The Futility of the Political Rabbit Hole

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I’m done with political debates and arguments. I really am.

There was a six month period last year when I really got into politics. Particularly US politics. I found myself on a rather unpopular side of the fence, which is a recurring theme for me.  I got there through my interest in where culture and society is heading, as well has this burning thirst to know more about the world, which seems to have taken over me since I turned 30. For someone who is interested in the world its quite easy to get sucked into politics, and it can become like an endless rabbit hole. But although I’ll remain interested and fairly well informed, I’ve taken the decision to withdraw myself from much international political talk and debate. Political arguments have become incredibly destructive. Politics itself turns people you used to like into people who annoy you. And what’s the point of bringing the arguments and facts of Sowell or Friedman to the table when society bows down to feelings over reason. We’ve reached a point where for many, politics has become less of a debate about ideas and policies and more a case of “good vs evil”, with one side declaring themselves the moral judge.

Where do I start? Firstly, I’ve been struck by the level of obsessiveness that’s crept into the world. I can understand people not liking Trump, but my word, the hysteria levels have made me lose huge respect. So many people have become literal whinging cry-babies. Stephen King – one of my heroes growing up, has literally become unhinged to the extent that I unfollowed him a while back. Authors Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, who I have a great deal of time for, have also become increasingly deranged and hysterical. Robert De Niro can’t stop himself from whining about Donald Trump every time he has a platform. Roger Waters, who wrote scathing Pink Floyd lyrics down the years opposing the establishment, has now found himself on the side of . . . .  the establishment, doing entire concert sets bashing Trump. How edgy. Coldplay stated at a concert that people who voted for Donald Trump are no longer welcome at their concerts. How tolerant. Johnny Depp stated that maybe it was time for a presidential assassination. How peaceful. Meryl Streep decided to spend her lifetime achievement speech bitching about Donald Trump – to a room filled with people who agree with her. How brave.  These are merely a few examples. Many of these people claim to care so much about the welfare of ordinary man, but in the next breath call Trump supporters bigoted hillbillies, or something like that. How many of these people ever got of their high horse at all to understand the common Trump supporter? I would guess very few. The ability to understand others is becoming a rare trait. People opposing him is perfectly fine, and healthy for a democracy in fact. Healthy democracies need strong, critical opposition. But it’s the way they’re doing it and their descent into hysteria to the extent that it’s all they talk about, which disappointed me. In my opinion it’s reflected worse on them than it has on Donald Trump.

Where did this all come from? Have people been like this for decades or has the modern world changed us? We’ve become a society where gratification is at our fingertips more than ever. Technology focused around convenience makes it easier and easier to get what we want when we want it. So when we don’t get what we want – i.e. when elections don’t go our way, we’re not quite as well adjusted to deal with it. We go a little crazy.

Most of these writers, actors and celebs have lived cushy, comfortable lives and have been drowning in money and luxury for years. They know nothing of real struggles and real fights of previous generations. So when Donald Trump comes along, they finally find something they can latch onto as a cause. It makes them feel good about themselves. They’re part of the fight and they feel important, like they’re at the front lines of battle. Oh look, they think, when I tweet about Trump I get more retweets and likes than I ever have before! People are cheering me on!  They say I’m brave!  They’re fighting something and it’s giving them a rush. The wealthy middle class isn’t immune from this either. It’s now edgy to criticise the president to their echo chamber of followers who all agree with them. All feel good about themselves in this battle of Good vs Evil.

Like I said, I understand if people don’t like Donald Trump. I really do. The guy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea by a long way. I’ve been falsely accused of being a Trump supporter for wanting him to beat an opponent I liked less than him, who in my opinion, in the greater scheme was far more dangerous. At times it’s seemed that way to people I know as well as twitter followers, when I was actually just defending the guy from the ridiculous media, celeb hysteria and double standards. I like some of Trump’s positions on certain things. Similarly, I dislike some of his other positions and think he’s idiotic at times. I’ll praise him when he deserves it and call him out when he deserves it. It’s not that difficult. People don’t seem to realise that you can actually have a balanced opinion on the guy and judge him as he goes, on results. Another reason I got behind Trump was because I have a very keen sense that Western Civilisation is under attack. People I know often roll their eyes when I say this. But then again, no one I know personally is as well read as I am on this issue. The fate of Western Civilisation has interested me more than any other issue in the last 12 months, and the parallels between the Roman Empire’s decline and the current plight of Western Civilisation is concerning. Very concerning. So I guess I see him as some sort of necessary evil. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong on all of this.

People’s one sided bias and inability to see another angle gets quite amusing. It gets to the point where you realise politics and forthright political opinions are quite silly. A great example is when Trump met the Pope. A photo went viral of the Pope looking highly serious, an expression perhaps on the verge of annoyance. Of course, everyone loved sharing this, saying things like “OMG the Pope feels the same way we do!!” Blissfully unaware, of course, that there were other photos of both of them smiling at each other. A week later the Pope was pulling the identical expression with Canadian Prime Minister and liberal poster boy Justin Trudeau. Did people go crazy about this photo? No. Did it go viral all over Facebook and Twitter? No.

