remarked, ‘I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself.’

Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending. — Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunemoto

Response to Knight’s article

Thank you, Knight, for giving me a definition of matriarchal societies, it is something that I should have read up on myself. I did not say that such cultures did not exist in the past 2 thousand years but I listed the most recent one. What I find interesting is that ALL these cultures vanished when they came in contact with modern societies – and not through a violent struggle. This only gives weight to my belief that matriarchal societies give way to our current mode of society, that it was not a mistake, or something to be sorry for, that they vanished. I prefer to look at it as a logical transformation and movement towards something even greater. From matriarchal to patriarchal, then something better (and as we both know there are people who consciously strive for this) – that is why I do not agree with Terence Mckenna’s idea of the archaic revival – what we need is not a revival – why go back when there is the way ahead and forward? Why live in the past (which is still a mystery to us anyway) when we can make a better future for ourselves?I am not as arrogant as other people to believe that our beliefs on how things looked like thousands of years ago are in any way accurate. That is why I do not spent my time building theories and looking for proof of the greatness of the past (however distant). We can do better now that we have had thousands of years of practice on how not to do things.

I believe that you also make a mistake by linking the argument of old societies being in perpetual state of war and unease with human nature. They are separate arguments and should be treated as such.

Human history has been very bloody, very unfair, and very painful. More so the more back you go, that is to my knowledge pretty much indisputable. I do not understand where people get the idea of a previous time in which people lived without fear and violence. I am sorry, but this is the first time in human history with slavery being abolished, complete class divides (into which you were born) being almost non-existent, racial and sex equality, murder being prosecuted, property rights,… – I could go on forever. Millions of evil evil things used to be an integral part of human history – for thousands of years. So what’s wrong about today’s society? Why is it not going in the right direction? It is true that there are great divides between parts of the world but we can work on that, can’t we? It’s better to have a safe part and a an unsafe part than if the whole world wasn’t safe. And we are pretty secure (the big picture), no doubt about that. If you believe that a terrorist attack is the worst that can hit you than you are safe in my book. In the medieval times every year you had a great chance of your village being pillaged, of being killed, of your wife being raped, of your son being killed,… What we have now is heavenly bliss in comparison.

And yes, the reason that people believe they are insecure is simply caused by the fact that they have so much to lose. Poor peasants had little to lose and less to fear as a consequence. A society built on materialism has very much to lose and much to fear. The other thing that you shouldn’t forget is that once we got rid off Christianity people are even more afraid to die than before – now there is only life, when before there was life after death too. Could this maybe have something to do with this new surge of interest in spiritualism and Eastern religions?

And yes, I prefer to believe in Rousseau’s and Hobbess’ view of the state of nature – I believe that the aeon of Isis looked as they picture the state of nature. How much evidence there is for this I do not know.

Everyone who believes in telekinesis, raise my hand. — origin unknown

There is hardly an area of study in psychology which attracts more ridicule than the study of parapsychology. J.B. Rhine (photo) was the first parapsychologist to attract attention of a different kind – his research was even quoted by C.G. Jung when asked about the possibility of the existence of paranormal phenomena. In the Rhine’s Classic ESP Experiment, H.E. Pearce was found to have some psychic ability when from 1850 trials he picked the right ESP card out of a selection of 5 with 30% accuracy. All other subjects averaged the standard 20%. Pearce was tested in a variety of surrounding (including a successful test where he was in a different building than the researcher showing the cards), using a variety of methods – always scoring above average. Read here for more details.
Rhine believed that the defining factor in parapsychological experiments was the belief of subjects in their abilities and the ‘boredom’ factor – all tests were less successful the longer they were carried on for – as subjects were losing interest, patience and focus. This is not to be mistaken with statistical error – it was understood that it takes a number of tests before a sufficient number is arrived at that does not allow for chance in the result, and therefore gives a fair average.

