A Pox on Ignorance Chic

You can tell I’m getting a lot out of my system after a couple of weeks of not being able to write on my computer, can’t you?

What got me going on this subject was seeing an article about it in a British newspaper. It talked about Marilyn Monroe’s quest for intellectual enrichment – she had a library of 400 books, and compared her search for knowledge and education with the ignorance propounded by the likes of Sarah Palin and which has been raised to cult status. It’s cool to be ignorant, geeky to be intelligent and educated.

It’s something that has been getting up my nose quite a bit – when did the worship of stupidity become a badge of honour, while – on the other hand – a claim to intelligence is now a sin?

This was further compounded by reading that Michele Bachman, a former candidate for the forthcoming US Presidential elections, had tried to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria with wild, unsubstantiated allegations about certain people of Islamic faith in public life.

Bachman is one of those who uses Ignorance Chic to promote not only simplistic, selfish, short-sighted “solutions” to the challenges which the US (and many other countries) is facing in current times, but also divisive slogans to whip up prejudice and division among people.  She is probably correct to appeal to ignorance because the dumbing down of political debate, in the US and in other Western nations, is concomitant with the rise of celebrity culture where nothing is required of people like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton except that they be celebrities without having any other achievements to their credit.

Somehow it’s become acceptable to be dumb and ignorant, while intellectual, educational and cultural pursuits are scorned. Ignorance Chic and the worship of ignorance  is truly reprehensible.  Palin built up an avid following after she burst into prominence when Senator McCain made her his vice-presidential running mate in the last presidential elections. Subsequent media interviews and her own words, however, showed that she was a woman ignorant of the wider world, uninterested in intellectual rigour or knowledge about her responsibilities as a potential vice-president, and only intent on whipping people into anti-liberal hysteria while feathering her own nest.

The sad thing is that, despite showing time and time again how she lacked intellectual rigour, people continue to follow her and praise her for her very simple, reactionary views which can’t be upheld by logic or an educated approach. The frightening thing is that people were – and still are – willing to be wound up by someone who had one skill – rabble-rousing with simplistic slogans.

It’s very reminiscent of Nazi Germany where difficult economic times made the rise of ultra-right nationalism attractive to people in difficult financial circumstances and where simplistic slogans were used to whip people into nationalist and pro-war frenzies. I studied German history at university which is why many of the details of Nazi Germany remain in my memory bank. I think we live in dangerous times where we can see the rise of the extreme right in many nations and circumstances very reminiscent of the pre-war situation in Europe, so it’s instructive to look at the propaganda machine of the German fascists, overseen by the infamous Dr Joseph Goebbels.

He was made Minister of Propaganda in 1928, and in 1933, once Hitler became Chancellor, Goebbels began his campaign against artistic expression. He got rid of Jewish writers, journalists, and artists from the German cultural scene, and placed the news media under government control.  He used rallies, films, the print media, posters and speeches to spread Nazi ideas among the mass of the people.

Because of the time distance from the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t only Jews who were murdered by Hitler and his thugs.  Artists, writers, educators, union activists, gypsies, intellectually and physically handicapped people, religious activists, ANY opponent of the regime was either murdered outright or incarcerated in concentration camps to die of starvation and ill-treatment, or be fed into the gas chambers.

Goebbels view was:

“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. ”

“The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.”

I thought of this when I watched Palin at a rally during the last Presidential election accusing President Obama of “palling with terrorists”. This was a palpable lie but she stood there smirking when people were shouting out: “Kill him” or “Shoot him” in scenes reminiscent of the black lynchings so prevalent in the southern states of America.  I did check out her Facebook Page once, out of curiosity, but I didn’t hang around for long.  I felt dirty after reading just briefly the racist, inflammatory comments which she or her page editors made no effort to remove.

