Creative Rejuvenation

Artists get hung up on the quality and quantity of their creative output.  I suppose that’s only to be expected.  Artists spend a lot of time on their creative outpourings.  

Occasionally, though, that output needs to stop, while you recharge your creative batteries.  Instead of creativity pouring out, like an incessant torrent, sometimes you need to pour some inspiration, rest and new influences back in.  You need to stimulate your creative powers anew.

Creative rejuvenation is a necessary phase.  Without it, you get stale and your ideas can begin to dry up, or worse, you can become a self-referential pastiche of yourself.  You might even find it hard to take your own creative strengths seriously.

Stop.  Step away from your work space.  Go and live a little.  See new things.  Have new experiences.  Go on some kind of adventure.  Fall back in love with the world and with your art.  Give yourself the space to take stock and breathe.  Your work will still be there, waiting for you to do it.  Only, with recharged, rejuvenated creative powers, you just might approach it from a new angle and with renewed enthusiasm.

I’m recharging myself right now.  The quality and quantity of my posts might reduce, for a while.  Think of this time as my crysalis period.  It’s long overdue.

I will be back soon, but for now, it’s time to feed my mind, my heart and my soul.

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Things I Love About Making Art

If you’re like most artists (actually, most human beings), every now and then you’ll find yourself drifting, having lost sight of your goals completely.  You’ll feel like you’re going through the motions, but with little satisfaction.  That little self-critical voice in your head will be trying to tell you you’re no good at art.  You’ll feel certain nobody wants your work and that making art is utterly purposeless.  You’ll feel like giving up.  The thrill is gone.

About the only thing that can help, at a juncture like this, is to actively remember what it is about making art that got you into doing it in the first place.  OK, your art career might not be going the way you would have ideally liked.  Nobody buys your stuff.  The help, adulation and recognition you thought you would get, which you believed you had sincerely earned, haven’t materialised.  They don’t recognise how great you are.  You feel undervalued and underrated.  But is that why you started?  Was that really the feeling you liked most?  If those aspects of your art-making feel bad, then what feels good?

Writing a list of what you like about making art and being an artist can help you identify what you like and, subsequently, to focus more on creating more of those moments you like, which make you feel good, worrying less about (and actually experiencing fewer of) the feelings you don’t like.  It takes a certain honesty and humility to do this, but it can be a reviving tonic.  Deciding to fall in love again, with making art, can be one of the most refreshing and reawakening things you can do.

Without further ado, here’s my list:

  1. Colours thrill me. If I did nothing else than played with colour complements and contrasts, all day long, I’d be happy with that.
  2. Musical timbres thrill me, especially new or unusual ones that are distinctive and memorable. The search for these is wonderful and finding one is like discovering buried treasure.
  3. I love a melody that makes me feel something throughout my whole body. It can be happy or sad, but it has to move me.
  4. I love sharing that feeling with others. Making a melody that moves people, in the same way I feel moved, is like hitting the jackpot.
  5. I love that the art I make decorates the existential solitude I inhabit, with beauty. If we are all, ultimately, alone in the world, then the presence of beautiful things can soften the angst.
  6. I love that you can share moments with others, through art. It’s like an unwritten communication.  I often feel that other people have feelings, which they never could or would articulate in words, but you know they feel them all the same, because of something artistic you shared.
  7. Playing beautiful or interesting guitars inspires me. I won’t lie.  There’s something about an instrument that brings out different melodies and approaches to playing.  They change and extend my musical articulation subtly.  I don’t play two different guitars the same way and I don’t really know why.  Each one changes something in what I make, musically.
  8. I love how paint feels, as it goes onto canvas. That gooey smooshiness is really very satisfying.  Feeling that delicate point where the paint breaks and texture is created is a really great balance point to sense.
  9. I love how writing clarifies my thoughts and makes me calm. When I don’t commit my thoughts to paper, they compete for attention, in my subconscious.  Rather aggressively, actually.  When I write them down, though, an orderly queue seems to form and ideas that have had their attention, in being committed to paper, stop rattling around in my head, so other thoughts can form and blossom.  I can also see how those thoughts connect to each other more clearly and discern the relationships better.  It’s very clarifying and soothing.
  10. I love it when my art resonates with somebody. There’s nothing nicer than knowing something you made has meaning to somebody else.
  11. I love how inspiring art can be to others. Art can cause people to decide to take action.  I love it when a piece of art I made inspires others to make their art, or to break out of their passive complacency and do something great.
  12. I love how music comforts, soothes and understands how you’re feeling. Choosing the right music for your emotional state is incredibly comforting.  It takes away feelings of alienation and lets you know that somebody, at some time, felt what you’re feeling right now.  It forms a connection.  We all need connectedness to thrive.
  13. I love how music moves my body. I can’t help it.  There is some music that makes me want to move and groove.  I don’t care who sees me.  The feeling it too good to ignore.  I succumb to it.  Dancing is a reaction to the movement music induces.
  14. I love the feelings of accomplishment art brings me. I get a great deal of satisfaction when I finish making a piece of art and I like how it turned out.  There’s a sense of psychological closure to that.  Your plan has been made manifest.  You imagined something and now it’s real.
  15. I love how art makes me joyful. Making art, especially playing music, fills me with a sense of euphoria.  I love how it sounds and how the sound waves make my body feel.  This is related to my earlier point about dancing.  Dancing might be joy expressing itself outwardly.
  16. I love the beauty and grace of the tools. I have some beautiful brushes, a wide variety of beautifully made palette knives, gorgeous specialist luthiery tools, elegant musical instruments, exquisite writing materials, amazingly capable and flexible software, strange and beautiful effects boxes and so on.  These are all conduits to producing art, but the quality and elegance of the tools themselves is something to behold and appreciate.  I get a buzz from the tools.
  17. Art makes me feel alive. Making art makes me feel immortal, in a strange way.  I know that what I make has the potential to outlive me.
  18. Art shows my imagination that it can soar. Too often, in life, we feel helpless and powerless.  Creating something reminds your imagination that it is capable of thinking great thoughts and creating viable, important changes in the world.
  19. Creative freedom is real freedom, as a human being. The imprisoned Jews in Nazi Germany used to drive their guards crazy by singing “Our Thoughts Are Free”.  They might constrain and encumber you with responsibilities and bills to pay, but your escape is always your ability to create whatever the hell you want.
  20. Art changes the quality of everybody’s thoughts and beliefs. Higher quality thoughts are what the world needs more than anything, right now.  Art takes you there.
  21. I love that the ethos of art can be as antithetical to the prevailing culture of selfishness and greed as you want it to be. If you dislike the kinds of belief systems and ideologies that prevail, you can create your very own universe, within your art.  It can be as different and opposite to the horrors of the real world as you dare to make it.
  22. I love that art can edify everything that is great about being human. People like to think of humanity as a vicious, violent vermin, fit only for self-inflicted destruction.  When you make art, however, you experience compassion, empathy, generosity, unvarnished honesty and all of the loving things that are good and unique, about being a member of the species Homo sapiens.  There is a lot about us that is worthy and worthwhile.  Art helps you experience that.
  23. Loud music excites me and makes my arm hairs stand up. That visceral experience is something I have felt, profoundly, at key moments in my life and so, transports me straight back to those events and memories.  That feeling was what drove me toward electric guitar and highly rhythmic music.  Feeling the thud in my chest, in time with the music, is what alerted me to the fact that this is what I wanted to do.
  24. Quiet music calms me. Sometimes, I like to see how quietly and gently I can play and yet still articulate clear, beautiful, sustained notes.  When I want to relax and unwind, quiet music, which you have to listen to intently, often does that for me.
  25. Playing guitar is when I feel my most confident, invincible and attractive. I feel desirable and worthwhile.  I feel self-assured and capable, not doubtful and unsure of what I’m doing.  It’s the closest I get to feeling sexy.  Everybody should feel that they’re sexy to somebody.
  26. Music clarifies my thoughts, when writing. Just as writing seems to order my thoughts into something lucid and comprehensible, background music helps me to make those thoughts flow.  I write best when music is playing.  It cuts down the distraction and flips my brain into a more ordered state, somehow.
  27. Art helps me to cling to the belief in better. When the world is full of horrible people with a miserable view of humanity and diabolical plans to make everything more miserable, the fact of art and the facility to create is a powerful reminder that better is possible.  It’s an antidote to the psychopaths in charge, who you know have very little ability to feel and understand art.  Art is our world, from which the psychopaths are excluded, by their own inability to empathise.
  28. Making art allows me to trust my intuition to the fullest extent. I give free rein to my intuition, when creating.  I follow my instincts without hesitation.  That doesn’t happen in other spheres of life, where you act to minimise risk, with more over-thinking and circumspection.  In making art, none of that matters.  I just do what I do, trusting that my mind and heart will lead me in the right direction.
  29. I love the feeling of immersion in the task of making art, where cares fall away. The nice thing about the process of making art is that it’s a universe of your own that you imagine and inhabit and you choose what is admitted into it.  Your cares and worries don’t have to follow you into that moment of flow.  That’s quite liberating and relieving.
  30. Making art heightens my consciousness. Ideas beget better ideas.  The more I make art, the better are my conceptions and imaginations for future art I will make.  I feel more in the moment and present, while making art.
  31. Even when I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel like I know what I’m doing. I can simultaneously feel like I’ve no idea what I should be doing or how other people accomplish what I’m attempting, yet feel equally sure that whatever next step I take, it will work out fine.  The risk or ridicule falls away.  Whatever action I take, it’s the right action, because it is an action.
  32. It’s one of the few times in adult life where just playing is a legitimate activity. When I was a child, I loved to play and I still remember the feelings I had, while playing.  They were delightful feelings.  Making art helps me to recreate those feelings of just following my curiosity and seeing what happens.
  33. The imaginative, visualisation phase is as much fun as actually making the art (sometimes more fun). Creating and inhabiting a universe of my own making, which can be idealised, or else very focused on a specific thing, can give as much satisfaction as actually going on the next step of the journey, bringing it all to life as a reality.  The unreality is fun to inhabit anyway.  Daydreaming and musing is rewarding in and of itself, whether you make anything or not.
  34. Researching in preparation for making art is one of my favourite kinds of reading. I have to confess that my favourite things to read are books or information that causes new, imaginative thoughts to form in my head.  If it engages me and gets me thinking, resulting in a new innovation or idea, then that’s when I enjoy reading most.  I’m not so much an escapist reader as a reader that seeks imaginative stimulation.
  35. I always feel renewed and slightly younger, after I create something. The aches and pains and decrepitudes of getting older fall away and I feel like I did when I was a child, a teenager or a young man.  Making art rejuvenates.