But enough about Trump. Watching celebrities go hysterical about him has been a lesson for me, and perhaps the main reason for the thoughts behind this piece. In a world where we’ve become so intolerant of alternate political beliefs, why put them out there? I don’t work in politics, I don’t make money from it, so why potentially alienate people? It’s not like I’m going to become the new Andrew Breitbart or Glenn Greenwald.

I don’t even consider myself right wing, but having read the likes of Thomas Sowell, Ayn Rand and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, I don’t think I could ever find myself supporting a Left leaning political party. Yet there’s very little ‘right wing’ about me. In the true sense of the word, I’m more liberal than most of the ‘liberals’ I know. I identify as a Libertarian. I’m worried that the word is becoming pretentious, but it’s the best way to describe myself. Libertarians are essentially pro-individual freedom and oppose authoritarianism, and this can come from the Right or the Left. These days it happens to be coming from the Left. I believe in equal rights, regardless of your gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. I believe that people should be judged on their character and ability and never their skin colour. I believe people should be free to practice any religion they want to, whether it’s Christianity, Islam or the Spaghetti Monster, provided it’s not forced on anyone or infringes on others’ rights. I believe many drug and marijuana laws should be relaxed to the point of legalisation as this would end much drug violence. I believe government should be as small and efficient as possible. I don’t believe in ever going to war unless it’s for defence only – and as a last resort. I believe governments should be doing all they can to provide an optimal environment for business. I believe in unwavering enforcement of individual and property rights. I believe that a job will always be better than social welfare. I believe that the leadership of a country should be putting their country’s citizens future and culture before anything else. But we’ve come to view government as some sort of saviour of everything and the lord almighty, and that’s why people like me are ostracised. Governments don’t like people like me.

The celebrity point is particularly perplexing. Of course, they all have the right to say whatever they want on a public platform. Unfortunately, many do, often revealing their stupidity. Or is it an alarming level of indoctrination? I’m not sure. Stephen King for example must surely know that his country is split pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans. So why go and alienate potentially half your fan base with your hysterical political mutterings? It really doesn’t make sense to me. Of course, there is a level of arrogance with these people which would probably lead them to say something like “I don’t need sales form those people or fans that are rednecks”. There are hundreds of cases like this, all equally annoying. I’ve just looked at them and been reminded that politics is divisive, now more than ever, and I’ve decided I don’t want to be like them. At all.

The other reason to avoid political arguments is that people don’t change their minds due to the influence of other people they know. Especially when it comes to politics. You’re more likely to change someone’s religious views, but you’re never going to ever change someone’s mind on politics. Often the contrary occurs, and they’ll hold their beliefs even more steadfastly. I can happily speak for myself in this regard. We’re all guilty. Pascal observed this 350 years ago when he realised that people only change their minds or beliefs when they feel they have come to that conclusion themselves. The Stoic in me says Control what you can control. Can I control politics? No. Can I influence politics? On an infinitely small scale. So why bother?

My recent sense of disillusion on all this has been further accentuated by other, more disturbing observations as well. There a disconcerting level of sneer and hate that has come to dominate the public discourse of politics. On social media I follow followers of both the Left and Right. The reason for following quite a few Left leaning people is that I like different opinions, but also because I support Liverpool Football Club, and as you may know, Liverpool is very much a Left wing Labour stronghold. In the run up to the UK election in June I was shocked by the sheer hate and intolerance that was spewing from the Left. If anyone disagreed with them about a Corbyn or Labour policy they were instantly labelled a “Heartless C*nt”, “Tory scum”, “Racist prick” or other delightful terms. I saw very little of this go the other way, despite following a number of Right-leaning accounts. What I saw in the other direction was a more reasonable criticism of policy and competence in a far more civilised form. When politics starts making you annoyed with your own football club’s supporters, of course you become disillusioned – with all of it.

There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve commented on a left leaning media person’s social media post with something that disagrees with their point, only to be attacked by countless comments and insults. I’ve been called “clueless”, a “cupcake”, a “c*nt”, “a special kind of stupid” and so on and so forth. One pleasant gentlemen told me to “Put four fingers in your mouth and shut the fuck up”. My favourite was someone telling me to “Go read a book”. Hence I don’t even bother commenting on anything like that. You end up waking up the next morning with 35 Twitter notifications and name calling from lunatics you’ve never met.

When I’ve looked at all this I’ve realised more and more that I don’t want any part of this. I’m all for debates around economic facts, reason and logic, but that’s not the case anymore.

He’s a racist bigot” is not an argument

You’re a c*nt” is not an argument

Tories are scum” is not an argument

You don’t care about people” is not an argument

I don’t like his face” is not an argument

He’s going to destroy the planet” is not an argument

The Republican Party is now the party of death” is not an argument (This is an actual Hillary Clinton quote from June 2017)

Sharing gifs and cartoons is not an argument

Sharing a video of someone snubbing a handshake from Donald Trump and commenting “OH MY GOD THIS IS GREAT!!” is not an argument.