The views of Goebbels above could easily be the refrain of the Fox news empire, which resembles the propaganda machine Goebbels built up in Nazi Germany. Murdoch’s media apparatus has a stable of shock jock-type hacks and reporters who peddle lies, distortions, a dumbing down of information, an appeal to nationalism, and the vilification of anyone who the Fox stable considers inimicable to the activities of ultra-right organisations, the armaments, petrol, banking and pharmaceutical oligarchies, as well as the beating of the drum for wars by any means – economic through sanctions or military through military aggression – to further the cause of US imperial control throughout the world. The Murdoch empire promotes the view that the US is the centre of the world and its interests prevail over the rest of humanity.  Sounds remarkably like Hitler and fascist ideology.

What is often forgotten is that Goebbels believed people should have limited education in order to make them malleable to the ruling elite, the fascist Nazis. If you have a look at what is happening in the US, Australia, Britain, Greece and other Western nations, you can see the same thing happening: schools are being closed; libraries are being closed; censorship of texts is gradually being implemented; teachers are under the microscope for any views considered in any way progressive; funds are shunted to rich, private educational institutions while funding is cut for educational services to the less affluent. Look at how the science of climate change has been attacked and ridiculed while ideas of fundamentalist creationism have been puffed up.

Added to this is the disdain for cultural activity by people like Palin, Limbaugh, Federal Australian politicians like Opposition Leader Abbott, and the focus on sporting activities which are used – as can be seen in the Olympic Games about to start this week – to beat the nationalist drum.

Then you’ve got the dumbing down of entertainment, the promotion of airheads like the aforesaid Hilton and Kardashian , and the cult of celebrity whereby many young people today see their goal in life to “be rich and famous” or simply “skinny/thin”.

What on earth is wrong with wanting education, having artistic ideas, being creative, loving scientific discoveries, being known as intelligent and educated, or admiring scientific advances?  I have a very rich spiritual life with plenty of experience of contact with the after-life, and I continue to believe strongly in mysteries which we aren’t going to be solved here on earth because they’re not meant to be solved here on earth. But I’m also a big admirer of achievements which have arisen from the utilisation of intellectual rigour and the logical sides of our brains.

I find Ignorance Chic depressing because this is its fundamental aim and what it’s really about, not just Fox News but the super-wealthy oligarchies who leech off the great majority:

 

On the other hand, I’m a glass half-full gal, and I reckon there’s always a positive to outweigh the negative. Ignorance Chic is  inspiring so many  people towards Creative Courage. I am inspired by the creative work that goes on outside of conventional channels – through independent organisations; through cultural collectives; through media outlets on the web;  and through YouTube and other outlets. 

When you look around, there are zillions of ways in which people ARE seeking intellectual rigour and are supporting educational and creative excellence. In its own way, Ignorance Chic has likely compelled an uprising of independent activity because the reality is that ignorance doesn’t serve the vast majority of the people, only – as the Occupy Wall Street movement pointed out so eloquently – the 1% who leech off the 99%.

News from Paradise, aka North Cyprus

Now for something completely different, folks – I simply had to express my delight at watching huge, bumblebees pottering around the flowers in our garden.  It’s decades since I saw a bumblebee so I was enchanted to watch this big, blue-black insect taking its time inspecting the various blossoms and sorting out which one was best.  Added to the all-black bumblebee, we’ve also seen another bumblebee which has a black body and a bright yellow head.  It really looked quite spectacular.  I love seeing bees and insects pollinating the flowers in our garden because it means there’s a health environment here. Oh, and for all you Harry Potter fans, the old name for a bumblebee was “Dumbledore”.  I came across an interview with J.K. Rowling where she said that, because the head of Hogwarts was fond of music, she envisaged him humming a lot.