So, that’s my list.  What do you love most about making art?

 

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How to Make Absolutely Anything

It turns out that there is a simple (but difficult) three step process that allows you to make absolutely anything.  This is such a powerful process that, if you don’t follow it, you probably won’t be able to make anything.  People that struggle with making things are usually foundering on one or more of the three steps.  It doesn’t matter what you are trying to make, the same three steps apply.  It could be a piece of music, a painting, designing an electronic circuit, building a house, changing the minds of the masses, or creating a political revolution.

Here are the three steps, which usually take place in this order:

  • Desire
  • Envisioning /visualising
  • Aligning with the vision

That’s it.  That’s the whole, general purpose process.

Perhaps I should elaborate.

Desire

Before anything (and I mean anything) can get made, there has to be a clear intention.  Somebody has to want to bring it into being.  Manifestation of the new thing, which doesn’t yet exist, absolutely requires that somebody, somewhere, has sufficient desire for it to exist.  If you are the maker, that should be you.  You should desire the change you seek to make.

Indifference to the existence of the new idea is why so many people think of really great ideas, but never follow through.  They don’t want it enough.  You have to really want this thing to become real.  You have to love the very idea of its existence.  Without the desire for the thing to be made, it won’t be possible to carry out the other two steps.

Desire is almost analogous to love, but not quite.  Desire is more visceral and corporeal.  It involves your body, your agency and your dexterity, not just your feelings.  Your body is the most potent, magnificent, yet delicate instrument and engine of creation you will ever own.  It will need to be applied.  You need to love the idea of the thing you want to make.  You need to want it.

Envisioning

The mind is a wonderful thing.  Everybody should have one.  The power of the mind is to envision the thing you want to make, visualising it in every detail.  Imagining the completed thing with every sense available to you, as if it already exists, is your mind’s way of perfecting the details a priori, planning the necessary steps and setting the goal, so that you know when the making is done.  Being able to crystallise your desire into a realisable vision, through visualising it lucidly in your imagination, means that you will be able to undertake the manifestation of the idea with surety and confidence.  When you can already see the end goal, clearly and in exquisite detail, the rest is a bit like taking down dictation.

Composers often write music this way.  Mozart was said to envision the entire composition in his head, detailed part by detailed part, sensing the fragrance of every harmony and contrapuntal device, before committing it to manuscript.  The “writing it down” part was not where the creation took place.  That was just the download.  The composition was completed entirely in his mind.

If you want to play a piece of music that is way beyond your current skill level on your instrument, seeing yourself playing that piece, as perfectly and beautifully as anybody could, sensing the satisfaction and adulation that comes from executing the piece as well as you imagine, is an important step in the process of learning how to play it.  Without this sensation and very clear feeling, you won’t be able to slog through the small, intricate parts you will need to focus on and repeat, over and over again, first slowly, then perfectly, then faster, to accomplish your goal.  Without the desire, your effort will fade away too.  Visualising your ultimate success and holding that image in your mind is the bridge between desire and effort.

Similarly, sculptors see a block of stone, but in their mind, they can already see the figure they wish to create, living inside that stone.  Because of the power of their imagination, they are able to chip away only the stone that isn’t the sculpture, leaving the figure they imagined behind.

Aligning

While the first two steps of the process can be challenging, if not daunting, once you learn how to do them, things get easier and you will find you can want something to exist and envision its finished form in your mind with some alacrity.  Now comes the very difficult final step.

The final step in making absolutely anything is allowing yourself to align with the vision.  That means letting your already developed skills work on the problem of getting the thing made.  It means opening yourself to finding and seizing the opportunities to get the resources and support you need.  If your skills are not developed to the point of being able to make the thing you desire and envisage, it means letting yourself do the hard work and many hours of practice required, in order to manifest the thing you wish to create.

People struggle with aligning themselves to the vision.  They are easily distracted and discouraged.  While trying to make things, if the alignment between your being and your desire and vision is not good, you’ll find your body fighting against your mind.  You will think you just can’t do what it takes to realise your creation.  And you may be right.  You may, initially, lack the dexterity or fine motor skills to get the work done.  You might be completely baffled by the complexity of your tools.  Maybe you’ll have to read some manuals, do some tutorials, work through some simpler examples after all.

A funny thing happened, when I built my first electric guitar.  I had designed a second, perfect guitar in my mind, but built my first, a much simpler design, so that I could practice enough to make the guitar I really wanted to make.  I made the first guitar, amazing myself and others that I could, facing many challenges on the way, so that I was “match fit” to make the second.  It turned out so well, I lost some of my desire to make the second one.  That second “built from scratch” guitar still isn’t finished.  The first one, however, fits me like a glove and plays like a dream.  Even though it used to be just a pile of wood and parts, it’s now the manifestation of my imagination.  It’s a very cool thing.

The secret to aligning yourself to your vision is to celebrate incremental victories, no matter how small.  If you can do something today that you couldn’t do before, that’s a very healthy sign that the alignment you need is taking place, by small steps.  In fact, doing something that nobody ever did before comes from precisely this place.  It’s by letting yourself align with what you envision and desire.

Doing the work of making absolutely anything manifest is all about letting the creation flow out of you, trusting in your creativity and your ability.  It comes from a place of trusting in yourself and your necessity to realise what you desire and can see in your mind so clearly.  This alignment may take quite some time, in the face of setbacks and discouragement, but persistence pays off.  Even if it takes the mythical ten thousand hours of practice (or thirty thousand, if you want to be a virtuoso), everywhere is walking distance, if you have the time.

You can reach your goal, if your desire remains strong, your vision remains focused and you allow yourself to align with those very powerful anchors.

So that’s the process, folks.  It’s reliable and proven and works every time.  Every step can be uniquely difficult for you, at different times and for different things you are trying to make, but sticking to the process helps you to overcome the obstacles.  There aren’t any known workarounds or alternative processes that I am aware of.  This is it.  This is how it’s all done.  The details, of course, are down to your vision.  Whatever change you need to make in the world will require of you things that you don’t know or cannot do, today.  The work is in finding a way.