Yet this is the political debate that happens nowadays amongst common folk.

Before you accuse me of being too one sided, I must say that this is a problem from both sides of the political spectrum. Many on the Right are equally obsessed and hate filled. Nothing demonstrates this gaping divide between the sides than the days following a terrorist attack. It quickly descends into a case of “NO MORE MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS!” vs “ISLAMOPHOBIA CAUSED THIS!” Zero objectivity, zero balance from both sides.  People don’t seem to see that there are two angles to pretty much every issue. That’s exactly what’s missing from this world. Balance. On this blog I mention the concept of critical thought a lot. The ability to look at an issue from different angles and understand the opposing arguments. Very little of that is happening. Never before has the Left and Right seemed so divided. My personal view is that the two sides haven’t necessarily drifted apart. The Right has stayed pretty much Right of Centre while the Left has lurched over to the far Left. This is what has caused the outbreak of hate and the vast divide. It seems to me that it’s a natural tendency of the Left to just move further and further Left, like weeds that grow if you don’t pull them out. Lenin said himself that ‘The goal of socialism is communism’. In the UK and US we see the leadership of parties on the Left moving away from centre further and closer to the far Left, embracing more socialistic principles as it goes while pulling hordes of millennials with them, indoctrinated by their Marxist university professors who’ve never held down a job in the real world. People marching on the streets of London and New York waving hammer and sickle Soviet flags, completely oblivious of the destruction and death this ideal has caused. It’s as if nobody has learned from history and fact. Communism has killed more people than both world wars combined. But is a Marxist eventually going to get into power in the U.S. or UK? Probably. Sooner rather than later is my guess. Is the 21st century going to repeat the mistakes of 20th? Probably. What’s the point in fighting back – humans never learn.

I can’t help but think that a lot of what I observe is a little bit cult-like in belief system behaviour. The vast majority of hate I’ve observed has come from the Left leaning pro-socialist side. This side has appeared to position itself as the moral authority and the Good people fighting the Evil forces of Capitalism and privilege and all those evil things. In an increasingly atheistic society, are people subconsciously looking at political ideals as their guide? Many seem to have succumbed to the church of ‘Feelings’ over anything else. Social Justice is the religion. Privilege is now the Original Sin, and as mentioned earlier there seems to be a growing urge to divide the world into Good vs Evil rather than ideas to be debated. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought that people can live morally without religion. But although many people think they can be independent of a higher authority, perhaps this isn’t actually the case. The larger more socialist, authoritative government essentially says Give us more money because we know what to do with it. We know what’s best for you. Are more and more people subconsciously looking to big socialistic governments as their form moral authority and real ‘god’? Maybe.

So ladies and gentlemen, this is me taking the moral high ground this time. I’m above all this shit. I’m going to step back and observe all this from a distance. Just like John Galt, I’m retiring my energies from this battle. I reserve the right to call out stupidity as I see it. I believe it is essential to continue fighting for free speech, but I’m seeing it as increasingly futile to engage in debates that change nobody’s mind and ultimately leave people judging you from their moral high ground. I say again – why bother. Of course, remaining well informed about the world and international politics from a critical viewpoint is always a good thing, and something we should all be doing. I reserve the right to say what I like. My beliefs are my beliefs. I hold them dear. I’ll defend them when under attack. I’ll live as much as can according to them. But will I try to influence others to think like me? No. It’s not the Libertarian way, after all.

Human Truth Dancing Before Your Eyes

I’ve stumbled on a major human truth in the last year or so.

Anyone who’s had children will know that long before the children start talking they’re able to dance and move to a beat. My own child was no different. Long before uttering her first words she was bobbing her body to music. Before coherent sentences she was dancing with utter delight, stamping her feet and waving her arms.

Each time I observed this I found it particularly profound. Before even communicating properly and coherently, us humans are able to dance, express enjoyment and respond to spontaneously to music we find appealing. We know how to live before we know how to talk.

The human truth is this – the idea that most important aspect of life is the simple enjoyment of it. If you fall into my trap, you spend so much time thinking about the meaning of life and finding fulfillment that you end up forgetting to live. For so many of us, life eventually trains the living out of you.

If you want to dance, dance

If you want to crank up the ACDC and sing Highway to Hell as loud as you can, do it

If you want to live, live

The Power of Envy

Envy – commonly regarded as a negative emotion which leads to dissatisfaction and ill feeling. In religious practices we are warned off feeling any envy as this strays from what is moral and righteous. In the Christian Bible envy is spoken of many times as something one should be careful of. “Do not covet” is of course the most famous of these teachings. In Buddhism the concept is similarly frowned upon. The Buddha quotes “”Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”

I suspect the religious teachings were there to ensure that people didn’t start resenting each other or moving further away from idea of “Love Thy Neighbour”. Envy, it seems to me, can be a positive force which leads to an aspirational mindset or a negative force which leads to jealousy. Such is the problem with many religious teachings in that they see the worst of mankind rather than the best. It is very much up to the individual on how you want to channel envy.

