An Ode To War: A Poem by Michael Wharton
You are a weapon in the war against peace,
They use your fear to control your actions,
On either side they produce vile propaganda,
Take care to examine the motives of factions.
Why fight at all, what is your main objective?
Power, money, control, cruelty and corruption,
Power over the minds of the people and opinions,
Money is the constant for supply and production.
Control over land mass, of which there is finite,
Cruelty to those who disagree with your virtues.
Corruption of the virtues you pretend to uphold,
Evolution's Nature's job we have to let her choose.
We are at peace with war so it seems in the media,
The news is just numbers now, in bite size chunks.
Between targeted product informational programming,
Sold to you by plastic chicks and shredded hunks.
This may be very short and succinct but the topic and subject matter are distasteful and abhorrent, so I kept it concise. I didn't really have to include details of war or its atrocities, as we are all very much aware of the obvious physical realities. I wanted to keep it simple, as war often is; a struggle for resources at the cost of human life.
Why Don't Some Drivers Indicate Correctly?
I am a humble pedestrian, occasional cyclist but never a driver, so maybe it will be hard for me to understand the effort involved in remembering to indicate. I know some of the Highway Code, I was thinking about taking my test some day, but the way some people drive just makes me think too much about dying at the hands of a moron. I personally find this off-putting.
Of all of the initial lessons one learns when mastering the art of driving, mirror, signal, manoeuvre is a mantra too quickly forgotten on the roads. Those flashing yellow lights are for warning all other road users of your intentions, those you are aware of and those you haven't seen. On many occasions, this negligence has lead to me being stood directly in front of a car making a turn towards me, while I was crossing the road, on one occasion it didn't quite stop in time and gave me a bump. What was really galling was the fact that these drivers seemed so indignant and defensive of the idea that it was their fault for not signalling.
Maybe it's a generational thing, in my experience younger drivers tend to be more guilty of failing to signal. Older drivers tend to indicate every time; my Dad for example indicates round car parks because it has become so second nature to him. This leads me to believe that it may have something to do with falling out of the habit due to some form of encumbrance, such as not being able to indicate for some reason. I noticed that upon looking into the window of the cars that don't indicate, about a 30% were ON THE PHONE, 40% were sticking their left gear changing hand somewhere else (up their nose, on the gear lever, on their face, drinking HOT coffee, TEXTING!). At least another 20% were resting their right arm out the window, the other ten were miscellaneous in case you were wondering.
What Can Pedestrians Do About It?
I have personally confronted drivers about their failure to indicate or being on the phone, sometimes a simple dirty look is enough to evoke a look of shame and apology. Sometimes they get out of their car and harass you verbally for telling them how to drive, but the advantage of being a pedestrian is that I can walk away, they are making a journey of some kind and usually want to get along, in their car. Maybe if it was the norm for people to be openly critical of other's stupidity things would be better. As for now I am the one with a chip on my shoulder from being bumped over by a car driver in this situation.
Now I am finally blogging about it, maybe I can convince people of why it's important to signal at all times to get into the good habit. Mirror, SIGNAL, manoeuvre is not just for when you see other cars around, but all the time, for the people you don't see (like in your blind spot) too.
I started a Facebook Group about this after I nearly got hit again, and shouted at the middleaged lady driver only to get the finger for my wisdom. Please join it and invite your friends, it's open to all and only takes a minute!
In summation this current trend in bad driving could be due to many of the other bad driving factors I have seen, or it could be a phenomenon of its own. This does not matter, what really matters is that it stops being so prolific. We need to scold drivers with a simple phrase that will put them right back in the learners seat; Mirror, SIGNAL, Manoeuvre!
Headphones & Earphones On A Bike - Is It A Distraction?
As somebody who very occaisionally will take his bicycle out for a spin, and only on cycle lanes, I can honestly say I have never even contemplated the idea of listening to music whilst cycling. For starters, when listening to music I can't help but move some part of my body along to the rhythm of the beat. This is a very Bad Idea when urban cycling, which requires fast changes in tempo all the time. If I was listening to music I would be slower to react to a change in the speed of what was going on around me.
The other downside is that, essentially, you can't hear very much of what's going on around you on the road. This is obviously very dangerous considering how quiet cars are getting these days, and they will practically be silent assassins when they are all electric cars. As much as you should be looking around you at all times on a bike, you should also be listening. Most times a change in revs in the cars around you can be a great indicator that they are about to do something to endanger your life.
Is Cycling With Headphone/Earphones On Dangerous?
Here is a great example of the kind of accident that can happen due to this incredibly Bad Idea. I have seen so many people doing this on a regular basis, I'm surprised that there haven't been more accidents. Obviously, there have been more than just this one, they just don't all get reported, probably because the embarrassed cyclist doesn't want people to think of them as the fool they are.