Try it.

 

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The Tedious Transhumanist

You don’t often read an analysis of what the prevailing agenda is, in Silicon Valley and what that might mean for creativity and art, but I have a foot in both camps, so to speak, so I thought I would write a post about how I see things developing, from my perspective, as both a technologist and artist.  The irony, for me, is that I see both disciplines require a great deal of comfort with innovation and creativity, yet I sense that this is not the path Silicon Valley is on.  I could be wrong, but I sense a real subversion of art, creativity and innovation, for ugly, dominating ends.  Their collective project represents, from my perspective, a genuine existential threat to artists and aesthetics.  You can read this blog post as a critique of this collective delusion, if you like.

This is one of those blog posts I have approached with a sense of dread and reluctance.  It’s painful to write it, when your assessment of the situation is that the project is well advanced, well funded, determined and organised, while opposition to it is almost non-existent, because the consequences are barely recognised at all.  Ask the average person about what Transhumanism even is and you will draw blank stares.  Yet, the project itself is insidious, harmful, dreadful and very likely to succeed, even though it is based on junk science, a massively flawed conception of humanity and blind faith in huckster-promoted science fictions.  It feels like we’re already done for.  Even writing about it feels futile.

The catalyst for this article was a keynote speech I attended, at one of the world’s larger technical conferences, hosted by a company that makes something like over 90% of the very fabric of the Internet.  This company is currently undervalued on the stock market, dependent as it has traditionally been on the sale of hardware, operated manually, by specialist geeks.  They’re trying to transform themselves into a software services powerhouse and this means they have had to embark upon major change initiatives, to take their very conservative customer base and partner ecosystem, as well as their own employees, along on their change programme.  They have had to actively foster and promote change to survive.

Their response to this imperative was to open the floor to an unabashed Transhumanist, futurologist and, in my view, charlatan.  What this huckster said, in 45 minutes, boiled my blood and aroused my every instinct to rail against it.  That’s not because I am anti-change, or uncomfortable with innovation.  It was because what this man espoused was pure, dangerous nonsense, yet a nonsense that has been embraced like a cult religion, among the board rooms of struggling Silicon Valley technology companies, trying to change themselves fast enough to survive.  I was moved to spend most of the keynote speech jotting keywords and counter arguments into Evernote, on my smart phone, while I listened.  I was incensed by what I was hearing.  I was probably the only one, in an audience of ten thousand or more, not cheering and actively lapping it up, accepting every pronouncement as gospel.  I felt as though they had already started distributing the Kool-Aid.

For those that don’t know, Transhumanism is the belief that humans, through engineering, can design and produce a superior human being.  They wrap it up in laudable enough aims, but at its very heart is a form of spectacular hubris, born of ignorance of what a human being actually is.  They start from a very blinkered and narrow view of what people are and what they’re for, which they hope to amplify.

Wikipedia says the following, about Transhumanism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism):  Transhumanism “is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and creating widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”  Note that emotional and empathic capacities are omitted.

Wikipedia goes on to say:  “Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as the ethics of using such technologies.  The most common Transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of post human beings.”

You should be very worried about this.  It’s an arid and dead philosophy, reeking of coercive eugenics.  Ethics are very much a secondary concern and the dangers are downplayed.  In the keynote speech I witnessed, they were barely mentioned at all, except by way of glibly reassuring us that it will all be OK, offering not a shred of evidence to back the bald assertion.

The keynote speaker is touted as “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age”.  He is described as a media artist, futurist, philosopher, keynote speaker and TV personality.  This is how far we have sunk.  We now list “TV personality” as a qualification.  You can read about the dude here (not that I wish to endorse him in any way):  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Silva

Here is some of his tripe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN57u7-x75w  Notice that the imagery is laden with tacit endorsements of weapons systems – weapons of conquest and mass destruction; weapons that threaten us all, with cold, ruthless, indiscriminate, mass murder, of innocents.  Those are glossed over, in the narrative, but the visual impressions are distinctly made.  Let’s also not concern ourselves with accidental, unintentional triggering of those weapons.  That’s not progressive enough, is it?

This dude is hyperactive, hyperbolic and young.  His delivery is imperative, like a child throwing a tantrum that demands to have his way.  He leaps and prances around the stage like a fidgety kid, high on some kind of substance.  Yet, he is considered to be a high priest of Silicon Valley’s current obsessive religion.  It’s a religion that wants to make humans live forever, but which abhors and discriminates against age and wisdom.  Their quest is to create a species that remains young, compliant and impressionable, yet also immortal.  If this is not a pure vanity and ego gratification project, I don’t know what is.  Who wants that kind of person to live forever?

At only 34 years of age, our keynote speaker lacks any semblance of the wisdom accumulated with age.  Heck, at 34 I didn’t have a clue, but I thought I knew everything.  I suspect he thinks he knows everything, too and has it all figured out.  Furthermore, your objections are likely to be only because you’re too old to understand the epiphanies he has had.  How can that be?  It can’t be.  It’s nonsense.

This guy makes a handsome living, I suspect, as a huckster for innovation, only he thinks that any innovation will do.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you should.  He’s only concerned that you can.  That said, his overriding concern is obviously how to make a buck in a world that doesn’t value media artists very highly.  He’s found his niche and he is milking it for all it’s worth.  The consequences be damned!   At least he gets to make his films.  If corporations want to sponsor him to sprout his brand of dangerous nonsense, so much the better for his bank balance.

The vision Transhumanists offer for humanity is one of ruthless efficiency, but insensate.  They want us to work more productively, producing greater profits for the few, but don’t want us to be any more connected to our feelings and emotions.  Rather, they prefer it if we were less connected to our feelings and emotions, especially if that conflicts with the goals of efficiency and improved productivity.  It’s a vision of humanity as pre-destined slaves.  What they aim to produce is a race of insensate psychopaths, made in the image of the very billionaires that are so hell-bent of pushing this agenda.

Take another look at the imagery.  It’s always similar:

Transhuman2.PNG

(From https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/23/the-assimilation-of-robots-into-the-workforce-as-peers-not-replacements/ – this article seeks to soothe those that fear losing their jobs, by telling them that robots will be peers, not replacements.  The assertion in the article is not convincing.)

The Transhumanist wet dream is for human flesh to be augmented by, or even replaced with metal alloys and silicon.  Silicon and metal alloys are poor substances and technologies for empathy, imagination, self replication, sustainability and awareness (self and situational).  Metal hands have no warmth or feeling.  Silicon brains have no introspection or empathy.  These aren’t technologies that can run all day on a cheese sandwich, like a human being can and they cannot self-heal.  They’re hard and brutal, like the Transhumanist vision.

Exoskeletons won’t protect us (in the workplace or in battle).  Like the suits of armour of medieval times, they’ll more often than not be a hindrance and an encumbrance, making us more vulnerable, not less.  Our thoughts won’t be held in smart phones.  The computing power necessary will never fit (at least not for a very long time) and its energy requirements will far exceed any foreseeable battery technology.  What would be the use of an identity, memory and consciousness that has a three hour battery life?  Yet, the Transhumanists are convinced that the robots will be our children and that they will inherit the Earth.  Not my children.  Not on my watch.  I care for them too much to lumber them with these defective, inferior technologies.

The Prussians, at the end of the 19th century, used to fit beautifully crafted prostheses to their war-maimed, telling them that they would be stronger and better than ever before.  It was a lie, of course.  They were never the same, let alone any better.  We still do that to today’s horribly mutilated soldiers, with our carbon fibre, Kevlar and titanium retro-fitments.  Ask any single one of them if they would like to have their previous flesh and blood limbs back and you’ll get a resounding affirmation, if they’re honest.

There’s almost nothing (if anything) in the Transhumanist agenda about enhancing or even fostering the human capacity for creativity – arguably our most remarkable characteristic.  There is nothing about enhancing our aesthetic senses (instead, it’s anaesthetic), our appreciation and capacity for beauty, or our art.  Those are considered to be irrelevant trivialities, not worthy of enhancement or even preservation.  In the Transhumanist conception, those things are hindrances, that ought to be expunged.  Instead, the obsession is with efficiency and productivity, as if that is the highest good.  Efficiency and productivity are nice to have, but for the ultimate benefit of whom?