What I like about bumblebees is that they take their time, check out which flower they’ll alight on for pollen, and are so unthreatening and inoffensive.  When I was checking out the history of bumblebees, I was appalled to see the first thing that came up in the search was “how to kill bumblebees” What a sad commentary on our society when people want to kill this beautiful, and very useful insect.  I remember talking to a neighbour when we lived high on the mountains in northern New South Wales about the local wasps.  We would trap them in a glass then release them outside as it was quite clear they were flummoxed at not being able to get to the outdoors they could see because glass was in the way. Our neighbour simply remarked that they got quite aggro when they were hit by insect spray and it seemed such a lazy way to interact with insects which really only want to get out of your way.

The weather here in North Cyprus is now so warm that the cicadas start singing in the mid-morning and very seldom let up before twilight creeps in around 8 in the evening.  We also have quite a few frogs croaking loudly in the paddock beside our apartment, and we also hear owls hooting in the night, although we haven’t actually seen what kind of owls you get on this island.  We see quite a few pied crows here, but they don’t caw as much as Australian crows used to, and they tend to be on their own and not in the family groups we’d see back in Oz.

But we have also had a few changes on our domestic front with the arrival, as some of you know, of a white cat of Siamese origin.  We had seen her around over a couple of weeks, and then she took to turning up on our patio to say hello.  My husband was adamant she wouldn’t be fed or let into the house, and I just smiled to myself, as yes, that prohibition only lasted two days.  Snowflake, as we then called her, settled in nicely.  And once she’d checked us out, given us her stamp of approval and made her self at home, she brought in a kitten, a beautiful little snow-white replica of the mother cat. So we thought, well, what’s two cats to feed, no problem. And once the kitten had been settled in, Snowflake then brought in the SECOND kitten!

Snowflake and Sweetie fascinated by our washing machine in action

Snowflake’s name changed to Jezebel once we’d had her spayed as she was in a very evil mood when she returned home, replete with stitches and hung over by the anaesthetic.  She duffed up the kittens when they were silly enough to get near her, took swipes at our legs if WE were silly enough to get near her, and generally stomped around in a very foul mood.  The Snowflake moniker moved to the smallest kitten who has a long thin tail likes its mum, who is still some-

what feral and nervous, but also is into any bit of mayhem it can manage to create. The second kitten is Sweetie, who is the bigger of the kittens, has a more fluffy tail and is far more placid than her sibling.    And into this menagerie has also wandered Gorgeous George, a feral cat, a real ham actor who sat at our gate and looked pitiful when the other three cats were eating their meals. So we gave into this emotional blackmail, we put out biscuits for him, and stay quite still when he comes up onto the patio when we’re sitting out there, and polishes off whatever food the three white cats have left.  I call him a ham actor as he’s a big, solid, ginger cat with a large head, in very good shape, and I seriously  would not want to get on the wrong side of him!

And just to round off this picture, I conquered a big fear of mine about not being able to get out of our communal swimming pool, which has a ladder and no steps into the water. Years ago I nearly got stuck in a pool when I couldn’t pull myself up on the steps, so I’ve avoided swimming since we got here. But one day I took a deep breath and decided I would jump in the deep end (so to speak), get in the pool and hope I’d get out again. Worked a treat!  So now I go into the pool practically every day where I do water aerobics, run in the water and do widths of the pool (haven’t got to lengths yet!).  I say “practically every day” because some days, in this very hot, humid weather, I get very painful muscles and joints from the fibromyalgia, I’m aware I need to rest so I don’t push myself.

Last but not least, the driving in North Cyprus continues to be absolutely chaotic but very good-natured, no road rage, and if you don’t have the money to pay for something, people trust you and are quite happy for you to turn up whenever you are able to pay for whatever you’ve bought.  I also love the readiness of people here to have a good laugh and stuff around.  It’s one of the perks of living in an overgrown village like Kyrenia. When you drive into Nicosia, the pace of living is a lot faster and it’s always a reminder to me how city-phobic I’ve become and how much I’ve come to love life in the slow lane.

 

POST JUNE 24TH – the first Uranus-Pluto square

I started writing this little rave a couple of weeks ago.  But I got interrupted by my computer going belly-up and going in for repairs which took a week, and then a major snafu with my Gmail account which still has not been sorted out.