Cyclists also seem to find it hard to understand what a red light means, I have seen so many near misses out of the bus window at traffic lights. A cyclist will come steaming past us (Red Light Jumping or RLJ) as we roll to a stop, and nearly get side-swiped by a car coming towards the lights from the left as they change. Combinations of two or more bad road habits are all it takes to guarantee a road traffic incident.
The worst example of stupidity I have seen recently on this subject has to be when I saw a cyclist on a road coming towards me in full proffessional gear, pointy helmet, shorts and all. Despite all of his expensive stretched latex and nylon strapping, he was using both hands completely off the handlebars to send a text message as he stared intently at the screen of his expensive looking phone. He was also wearing earphones, at first I thought he was changing tracks but he clearly had a separate mp3 player hooked up to his headgear.
Can Cyclist Listen To Music Whilst Cycling In Safety?
With products like the Soundwalk Audio MP3 Cycling Speaker Vest, or Slipstreamz Cycling Earwear for Headphones out there I'm not sure if this Bad Idea is going to end without government intervention. These products are trying to market themselves as safety devices, as in you won't have to wear earphones to listen to your music. You don't have to listen to your music on your bike in the first place surely, music is distracting no matter how it is blasted at your ears.
So dear reader I leave it up to you to spread the word to the people who are still putting their lives, and the lives of innocent others, in danger. Proclaim (loudly, earphones/headphones remember!) to them that it is indeed a "Bad Idea!", with optional mime of taking off a pair of headphones.
Text Walking - A Modern Phenomenon Menacing The Pavements
If you live in a busy bustling city anywhere in the world, chances are there will come a point in the next week where you will directly observe this modern phenomenon. A person marching towards you, head down, staring intently at the screen of their mobile phone as their thumbs stab wildly at the keypad or touch screen. Texting and Walking is a growing habit of the masses, yet it is a REALLY Bad Idea.
These people are completely oblivious to the world around them, even to you, as you casually sidestep them on the bustling pavement. Trouble is they didn't sidestep you at all, you did all of the sidestepping action. What happens when two people like that are heading towards each other? Two guesses...
While I was working as a charity fund-raiser on the streets of Manchester, I witnessed people walking into lampposts, bollards and each other on many occasions whilst text walking. I have even seen old ladies forced to give way, to people trying to change tracks on their mp3 player. Texting and Walking is so much worse when there are earphones or headphones involved, or a hood, sunglasses, or baseball cap.
As you may have already guessed, Texting and Walking is especially dangerous when crossing the road or walking down a flight of stairs. In fact there was a story about a man fairly recently, who fell down some stairs in a multi-storey building. He was on one of those reality talent shows last year if I recall correctly, and I also remember police stating that he may have been using his phone at the time. I myself have seen people walking lazily across the road, as they text their loved one that ultra important lol reply SMS to a joke they were sent.
Texting And Walking - Is It SO Dangerous?
After a little googling, I couldn't find what I was looking for, but I did find one that was even funnier! This young girl seems to have gone for the old classic slapstick staple of falling down an open manhole. Clearly if she hadn't been texting and walking at the time, she would have seen the massive gaping hole in the ground ahead of her.
People of the world, this practice isn't just dangerous, it isn't just plain ignorant, it's fully inconsiderate, deadly and a very Bad Idea! Simply stop, text then walk; or alternatively win a text walking Darwin award! Let people know of the danger and warn them with a stern "Look Out Where You're Going!".
In the beginning there was nothing, if you believe modern scientists. I believe modern science, but it seems modern scientists are more and more concerned with the profitability of their research rather than the scientific advancement of man. Of course all of this pales in comparison with the final theory of man.
So somehow we have to completely re-write the fundamental laws of physics unless some bright spark figures out the answer to the great question, how and why we have mass and therefore gravity. Well all things are of course relative, as are the forces of time and space. Time passes slower within a body approaching the speed of light.
As we hurtle through the solar system at a velocity that is still unfathomable to the mere human mind. I am at a point in space and time right now, and now I am thousands of meters away due to both the rotation of the earth and it's orbit of the sun. There is another factor however that I am much more interested in, our current velocity from the centre of the universe.
Scientists are still theorising about the concept of a center to the universe, is there one, is that were the big bang happened? What rate is time passing there? That is an important question, could we be passing through time at a slower rate and therefore be evolving slower than other life forms in the universe. The opposite is also possible, so there could theoretically be planets out there with whole different ecosystems based on different elements.
I put it to the world of science and genius, there is always a theory that vacuums cannot exist in nature. As a race of beings descended from microscopic single celled organisms created by the subtle infusion of amino acids by way of meteor collisions, we have never directly observed or detected a true vacuum. Although we are led to believe by scientists that before the big bang there was nothing, a true vacuum to be precise.