Our current neoliberal economic system, with its blinkered focus on productivity , already induces an emotional need to prove one’s worth through one’s job, which leave’s workers in a permanent state of “fight or flight”.  It mainly manifests in the anxiety of underperformance and a sense of not being good enough, or not living up to expectations.  Is this a tendency we want to accelerate and amplify?

I found the keynote speech far too “gee whizz”.  The speaker was protected from criticism by his adherence to blind optimism and unfounded positivity.  The greatest heresy, in the Transhumanist religion, is to be negative, after all.  To be negative is to be toxic.  Lunatics like this speaker, lacking the capacity for deep, honest introspection, or for learning the lessons of history, lacking real empathy for others, are downright dangerous propagandists for what is, in essence, a thorough-going corporatist agenda.

Here’s a list of things that are missing from the Transhumanist agenda, which (as far as I can tell) they are making no attempt whatsoever to enhance and improve:

  1. Human beings are hardwired for friendship.
  2. We’re also naturally empathetic.
  3. Kindness makes us feel happy.
  4. Our first instinct is to act selflessly.
  5. A human’s ability to fall in love is biological.
  6. Holding hands with someone alleviates fear.
  7. Our bodies physically change when we hug someone.
  8. Human beings are programmed to recover from bad events.
  9. And if all of that doesn’t convince you that there’s a lot of good in human nature, know that dogs are hardwired to love us.

(Quoted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/happy-facts-for-sadness_us_5788d366e4b03fc3ee505b37)

While the Transhumanists are trying to design a better, faster, stronger, more enduring human being, there are other forces at work.  Meanwhile, in society at large (most notably post-Brexit and in the US elections), politicians, pastors, friends, and strangers, both in person and on social media now regularly out themselves as hateful, intolerant, and malicious—and they remind us just how close they are to us, just how deep the sickness in us runs, and just how far we have to go together.  Do the Transhumanists have a solution for any of this?  If anything, they’ll make it all worse.

I may have more computing power in my pocket, today, than a head of state had at his disposal 25 years ago, but does that make me any wiser?  Does the amount of computing power available to a head of state, today, make them any wiser?  Wisdom is not increasing exponentially, only our capacity and appetite for destruction has.

Among the many flaws in the Transhumanist project is that there is no way to make machines “desire” things.  They don’t dream.  Desire, of course, is the first step toward creation.  Only humans do that.  Why reduce that desire, through augmentation of the human with an engineered mechanism, or even with a biologically altered version of the human?  It’s fundamentally anti-creativity.

Transhumanists cite machine learning as being far superior to human learning.  This is smoke and mirrors, even if you consider machine learning at a data centre scale.  Machine learning is, in actuality, little more than a classification engine that creates categories on the basis of probabilities. Without vast amounts of data, confidence is low.  The faster you want the answer, the more likely it is to be hilariously wrong.  How does that improve on the human capacity for curiosity-driven learning?  It doesn’t.

What annoyed me about the tedious Transhumanist, giving his keynote speech at me, was that he was far too uncritical.  He represented a class of people too privileged and too corporate to really understand the needs and hopes of most of humanity.  He was quite content to perfect humans at the expense of losing feelings and sensations.  While he was enamoured with awe, he didn’t feel that it was essential that the half-machine, half human beings of tomorrow would experience the same thing.  This was the paradox at the heart of his address.  He wanted us to be bowled over and awed at the possibilities, but the vision was to excise our capacity to be so impressed and overawed.

On the whole, he came across as way too programmed, by years of pro-corporatist, neoliberal propaganda – the only dominant skein of political thought he would be familiar with or meaningfully exposed to, during his short life.  When the State becomes fundamentally corporatist (as it already has), then it is, by definition, Fascist.  The Transhumanist ideal sits quite comfortably with corporate control of everything.  It depends on it.  He’s awestruck by the amazing technological possibilities, professing non-conformity, but he is, in reality, the ultimate conformist.  There is no inkling that he knows a single thing about anarchy, voluntaryism, humanism or any of the other possible ways of organising human affairs, devoid of so-called leaders and rulers.  The question of who rules and what entitles them to do so is never questioned, in his world view.

Re-engineering humanity ignores utterly the threat of nuclear destruction (accidental or wanton).  It doesn’t factor in the many environmental threats to continued existence of any form of life, even if Transhuman.  Why should these threats even exist?  Why do we need to engineer human beings capable of withstanding nuclear holocaust, environmental catastrophe or the need to work with heavy loads, over extended hours?  The motivation for Transhuman design, like the motivation for all the problems a Transhuman is designed to endure, is simply neoliberal, corporate greed.  Without it, the threats abate and hence the imperative to design a being to deal with them evaporates instantly.  Transhumanism is solving the wrong problem, the wrong way.

Transhumanism also offers no solution for the current crisis of governance that is being experienced in many parts of the world.  Leadership has been unmasked as fraud.  Yet, Transhumanism offers no narrative or solutions to the idiocy at the top, the idiocy of those that vote them in and the sheer inequality that is driving all the childish hurt and anger.  With Transhumanism silent on all of these pressing issues, you have to wonder.  Transhumanism to what end?

Their design and vision for humanity is to make us faster and cheaper, bigger and better, enduring longer and tolerating more abuse.   What we actually need is a species that takes time to understand their fellow human beings, before creating things and experiences of value to other people.  Transhumanism is a tired, out of date, irrelevant conception of what it is to be better than a human.  It lacks imagination and is simply the stale regurgitation of discredited, dysfunctional, destructive and doomed ideas about how one improves life for oneself, while disregarding the well-being of everybody else alive or yet to be born.  In short, it’s a dead end idea, propagated by dead head thinkers.

The reality of our modern, connected, networked world is that there soon won’t be enough electrical energy generated to run our IP networks.  That’s yet another problem that remains unsolved, which Transhumanism is silent about.

What place is there for failure, in the Transhumanist future?  Every artist knows that failure is a necessary and unavoidable step on the way to success, but Transhumanism seems to ignore this entirely.  Failures will simply be re-engineered.  Version one will be perfection personified.  There won’t be any failures and no need to mop up the mess and try again.  Sure.  And pigs might fly.  Engineering, being a fundamentally creative process, doesn’t proceed in that manner.  Given that the first Transhumans are likely to be failures, what should become of them?  What are the ethics of scrapping an improved human being that didn’t turn out that way?

While this stupid huckster was prancing around the stage, espousing a perfected future, just beyond our current grasp, there was something else in the gigantic arena that gave me some small hope.  While the speaker was talking about improving on the human mind and its mortal body, above me one of the stage lights, constructed of LEDs, was flickering.  It was a flickering of hope.  We’re going to re-engineer humanity, but we can’t even design a stage light that doesn’t fail.  That flickering light was a ray of hope to me, because it proved that without superior maintenance, all our designs are worthless.

So, this tub thumper for billionaires and start up culture, as practised in Silicon Valley, did his schtick, trotting out trite, tired quotes from discredited pundits and pseudo intellectuals.  The whole thing reminded me that I was a committed Rehumanist.  See my earlier blog post on what that means:  https://tropicaltheartist.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/rehumanising-through-art/

Noam Chomsky’s view on Transhumanism and the so-called “singularity” is closer to my thoughts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kICLG4Zg8s  The Singularity is Science Fiction.

Here’s a quote from that video, about what it means to programme future human beings with artificial intelligence:  “What’s a program? A program is a theory; it’s a theory written in an arcane, complex notation designed to be executed by the machine. What about the program, you ask?  The same questions you ask about any other theory: Does it give insight and understanding?  These theories don’t.  So what we’re asking here is: Can we design a theory of being smart?  We’re eons away from doing that.”

No, the keynote speaker I endured was evidently addicted to epiphanies, but very shallow epiphanies.  Just because an idea precipitates a personal epiphany, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

In any case, Transhumanism is going nowhere while we remain, as a people, so conservative, violent, ignorant, dependent on technologies we can’t begin to understand, fearful, paranoid, insular, addicted to the cult of leadership personalities, while we believe the fraud that is the money system to be legitimate and while we think we need daily governance, in all things, by people and corporations we think know better what is good for us, than we do, who are prepared to enforce it with violence.

Humans will never progress, while we remain drunk on power, which is just another way of saying people who think they have enough privilege to break the laws that are enforced on lesser mortals.