However, to counter the misery of trying to knock my computer into shape again, I have advanced in the 21st century by dumping Windows Vista and switching to Windows 7. And that, of course, required my poncing around with the programme to make it all look nice, and re-install all the programmes I lost when I cleared out my computer.

Challenges, challenges – what would we do without them?

But now I’m returning to my earlier arena of action – which is the sequence of squares between Uranus and Pluto and matters astrological that I’ve been banging on about in the past few months.

The first hit was on 24th June, fa few weeks ago,  and there will be subsequent hits over then next few year.

Uranus – inventions, innovations, revolution, upheaval – is in Aries which is about new beginnings, great energy, pushing forward, seize the moment, and all that sort of fiery, new energy.  Pluto, on the other hand,  deals in the hidden, the depths, death, resurrection, what we’ve got stashed down in the cellar and don’t want to bring into the light of day.  It is currently in Capricorn which rules monopolies, banks, corporations, rules, regulations, structure, and so on. So you can imagine when these two outer planets – with their slow-moving orbit around the sun – collide, lots of clashes and explosions tend to occur.

But please note – these don’t stand up, wave a flag and say: “Hi, I’m a result of the square between Pluto and Uranus”. YOU have to keep your eye open and see what takes place, with a view to the long-term results further down the line.

I know some people wanted a sort of explosive activity on 24th June to show that the square actually did happen.  But fireworks were certainly let off, even if they weren’t huge rockets in the sky. Here are a few of the items I noticed turning up in the wake of June 24th:

* On Sunday 24th, the first freely elected President of Egypt, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was sworn into office. Mohamed Morsi promised to be a president for all peoples in Egypt and also set down guidelines for the activities of the military who have, in the past, been so powerful in this Middle Eastern country.

How this will eventuate is anybody’s guess.  It’s worth keeping an eye on what happens now because, although Morsi’s swearing in to office seems fairly straightforward,already Morsi has thrown a spanner in the works by recalling parliament and annoying the military. So it will be interesting to see the ramifications of this event further down the line, whether in Egypt or in the wider Middle East.

* Of course the big eruption which has dominated news since 24th June is the scandals surrounding so many banks. It started off with the British Barclays Bank, a fine illustration of Plutonic activity digging out hidden dirt.  The Bank was fined GBP291 million by the Financial Services Authority and American authorities for, without going into all the gory details, what boils down to manipulating markets and cheating customers.    Other banks – the UBS, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland – are also under investigation, with the RBS likely copping a fine of GBP150 million or more. And J.P. Morgan has managed to lose what may be close to $9 billion.  I mean – how the HELL do you manage a loss of that size and not notice it?  But good ol’ Pluto has dragged it out into the light of day.

* There is renewed speculation that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have been murdered, after polonium-210 – a deadly poison – was found in human traces on his clothing. That’s been shoved under the carpet for a good few years but now it looks as if his body will be exhumed to be examined for traces of polonium-210.

* The British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to misdemeanour criminal charges in the US and has agreed to pay $3bn to settle the case. GSK targeted the antidepressant Paxil at patients under age 18 when it was approved only for adults, and promoted the drug Wellbutrin for uses it was not approved for,  including weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction.   The company distributed a misleading medical journal and gave illegal kickbacks to doctors to promote its drugs.  GSK also failed to give the US Food and Drug Administration safety data about its diabetes drug Avandia. This is another example of Big Pharma misconduct to hit the light of day, something that is becoming all too regular.

* In relation to multinational conglomerates again, the Indian government is  planning a multibillion-dollar push to bring free medicines to  hundreds of millions of its citizens by offering 348  essential drugs to patients across the country. The planned scheme will largely rely on cheaper generic drugs, rather than branded drugs. You can only imagine the hand-ringing and bleating in the boardrooms of Big Pharma at the news they’re being cut out of such a lucrative market.

