Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moral lessons for my child part one

I've been thinking a lot recently about how I can bring up my child to be a moral person, without (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace. Hyperspace being, in this case, organised religion.

See, I love many things about Christianity (specifically Church of England flavoured Christianity, as that was the faith I was born to). The architecture kicks ass. I like the smell of many of the churches and cathedrals I've visited. There is a sense of serenity and peacefulness that comes with being in those places. I'm also a big fan of many of the moral lessons taught both by extension of bible verse and by the community directly involved in, and surrounding, the machinations of the church.

I'm really not a big fan of the particular brand of fairy tales that they preach, however, and this is one of the two major turn-off points for me about most every organised religion (the second being the inevitable group of crazy fundies who kill, maim, hurt and oppress each other in the name of their god as though these things are good things). I just can't, in all good conscience, tell another human being (in this case, my child) that they should believe in something just because I do - and especially because in this case, I'm pretty certain that I don't.

My own faith (or lack of) aside, one thing that I can do is come up with my own, codified list of things that I do believe should be practiced by my child, ideally with use cases and justifications. I'm going to leave aside the majors like murder, theft and ox coveting for now; while I truly believe that they're great moral rules, there's no value in me listing them.

so, here we go.

1. Always be polite.

use case: When buying a bus ticket, or groceries in a shop, say "I'd like (my item), please". When presented with the item or exiting the bus, say "thank you" to the relevant person.

why: Politeness is social grease. Just like grease lubricates a mechanism, so politeness makes social interactions run smoother. It costs you only the time to say it, and could make a huge difference to the other person's day.

2. Tell the truth.

use case: Someone asks you if they look good in that dress. They don't. Tell them that (in your opinion) they don't look good. They then put on a different dress, and they look great in it. They ask you again. Tell them that they now look great.

why: Truth is your currency of trust. Trust is hugely valuable. If people don't want to hear the truth, then they shouldn't ask you the question - this is their problem, not yours.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

State of the nation

I've been watching the G20 pittsburgh summit with my usual synical eye, but the videos of students being teargassed on their own campus - it's disgusting. After similar situations in London, where peaceful protests lead to the death of an innocent bystander I'm beginning to fear that the inevitable result is an armed revolution at some point.

If the powers in control of these events continue to treat their own citizens as criminals, to the extent of suppressing any form of peaceful protests, what options does that leave civilians? Where is our opportunity to voice our concerns? How are people supposed to stand up and be heard when they are forcibly and violently suppressed whenever they try to do so?

In America, where carrying weapons is an accepted part of the culture, there's an often quoted phrase - "Soap box, ballot box, jury box, ammo box. Use them in that order." Given the history of rigged elections, state controlled lobbying and denial of peaceful protest, I'll be surprised if the move to ammo box doesn't happen in the near future. And at that point, the powers that be will only have themselves to blame, and will have very little recourse to open up a sensible discussion.

When the elite manipulate elections, the economy and people's right to assemble, how do you get your voice heard?

Friday, September 25, 2009


Myself and the wife have had another staycation week, and I'm loving it. We hired a car and visited the Isle of Wight and Canterbury Cathedral, and then I've spent a couple of days doing very little other than sleeping and housework mixed in with watching the latest american TV.

After all the recent globe trotting, I've come to appreciate just how wonderful our current house is (especially now the noisy witch next door appears to have melted). I'll be sorry to lose the view. I guess you have to give up something when you decide to spawn a new process.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ah, how times have changed.

Permit me to make a comparison which you might find interesting.

John Locke, 1689, epistle dedicatory contained in AN ESSAY CONCERNING HUMANE UNDERSTANDING.




This Treatise, which is grown up under your lordship's eye, and has ventured into the world by your order, does now, by a natural kind of right, come to your lordship for that protection which you several years since promised it. It is not that I think any name, how great soever, set at the beginning of a book, will be able to cover the faults that are to be found in it. Things in print must stand and fall by their own worth, or the reader's fancy. But there being nothing more to be desired for truth than a fair unprejudiced hearing, nobody is more likely to procure me that than your lordship, who are allowed to have got so intimate an acquaintance with her, in her more retired recesses. Your lordship is known to have so far advanced your speculations in the most abstract and general knowledge of things, beyond the ordinary reach or common methods, that your allowance and approbation of the design of this Treatise will at least preserve it from being condemned without reading, and will prevail to have those parts a little weighed, which might otherwise perhaps be thought to deserve no consideration, for being somewhat out of the common road. The imputation of Novelty is a terrible charge amongst those who judge of men's heads, as they do of their perukes, by the fashion, and can allow none to be right but the received doctrines. Truth scarce ever yet carried it by vote anywhere at its first appearance: new opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common. But truth, like gold, is not the less so for being newly brought out of the mine. It is trial and examination must give it price, and not any antique fashion; and though it be not yet current by the public stamp, yet it may, for all that, be as old as nature, and is certainly not the less genuine. Your lordship can give great and convincing instances of this, whenever you please to oblige the public with some of those large and comprehensive discoveries you have made of truths hitherto unknown, unless to some few, from whom your lordship has been pleased not wholly to conceal them. This alone were a sufficient reason, were there no other, why I should dedicate this Essay to your lordship; and its having some little correspondence with some parts of that nobler and vast system of the sciences your lordship has made so new, exact, and instructive a draught of, I think it glory enough, if your lordship permit me to boast, that here and there I have fallen into some thoughts not wholly different from yours. If your lordship think fit that, by your encouragement, this should appear in the world, I hope it may be a reason, some time or other, to lead your lordship further; and you will allow me to say, that you here give the world an earnest of something that, if they can bear with this, will be truly worth their expectation. This, my lord, shows what a present I here make to your lordship; just such as the poor man does to his rich and great neighbour, by whom the basket of flowers or fruit is not ill taken, though he has more plenty of his own growth, and in much greater perfection. Worthless things receive a value when they are made the offerings of respect, esteem, and gratitude: these you have given me so mighty and peculiar reasons to have, in the highest degree, for your lordship, that if they can add a price to what they go along with, proportionable to their own greatness, I can with confidence brag, I here make your lordship the richest present you ever received. This I am sure, I am under the greatest obligations to seek all occasions to acknowledge a long train of favours I have received from your lordship; favours, though great and important in themselves, yet made much more so by the forwardness, concern, and kindness, and other obliging circumstances, that never failed to accompany them. To all this you are pleased to add that which gives yet more weight and relish to all the rest: you vouchsafe to continue me in some degrees of your esteem, and allow me a place in your good thoughts, I had almost said friendship. This, my lord, your words and actions so constantly show on all occasions, even to others when I am absent, that it is not vanity in me to mention what everybody knows: but it would be want of good manners not to acknowledge what so many are witnesses of, and every day tell me I am indebted to your lordship for. I wish they could as easily assist my gratitude, as they convince me of the great and growing engagements it has to your lordship. This I am sure, I should write of the UNDERSTANDING without having any, if I were not extremely sensible of them, and did not lay hold on this opportunity to testify to the world how much I am obliged to be, and how much I am,

Your Lordship's most humble and most obedient servant,


2 Dorset Court, 24th of May, 1689

Facebook, 2009:

"Add Friend?"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

You can't handle the truth

It appears that this world runs on people lying, cheating and generally backstabbing anyone that they don't socially mix with, and occasionally then too.

It's starting to grind me down.

Is there anything wrong with assuming that your fellow man or woman is actually going to stick to their word? I've been using that as a strategy since I became an adult, and it's just getting harder and harder to go into deals and social situations with the mindset that the other party is being honest.