Humanity will not progress while we dismiss the intrinsic and fundamental value of creativity and art, or while we delegate shocking, inhuman powers to leaders that we ourselves do not have.

While we revel, with pride, in our inability to take in, absorb and live by demonstrably better ideas than the ones we doggedly, stubbornly, irrationally and stupidly cling to, there will be no transformation, Transhuman or other.

While we use anonymity to cloak our misdeeds and shame to control the lives of others, we’re going nowhere better.  While we think the key to success, meaning the accumulation of material wealth and privilege, is to remain positive and pretend all is well, when clearly there are people that need our help urgently, we’re going to remain moronic.

Instead, we remain wedded to conquest, to vanquishing and humiliating our enemies, retaliation, revenge and command and control hierarchies.  None of that will make humanity any better.  Transhumanism simply entrenches it.

There are no design improvements planned, here.  There is no current project to realise them.

 

 

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Perceptual Distortion

I don’t often work with oils, mainly because of the messiness involved in having canvases lying around that take ages to dry, but occasionally I get the chance to paint a portrait where I have the sitter available for several sessions in a row.  When that opportunity arises, working with oils can be very satisfying, because the paint handles in an entirely different way to acrylics and you have the luxury of being able to rework parts of the painting, before the paint hardens.  You get to perfect your painting, with that much time available to you.

Most of the time, I find that the work of portrait painting in oils is about trying to master the materials.  First, you need to learn how to work the paint, how the pigments interact, which colours are capable of covering others and which are more transparent.  You have to master your brush strokes and your draughtsmanship, incorporating perspective and learning to see the tones and shadows.  You have to match those shadows and tones with the colours you know how to mix.  It’s basically a battle with technique and your powers of observation.  You hone your skills until you get to the point where you don’t have to think about the mechanics of painting, quite so consciously.

At some point, though, the battle with the materials recedes into the background and you begin to glimpse the process of relaying what you see to what’s on your canvas.  This is where things go surprisingly weird.  You probably think that once you have the mechanical aspects of painting down well enough, that the process of painting a portrait is simply one of observing carefully and then taking dictation from your visual senses, via your hands, onto the painting itself.  I discovered that this view is simplistic and wrong.

I noticed that, as carefully as you observe and as skilled as you might be at manipulating paint (though never skilled enough, it seems), even though you correctly see your subject and note all the finer details of shadow and light, even though you know how to measure cardinal facial points relative to one another, at least intellectually, your brain gets in the way.  Even though you know what you ought to paint and have the facility to paint it, you paint something different.

Rather than painting the person sitting in front of you, you paint a person, but one shaped by your own perceptual distortions.  I find that my state of mind and my emotional state are subtly overlaid onto the image I reproduce.  The person I paint winds up being a composite of the sitter I actually observe, and the feelings and emotions I attribute to the image, given how I am feeling at the time.  In other words, my mental state has the ability to bend and warp the image I observe, into the image I actually commit to canvas.  I don’t produce a true image, in the way a camera might, but I create a person, drawn from the real life sitter, but augmented by my own imagination.  It’s an augmented reality.

I find I have a tendency to straighten and level individual facial features, even though the head of the subject is on a tilt.  I know it’s on a tilt and I have marked the cardinal points on the painting correctly and mechanically, yet my hand wants to re-level those features into some imaginary, idealised form.  I might like the person I am painting, but if I am feeling sad or distracted, that seems to be the facial expression I impose on the portrait.  It’s a very strange phenomena that you know is happening, but you are almost powerless to stop.

All this might mean that I have reached a point, in portrait painting, where I have to learn to divorce my feelings from the emotions I am representing in the face of the model.  So far, I don’t have a grasp of how to do that, clearly.

The challenge for me, now, is to decontaminate my image, separating what I see from what I feel and letting the feelings of the model remain in the image, rather than being smothered by mine.  That, I think, requires a deeper empathy for what the model might be feeling and their internal emotional state, as betrayed by the tiny, almost imperceptible subtleties of their facial features and comportment.  How they hold their facial muscles is a result of how they feel and so reproducing those feelings means learning how to separate those from my own.  These feelings change, of course, during the sitting.  No person can maintain the same emotional state for that period of time.  Capturing their fleeting emotions, while ignoring my own, is going to be a tough challenge, because I feel things acutely and keenly.  Suppressing my own reaction to the subject and the process I am engaged in is going to be hard.  Perhaps the key is in trying to match my emotional state to that of my sitter.  Synchronicity of emotion might make the problem less difficult to tackle.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting.  This is the first time I have really been aware of the distortion your perceptions can exert on what you observe.  There’s a greater life lesson in that, applicable to all kinds of information you think you take in objectively.  You don’t.  You’re always distorting reality according to your internal emotional and mental state.  That’s worth bearing in mind, I think.

If you are a representational painter, then removing as much of that perceptual distortion as possible is important.  Removing the distortion is how you get close to capturing the true essence of your sitter, to give the impression of realism.  On the other hand, the abstract expressionist thrives on that same perceptual distortion, making that the subject matter of the painting, more than the model in front of them.  It’s all a matter of what you’re trying to accomplish.

See if you can notice when your perceptions are being distorted by your own internal state.  Once you are aware of this phenomenon, you can’t unsee it.  See for yourself.

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The Unbridgeable Yawning Chasm

We torment ourselves.  Many creative, imaginative people dream up grandiose, highly ambitious schemes that can never be realised.  Either they lack the resources, the time, the energy, the skills or their plan is just too complex and intricate.  Perhaps its success is reliant on upsetting too many apple carts and unseating too many entrenched positions.  Yet, for all the impracticality of their designs, they have such an enchantment about them that artists remain in their thrall, hopelessly chained to ideal, even Utopian futures that can never happen, seemingly forever.

This rift between imagination and reality can be very draining.  The massive distance between what you can see in your mind’s eye and what you gaze upon, in everyday, mundane, banal reality, can be staggering.  You may have well-formed, even wholly feasible ideas in your head, but you just don’t seem to be able to manifest them.  This is an agony that only creative people know, I think.

The irony of this particular torment is that it is entirely self-inflicted.  You can stop the frustration at any point, simply by giving up on those beautiful, enticing ideas or not thinking about these sorts of things at all.  Why can’t we stop?

That seems to be the thing about creative people.  Artists gain great comfort from seeing a better world, even if only in their imaginations.  It’s a survival skill.  Being asked to accept the world as it is, with all its terrible imperfections and shortcomings, is unbearable.  We imagine to escape.  Our comfort zone is living inside our own heads, where the world can be very much closer to being arranged to our liking.  This is where the beautiful ideas form.  It’s where the messy problems dissolve into shining, benevolent answers.  Here, you can become your best self, realising your every ideal, in a friction-less way.

The problem is: it’s just a hallucination.  Living inside your head exclusively is not actually possible.  You have to exist in the real world.  If you actually want to thrive in it, you have to have some agency over it and this is where the struggle lies.  The artists’ struggle is in trying to shape the world to become a closer facsimile to their conception of it.  It’s a Herculean task, which can and has crushed many a mere mortal, such as artists tend to be.

I have to confess to becoming quite discouraged about the chasm that separates my imaginings and my reality.  There are books I would love to complete (or attempt to commence, even), paintings I want to finish, songs I want to record and release, studios I want to establish, aids to musicians and artists being able to have viable careers, which pay, that I want to construct.  I have plans for my house and garden that will require huge injections of funds to accomplish.  I have inventions and designs, musical instruments and circuits, software and tools that I would love to make, or to cause to come into existence somehow.  I just can’t get that to happen.

Your mortality stares you in the face.  The older you get, the more distinct is its image, when you look at yourself in the mirror.  You’re ageing, losing your youthful vigour and fading away, inexorably.  Every day is one day closer to not having the capacity to bring all the wonderful ideas in your head into reality.  My father, at the end of his days, lost the capacity to design things in his head.  Three dimensional objects no longer made any sense to him.  He couldn’t correctly draw a clock face, from memory and working out how to post a letter into a letter box completely defeated him, in his old age.  Dementia is a terrible thing.

My father was the consummate creator.  He made things.  All kinds of things.  We lived in a house that he built, more or less by himself, with his own two hands.  All of our furniture was designed on pieces of paper, and then constructed, from pieces of timber, in our own workshop.  We learnt how to spray on the nitrocellulose finishes by trial and error.

