Monday 26 May 2014

Liberal Democrats Get What They Deserve

I have been waiting for this day. The local elections gave a taste, but this was the reality, and this is closer to the truth of the next General Election as well.

I voted Liberal Democrat on the basis of its manifesto, and on the basis of its stance during the Labour government. During that time the Liberal Democrats were to the left of a hollowing-out Labour Party and took much of its urban vote. The student vote obliged too, with a promise of no fees and other politicians not telling the truth. Then Nick Clegg not only propped up the Tories, but did so with enthusiasm, thus stealing the votes from people like me who voted Liberal Democrat to keep the Tories out.

If the Tories were put in for stability, it should have been for no more than economic reasons, and not on the basis of Tory only economics but also the different approach of the Liberal Democrats at the election - closer to Labour. Fanciful Tory policies should have been ditched to when they win an election.

Instead, the Liberal Democrats have gone far further than any Coalition Agreement, and thus introduced the Bedroom Tax and Council Tax to the poorest. Who'd have thought it - the Liberal Democrats introducing poverty to the poorest? Their tax cuts for the 'hard working families' - that nasty mantra - one would expect from the Tories while making life easy for the wealthy, which the Tories were able to do.

During the election UKIP was clever. It made a play for the white working class. I saw it during the election broadcasts. Thus Labour has been damaged, because the poorer voters were given somewhere else to go, even while Ed Miliband tacked slightly to the left on essentials. Such folk ought to read the UKIP manifesto, which as well as being anti-EU is pure right wing Toryism. But at least they are not parading as one thing, and doing another.

Clegg ought to go, and take the rest with him. This means Laws and Alexander in particular. They are all political crooks. Hopefully the electorate will remove them, especially Clegg in Sheffield. They all went native, ditching what they argued for at the General Election.

It's a bad day for those of us who are pro-European. I voted Green, and I know there are contradictions in that vote for me, but I vote for the package as a whole nearest me as a whole. I'm sceptical regarding climate change and the Greens have my vote! The Greens are not pro-European Union as I am, although they co-operate among themselves and are constructive. Plus they have a refreshing democratic internal polity, rather as the Liberal Democrats have had and need to use now to unseat Clegg.

I will not vote Liberal Democrat again until Clegg is gone, and this 'orange book' bunch of pseudo-Tories is removed from power. Cable is acceptable - but barely as he privatised the Post Office. Who'd have thought that? No wonder the Royal Mail is moaning about having to deliver to rural and distant areas: that's why it was nationalised and once within the Civil Service. Let's have it back then, and the railways (a Green policy). One has to give some escape route from the present disaster, regarding Vince Cable and party remains.

Anyway, oh so disciplined, the disaster is so great for the Liberal Democrats that they are now surely having to do what they did to previous leaders in recent times. They won't, beyond the damage of chatter, but the blade is coming down now and the blood on the floor now will be thick and runny at the next election.

Lesson: Do not steal votes.

Oh this says it better:

Julian Critchley 25th May '14 - 11:26pm
@Radical LIberal

It’s not about Clegg. It’s really important that the remainder of the party don’t allow this to become some sort of Clegg-focused issue.

The 2010 party hasn’t shed two-thirds of its support because of Clegg. It’s shed two-thirds of its support because two-thirds of us didn’t want the Orange Book, didn’t vote for the Orange Book, and have been appalled to see the LibDem Parliamentary Party implementing the Orange Book. It’s far too late now for the MPs to try and “differentiate” with the Tories. They were elected standing on a manifesto, and ten years of policy platforms, which did not adopt a “public=bad/private = good” default position, which did not back massive public spending cuts in a recession, which did not support the hammering of the poorest and the feather-bedding of the richest, which did not support the further fragmentation and selling off of our health and education services. We already had two right-wing Thatcherite parties in 2010, and we didn’t vote for them. So why on earth the leadership expected to retain our votes when they decided to become a third right-wing Thatcherite party remains an utter mystery to me.

It’s not Clegg. It’s the policies which they have supported and implemented. Unless the rump party members realise that, then there is no way back. To be honest, I don’t see a way back anyway. The building of a viable third party, which took thirty years from 1981 to 2010, has been utterly destroyed in 4 years by the catastrophic political miscalculation of the current party leadership. It’s a tragedy for British politics, an absolute tragedy. But it’s not Clegg. Every single LibDem Parliamentarian who voted for NHS privatisation, for the bedroom tax, for Gove’s giveaway of our schools to his chums, and for the prolonging of the depression through masochistic economic illiteracy, is to blame.