There’s a huge difference between saying “I want that” and “I dislike you because you have that”. We see this issue play out in political economic rhetoric, where some groups are insistent on the idea of taking wealth away from others rather than having the philosophy of trying to attain the wealth level of those they despise.

Of course, it goes without saying that gratitude for what we have is something we should all be more cognisant of. I myself am guilty of forgetting this, and have moments when I’m reminded of everything I have. But it is possible to be grateful for what we have as well as wanting certain things that others have. For an ambitious person who wants success, envy is a good thing.

This extends to all areas of our lives. It’s perfectly okay to look at the chiseled abs and defined biceps of a Men’s Health cover model and say ‘Yea, I want to be that guy’. It’s okay to look at your ultra-confident, all knowledgeable boss and say, “I want to be him”. We need these figures as clear guides as to what we want to become. There is a movement to make these cover models more realistic and show models with their natural flaws. I’m not so sure I agree. I tend to think we need to see perfection to motivate us, create envy, and spark us into attempting to achieve it.

Around December and January last year over the holiday I stayed in a far more affluent suburb than the one where I live. I remember going for long walks in the afternoons down streets I wasn’t familiar with, looking with great interest at beautifully designed big houses in quiet, tree shaded avenues. Instead of staring at these houses with indifference or resentment, it gave me a feeling of immense aspiration. I wanted a house like this. I therefore wanted a career that would grant me access to a house like this. It reminded me of what I wanted. I felt more motivated than I had in months.

A look at communist nations in the 1900’s further proves my point. One of the primary downfalls of communist attempts goes beyond economics. Those countries eventually resulted in an environment where there was nothing to aspire to. There was very little opportunity for envy, and the results of this were plain to see. When you take away man’s ability to want, your rip the beating heart out of society.

If we sometimes find ourselves with a lack of drive and motivation, I would suggest reminding ourselves of all the things that we want or want to be. Want to get in shape? Look at magazines and Instagram posts of hot people working out. Want become a great presenter? Watch Ted Talks. Want to be a good leader? Watch Simon Sinek. Want to write better? Read Hemingway. These are just examples. The bottom line is, find people you want to be. Then go be them, with your own flavour. Putting plans in place, even in your mind, to go and achieve those things can have a profound effect on you.

What Fatherhood Teaches You

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It’s been said by many smarter than myself that two of the strongest human emotions are fear and love. Nothing makes this more relevant than being a parent. I think the late great Christopher Hitchens hit the nail on the head when he said “To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase ‘terrible beauty.’ Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened.” The love of a child is something I don’t need to elaborate on. Any parent would agree with me that it’s the strongest love in the world and a potentially life changing level of love. But it unfortunately makes sense that to balance all that love out, our human nature dictates that there also needs to be life changing levels of fear you carry with you.

Of course we all fear the loss of a husband or wife. But while that fear sits comfortably in the depths of our unconscious mind, rising every now and then, the fear of losing your child is a constant presence – sitting there like a spider in the corner of the room, always within eyesight. You wonder whether having a child and allowing yourself to have this constant fear is a good or bad thing. But of course it’s a good thing. For a selfish Ayn Rand disciple like myself, having a child is perhaps the best thing that could have happened to me. Suddenly there’s something greater than yourself in the world. Something to serve, to give you real purpose. Your efforts to be successful at life and in your career become things you reflect on more because you’re no longer in it for yourself. You’re the leader of something so much more than a work department – you’re leading your child’s life.

There’s also this overwhelming sense of compassion that bursts into the realm of your emotions and makes you wonder where it was all your life. I now find myself sitting at traffic lights looking at little children standing alongside their begging mothers in the hot sun with a crushing sense of pity for the small child and what it has to endure. It’s a sobering reminder that we can never choose the lives we are born into, which leads you to consider how many children around the world are born into lives of destitution, hunger and suffering. It’s one of the tragedies of our time that there’s a trend of poverty stricken families generally having more children than middle class ones.

I don’t think anything gives you a sense of the speed of life and your own ageing and mortality than seeing a baby go from one milestone to the next in the blink of an eye. To see a life move this fast gives you a sobering sense that as adults we might not see it in the mirror, but we’re growing older every day, as if we needed reminding. If you’re breathing you’re living, and you start questioning whether you’re making the most of that living while you’re here. And I’m not talking about partying it up or living each day recklessly like it’s your last. Watching your child teaches you that there is wonder in the ordinary, joy in the simple pleasures, nothing beyond the here and now, and that to live is to feel. Some people spend their entire lives in a search for meaning, when I myself have found more meaning in simple moments of playful games making my child laugh than any philosopher could provide.