My teenage “happy place” was the workbench in our garage, where I could build guitars, solder musical circuits together, work on making things that didn’t exist before, except in my imagination.  Our teenage bands rehearsed in that garage.  So many weekends spent learning to make music together.  My dad’s band rehearsed there too.

My father constructed our vegetable garden, from the unpromising clay of our back yard, but filled it with rich, fertile, alluvial loam.  We shovelled every cubic metre of that soil into the holes we had dug into the unyielding clay, by hand, with our shovels and spades.  He and I grew vegetables in it.  That’s the nearest thing to getting something for nothing, save your willingness to contribute some sweat and care, to nurture those fragile seedlings into something abundant.  Nature’s bounty is nothing if not generous.  Those vegetables sustained us and there were always strawberries.  If you have never tasted vegetables and fruits, picked freshly from the plant, you really haven’t lived.  It should be on everybody’s bucket list.

As much as you bring into existence, there are always more ideas that remain in your head exclusively.  I’m sure it’s possible for people to imagine much more than any human life can ever accomplish.  That’s the tragedy of it.

Worse than the ideas that never become real are those that do become real, but only because other people thought them up, too and accomplished them.  I have a litany of really good ideas I couldn’t persuade employers to believe in, at the time.  Those ideas were made by competitors and it caused the companies I was in to fail.  I lost my job, too.  I felt responsible, because had I been more persuasive or taken more of the initiative, it could have been us and not our competitors that brought the thing into the world.  It has been a very painful life lesson, repeated, regrettably, too often.

And still, my head remains full of ideas that haven’t yet been done, but which could have transformed companies I no longer work in.  I have some ideas on rewarding and encouraging personal motivation that could make somebody very rich.  I believe I know how to make it possible for professional musicians to manage their own careers and product, online, making a decent living from it.  There is an idea for a virtual data centre and network so distributed that it exists only in the suburbs.  It can work.  I know it’s feasible, but it’s too much for me to build alone.  The task of persuading enough people to believe in any of these, to secure their support and effort, in a clear, concise and compelling way, is even too big a task for just one man.  I’ve incubated some of these ideas for well over a decade.

There are superior ways of making music with computers that I know can work.  I even know how to build them and have a track record in making these sorts of things.  What I lack is the energy to muster the support and to fight the doubters.  I can’t divert my energies to second guessing and end-running the funders, when they try to subvert the exercise.  The politics of creating a creative organisation repel me.  These distractions are friction; a complete waste of energy that doesn’t advance the process of creating something one little bit and is, if anything, just another obstacle.

Why can’t people understand that bringing something imaginary into reality is hard enough work, without introducing all the peripheral baggage to the exercise?  People, who aren’t creative by inclination, fill their days on Earth with concerns over things that, in the process of creation, have no value.  They’d rather worry about their position and privilege, or their money, instead of whether or not something magical can be brought into everybody’s reality.

And so, my everyday reality is to live staring into that unbridgeable, yawning chasm between ambition and ability.  I don’t know how to resolve it.  I suspect this is a common experience to most artists.

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Still Searching for the Illusive Magic Leader

Being an artist lets you see things differently.  I like that.  Thinking like an artist let’s you pick complicated things up and view them from different angles, noticing the aspects that are mostly out of sight, ordinarily.  You can get different viewpoints and perspectives, even though the thing you’re examining is a familiar thing, which everybody else can observe, too.  I see things differently, as a result.  Sometimes I don’t like what I see, though.

When I sat down to write this piece, this morning, I was so disillusioned and dispirited by all the ugliness I had seen, since the UK referendum on membership of the European Union campaign got under way, that I felt too much disgust to even attempt to write.

Can I be bothered commenting on this post-referendum fiasco?  I’d rather be upgrading my recording studio, right now, to be perfectly honest (I bought a new version of Cubase on Friday).  Yet I feel compelled to have my say, in an attempt to describe it the way I see it.  I don’t have a monopoly on wisdom either, unlike some people that think they have.

There are people, for example, who actively campaigned to leave the EU just to defeat what they perceived as an evil EU dictatorship.  They’re right about what it is, to some degree and I share their critiques of how the EU has behaved, but these campaigners have done bugger all to safeguard people and the environment, in the transition they’ve had a hand in precipitating.  I don’t think their master plan was very wise.  They’ve left a lot to the vagaries of chance and potentially very destructive forces.  People can get hurt that way.  I don’t think that is conscionable.

The other thing that has been glossed over, in all of this, is that it’s globalism that’s failed to consider the safety, security and life chances of the majority of people, not just the bureaucracy of the EU.  Every national government has been complicit in this assault on the working and middle classes as well.  The EU was just one evil of many.  Singling it out for a damn good hiding is pyrrhic.

I started from a position of not liking either of the two referendum options available to me.  Both were crappy positions, in my view.  The only good options were going to take a widespread change of mindset and that would take patience and time.  It would need to be gentle and protective.  Perhaps time had already run out, but it has to be said that the mindset of most people is still as off-target as it ever was and arguably more so.  That would include all of those that imagined that campaigning to leave the EU would strike a blow for the people.

Here’s what happened (I wager).  A bunch of boys, brought up to believe they had an entitlement to lead, as proven to them by their privilege and attendance at Eton, messed up.  Three amigos, Cameron, Gove and Johnson, cooked up a ruse to settle their ultra right wing Tory back benchers down, once and for all and to defeat the blatant chancer, Farage, who kept muddying their waters.  The plan, it seems, was to put up an absurd campaign for exiting, lead by people that could subsequently claim to have fought an honourable, if unsuccessful fight, which would be defeated by an overwhelming realisation that common sense must prevail.  It relied on a belief in the deep seated conservatism of the nation, which had brought them back to power.

Part of the plan was to terrify the electorate into remaining in the EU, partly by direct threats to their livelihoods, but also by portraying the leave campaign as something insane.  In essence, they were playing both sides against the middle, using Farage as a pawn.  It was pure theatre.  Outrageous lies and manipulation were employed, to shore up the PM’s personal power and prestige, while paving the way for his school chums and lifelong allies, as his successors.  The gamble went wrong.  It blew up in their faces, as evidenced by their stony faces in press conferences, when the referendum result was announced.  My favourite quote was a description of Michael Gove as looking like somebody that had come down from a bad acid trip, to the realisation that he had murdered his best friend (I wish I could recall where I read that, so that I could give it proper attribution).

It has been said that David Cameron will go down in history as the worst post-war Prime Minister; a gambler lacking even the spine to bet his reputation (and the country’s economy) on something he believed in.  The whole referendum was rooted in deep cynicism.  Former leader of the Liberal Democrats and Former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, indicated as much in his post-referendum editorial piece in the newspaper.

What was as much breathtaking as noteworthy, in this cunning plan, was the sheer arrogant self-assurance of their reckless gamble.  They thought they could order around the “little people”, ad-infinitum and that they would have to suck it up and be meekly manipulated, yet again, but the people have bitten back.  They’ve said, “No more!”

There never was a plan for leaving the EU.  A ban issued from Downing Street on Brexit preparations – lest it boost the leave campaign – meant Britain’s most senior officials were permitted to “think” about a Brexit, but not allowed to write anything down.

In fact, this is all the proof you need that the whole scheme was cooked up and that Cameron, Gove and Johnson were complicit in it.  Had they sincerely believed in leaving the EU, they would have made careful preparations for the moment when this rare opportunity presented itself.  They would have detailed plans of action to execute and be able to navigate the choppy waters with assured confidence, for what to do next.  At the moment of their victory, they would have seized the moment and put their carefully thought-through next-steps into action.  But they didn’t.  They have no plan.  This one undeniable, unarguable fact shows they were never serious about winning.

Farage has spent his entire adult life, it seems, replaying some secret childhood psychodrama, from which he seems to find no relief.  A dusty old letter that emerged during the campaign, from the staff of Dulwich College, begging the headmaster not to make him a Prefect, because of his offensive and unacceptable bullying and behaviour, is as illuminating as it is disturbing.  What happened to that child to turn him into the thinly-disguised, rabid racist that he evidently is?

Yet, having unexpectedly won, leave campaigners present themselves as people that know what they’re doing.  Their new leader will be along shortly.  All will be well.  You’ll see.  The Armageddon has been greatly exaggerated.  When their new leader is installed, all the fears of the Remain camp will be dispelled and utopian conditions will prevail – unless you’re an immigrant, of course.

