Tuesday, 30 March 2010

This post is brought to you by the letter... History

I got into an interesting debate with a friend the other day about the usefulness of History in the education of the average 'Joe'. For a bit I found myself at a loss when trying to articulate the valuable life lessons that History gives a person not planning on studying it intensely. I think I did alright, but I only now figured out what I was trying to say.

History teaches three valuable things: Where we came from, why things are the way they are now, and (most importantly in many cases) that things have not always been so and, probably, will not always be so.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

So, I'm confused...

I was thinking in the shower today. I do that, you see. I know I should instead busy myself with, y'know, showering, but I can't help myself.

Anyway, shopping days. I'm pretty sure we all have a designated shopping day or market day; the day we run around and stock up on the things we need. Mine is Saturdays, primarily because I work during the week and the covered market(where I prefer to go for produce/fish/etc.) is closed on Sundays. If for some reason my Saturday is tied up, it means I'm stuck getting everything at Sainsbury's. This means I end up paying more for stuff of lesser quality and don't have the ability to really nose through and select everything for myself. It means we eat for another week, yes, but it's not half as satisfying.

The weekend is also when I end up putzing through shops picking up things that it has occurred to me during the week that I need. Again, should I find myself otherwise engaged at that time, this gets put off usually until the following weekend.

This got me thinking... the vast majority of us work. Of that vast majority, a vast majority have your standard M-F 9-5 day job. Most shops are close around 5ish or 6ish (I recognize that this is slowly changing, especially with grocery stores, but generally this is still the norm). This means that, during the week, those who work have little chance of going to said shops and picking something up. The only people this schedule of opening times works for are those who do not work.

I find this funny. A society as consumer-driven as we are is set up so that 80% of the time they are open for business is when the majority of the consumers aren't able to drop in and consume. Seems a rather poor strategy, doesn't it?

Furthermore, these people have to cram their consuming into the weekends, meaning they're stuck spending time shopping as opposed to perhaps doing something more leisurely with their only two full days of freedom from work.

I wonder if that's the idea? Kind of a materialistic bulimia; deprive deprive deprive so that, when the opportunity finally does present itself... WHOOOSH! We dive into the stuff-lust with reckless abandon. Who knows?

Now, far be it from me to propose a solution to this. There are many ways of looking at this situation. For example, later opening hours would mean that workers would be stuck working them (although, if things were switched around, it means they'd have their days to themselves). I can't quite tell if this is a product of faults in work schedules, shop schedules, or some combination thereof.

I dunno. I did think of this in the shower, keep in mind.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Be very careful, America

So by now you've all probably seen this article or one like it in which a gunman opened fire at the entrance to the Pentagon last week. This is another event in what is becoming a rather disturbing trend of anti-government cause-heads going on the offensive. I'm not going to lay the blame solely on the Palin/Beck/Tea Party crowd, since past events like Oklahoma City shows that this sort of sentiment is anything but new. However it is rather unsettling that the tone of these individuals is becoming progressively more aggressive and, dare I say, militant. So although their not the sole culprits, they're certainly not helping matters much.

The way I see it, there are two possible ways that that powers that be could respond to this trend.

1. Conclude that all of these crazies need a heapin' helpin' of legislation to set 'em straight. Beef up security measures even more. Increase surveillance of 'suspected subversives' (whoever they are and whatever that means, details details). Perhaps even throw in some weapons control laws in for good measure.

Bad idea.

All this will succeed in doing is feeding the flames. These people are already convinced that the gummint is hell-bent on trampling their rights and restricting their freedoms. Trying to smother the problem with laws will only confirm their fears and, in all likelihood, provoke further nutballs to try the same thing in the name of defending the Constitution.

2. To use the old British war-time saying, 'Keep calm and carry on.' In other words, don't do a thing. Accept that this was an isolated incident that in no way represents the norm. Conclude that the better demonstration of strength and resilience in the face of adversity is to brush it off and keep going as is, refusing to strengthen or legitimize the place of these people by giving them unnecessary attention.

The trouble is, American doesn't do 'Keep calm and carry on' terribly well. If something happens, people have this need for someone to do something about it. We have to prove to ourselves and others that nobody can get away with crossing us without a serious reckoning. Satisfying in the short term? Maybe. Useful and productive in the long term? Not so much.

I suppose this is another manifestation of the U.S. as the angsty teenager of the world. Compared to nations in Europe and Asia, who've been at this game for at least a few thousand years, 230-some odd year old America is just starting to develop acne and grow hair in surprising places. We're still at the phase where everything is a massive universe-altering drama and we have to thump our chests and prove something about ourselves at every step of the way. Hopefully in a few more centuries, providing something very interesting doesn't happen in the meantime, we might slowly start to improve in playing the long game.

In the meantime, let's just hope that Obama and Co. take the high road and don't turn this into a bigger situation than it actually is.

Monday, 1 March 2010

And here we go...

For the longest time I've made it quite well-known to people that I'm not the blogging type. I could never motivate myself to sit down and write about my life and thoughts for the supposed benefit or enrichment of a reading public who, perhaps rightly so, don't really care all that much about what's going on in my life.

But then I got to thinking of the number of occasions I've found myself conversing (read: ranting) to/with a friend (or my wife, bless her patience) on some topic or another. To spare these regular receivers of such attentions, or perhaps to spread their suffering to even larger crowds, I have concluded that, if I'm going to engage in in-depth rants and musings, why not write 'em down? Who knows? Someone may actually find them interesting. Yeah, we'll see about that last part, but a guy can dream, can't he?

So with that, welcome to my virtual forum/tea house/philosophical salon/ashram/debate hall. All our welcome and none shall be censored (only laughed at and perhaps eloquently horse-whipped if they get particularly asshat-ish).

As the great sage and philosopher V once said, or at least he should have, 'A revolution without tea is a revolution not worth having.'

Let's see what happens.