Indeed, your own death suddenly seems both infinitely more terrifying but much more acceptable at the same time, as strange as that sounds. You suddenly place a far greater importance on your own life, in the primal need for survival and to be there for your young one. If you had to ask me two years ago about death I would have probably told you I could die with the sense of gratitude that I’d lived over 30 good years in relative luxury to the majority of humans we share this planet with. I didn’t really fear death. If it came for me, I think my dying attitude would have been So Be It. But now it’s different. There’s a sense of desperation to be able to be part of our children’s lives and to see them grow into whatever it is they become. A simple drive to Nelspruit and back, for example, leads to an irrational fear as you say to yourself I need to make it back alive. My God, what if I don’t? Perhaps there’s a small element of selfishness in this, because you desperately want to be remembered by your child.

But at the same time it feels like one can now face one’s own mortality with a sense of peace. When you look at your child you realise that nothing you’ve done before and nothing you do in later years will be a greater achievement than this. You’ve perhaps ensured some sort of everlasting life for yourself by ensuring a future generation will be there with your blood in their veins and your heartbeat, no matter what happens to you.

I mentioned selfishness – and in all of this, even child rearing, one can’t escape that desire to find elements of your own self in your child. Was that expression similar to mine? Do I see my forehead shape in hers? In some moments you find yourself hoping she resembles you when she grows up, or even better, that she takes on your personality type. This of course is all wrong – selfish whims that I suspect with many parents grow into obsessions as children get older – this need to ensure the child exhibits exactly the behaviours that we want them to. Why are we so eager to mould things in our own image and so desperate for affirmations on our own beliefs? I’m sure that having a child will, in later year, ensure that I experience a great deal of this inner struggle between the Need to Let Go and the Need to Control – or more pertinently, what to Let Go and what to Control.

Then there is home. Home is no longer just the place you settle into and live. When couple becomes family, home takes on a somewhat different, more important meaning. I think this is where the animal instinct really kicks in. Home becomes your nest, your shelter, your burrow, your den. Your refuge – where your family is kept safe. Home is where your daughter laughs, eats, plays, goes to bed. It’s her world. . . . and yours. It’s troubling when you’re not there, as I suspect a male wolf feels while leaving the cubs to go hunt.

When it comes to your wife, I also don’t think you get a true sense of the term ‘life partner’ until you have a child together. Before a child she’s the woman you love. After a child she’s the woman you can’t live without. My appreciation levels skyrocketed. Of course, couples react to having children differently. With some it doesn’t quite work well. But the ones who make it work, I suspect, are the ones who treat is as teamwork and are comfortable in their roles. That’s where the term ‘life partner’ becomes so prevalent. You’re two partners in a team with this massive task, and if you don’t work with and support each other, the team fails. Walking through a mall and seeing a child holding the hand of a mother also fills me with more emotion than it did before, and I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because you never really come close to understanding the bond between mother and child until you see if for yourself in your own life. Maybe because it’s that childhood innocence and vulnerability and how important the parent is to the child, and it makes you think of your own. Everything comes back to your own child. Always.

At 14 months my daughter is becoming increasingly adept at copying what you do. Whether it’s brushing her hair with my comb, wanting to brush her teeth when I do mine, using the same hand movements or trying to imitate me clicking my fingers, it always amazes me how these things are picked up – immediately. But what’s more interesting to me is this willingness to imitate. The funny side is doing silly things with your hands and seeing if she responds, but it makes me realise that as an authority figure to a young one, how your own behaviour will always be more important than the lectures, lessons and books you give your children to read. They’re watching you. They’re learning from you. Mine may be 14 months but soon enough I know she’ll be learning from how I deal with people, how I handle frustration and disappointment, how I speak to and treat my wife, or how I act when happy or angry. And I know she’ll learn more from this than what I tell her. Is that scary or re-assuring? I don’t know, but again – my child leads to more self-reflection, and long may that continue.

Losing Control of Ourselves

I’m writing this on the same day that an incident happened in a Spur between two angry parents which subsequently exploded and went viral across social media. At this risk of this coming across as a sort of Zen advice piece, I thought I’d give a couple of my thoughts on this incident and the wider trend I see. Ignoring the whole black/white, male/female thing, if that’s even possible for some, what struck me was the following:

When I saw that this happened in the greater Johannesburg area I just ruefully nodded about it. I’m seeing with my own eyes how we’re becoming worse at controlling anger. Whether it’s in the traffic, on Twitter or in this case, in restaurants. People are just . . . angry. I’ve seen similar situations to this play out across Johannesburg in my five years here, and it’s not correlated with ethnicity or gender clashes. I see it more as a chronic failure of emotional intelligence. People seem to have a very hard time controlling their emotions and it’s like so many people have this simmering fury under the surface constantly threatening to boil over. They’re happy to go on raging tirades in public at the smallest of differences with someone. I used to think this was a Joburg thing, and although I think it is worse in a bigger city it’s something that occurs all across South Africa. I’ve see videos of Port Elizabeth people fist fighting in the street over a road rage incident in which not a single car was scraped or touched. The friendly city eh?