This isn’t the worst yet. The leadership and MPs are still kidding themselves that 2015 won’t be as bad as this at Westminster. Yes it will. If the LibDems still have double figures of MPs, they’ll be lucky.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Service with a Funeral Hymn

Perhaps I'm a little depressed! This service is about death as a perspective on life as a biography, but it tackles death itself. It's also a little creatively strange, with a section on 'Althea' and a bit on the sun (but it all, kind of, overlaps). One biography given is the of Jesus, in the sermon, recognised as strange in beliefs. I wrote the final hymn, given now in the detail from my list of hymn resources.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Doing Theology Via Thinking Animals

Recently the BBC has shown Zoologist and Professor George McGavin examine primates and their capabilities. He joined research teams in ther observations and occasional interventions for further observations. The three part series is called Monkey Planet.

I must admit I found it all fascinating and compulsive viewing, plus he is a very good presenter. All the time it has confirmed my view that we humans must leave our cousins to flourish in habitats we should also present. There is a good case that killers of these creatures can be charged with murder.

The reason is sentience and self-understanding, but also simply the right to be. The primates vary in what they can and cannot do, but they also socialise, have their own politics and have conditions of independent existence and even contemplative thought.

Sometimes a test of the residual value of theology is to apply it to such creatures. The usual Western Christian view is that animals do not sin and do not need salvation, and that they may well 'go to heaven'.

To make progress with any of this one has to suspend a lot of disbelief. By heaven I would not mean a place but, given the rest of the theology, a final arrival point at fulfilment. I am also assuming no need or reality in returning as different creatures in a cycle where only humans of good karma end up in a condition of no return. I'm assuming linear time and fulfilment.

If this is so (and I am suspending disbelief) then it seems to me to be nothing but speciesism to say that humans sin and need saving, but animals don't - why a dog might be blessed but is never invited to take communion.

Let's take the primate who is down the social pecking order and knows it. Researchers raise up a raft of bananas and watch. The senior monkeys get there first and gorge on the grub, but the poor one at the bottom of the monkey pile can only watch. It then hatches a strategy and delivers a false warning of predators. The monkeys on the raft scatter, and the lone creature is able to get at the remaining bananas.

George McGavin said that the monkey doing this strategy of deception won't be able to do it often. Well, why not? The monkey has had to think - what will cause them to get off that raft? It then impersonates. It views the result and acts on it. But are the others aware that they have been had? Do they know who did it. Do they have the capacity of supiscion? Do they act on it or realise it's fair? In amongst this is a debate about sinful behaviour.

We don't have that debate if monkey social order is by violence and we assume they know no other way. We do though look at our closest ape kind, the bonobo, and find that they make love not war, and shag like the best of them in making alliances and seeking comfort. Let's hear it for polyamoury.

Of course to be religious and act out exchange and gift rituals in excess of necessary exchange is to take matters a stage further. It is human trait for some of us to do the extra standing-back and making 'universal' gift-exchange rituals that intend to bind us as a people or community. Except, of course, many a monkey will sit and contemplate, and many will save time in one necessary activity in order to to enjoy extended grooming.

The difference between humans and other animals isn't language either. It is becoming clear that many higher animals have capacity for effective language. Complexity of language is not an issue. It turns out that the bee's dance for the location of food sources is not only highly complex but based on it being felt not seen. Its message of direction and distance is given to others in the dark. But regarding primates and higher creatures of the sea: they also learn, and part of the learning is done through language. Strategies for gathering and killing fish and the odd seal by killer whales varies across oceans and they tell and make their strategies around the group through language.

What they don't have, and we do, is a library. We store the information we learn and it can be accessed by anyone.

We also restrict via money, another universal symbolic device. Scarcity and value is reflected in the promise contained in coinage, or the electronic equivalent.

George McGavin introduced one primate who had 'crossed the line' into human company, which was part of his upbringing (and an ethical question there). The bonobo had been introduced to a language-based symbolic manipulation device to communicate its desires, wants and choices. Whilst humans sat about minding their own business, the bonobo made choices about food that were subsequently delivered, a bit like retarded people who use Tesco online. [Pictured: another kind of primate]

But it crossed the line in that whilst people sat about, it gathered up and broke and threw down woody material, then took a box of matches and lit a fire so that it could enjoy toasted marshmallows. Thus a bonobo used fire. No doubt it could teach other bonobos how to use fire, although it would still need to go to Tesco online to get boxes of matches. Nevertheless, there was a glimpse into one or more of species of human who learned that friction on a stick (they didn't have Specsavers and so no lenses) made fire and that fire transformed meat into digestible protein when on the plain.

Cooking is all about planning and preparation, which is why I have reverted to ready meals and the microwave. I bet the bonobo would love to use a microwave (I have two).

Now I don't believe in original sin, but I do think we live less well for others than we might (including animals), and all this planning and thinking strategies is about inviting us to live less well than we might. I don't think there is a final fulfilment (and certainly not reincarnation) but the gift-exchange is a chance to meet fulfilment, to bind further and contemplate a better way. Bonobos and others are not that far away from doing this.

If there are theological intellectual tools still worth using, try them out in relevance to animal life when it is social and not simply programmatic. The rescue of theology away from supernatural sillinesses may well come by its application in relevance to animal life along with us on this small planet.

Sunday 4 May 2014