Leadership is bullshit and always was.  It’s a delusion.  It imagines the existence of some superior, wise being, with insight, courage and integrity far beyond that of ordinary mortals.  The very notion is comic book fiction, not reality.  This referendum fiasco provides ample proof that leadership is so fallible, as to be utterly useless.  Our so-called leaders cooked up this mess.  They made what they regarded as a foolproof plan, that didn’t result in their expected vote to remain.  They let resentments and exclusion fester, for several generations, in ruined, shuttered, unemployed towns and cities, while they got rich.  They turned blind eyes to genuine suffering and misery and did nothing to alleviate it.  “Let them eat cake”.  Enshrined in their dogma was the primary need to protect the economy (meaning the biggest beneficiaries of the economy), even if that had to be at the expense and sacrifice of the lives of other people.  Leadership did not have its eye on the ball.  There was no leadership.  Just weasels on the make.

The Labour party is reacting to the referendum result by questioning its leadership.  The conservatives are currently effectively leaderless, with Cameron having resigned rather than clearing up his own mess.  Even the Greens are searching for the illusive magic leader and putting their faith in leadership, as a concept.

Meanwhile, nastiness and bitterness has been unleashed.  We’ve seen a wave of rampant, unalloyed hate speech.  I’ve seen examples of harassment, abuse, insults and racism – putrid, vile, naked racism – with my own two eyes.  It wasn’t as visible, before, though I’m sure it was present.  There’s plenty of evidence for it, now.

Sadly, I was publicly slandered, on social media, by somebody who I respect and follow, but who is a little too Gung Ho, for my liking, about the urgency of bringing about the destruction of the EU bureaucracy, without saying or even suggesting what will fill the resulting void.  He alleged I thought all who had voted to leave the EU were stupid.  Regular readers will know I aim to edify and uplift people, consistently.  I believe sincerely in the potential people have to solve their own problems, through creativity and application of their own particular genius.  In other words, I believe people can live without leaders telling them how they should.  I also happen to believe that, to date, hardly anybody has thought things through to the degree necessary.

That, I suppose, makes us all stupid, to varying degrees.  I don’t discriminate in this by singling out the Leavers.  The Remainers don’t have any better answers for a fairer, more equitable society either.  And I certainly don’t have all the answers (and why should I?)  My belief is that it was the haughty, out of touch, imperious leadership of the EU and UK that brought us to this point.  Everybody thought they had it all under control, but nobody really did.

To suggest I think only the Leave voters are stupid is a crass, gross mischaracterisation of everything I stand for.  I’ve been writing in support of social justice for years.  Starving artists are, after all, just a symptom of the political detachment and corrupt malaise at the top.  Artists are but one group of many that have been grossly disadvantaged, by neoliberalism.  Such misunderstandings are, of course, easy to reach, in 140 characters, I suppose, but the slander has been repeated.  There is no way to stop its propagation.  I feel the indignation of it keenly.

Michael Sandel, in an interview with the New Statesman, said this:  “Politics, for the most part, fails to address the big questions that matter most and that citizens care about: what makes for a just society, questions about the common good, questions about the role of markets, and about what it means to be a citizen.  A second source of the frustration is the sense that people feel less and less in control of the forces that govern their lives.  And the project of democratic self-government seems to be slipping from our grasp.

A large constituency of working-class voters feel that not only has the economy left them behind, but so has the culture, that the sources of their dignity, the dignity of labour, have been eroded and mocked by developments with globalisation, the rise of finance, the attention that is lavished by parties across the political spectrum on economic and financial elites, the technocratic emphasis of the established political parties.”

The above is a pretty accurate summation of what’s going on.  The problem’s root cause is correctly identified, I think.  It doesn’t, however, suggest where to go.

I had an interesting exchange, on twitter, with somebody representing The Design Trust’s twitter account.  They said: “So sad how many people blame lack of jobs & affordable houses on ‘foreigners’. How can the facts be better communicated & understood?”

With tongue in cheek, my response was, “Better infographics?”  Anybody that knows me well will understand that I am often torn between writing something out, in painstaking detail and the need to condense my message into sound bites and easily digestible infographics, to cater for reduced attention spans.  It’s an issue that torments me often.

The response came back:   “That didn’t seem to work? I saw lots of great infographics showing facts vs. beliefs”.

My answer?  “Then perhaps a relentless 40 year campaign of newspaper mogul points of view being thrust down everybody’s throats daily?”

Democracy has been hollowed out.  What kind of democracy is it when the electorate’s information comes from 95% of the media that knowingly endorses lies, to suit their agenda?  I think journalists and the media played a role in getting us to this point.  I meant it with some irony, but there was a serious subtext.

My interlocutor then responded: “how can we get people to think for themselves? To question? To stop blaming? To take a positive stance?”

I replied that, “It starts with education. Evidently, education hasn’t equipped people to do those things.”  It’s not fit for purpose.  In other words, it has been merely playing its part in shoring up the power and privilege of the few, for the longest time.

Somebody else helpfully chimed in: “the older generation, who voted ‘out’ in droves, get their info from newspapers, not online infographics.”

To which, the Design Trust tweeted: “One of many things we need is law to make papers print corrections the same size as original story”.

In any case, I think it shows that urban elites would rather blame communication than the real root causes.  I don’t think the Design Trust was being deliberately off-target and it’s true that communication plays a part in all of this, but it also wasn’t the whole reason that things had come to a vote to leave.  I’m grateful to whoever is behind that twitter account for engaging in a debate.  It helped me clarify my thoughts.

 

All economies are underpinned by human effort.  The only real things in an economy are ingenuity, effort, sweat, application, diligence thinking and working – all totally human factors.  There would be no economy if people just didn’t bother.  The rest – the money, stocks, trades, asset registers, risk assessments, preference shares – is abstraction.  It only exists to describe the real economy, consisting of human activities, trying to improve life.  There’s only so much exploitation of humanity you can accomplish and frankly, we’re nearing saturation point.  Neoliberal economic policy has milked the people that create the real value, in the economy, to the advantage of people that deal only in the abstractions.  Somehow, in so doing, those traders in abstractions get a bigger share of the tangible benefits of all that effort and skill.

The trouble with flouncing into a revolution, such as leaving the EU represents, is that there is nothing in place to create currency at the point of value creation, by the value recipient.   Bitcoin mining doesn’t even achieve this.   But that’s how to bring ownership of the abstractions closer to those that make the contributions to the economy that actually produce better conditions for human life.  Even a homeless person, devoid of hope, with a tattoo plastered over their face (inflicted on them by a psychopath, to take their money, with little regard to the ruination of their life chances) can give something of themselves to somebody else, in order to earn some medium of exchange that lets them trade and become economically active.  While we passively wait for leaders to act redistributively, no money reaches those at the bottom.  They’re not considered valuable, even though everybody is capable of contributing something of value to others.

As a people, we haven’t done the really vital, important work, however.  The population barely knows how to remember its facebook passwords and for some, even social media is beyond their skill set, so we’re not very well prepared to live in a hierarchy-free society.  Expecting a leader to emerge from this stock is an exercise in hallucinatory fantasy, of course.  Living without leaders is currently just a little way beyond our grasp.  The point is: we’re not doing enough to close that gap, but we could be, if we chose to.  Instead, we’re too busy hoping and waiting for a magical leader.

We live in a post-fact age.  Carl Sagan’s combustible mixture of technology dependence and ignorance is blowing up in our faces.  Facts have never been so disdained, distrusted, discounted and ignored.  That’s not a good basis to build a new reality or social settlement.  Ignorance is not, in fact, bliss.

Some people who voted to leave thought they were making a protest vote, not a decision.  Now they regret it.  People are petitioning to overturn the result.  It’s too late.  Things will move on faster than that.  Brussels already acts as though we’ve left.  Patience is exhausted.  This genie is out of its bottle.

Interestingly, some people that voted to remain also feel the disenfranchisement of the current, prevailing, neoliberal establishment acutely, with its rampant, heartless, insouciant inequality.  They just didn’t feel that jumping off a cliff was the best way to proceed.  There’s some validity to that point of view.  Even the most ardent leave campaigner must acknowledge that.