As a fairly new parent, the one thing I know more than anything is that the example you set is more important than any teaching, advice or instruction you give a child. Unfortunately the example being set in this particular Spur was deplorable. What is even more unfortunate however, is that this isn’t an isolated incident. Our lack of calm, self-reflection and self-awareness is busy spilling over in a new generation, and we only have ourselves to blame for being a fuming, impatient society constantly on edge with each other, and possibly with ourselves. Is this a symptom of a world that’s become tougher, scarier and more demanding? Or is the general emotional capacity of society in general regressing?

As parents, we are the leaders of our families. Perhaps then we need to remember that leaders who do not have control of their own feelings and reactions, and act as creatures of emotion rather than reason, will get very little respect, from a child at home or from an employee in the workplace.

Lessons in Love

A Tale of Two Restaurants

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A month ago on Valentine’s Day, the wife seemed pretty keen on Sushi that evening. Having a one year old at home means that it is a lot easier and convenient to order in, so on my way home I stopped at a nearby Sushi restaurant, Yamada Sushi (Waterfall Corner) to place an order and wait for it.

Before ordering, I experienced one of those moments where you should really trust your gut instinct before going ahead. There were 6 or 7 people hanging around the takeaway / payment counter in a way that seemed to display a lack of order or coherence. I couldn’t quite work out if there was a queue to order or not and when my turn was. Things were just a bit messy. Five minutes later I managed to place my order, and told the manager I’d wait at the sushi bar with a glass of wine. A few minutes later one of the waitresses arrived with the glass, and seeing the levels of disorder and how frenzied things were getting, I asked her for my bill before she forgot me entirely.

During the following few minutes I enjoyed my usual habit of observing the people around me and the social dynamics happening, but after 20 minutes with no bill and an empty drink, this started getting a little tiresome. I tried to find the waitress for my bill. Eventually I caught her attention and reminded her. Ten minutes later my elusive bill was nowhere to be seen and the chaos around the counter was now at boiling point, with 20 people crowding around. One big guy in a grey shirt was screaming at the manager about ordering an hour ago, even going to the extent of stepping behind the counter to wrap is own food. The problem was compounded by the fact that the manager was a gentlemen of far eastern descent whose English was extremely basic.

Restaurant customers going berserk is always a curious thing to me. It always shows a lack of class, self-control and just creates one big spectacle of yourself. If a place doesn’t deliver, just don’t go back.

I ventured into the chaos. There were packs of food stacked around haphazardly and the manager, looking increasingly frazzled, was clearly losing in his battle of bringing the situation under control. I noticed that the waitresses were too busy servicing the restaurant patrons to offer much help. It was one big mess. I realised that after 45 minutes my bill was still a long way off, while the food itself didn’t seem to be within sight at all.

I quietly walked out. I know, I know – I broke the law not paying for my wine, but I would have literally had to fight through 30 minutes of carnage to get it. They didn’t deserve my time or money. If Yamada Sushi Waterfall read this and want their money for the wine I had, I’ll gladly pay up. (It was a glass of house Sauvignon Blanc, by the way Yamada.)

Directly next to Yamada is an Indian restaurant called The Raj. I decided that Sushi had just changed to curry. I’d have to explain reasons why in detail to the wife. I walked in, and was greeted with a completely different atmosphere entirely. A waitress immediately came over to take my order. When done she told me it would take 10 minutes, and that I was welcome to take a seat in the comfortable lounge chair which she pointed to. The manager came by to ask if I was ok, after which another waiter came by and gave me a free glass of champagne, explaining that it was due to Valentine’s Day. I accepted. I was now two drinks down and I hadn’t paid for either of them.

Looking around it struck me that that despite being busy, the Raj had a sense of peace and control about it. Everyone knew their role. Unlike Yamada, the manager wasn’t bound to operational tasks behind the counter, but freely roamed to ensure customer satisfaction and staff efficiency. Unlike Yamada who seemed caught off guard by the high number of customers, The Raj had clearly expected the increased clientele levels due to Valentines Day and were prepared.

10 minutes later, as promised, the waitress brought me the food package and I left. I’m writing about this now, a month later, because the contrast between the two still astounds me.

What Yamada Sushi perhaps need to remember is that for every loud mouthed obnoxious prick like the big guy in grey at the counter, there are three or four people like me, who keep a sense of dignity and calm . . . but just don’t come back.

Valentine’s Day – for me another lesson in how to love or not love the customer.

When the Pillars of Reason at Universities Crumble

Before I start this, it’s probably worth a quick foreword of sorts. Sometimes I feel the urge to write about something that’s disturbing me. Subsequently I’ll sometimes need to look for material on the internet to give me more facts around the argument or idea I’m trying to put across. In the case of researching this particular piece, there was literally so much content and so many examples, that I actually had far too much content, and was drowned in material. I was left selecting a random sample of examples, but know that this is really the tip of the iceberg, and I myself have read of countless other instances at universities around the world over the last couple of years.  