So what of it? Sadly enough there is no actual or scientific proof for the existence of paranormal phenomena or psychic powers. There are those such as James Randi who spend all their time disproving the existence of such phenomena (the 1.000.000 dollar challenge for psychics – believed to be seriously unfair), there are those such as Banachek who managed to fool the scientific community for months, and even Rhine himself identified a lot of his co-workers as cheats who consciously changed data to give proof for the existence of psychic phenomena. There are also those such as Derren Brown who spend their time achieving feats that resemble psychic powers through trickery and misdirection.
Wikipedia states 4 distinctive reasons for the lack of research on parapsychology:

  • Psi Phenomena as a Violation of the Laws of Physics or Nature
  • Parapsychology as Taboo
  • Parapsychology as a Waste of Resources
  • Parapsychology as a Danger to Society

The last point deserves a closer look: ‘Some believe that parapsychology should not be pursued because it somehow represents a danger to society. As is stated in the Y2000 NSF report Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding: Belief in the Paranormal or Pseudoscience

Robert Rankin is a rare kind of author. He has started writing in the 1970s, he first entered the bestsellers list in 1999. His novels are an interesting mix of science-fiction, fantasy, alternate history, occult references and humorous insanity. For some time he has been hoping for his books to earn a new classification (far fetched fiction) in bookstores, instead his books are usually found in the science/fantasy section, where they occupy a shelf or twenty-three, thus meeting his goal of differentiation. He has been compared to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, in terms of the hilarity of his fiction, I believe this to be a good comparison.

Robert Rankin’s love of the occult is highly evident in his work – Hugo Rune, who is one of his most-quoted reocurring characters is based on Aleister Crowley, occult philosophy is an integral part of most of his plots – a careful reader may find references to a wide variety of subjects. Robert rankin is most known for his reocurring jokes, phrases and characters – whether it’s the detective Lazlo Woodbine who never appears in more than 4 settings (a pub where he talks a load of old toot, an alley where he resolves sticky situations, his office where he meets clients of the fairer sex, and the rooftop where he disposes of the criminal in a manly fashion), or the afore-mentioned Huro Rune, the guru’s guru.

Much can be said about Robert Rankin, very little against. He guards his personal life very well, little is known about his past except for what he has written in his books (most of which is a load of bollocks). The only pictures available of him are those from his appearances at book signings – where he usually appears dressed as a pagan priest, Aleister Crowley or someone even more outrageous.

Robert Rankin is an author, poet and sings in a rock band. His son is a drum ‘n bass dj.

I don’t play games as often as I used to, but I remember quite well one of the reasons why I was attracted to them so much. Besides the chance to immerse myself in another world where experience can defy ordinary reality, I found non-linear aspects of a game to eventually be the deciding factor in how much I enjoyed them. Of course, there are exceptions such as Ms. Pacman which will remain a classic even though it has no real story to speak of. In general though, games that offer random generated items or events, multiple playable characters, story lines, and endings were the most fun. In my opinion, Deus Ex and the Fallout series are incredible examples of creative achievement. But before I had a computer there was a book which I could read over and over again. I no longer remember the title but it was a ‘choose your own adventure’ in which you search for a lost crystal. In this genre of literature the reader chooses how the story will progress depending on what actions he decides to take and to what page he will then turn.

For years I wasn’t ‘into’ reading very much until I met my English teacher in high school. She was pretty tough, even wanted to place me in a lower level class initially. Most students probably wouldn’t put her on their list of favorite teachers but I learned a lot because of her approach and found a passion for in depth analysis. I prefer to be presented with a complex play or poem rather than a novel because more focus on each line is required. I love Shakespeare and John Donne because there is so much to work with, it truly boggles my mind how these people could think in such a way. The texts are like mysteries that beg to be unraveled but cannot solved without the reader inserting a part of his own psyche. An interactive medium will never tell you the answer, it needs to be searched for.

I’m well aware that I have a particular world view and a selective awareness. I pay more attention to information that fits my ideas rather than that which does not. Since I’m conscious of this, when I do come across contradictory information I pay twice as much attention because it could stop me from spreading possible fallacies as well as equipping me with the perspective of the opposing side. I also know that a lot of the ideas I’m exposed to come from friends who think like me and therefore spread information that is similar in content. It’s just that recently I find myself exposed to seemingly random sources that have a specific meaning for me. Television and radio don’t pull me in at all, but other media – enhanced by the user selective nature of the Internet can be a wonderful tool. Maybe I’m becoming more narrow minded, or more aware, or possibly some ideas are just becoming more popular in mainstream culture. Most likely it’s a combination of all three but I never experienced so much correlation and synchronicity in information before.

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