Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Venus Syndrome

I’ve got this dream. It’s a nightmare, really. It involves the effects of runaway global warming. It can’t be stopped and the temperature soars, boiling the oceans and scorching the land. Life is extinguished. The tectonic process stops. It’s called the Venus Syndrome. And it scares the shit out of me.

Now I am an optimist, people tell me. But I do like to know what the odds are, in everything I consider. Like, what’s the best that could happen and what’s the worst. Global warming. What a fluffy phrase that has become. Almost comforting. Warm is good. Maybe what we should be calling the phenomenon is ‘uncontrolled potentially catastrophic global heating’.

The worst case scenario goes a bit like this, I think. Rising ocean temperatures suddenly cause trillions of tonnes of subsea methane to be belched into the atmosphere rapidly raising global heating by several degrees. This in turn leads to a massive increase in the methane and CO2 released from the tundra, raising temperatures still further.

The Amazon and the Taiga burn. Everything burns. All the ice melts, very quickly. There are mass extinctions. The oceans begin to evaporate and the water vapour strengthens the greenhouse effect. As the temperature climbs all life is snuffed out. The surface temperature of our sister planet Venus is 450 degrees Celsius. Gas mark 12.

Oh, and it’s too late to do anything about it. The process is now unstoppable. Like yeast farting in a sealed belling jar, we're doomed by our own emmissions. It’s now a case of when not if. Oh, shit.

Anyways, that’s my nightmare. It’s worth considering, surely, if only to focus the mind on the need for real action now, not the ‘wait and see’ approach our leaders follow. Maybe it will take a major disaster, a mega disaster before real action is taken. I just hope it won’t be too late. And I really hope it’s just a dream.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The Fart Knocker

In company he'd knock one off
In silence, slink away.
'Who dropped that? Dirty rat!'
He'd hold his nose and say.

Then broadly smile while innocents,
Red-faced and all, denied.
In fact, he was the Fart Knocker,
From whom you cannot hide.

He'll drop one at a wedding,
An extra thoughtful gift.
Just after the ‘I do's’
You'll smell a nauseating rift.

He'll stand there, grin blamelessly,
Oh him, he never lies.
In fact, he is the Fart Knocker,
From whom you cannot hide.

A crowded bus? He'll cause a fuss,
Gassing all surrounding seats.
He'll look round, shake his head,
As passengers all retreat.

Then sit down, noxious clown,
His face aglow with pride.
In fact, he is the Fart Knocker,
From whom you cannot hide.

So if someone in your throng,
Detects an awful pong,
And then shouts, 'Who let that out?'
Looking round sidelong…

Stare straight back, big smile crack,
Make it good and wide,
Say: ‘In fact, it is the Fart Knocker
From whom you cannot hide.’

(Dedicated to all on the 26 bus,
10.45 am on 4/5/09. Sorry!)

Questionable Time

I was having a coffee yesterday morning when the friendly chef, seeing that I was reading a newspaper, asked me ‘Do you think that Griffin should be on Question Time?’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘he appears to have, like all fascists I’ve ever seen or heard, sociopathic tendencies. These should be treated not promoted. ‘Yes,’ the chef came back with, ‘but will you watch it?’ I thought for a moment, ‘Yes, I will.’ I said, chuckling idiotically at the apparent paradox.

I did watch it. Questionable Time. The BNP leader did not disappoint. His performance was as cringe worthy as his answers were devious. He was at times paranoid, irrational, disingenuous and delusional. He seemed to see the world as an essentially hostile place and wanted to protect ‘Britain’ from imagined threats from ‘others’. I was saddened by this sorry man.

Why do some people think like this? What is fascism? Is it an unconscious societal response to a perceived existential threat, a reaction as old as human society itself? When threatened the hedgehog curls itself up into a spiky ball. Is fascism a society pulling itself into a protective iron fist?

Once a fist has been shown a fight usually ensues. And once the human survival instinct kicks in a society can become irrationally aggressive, starting of an unstoppable sequence of events that usually provoke first civil war and then, as in WW2, a much wider conflict. Then the original insecurity becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

If ideas are like viruses then fascism is an infectious disease. It is an idea that spreads rapidly in times of great social pressure, affecting all but infecting those with a predisposition, the chronically insecure. The fearful. All humans have insecurities. They are an essential part of us being who we are. But most people understand and cope with their anxieties to a functional extent. Occasionally the fascist infects someone with pre-existing sociopathic tendencies. These then act as carriers and social amplifiers of the infectious agent. Full blown fascism appears to be fatal, sooner or later.

Fascists are suffering from a sociopathic disease. Yes, it is just another aspect of the human condition, but then so is paedophilia. These people are ill and should be helped with care, kindness and love. But they are also infectious and dangerous to the vulnerable. Isolation, understanding and treatment are required, not promotion, aggravation and contempt.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A budgie without a beak

Who said that ‘the only constant in life is change’. Pretty bloody obvious, that one, whoever it was. I prefer ‘nothing sucks seeds like a budgie without a beak’. But that’s by the by.

So, change. It sort of sneaks up on you. Everything appears to be ticking over nicely when, bang, you get nutted by a new reality. The Scottish drinking culture has changed.

Many local pubs are closed or quiet. Some are now bookies or bistros. We even have one that’s now a community arts centre. What’s happening to the Mackamikaze drinking culture here in Scotland? I think it’s gone underground.

Supermarket special offers, Sky Sports and the smoking ban are sending Scots homewards to drink again. Behind closed doors the bevvy flows. But now instead of a few pints and a couple of nips, it’s a case of beer and a litre bottle of vodka.

It seems, freed from the social constraints of the pub, folk are drinking themselves into oblivion in the comforts of their own home. Instead of us really tackling Scotland’s drinking it’s just been hidden. That may give the appearance of successful social engineering but what the long term consequences will be is anybody’s guess.

Yes, the Scottish drinking culture has changed but at the cost of social cohesion. People are being increasingly isolated, lessening their sense of community. Instead of social interaction they’ve got digital interaction. Instead of mates they’ve got Facebook ‘friends’. Hyper-communication has devalued information, making interpersonal relations less considered.

Pub is an abbreviation of public house. Public house. A home for people, away from home. It needs to be changed, for sure; the hard drinking edges taken off with food, families, activities and entertainment. I fear that by driving the problem from the public eye to the private home will only cause it to ferment unseen and untended. We will just have to wait and see exactly what it brews.