What ho, Marxism!

Lots of people in the New Zild social media vortex got very excited about Marxism this week.

I suppose it keeps them off the streets.

Over at Dimpost, Danyl has had a go at the limits of 21st Century Marxists, still proclaiming the destruction of capitalism will solve everything.

His main point is that it won’t, I think. And, all things considered, it’s probably  not a view I’d disagree with.

He’s had a response from Gio, who backs Marxism, as  anyone familiar with Gio’s work might expect,  although it isn’t all that clear what he is exactly backing Marxism to do except make things, and people, nicer.

Which has to be the ultimate triumph of hope over experience, I suppose.

I think it’s safe to say I’ve read enough Marx to conclude I’m not a big fan.The verbosity, the moral superiority, the perpetual anger, the body count in the millions, etc etc etc…it’s just not me, really.

To be fair, Gio is a charming chap in real life, and as unlikely to cart anyone off to any gulag as I am to lecture you on dialectical materialism.

I’ve written before about the style of thought, of which Marxism is but a subset,  before, here – again, in response to something Danyl had written.

The only thing I’d add, perhaps, is to put a bit more emphaisis on the danger of all encompassing systems of political thought – and the way in which they have come to replace religion, or at least the least attractive aspects of organised religion.

English poet T E Hulme, writing in the first decade of the 2oth century, called Romanticism ‘spilt religion’ and it seems to me this style of thought has often spilled over into politics, mostly with unfortunate results.

Still, as a conservative interested in political ideas, I find all this stuff diverting. It is fruitless at best and dangerous at worst, though, to take it all too seriously.

 

So, finally…Monty Python, in a kind of of Unspeakable Secrets of Aro Valley Goes to the Gulag (and if you haven’t read Danyl’s latest novel, Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley, then do so: it’s hilariously brilliant):

 

 

 

 

 

‘Be like Bill’ – What are we, eight year olds?

The latest Internet meme, if you haven’t seen it yet, is the awful,Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.38.06 AM infantilising, “be like Bill” thing.

It features, funnily enough, character called Bill. He is a stick figure depicted doing something  praiseworthy: cleaning his fingernails, washing his hands, putting the cushions away after Morning Talk – that sort of thing.

Yes folks: social media has come to this. People are now using it to treat each other like eight-year-olds.

At some point in the last year social media has become a kind of free range Singaporean government, if such a beast can be imagined.

Not only are you pulled up for using the wrong metaphor,  (columnist David Slack attracted much tut-tutting for using the Salem witch trials as a simile in a column on the weekend) but there are now these annoying little poster-ettes  which urge correct behaviour upon us all.

And we’re doing it to each other. It is not some centralised bureaucracy in a government, not some overbearing religious leader or assembly doing this.

The finger wagging, the bossy boots: it is all now being crowd sourced.

The  only sensible, rational, spirited response to any of this hideous, overbearing bossiness is a hearty raspberry – and failing that, a full throated PISS OFF. 

I love social media and its capacity to share views, facts, ideas, humour and philosophy.

It should be – as previous revolutions in communication have been – channels to widen and deepen the spread of ideas.

But this is turning into a narrow avenue of mean spiritedness, spite and self righteousness.

 

 

Tweet Surrender

I’ve tended to steer clear of full blown arguments on the Twitter.

Initially skeptical about the whole medium- the name is silly, and 140 characters? what can you possibly say in that? – there’s an addictive aspect to it which I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on.

I treat it like a mix of – for professional reasons – a kind of informal wire service, notifying me of what is going on, especially economically and politically, as well as being a casual passing conversation.

It is, now I write it down like that, an odd mix.

NZ comedian Michelle A’Court recently described it as like being at a party: you can dip into or out of conversations as you like, move on when you find them boring or offensive or you spot something more interesting.

Oh, and there’s often someone starting a fight somewhere.

I’ve tended to steer clear of those. Firstly, my own rule for online arguments (which I know I haven’t always stuck to) is take whatever you would say to someone face to face, and try to tone it down by around 15% or so.

Face to face, a smile, a lift of the eyebrow, or just the tone of voice, can soften words which, on the screen, look stark and harsh.

Also, some people are just arseholes behind a keyboard.

The other reason is sheer time management. A ruthless application of the LTS Rule is necessary when dealing with social media.

There is this addictive, compelling quality to online arguments. It isn’t just Twitter – it happens on Facebook, it used to happen on usenet. The bullshit is still bullshit, it just goes by different names.

Not all participants get sucked into it, but those who do tend to make Robert Maxwell look like a piker when it comes to going overboard.

To adapt a Douglas Adams concept, Twitter becomes a kind of Total Lack Of Perspective Vortex and otherwise intelligent and charming people completely lose it.

There’s been a recent meltdown on the NZ Twitterzone: if you don’t know about it, don’t worry – the details are very boring and in any case there will probably be another one along shortly.

The dignified, as Paul Weller once warbled, don’t even enter into the game.

If you want to know, though, feel free to search “twitterarti”.

Go ahead. Block yourself out.

This particular meltdown was a bit more meta: it was triggered by a story by a journalist who wrote a piece a month or so back about the ‘Twitterarti’ – a piece which caused some deep resentments amongst folk who spend a lot of time on the medium. Somehow  – I have no idea how, I haven’t analysed it closely and I have no intention of doing so – it mutated into a row over gender politics and it all went horribly wrong.

The only observation I’d make is that if you’re taking any criticism of Twitter interactions as a personal attack, then perhaps you’re wrapping up way too much of your identity and self-worth in the medium.

As for arguments online generally: they work fine on less emotional topics. I’ve had some great, and often quite fiery, discussions over monetary policy and the like in various forums*.

Get into something with more emotional hot-buttons  – and anything relating to gender issues is guaranteed to have plenty of those – and it is Meltdown Ahoy. Any discussion is just not going to end well.

It is bad enough discussing such issues in real life. On the line?  Hoo Boy.

It does get like the piece quoted above about arguments online: the T-Rex-With-An-Erection mix of surreal fury.

There’s another aspect of online discussions which makes these things worse.

To return to Michelle A’Court’s analogy of a party, someone having a casual discussion at a social gathering can make a verbal statement, be challenged: the matter can be discussed and people are perhaps more inclined to modify their initial position.

Online, any initial position is written down. there’s something less movable about a written statement than a verbal one.

This is particularly so because there is always someone going “but you said […..fill in slightly loose or flippant or ill-thought comment here].”

Avoid, mostly. As written here a week or so back about the Rugby World Cup over-kill: perspective is all.

Anyway, here’s the Jam, for those who have picked up on the allusions to their final single during this post.

  • No, you get a life.