As a population we all still have an entrenched belief in States and State governance, even if we shift the boundaries and leaders around.  We believe in its inherent violence and in hierarchy.  We think it’s all better if everybody is the same, ignoring the fact that without dissent, progress is impossible.  We don’t understand money creation, media manipulation, or commerce’s role in inequality.  We are frankly bamboozled, as a populace.  And NOBODY has the answers.

Quoting Vincent Bevins of the LA Times: “Both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years.

Questions such as – Who are the losers of globalisation, and how can we spread the benefits to them and ease the transition?  Is it fair that the rich can capture almost all the gains of open borders and trade, or should the process be more equitable?  Can we really sustainably create a media structure that only hires kids from top universities (and, moreover, those prick graduates that can basically afford to work for free for the first 5-10 years) who are totally ignorant of regular people, if not outright disdainful of them?  Do we actually have democracy, or do banks just decide?  Immigration is good for the vast majority, but for the very small minority who see pressure on their wages, should we help them, or do they just get ignored?”

Decency, prosperity, independence, self-determination, liberty, human dignity, safety, security, a good environment to live in, nutritious food, clean air and water for all – these are all at risk, right now.  It’s no good for a chosen few have them and the rest not.  We’re no further forward.  This is where we started.

Some want to revive Thatcherism, brutal, bigoted Nationalism and Fascism.  As in any corporatocracy, they want to hand the reins of control to corporate power, through privatisation – the theft of public goods, sold to corporations at bargain prices, along with a license to milk us all for profit, in perpetuity.  These, in fact, are the stated aims of many on the “winning” side.  Will any of that work?  Why hasn’t it worked before?

In this referendum process, but also through the institutions we have jointly upheld for some 40 years, we’ve lost empathy, compassion, tolerance, kindness, interdependence, agency, inclusion, and the embrace of diversity.   We’ve lost our reputation for calm, considered, measured progress.  The promises made to secure the win can’t and won’t come true.

Taking their country back (or making American great again, by voting for Trump) won’t end unemployment or underemployment, won’t end zero-hours contracts, or increase their real wages.  It won’t re-enfranchise them.  It won’t result in cohesion in their communities or investments in their future, their community infrastructure and their well being.  It won’t make the passive, powerless, downtrodden, have-nots into overnight successes, unleashing them to make positive contributions.  It won’t end their misery and precarity.  Their health and healthcare won’t improve.  There won’t be any new opportunities created and perhaps rather fewer of them will be available.  Childcare, flexible working, part-time working, parental leave – these are issues which affect women more and which received very little focus.  These improvements in life are not automatically granted or conferred, simply by overthrowing the current leaders and putting in new ones.  It’s going to take doing the hard, long work to learn to live without leadership and their attendant oppression.

I like the idea of anarchy, in that there are no rulers, but I don’t like a disorderly anarchy.  A free-for-all, where people are free to rob, murder, lie to and cheat each other, is not the optimal outcome and certainly not the only possible outcome.  In any case, many people live with the prospect of being robbed, killed, lied to and cheated right now and we have leaders!  Often, it’s their damned leaders that are doing the robbing, killing, lying and cheating!  People can and should be and do better than that.  They can find that within themselves, not at the point of a gun or under threat of being locked in a cage by a “justice” system (which frequently acts in profoundly unjust ways).

I feel that the UK referendum has brought us no further forward and potentially a long way backward, despite the assurances of some that this is all a carefully worked out, cunning plan, to defeat “the man”.  The hubris is staggering.  They think they can control the forces unleashed, too.

Pandora’s Box has been opened, releasing fearsome demons and nobody has a viable plan for the future, of any sort.  Jo Cox was violently murdered – a person trying to extend compassion and fairness, as far as I can see.  How did we honour her memory?  By voting against everything she stood for.  Nobody knows what’s going to happen and nobody knows how to put things right.  The chancers will insist they do, but they don’t.

Government minister Sajid Javid, appearing on the Andrew Marr show this morning, was accused, on twitter, of “saying nothing, being nothing. The very problem at the heart of UK politics today. Nothingy nobodies wasting time.”  These are not the leaders we seek.  We will never find the leaders we need.  No Blairite, no Neoliberal, no Thatcher-invoker, no greedy Globalist, no Eurocrat, no Little Englander, no New World Order zealot and no Way-seeing Warrior against the covert eugenic conspiracy of oppression.  Not a one of them has a single clue.

We don’t have a population on top of the brief either.  They’re not prepared for the national debate or for negotiating a better place in the world.  They haven’t the vaguest conception of a post-State society or what’s possible without leaders.  “We’re in the midst of something far grander and more perilous than just a crisis of government or a crisis of capitalism.  We are in the midst of a broad and devastating crisis of authority”.  Nobody has a clue about how to live in a post-authoritarian world.  They’ve got nothing.

They should have been up at night studying, but they weren’t.  Where there should be knowledge and a solid grasp of the issues at stake, there is only gut feelings, childishness, tantrums, jingoism, intolerance, impotent rage, uninformed opinion and a belligerent belief that whatever they think must be right, because they think it.  If you disagree, you must be the stupid enemy, fit only to be violently eliminated.

You cannot portray this course of action (the decision to leave the EU) as rooted in careful consideration of how to remove the things that have robbed most people of their dignity and sense of control over the forces influencing their lives.  It’s nothing of the sort.  They really haven’t prepared for this and no amount of insistence that they aren’t simply amoral, ignorant, unthinking beasts will turn them into people with a considered view as to the society they want to create.

To simply dismiss the urbanites as regarding working and middle class people with disdain, believing them to be ignorant bigots, a lesser-evolved sub-species, who don’t know what’s good for them, is just another form of lazy prejudice.  It is as breezily dismissive of urbanites (and those that have tried to think a little more deeply) as is the dismissiveness they’re condemning.  It needs to be said that there is no solid intelligence underlying the course we’ve now embarked upon.

Hardly anything has been thought through.  We’re all expected to respect acting on visceral, raw, base, primal, brutal instinct.  They felt deep pain and howled.  In reality, all the leave voters accomplished was showing two fingers to the failed establishment elites that have ruled them so badly.  Great, bravo, but that’s not enough.  We shouldn’t pretend it’s enough.  While their grievances, rooted in economic exclusion and inequality, are wholly legitimate, their solutions are infantile, wrong-headed and unlikely to work.  As a group, the leavers don’t even have a coherent goal or project.  They are divided into factions that stand for completely different and mutually contradictory visions of a future Britain.  There is no unity.

It’s an establishment article of faith that, for people to get what they want, they need to know what is going on.  That’s been repudiated at the ballot box, but who can seriously suggest that to get what you need, you absolutely need to not know what is going on?  That just makes no sense at all.  Yet, the privileged now have almost no ability to stem the tide of anti-establishment rage, even when it’s irrational and driven by ignoble impulses.

And still, regrettably, the vast majority of people are default authoritarians at heart.  They’ve had no mental preparation for anything else.

This fixation with leadership (from Paul Mason) is typical: “Is Jeremy Corbyn the ideal leader?  It’s impossible to tell what an ideal leader is.  For the historic period that’s opened up, with populist politics and nationalist rhetoric corroding the power of reason I really don’t know what kind of leadership we will need.”  Even David Cameron, in his resignation speech, cited the need for fresh leadership.  Clinging to this notion of leadership is what is at the root of our current crisis.  Our expectations of a leader can never be met.  There’s no such God-like human being.  Therefore, we need to think of another way of living.

People want a magical, strong leader – a figure of genuine authority, to set the world to rights.  In the midst of a crisis of authority, where the authorities and elites are (rightly) held in contempt and disrepute, why are we still searching for authoritarian solutions and authority figures?  It’s so self-contradictory as to be utterly insane.  Like every previous revolution, people are hell bent on installing a different version of the very establishment institutions they’re revolting against, with all the same faults and corruptions.

It’s time to begin to consider alternative social settlements, which don’t involve hierarchical, privileged, elite structures of power and governance, the inevitable failure of which have caused this crisis.  To turn Brexit into something positive, we need to lose our appetite for authoritarian structures and embrace the ideas set forth, for over a century, by anarchists and voluntaryists, for less interference into the lives of others, by self-appointed, privileged elites that imagine they know what’s better for you and me.

People had better start doing their studying.

And there is no magic leader.  There never will be.  There never was.

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