I’m disturbed. I’m disturbed by what I’m seeing on university campuses across the world. To illustrate, here are a few examples:

Last year the University of Tennessee Office for Diversity and Inclusion suggested in a campus campaign that their students use the appropriate gender pronouns when referring to a particular person. They insisted that correct pro-nouns must be used for whatever gender the person ‘identifies with’. And no, this doesn’t mean just ‘he’ and ‘she’. Some of these pronouns include the terms ze, xe, hir, hirs, or zirs, instead of the normal ‘he’ or ‘she’. Because you know . . . some people identify as a ‘xe’ rather than a ‘she’.

The madness has even crept into world renowned establishments such as Oxford, where the same thing has happened and students are encouraged to use gender neutral pronouns such as ‘Ze’ rather than ‘He’ or ‘She’.

Students at the University of London are demanding renowned, essential philosophers and writers such as Plato, Descartes, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell should be largely dropped from the curriculum simply because they are white. These names have echoed down the ages in terms of providing critical thought and wisdom, however they appear to be too white be used as subject matter for certain students.

The madness is replicated elsewhere. The student union at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is insisting that when studying philosophy ‘the majority of philosophers on our courses’ should be from Africa and Asia. The students say it is in order to ‘decolonise’ the ‘white institution’ that is their college.

Closer to home at the University of Cape Town, in a public forum, a certain student leader said that “Science as a whole is a product of western modernity and the whole thing should be scratched off. Especially in Africa.” She went on to say that “I have a question for all the science people. There is a place in KZN called Umhlab’uyalingana. They believe that through the magic‚ you call it black magic‚ they call it witchcraft‚ you are able to send lightening to strike someone. Can you explain that scientifically because it’s something that happens?”

Back to America. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is now offering “Men’s Project” – a six-week program that aims to counter the alleged harmful effects of society’s masculinity paradigms and pressures and empower participants to promote “gender equity.” In their words: “The Men’s Project creates a space for critical self-reflection and dialogue about what it means to be a man and how masculinity impacts us and those around us.”.

Something similar is now in the course offering at Duke University where they now also offer the same thing –  The Duke Men’s Project, a programme run by the Women’s Center. This is a nine-week program for “male-identified” students to discusses male privilege, patriarchy, “the language of dominance,” rape culture, pornography, machismo and other topics.

The Princeton University HR department has attempted to ban the word ‘Man’ from all university material. A published policy memo states things such as this:

  • “Instead of using “man,” employees are told to use words such as human beings, individuals or people.
  • Instead of “man and wife” use spouses or partners. Switch out “man made” with artificial, handmade or manufactured.
  • Don’t use the verb “to man,” as in to work something, instead use to operate or to staff.
  • Never use the term “workmanlike”. Instead replace it with “skillful”.

The University of Ottawa in Canada was forced to cancel its yoga classes in 2015 because they were a “cultural appropriation” and yoga was connected to “cultural genocide.”

At Stirling University’s archaeology department, the programme professors were forced to give students an advanced warning that they would be shown an image of a well-preserved archaeological body in case they found it “a bit gruesome”. This same university has also told its gender studies students: “We cannot anticipate or exclude the possibility that you may encounter material which is triggering – i.e. which can trigger a negative reaction –  and we urge that you take all necessary precautions to look after yourself in and around the programme.”

Oberlin College, Ohio, advised its faculty that “Anything could be a trigger – a smell, song, scene, phrase, place, person, and so on”, and concluded that “some triggers cannot be anticipated, but many can”.

Universities including Edinburgh, the London School of Economics (LSE), Goldsmiths, Stirling and Central Lancashire are pre-warning students of lecture material they think could be ‘disturbing’. Therefore they are giving them the option of leaving the lecture room if they decide to. These warnings have been issued in relation to lessons in areas such as Christianity, popular culture, history, forensic science, photography, politics and law.

So practically speaking, if slavery is a key content element of my history class, I can leave because I’m emotionally hurt by the idea of slavery.

Bristol University had to cancel their musical production of the play ‘Aida’ after protests from student groups. The musical, which is written partly by Elton John, is based on Verdi’s opera “Aida”. It involves an Ethiopian princess, Aida, who is held prisoner in Egypt, where she’s a slave but falls in love with an Egyptian general. The protests were around the fact that white students would be cast as leads and expected to portray Ancient Egyptians and slaves. Seeming to forget that around 80% of ancient Egyptians were slaves.

At Drexel University in Philadephia, the professor George Ciccariello-Maher, a white associate professor of history and politics at the university, tweeted on Christmas eve of 2016 the following words: “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide”. The professor remains undisciplined for this.

In October 2016 students staying on campus at the University of California’s Berkeley campus decided that segregation seemed fashionable again, so they decided to take us back 60 years. During a violent protest, non-white students demanded that they have safe “spaces of colour,” away from those white students on campus. They decided to created human wall so keep the white people out of their “safe space”, and white students were also prevented from using one of the campus’ main bridges, because of the colour of their white skin.