I propose a term for dark energy, the force or energy required to cause the universe to expand at an increasing rate. The term dark energy is a cop out, a reference to dark matter, a measurable but as yet unobservable phenomenon. I'm not saying it is a bad name, but it lends no credence to any particular theory about it, it is an energy that drives the acceleration of the expansion of the universe, I'm glad it's there or else everything would eventually collapse in on itself. There is a theory that the universe will eventually fall apart; instead of a big crunch, we would have a dust to dust moment when the last quarks would separate, and there would be vast distances between all matter. I personally hope that there is no end to the universe and all of my wisdom will live on perpetually, but wishful thinking won't make it so.
I have a theory about dark energy which may make me look like an idiot to some, I call it "Cosmosis". Water moves from an area of low concentration of solute to an area of high concentration of solute through a semi-permeable?membrane, it's an elementary scientific principle called osmosis. I suggest that matter moves in much the same way, from areas of high concentration of matter to areas of low concentration. The energy required for this movement has to come from somewhere, it is called dark energy right now as nobody understands it. I believe that matter is not pushed outwards, but pulled from the outside of our universe. It's like a vacuum cleaner on the outside of a balloon, but something cleverer.
The wonder of nothing, as if nothing can exist for any length of time, because time doesn't exist if nothing does. Therefore the laws of physics were merely obeying themselves to spontaneously start creation. We exist in a stable universe as only a stable universe could exist long enough for us to evolve an exist to perceive it. What happened between that, amino acids forming and the first single celled organism is still a question, but there is always a theory.
I have fallen in love with catchphrases, (A catch phrase (or catchphrase) is a phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance)that are usually good advice. "Look before you leap", "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth", "A fool and his money are soon parted" and my personal favourite; "Money is the root of all evil!", are just some examples. It is widely believed that it is the repetition of these idioms by the general population that leads to what we call common sense. It is unfortunate when people behave in direct contrast to any of these widely regarded life lesson sound bites from history.
Well who is writing today's catchphrases? Well one of my favourite modern catchphrases is from a widely respected man called M.David Merill who is a Professor of instructional technology at Utah State University, (ie a teacher teacher, very clever bloke, I want to learn about learning!). He said simply that "Information is not instruction", this is hardly a rad\ical thought but an over?simplified?statement which strikes at a home a truth (the key to any catchphrase).
I would however not entirely agree with it. Of course I agree that not all information is instruction, but some of it is. The phrase "Not all information is instruction." is a little more accurate. I am not finished yet however, if some information is not instruction then what is it? I therefore submit to the Internet that "Information is either warning or instruction". This simple message informs you that not everything you learn should be implemented, historical mistakes are information but not instruction therefore they are warnings.
Human behaviour follows certain basic principles that can be easily understood when looking at animal behaviour. It can also only be one of two things to society, positive or negative. Only one thing separates us from the animals and that is our ability to deviate from that behaviour through conscious decision making. However our decision making process itself is a learned behaviour, like a mating call. We use basic rules to govern our society, but these have proven to be completely ineffective at controlling the behaviour in larger populations.
We all learn and strictly follow a moral code that evolves with our personality, there are things we would do and things we wouldn't. Therefore our current system of law is not instructional information but warning information. My theory is that a society told what not to do on pain of punishment is old news, a society told what to do through positive reinforcement (simple behavioural science in reality, carrot and stick stuff here folks, nothing really revolutionary is it?) would lead to a more peaceful and cooperative world where collaboration to achieve excellence and the desire to learn more actively can truly commence, remember There is always a theory.
My theory about organised religion is that it was a grand idea for those who had plenty (haves), to stop those who had little (have nots) from getting any bright ideas about taking the surplus. Money had to be created so haves could trade with have nots in return for some form of labour. As with any commodity that can be traded under any system to create an atmosphere of control and power, money lead to coveting of money over human life (mainly due to patriarchal and matriarchal desire to ease the life of their offspring by acquiring much more than they need and leaving it to them when they die).
Religion facilitates this by promising that following it's practises leads to a happy afterlife. This imbues people with a sense of well being towards the final moments of life, this encourages them to consider their offspring's well being after they're gone even more (as the fear of death no longer occupies the mind constantly).
Man develops newer and more interesting theories all the time. I developed a theory of my own recently based on genetics in animals such as dogs. If we take what we know to be true, that when combining mating partners of too similar a genetic heritage, the offspring is usually genetically inferior to both parents often taking weaknesses of both but strengths of neither. What if you combine genetics that are less similar? In dogs the offspring is usually genetically superior to both parents, inheriting all of the strengths and none of the weaknesses. My theory is that this is also true in humans.