* On the climate front, rain continues to fall in vast quantities in the UK, and over a million people in the US were left without power, in a heatwave, in the wake of a huge storm leaving a swathe of destruction in its wake. In India, huge floods have swamped over 2000 villages and covered 90% of the Kaziranga national park in Assam, causing the deaths of hundreds of animals. 80 people have died so far and more than a million have been forced to leave their homes (not that we read much about tragedies in developing nations, of course, those in Western nations are so much more important, aren’t they???). There has been torrential rainfall in Beijing and Russia with many people dying. And just this week, it’s emerged that the ice melt in Greenland has been unprecedented. The ice cover has melted this month over a larger area than ever detected in more than 30 years of satellite observations, according to NASA.

Now I hate to mention that dirty word “climate change”, but there you go, I just can’t help myself.  These severe weather events correlate with predictions from scientists involved in climate change science that such weather events will become more common as global temperatures rise.

* And of course, there’s the possible discovery of the Higgs-boson particle which could pave the way for revolutionary developments in the future.

These are only a few of the bits and pieces I’ve noticed since June 24th.  It will be interesting to see what happens further down the line because, as per the words of an Australian song: “From little things, big things grow”.  For example, who would have thought that the assassination of Archduke  Ferdinand, in 1914, would herald the start of World War 2.  Throughout history, there have been minor events which have had far greater impact further down the line.

Now I’m not lining up all the above events to start doomsday prophesizing, there’s enough of that going about without my adding to it.  Right throughout the history of humanity there have been people trying to garner attention by predicting that floods, tempests, plagues and various other pestilences would destroy the planet and consign it to oblivion. The current doomsday claptrap doing the rounds is the Mayan Prophecies, ascension, the fifth dimension, and various other end-of the-world-is-nigh scenarios.

It is quite amazing to me that people think that the people inhabiting the world at this time are so special that the end of the world is going to happen just as they happen to be on the planet.  Added to that is the self-centredness of “I”m so special I’m going to move to another dimension and leave the rest of you ordinary, simple folk behind.”  And as one person pointed out on a forum of which I’m a member, all this ascension and end of the world stuff is reserved for those with access to the internet, to which so many in developing nations have no access. So there are billions unaware that doom and gloom is about to jump out at them and shout: “Boo!”.

Whether we like it or not, we’re entering an era where we are realising that the old ways of doing things – whether in government, production, banking, chemicals, weapons sales, and so on – are being turned upside down.  Take this figure, for example, when homelessness and unemployment are rife in the United States: the top 1% gained 93% of the additional income created in the country in 2010. And Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University points out in his new book, The Price of Inequality: “America has been growing apart, at an increasingly rapid rate. In the first post-recession years of the new millennium (2002-7), the top 1%  secured more than 65% of the gain in total national income. While the top 1% was doing fantastically, most Americans were actually growing worse off.” It’s a picture being replicated in other developed Western nations and in developing nations where elite groups hog the wealth being created.

The current way of living on this planet is being more and more exposed as obsolete, as the era of industrial production is getting to the end of its use-by date, and new forms of production and community inter-action are dawning.  Yes, there are people who don’t like change but, what the heck, our whole history is about change.  The issue facing us now is how to approach change. Do we want to stick our heads in the sand and retreat into fearfulness?  Or do we want to embrace change, work out how to co-operate with all the upheaval ahead of us, and contribute constructively to a better future which takes much better care of all levels of society. In other words, who the hell wants to be the ostrich with its head stuck in the groun, an utterly useless and boring activity. Let’s instead be game to be part of the grand adventure of creating a more humane, decent, fair society, in whichever part of the world we live in, with greater equity in the distribution of wealth.

Yeah, yeah, another rant from this crazy crone, but having been out of circuit due to computer problems, I’m now venting all that’s been saved up over the past few weeks.  Thank you for your tolerance and forebearance!