Last year the University of Colorado at Denver decided to offer “Problematizing Whiteness: Educating for Racial Justice” in their course collection for this year.

Students at Loyola University were apparently uncomfortable with one of their classmates, a policeman, who attended class in his full police uniform because he had a shift afterwards. They decided this was too much for them to bear, and wanted him removed, and therefore called the police – to remove a policeman. No surprise, the policeman was within his rights and was told to stay.

In December 2016 a psychology instructor at Orange Coast College in California informed the class of her belief that election of Donald Trump was “an act of terrorism” This was caught on video by one of the students. On that note, in the wake of the US presidential election, a Yale Economics professor decided to make an exam optional for students who were too ‘traumatised’ by the election outcome.

All of this utter lunacy is one thing, and it’s bad enough. What’s worse is how these groups of imbeciles are thought-policing and attempting to shut down the opinion of anyone who disagrees with them.

I follow a guy on Twitter called Ben Shapiro. I also follow a speaker and writer called Milo Yiannopoulos. These guys are both conservative leaning media personalities with a strong online presence. Part of what they do is go around to campuses in the U.S. talking about free speech and ideas of liberty, individualism and critical thought. They are particularly critical of the aspects and ideas mentioned above. Their repertoires are very much based on using facts as arguments. One of Shapiro’s favourite lines is “Facts don’t care about your feelings”. Yet at countless universities, angry mobs of ‘progressive’ students have used violence and intimidation to either create violence and havoc to the extent that a police team is needed, or they manage to shut the event down completely.

On 21 January, Milo Yiannopoulos was doing a speech at the University of Washington. The crowd outside got so heated that a conservative supporter was shot. Inside, many of the attendees were wearing Trump hats (this was just after the inauguration). The crowd outside was so violent that the attendees were told to remove their Trump hats and were escorted through an underground exit.

Let that sink in for a second. They were forced to remove hats which showed support for a political idea, and were forced to scramble away.

You know, the idea of being a liberal originally meant freedom of individuals, freedom of speech, tolerance for different ideas, equality and non-discrimination. Not anymore.

Just this week, Wednesday the 1st of Feb, the same Milo Yiannopulous wanted to do a talk about America’s future and ideas of free speech at the University of California’s Berkeley campus (them again!). However, violent anti-Trump left-wing protestors decided to burn campus property, pepper spray peaceful attendees, smash men with shovels, use pipes to knock people unconscious, attack women and use other forms of physical violence on the attendees to the extent that the lecture was called off. This has happened a number of times.

Some of them were holding up signs against Fascism. Fascism – you know, the authoritarian ideology that bans free speech and doesn’t allow contrary views. The number of times Trump supporters have shut down a left wing speech, lecture or rally? Zero. Who are the real fascists?

Why is this so concerning? Well, for one reason, exactly 100 years ago a group of radical, left wing, protesting Bolshevik fascists overthrew the government of Russia, leading to five decades of suffering, atrocities and 50 million deaths.

The other reason all of this is so disturbing is because I always thought of university as being the antithesis of the “safe space” – a place where different ideas and viewpoints can be brought out into the light for public scrutiny, evaluation and debate. University should be a place to go to broaden your thoughts and ideas, expose you to other realities and on many occasions, show you thoughts or ideas that might make you uncomfortable, but ultimately grow and strengthen you. If a pro-communist lecture happened to occur at WITS, I wouldn’t try to go shut it down or use violence to protest – I just wouldn’t go. But that speaker should have the right to speak.

What hope do we have when university kids are having a problem being taught the theories of colossal figures like Plato – because they don’t like his skin colour? This move to censor aspects of history and society instead of exposing students to all variants and realities result in many being completely deluded on a grand scale. Is this perhaps what liberal university professors want? I mean, there a real people out there who think Lenin and Stalin were real ‘men of the people’, for the people and seen in a positive light. Legions of young people idolise Karl Marx. When Castro died, the outpouring of positive sentiment from young people left me shaking my head in disbelief at the lack of critical historical knowledge.

If kids are being coddled and kept ‘safe’ from ideas they might not like or disagree with, what hope do they have in the real world? What happens when they face real hardships, disputes or problems. They’re being taught that it’s ok to block off and silence what you don’t like. Well, the world throws a whole lot at you that you don’t like. If universities are emotionally over protecting students from ideas and concepts they that disturb them, in the process they’re creating emotionally crippled people of the future.

To fix this we have to go back to the roots. Is this partly down to university professors who’ve been in their echo chambers all their lives, divorced from the real world, influencing kids with cultural Marxist theories? University heads are supposed to be the facilitators of critical thought, yet it seems to me they’re doing the opposite. And how much are parents to blame, for raising kids in a way that makes them feel like they’re the greatest at everything. Where winning and losing is equally over-rewarded.

Whatever it is, it has to stop. We’re raising a new society of delinquents who can’t accept failure, can’t handle a contrary opinion, who fail to use reason in any shape or form and who go around blaming convenient targets for all their own failures.