Social conventions such as religion and parental pressure have reduced the combining of different raced partners for many thousands of years. In more recent times though, due to many socioeconomic factors, trade has been increasing between different countries and inter breeding has been flourishing. In one specific geographic location race has been mixing since it's occupation by the first people to fish it's shores.
The British Isles have been the target of many a conquest over the years since it broke away from mainland Europe in about 6000 BC. Celts, Gauls, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Normans and Vikings have all come for conquest and settled here. Of course just before the industrial revolution people were moving to Britain in their thousands due to the fact that we made their countries part of our great empire! I believe this infusion of culture and genetics is what lead to the industrial revolution itself and to modern science.
Greatness is achieved by few (at the cost of many on too often an occasion), and so very few take it well. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, we've all heard this before. yet we all seem determined to push somebody else into power and then blame them for becoming corrupt.
Over the many years of human evolution, we have elected to form societies based around gathering peoples of various skill sets, to work together harmoniously. There's one skill set that stood out above the rest, that would define the very way we would govern our growing populations and civilisations to come; The ability to communicate with "deities". The first of these to successfully form a great civilization were the Mayans, or the Egyptians, (or both or whatever civilisation fell before them that set them on their separate paths from the same point of contact with extra terrestrial life in Antarctica, or whatever conspiracy theory or version of history you happen to believe (There is always a theory eh?)). The Egyptian and Mayan civilisations rose and fell, as civilisations often do, due to natural occurrences they could not foresee or explain. Around these great climactic events superstition grew into religious practices over many generations.
Those who were perceived to have special power to contact whatever deity controlled the environment, were able to gain control of the behaviour of the populous. As with many primates who live socially, up until this point in history we have only ever had a hierarchy of both maturity and physical dominance. The strongest bloodline of the society would be advised by the eldest, on how best to protect the community from outside and domestic threats.
The elders began to be replaced by the mystics and charlatans at some point, and religion began to be the primary focus of most societies. For peoples who were already rivalling over territory and resources, religion became another divide or a means with which to ally. Conversion became a weapon with which a tribe could gain dominance and territory to feed it's people. As these vast civilizations spread and receded across the surface of this planet of ours patterns emerged and evolved into systems of political power that we still see today, and some that were less popular or effective until we arrive at secular democracy, the closest we have come to not having leaders for a very long time.
Theoretically, Anarchy is the state at which we were most peaceful and productive, during our millions of years evolving opposable thumbs and therefore; tool handling skills, communication skills, nunchuck skills, fire making skills, you know skills, we most likely lived with no formal political structure. We live now in a world where the plethora of skill sets we need to hold society together are so fundamentally different from each other that a hierarchy is inevitable so it seems, even on a Meritocratic basis. Well there's always that money stuff we keep hearing so much about these days.
Without money or possession being concepts employed by the masses, society would be awesome. We would be living in an anarchocapitalist libertarian utopia where everybody takes care of each other, and there are no formal social hierarchies. Unfortunately greed is currently an integral part of our culture due to false scarcity and economic manipulation among other factors in what could otherwise be called a Kleptocracy.
There at the top of our world sit the UN security council, sitting listening to each other's problems and woes regarding each other's hostile behaviour towards the other; why? You really do have to ask why? Why do nations exhibit hostile behaviour to each other and why do we let them? Do people in authority really understand that we really all would rather just get along without Global Thermonuclear War? All of this bristling of arms by none anti-proliferation countries is deeply unsettling to me. I am not exactly a military tactician or anything, but I'm going to have to?concede?to the fact that I've thought about being Kim Jong Il. I have thought hard about any potential strategy he may have as regarding taking over the world. Firstly, he would have to take out China.
I know, you're thinking "But The People's Republic of China and The Democratic People's Republic of Korea are friends!", well yes of course they are. If China sign the Nuclear None-Proliferation treaty they have to back the west in a challenge to North Korea about their stash of nukes. If this happens then the whole worlds attention and maybe even military spy drones will be focused on taking control of this stockpile.
Obviously Global Thermonuclear War is an unpleasant thought, nobody likes using nukes. We ultimately would have to consider deployment though if facing an enemy with capabilities to deploy such weapons against us at whim. I guess all I'm saying is that we're all really, really fudged if North Korea nuke China.
Often these days I consider humanity's future, and I am persistently drawn to the same conclusion. We have to somehow undo all of the damage we have done to this planet and do our best to avoid doing anything else to it. To do this, I suggest that we leave. Maybe not all at once, and definitely not straight into space, but we have to do our best to separate from the biosphere. Several writers have speculated on how best to achieve this, underwater, underground, but I believe that the best option is in the outermost atmosphere. Any structure built to house us would hopefully be modular and may even be able to break apart and explore space eventually...