Archive for September 2012


Pirate Party Australia

September 26th, 2012 — 5:41am

I have been watching the developments of the Pirate Party internationally with interest, and I hope that the movement can build up some steam over here. I think the Pirates biggest challenge is presenting themselves as more than a niche party – even the name ‘Pirate Party’ although it is refreshing and catchy, could become a handicap if trying to appeal to the average Australian voter.

pirate party australia

The Pirates have the potential to introduce a new mechanism to democracy. It is early days and the Open democracy software is still being developed (a lot is better developed in other languages). But the fundamental idea is that a conversation is had on issues (much like a forum discussion), culminating in a vote. The internet means that robust debates are occurring everywhere online e.g. at the bottom of news articles, but an open democracy system would take this debate and demand to have a conclusion hammered out. Arguments could be developed to a state where they have a sound rational framework. I have been studying argument mapping recently and it seems that this structure can be applied to open democracy systems. Pirate party are using it for their internal party policy discussions and votes but it has a wider potential application than that, simply it could be used by the whole democratic populace to discuss and vote on any issue where there is contention. [update:I discuss my ideas about open democracy a bit more in this post]

I think this is the platform that the Pirates need to take to the next election, in order to have a wide appeal. I think the slogan “Vote for Yourself” or “Vote to Vote” could capture the idea – pirate party should be about granting continual ongoing participation in democracy. I have a vision of an advertisement where a person gagged and in chains is brought to a polling booth, where they are unchained for a few seconds – long enough to tick a box on a piece of paper – then quickly gagged and chained again and dragged off. It’s a bit extreme but it captures the idea.

Power to the People!

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the pursuit of pleasure

September 24th, 2012 — 5:08am

It occurs to me that the question ‘why do i feel?’ is answered through an exploration of that feeling, through an indulgence in the substrate of that question. To unrestrainedly debauch oneself in abeyance to the ultimate ‘why?’ is the path of the true seeker of love and of sorrow. Only through complete immersion in that feeling can we hope to approach some understanding of it, using only the organ of the heart.

death of chatterton

This is why those who are only interested in the ‘how’ cannot understand the scented language of languid drooping flowers or secret opiate pathways traversed by the mystic poet.

I have been reading Coleridge’s letters. He really didn’t like Scott. He talks about addiction to Laudanum – “a species of madness, only that it is a derangement, an utter impotence of the Volition, & not of the intellectual Faculties-” and about his rift with Wordsworth. He despaired that people seemed content to be more or less enslaved in their own country – I think Australia is just like that. I am tired of tyranny and want a revolution.

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STEM vs HASS

September 24th, 2012 — 2:21am

I think there are only two religions left in the world today, they are STEM and HASS. These are acronyms borrowed from university speak – STEM stands for Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics; HASS is Humanities Arts & Social Sciences, and they are capture an essential division in intellectual society. I have tried to reconcile them to each other but each claims the fundament as its own. Even in my own personality i find it impossible for the two to co-exist peacefully. I feel like one is grafted onto the other, and that graft is constantly itching, threatening to putrefy and dissolve.

Many years ago a classical education consisted of a mixture of disciplines from both sides. I think this was useful, it attempted to strike a balance. These days people strike off in one direction or another and the neglected half becomes withered and sclerotic. Thus scientists have bad dress sense and social skills, whilst drama students are allergic to mathematics. And I include the greatest dramas of all – organised religion – firmly as belonging on the HASS side of the divide. In their purest form, the humanities derive truth from revelation rather than logic. For science, there is no revelation, only induction from observation. This is the great dividing principle.

The two have always coexisted, but in the end there is only room for one final explanation. After overturning a long dominance held by religion, STEM and HASS are nowdays engaged in a turf war for this belief-space. They each attempt to dominate the other by offering alternate explanations and theories, or by the very firmness of the commitment to their own cause. There was an interesting example of this recently in the New York Times (discussed at Leiter Reports) when the philosopher David Albert clashed with Lawrence Krauss over the origin of the universe. It seems that the philosopher won this particular tussle, but the progress of science (itself the child of philosophy and alchemy) has been undermining the foundations of theologians for years.

To the scientist, maybe there is something faintly decadent and Dionysian about work in the humanities. What is the purpose of it? It seems there can be no great discoveries on par with splitting the atom or inventing the computer. Instead it is all just talk talk talk, clashing of egos, and drinking of copious amounts of wine at gallery openings. To someone in the humanities however, science is a cold geeky space where research is about the ever finer splitting of hairs in obscure branches of study, so far removed from ordinary life as to be essentially meaningless in import. Occasionally great inventions are hurled out into the world to good or evil consequence, little considered beforehand in either case. And no amount of new invention changes what it is to feel, or to be alive. Science is the study of the world, humanities is the study of life.

Although there are many within STEM and HASS who might disagree, to me the core difference between the two boils down to a simple inversion in the nature of one’s world view. STEM sees the world as the ultimate reality, and as human consciousness as being within it. HASS, on the other hand, sees human consciousness as the ultimate container, with the world existing inside it. From one observation flows the study of the world, from the other comes the study of our soul. They do not deny the existence of the other, but they each lay clam to be on the most fundamental soil.

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poetry train

September 16th, 2012 — 12:35pm

last week i took a train to sydney with some other poets and herewith is the efflusion:

train

train takes the mind
train takes the heart
train cuts through hills
train knows the way

the low strung out tide
of rising rails and fall
the talk of all the town
is gliding before all

a warm whistle wets the night
and superb dreams burst inside
a sleeping cow, up on its knees
in floodlit trigger hopper

**

lines written on arrival in sydney

please help!
we are poets
escaped on this train

from a crazed failed
social experiment
‘canberra’

conducted for
over a century in the
blasted wastes of the bush

we seek asylum
in your luscious bosoms!
we seek wine!

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The Mistletoe Metaphor

September 9th, 2012 — 11:44am

I recently read about an interesting study that found that removing mistletoes from eucalyptus trees actually caused biodiversity to further deteriorate, particularly in the number of insect eating bird species present in the forest. Mistletoe is often considered a sort of pest as it is parasitic to its host tree. Anyone who has spent time in the Australian bush looking up (as I have) will be familiar with the growths, which can be very abundant on some trees.

eucalyptus melliodora (yellow box) with heavy mistletoe infection

This is a picture of a heavily infested yellow box gum.

How interesting that it turns out such a ‘bad’ species (for the host plant) is actually good for the ecosystem as a whole. I think that the mistletoe is a good metaphor for how simple measurements of productivity can miss the bigger picture. For instance, there is a tendency to abuse bums, wasters and flaneurs, certain artistic temperaments, or those who aren’t engaging with the game, as parasitic to society. We assume that civilisation would be better off without them, but I’d argue that they are like the mistletoes, adding to the variety and richness of life in unexpected ways.

1 comment » | whimsy

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