Monday, 19 July 2010

Lets start a Norwich 'Skeptics in the Pub'!

I'm moving on back to my home town Norwich in a couple of months and I'm really keen on the idea of starting up a skeptics in the pub group for monthly, maybe bi-weekly, meet-ups in a selection of Norwich's finest ale-baring free-houses.

I'm totally open to any ideas regarding format, feel free to share any ideas below the line.  I thought it might be fun to adopt a similar format to Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast from the New England Skeptical Society: sharing news and interesting stuff, maybe get occasional guest-speakers, a bit of science-or-fiction...

If you are interested in science and the skeptical community, or simply want to broaden your knowledge and meet interesting people, let me know in the comments.

A reply from our government re. West Papua...

Scroll down to see my original letter.

                                                                            South East Asia Pacific Team
                                                                            King Charles Street
                                                                            SW1A 2AH
                                                                            Tel: 0207 008 2443
                                                                            Fax: 0207 008 2766
Mr Ben King                                             
By email:
Ref: 7328-10
19 July 2010

Dear Mr King,

Thank you for your email of 27 June about West Papua. I am replying as a member
of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s South East Asia Pacific Group
responsible for relations with Indonesia.

The policy of successive governments to support the territorial integrity of Indonesia
and reject claims for independence for the provinces of Papua and West Papua
remains unchanged.

The Indonesian authorities are aware of public and parliamentary concerns at the
human rights situation in the Papuan provinces. Promoting respect for human rights
and good governance as part of Indonesia’s reform process is central to our policies
towards Indonesia. In a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in June 2010, our
Ambassador in Jakarta, Martin Hatfull, highlighted the need for greater openness
and access to both provinces by NGOs, journalists and diplomats to enable accurate
reporting of events. This message was also delivered by the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office’s Asia Pacific Director when the Indonesian Ambassador
called on him at the Foreign Office on 20 May 2010.

Reports of an increase in violence are concerning and we encourage all sides to
engage in meaningful dialogue and discuss possible solutions to their differences
which are acceptable to all parties as the best way to resolve the on-going conflict.
We welcome the launch of an EU - Indonesia human rights dialogue. The first
dialogue was held on 29 June in Jakarta. This is a positive step forward and
included constructive discussion on a number of areas including rights of women,
children and prisoners, the death penalty and freedom of religion.

We will continue to monitor the situation, raise concerns at both official and
ministerial level, encourage the Indonesian authorities to address these concerns,
and advocate meaningful devolution, appropriate security measures and greater
transparency in Papua.

Yours sincerely

Natalie Atmore
Indonesia Desk
South East Asia Pacific Group

Well, at least it isn't patronising historical revisionism like it was with Meg Munn and the Labour regime.  Yet it's still all bullshit isn't it?  I mean, anyone could have predicted this letters content, just as you can predict a politicians answers to the media... why is that?  I mean, are these people not experts in their fields?  Is it too much that we might learn something new in addressing them?  Of course not.  

The important part missing from this reply is that which deals with the bigger picture, that of morality and philosophy.  No hint of an admission, no hint of regret or even recognition of OUR role in the debacle.  Do they believe it is enough to say, "well, those were past governments, nothing to do with us!"?  Because they are the only ones thinking like that.  To people all over the world, every successive western government that refuses to acknowledge it's immoral actions is another government simply not wanting to appear hypocritical when it comes to their turn at the helm of neo-liberalism.

Monday, 12 July 2010

A sociocultural evolutionary view of the Wests generational divide...

The United States of America is in entirely unique and unprecendented waters.  When the baby boomers largely gave up trying to save humanity from itself, they embarked upon creating possibly the most subtle and insiduous empire the world has ever known.  Not that they would see it that way.  To them, they are proud representatives for the heady ideals of freedom and liberty... it's written in black and white.  As with previous 'imagined identities' (and I use the term as described by Benedict Anderson) that were fortunate enough to harness the legitimising power of ink, they have become fundamental truths from which a homogenous, self-referential identity has been created.

Herein lies the crux of the deception.  Western notions of the self as derived from Christianity have, for millenia, bought into and expanded upon the illusion of the existence of the soul.  It omits from popular conscience the very real consequences of identity forming through passive consumption, today moulded by the 'official' narrative portrayed in mainstream media.  The creation of top-down religious or national identity has been a constant throughout human civilisation, maintained through the monopoly of communication technology (be it literacy or cost/access of production).

It was this world that the baby boomers fought, lost and joined.  It was this world that they took to whole new levels of sophistication.  Through the IMF and private corporations the U.S. has created a financial empire that subjugates by proxy, thus keeping from view the unpleasent truths and protecting the vertically imposed identity from mass cognitive-dissonance.  Those that were aware had nowhere to turn, except to local peer groups, utterly disenfrachised from the deluded masses and drowning in the percieved contradictions of words and actions.

Thus was born Generation X.  Devoid of any communication infrastructure able to compete with national media, the disparate, outnumbered and enlightened youths had no way to construct a lasting shared identity.  As outsiders to the mainstream, they were easily ridiculed and dismissed by a public spoon-fed ample ammunition from up on high.  Unfortunately grunge alone, as one of the few national manifestations of the growing cynical apathy, does not make for radical social change.  Communication technology, from the alphabet to the smart phone, is what makes for radical change. Always has, always will.

Now that time has come again, and those few remaining generation X'ers who still hold embers in their hearts are finding themselves stoked and renewed by the emergence of their succesors: Generation Vex.

Every revolution in human history will be seen as mere quantitative differences, baby-steps on the road to universal recognition of equality.  The Internet revolution is the start of something different.  Until now, every imagined community in history has been the result of top-down, few-to-many identity creation - Religion, State and Commerce.  Now, for the first time ever, we have the opportunity to bypass the official narrative and form our own imagined identities without geographical or cultural borders.  We can, if we only realise it, challenge and stand up to state and capitalist injustice and expose the hypocrisies and immorality of the inherent prejudices therein (just as happened with religion during the 'enlightenment').

The monopoly enjoyed by individualised corporate greed through its subversion and assimilation of the state's authority is broken.  The resulting democratisation of our identities is creating cognitive dissonance at unseen levels.  This new generations ability to go viral, to maintain imagined communities of even greater scope than their ignorant 'superiors', gives them an outlet to antagonise and harry the establishment in ways never imagined.  This is Generation Vex, and they are beyond being patronized.