Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

Oct
02

It is not new. This quote tells the Bible story of how Jacob conned his father.

“Jacob is attempting to impersonate his older twin brother, Esau, by wearing his clothes and putting hairy goat skins on his arms and neck (Genesis 27:6–17). The target of this fraud is his own father, an elderly and blind Isaac (Genesis 27:1–5). While his father might be ailing, he is not entirely senseless: Isaac is clearly aware that something is not right with this version of “Esau” standing before him. It’s too soon for Esau to have returned (Genesis 27:18–20), and the voice is wrong. It’s plainly Jacob’s voice. So, Isaac asks this person to approach so he can feel his skin. Perhaps Isaac thought he would find Jacob’s smooth hands attached to the voice.

Instead, Isaac finds hairy hands, like those of Esau, thanks to Jacob’s mother cleverly applying the goat’s skin. Old, blind and fearing he was near death, Isaac was probably confused. Maybe this really was his firstborn Esau to whom he intended to give the blessing.”

I just took a book from the mobile library and the front cover says WILBUR SMITH in large, dark brown type. At he bottom, in much smaller. light grey type, it says “with GILES KRISTIAN”. I was conned into thinking it was the sort of Wilbur Smith book I enjoyed before. It was nowhere near as good. I have also seen other authors treated in the same way, as publishers try to squeeze the maximum revenue out of big names. I assume that the big name gives the outline of the plot and the collaborator (paid rather less) does the work.

Deception is everywhere. One example I have recently experienced is the dental practice labelled DENTAL ART CLINIC. So far I have had no trouble with them, but how flexible the word ART and it’s derivatives can be! We can have ART as in painting or sculpture or ART as in literature or ART as in “artful! (clever) or ART as in “artificial” (not real).

I find “Dental Art Clinic” amusing and imaginative rather than seriously deceptive, but there are other cases where an emotive word can be  more damaging.

Deception is not always bad. For instance, we applaud magicians for their skill in deceiving us and we play practical jokes on one another for amusement. Perhaps motive and consequence matter most. Esau was conned out of his inheritance, which mattered a lot to him.  I borrowed a poor book when I might have borrowed a better – not really a big deal

 

Sep
29

The story of The Tower of Babel comes in The Bible. Men decided to build a tower that would enable them to climb up to heaven. They were getting on so well that God decided to make them all speak different languages so that they could not cooperate with each other. The trick worked.

Babel

Today we are going one better. We are making communication impossible even between people who speak the same language. How are we doing this? By creating a society which is avid for news and entertainment. Huge allocations of time are assigned to it, and these have to be filled by words. How is this done? By using more words than are necessary. By repetition and contradiction and qualification. By speaking so fast that listeners can’t follow. By allowing no opportunity for questions or objections. By interludes for faked applause. By encouraging contributions to social media that are often poorly thought-through.

It no longer matters that what we say should have a clear meaning, provided we have enough words to fill a time slot. God did not think of this one. We did it all for ourselves.

Sep
27

In the great Brexit debate we hear very little about how dire life will be if we DON’T leave the EU. Imagine for a moment that the remainers somehow manage to overturn the referendum results. Within Europe there will be rejoicing that we have failed to break free and a new confidence in the power of Brussels. The behaviour of the Europhiles will get worse. Their interference will increase.

Right now, many hotels offer options about breakfast that include FULL ENGLISH. The EU won’t eliminate the option but they will certainly define what constitutes FEB. So, five years from now, if we fail to escape, every hotel will be compelled by law to serve X amount of egg and Y amount of bacon and Z grams of mushrooms. What a lot of trouble that is going to cause!

FEB

That may be an extreme example, but there will be a host of other cases as bureaucrats in Brussels seek to punish us for trying to escape. An obvious one is driving on the right hand side of the road. They will fix on that one because there are reasonable arguments in favour, and a precedent, and they will be able to conceal their real reasons for insisting on it – being beastly to the British. The common currency will follow. The process will be like being swallowed whole by a snake and gradually digested.

When I was a boy there was a comic called The Knock-Out featuring Stonehenge Kit, the Ancient Brit. The chief villain had two assistants called Brit-Basher One and Brit-Basher Two. Their equivalents are alive and well today and dwelling in Brussels.

Sep
24

This is getting all the publicity right now. Marches all over the world – largely by children – and a summit meeting of world leaders to discuss actions.

Is it real? Who will be affected? Will anybody care? What will be done about it?

In an age when none of the media can be fully trusted, and the scientists are divided anyway, the views of an individual have zero weight. But here they are.

I think it is real. I think global warming really is taking place and the best area in which to look for evidence is rising sea level. There ought to be a count of all atolls currently showing above sea level and a record kept of those than can no longer be seen one year later.

Those living on atolls or low-lying islands are obviously going to be affected. Plenty of islanders have started worrying about it already, but no absolute proof has emerged. On the other hand, I googled Diego Garcia for a different purpose the other day and learnt that the US forces occupying the island are already sticking concrete blocks around the shore. So somebody is worried enough to take positive action.

Will anybody care about a few thousand people living on remote islands? No. Whatever nation owns the islands will wait till a few citizens have been washed away by a modest gale and then remove the rest to some slice of land that nobody else really wants. If the ownership of such an island happens to be disputed, then both putative owners will drop their claims and the entire population will be wiped out. It won’t be news.

Consider the idea that it may have already happened. This elderly islander wanted to re-take a journey that he was accustomed to as a youth. He was expecting a causeway across a swamp and discovered it was no longer visible. He thought he could remember where to put his feet, but he was wrong, fell into the swamp and was drowned. The locals just said, “silly old fool” but maybe his death was the first ever from global warming.

As soon as some major national or financial interest is threatened the world will begin to worry seriously: like a major city having the underground flooded or an airport becoming unusable except at low tide. Will it then be too late?

My guess is NO. I think that human ingenuity will find some way to modify the effects of climate change or protect against it and that we will not suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs. But it won’t happen before the danger has reached crisis proportions. We are human. That’s why.

 

 

 

Sep
20

This is a book I would never have read if it had not bee)n recommended to me by a fellow-resident in the Old People’s Home where we live. (a.k.a. Luxury Retirement Village.)

The writer (Dervla Murphy) is an Irish woman of great courage and determination who travelled around South Africa by bicycle just before and after the first free elections and the end of apartheid. She has numerous descriptions of the countryside, but far the greater part of her book records conversations with a huge variety of people about politics. The views she reports are immensely interesting and told me much that I never knew. It makes the creation of a united South Africa seem a fantastic task given the variety of different people, from different countries and cultures, that make up the population.

The book makes clear the extreme difficulty of realising and avoiding ones own inherited attitudes. I wonder at times, whether her sympathy with whoever is at present the underdog owes something to English oppression in Ireland. And is she a bit extreme in attributing to whoever is on top a desire to grow rich by exploiting others?

It seems to me that when a more technically developed society comes in contact with a less developed one then the latter is certain to suffer. The ‘invaders’ will bring with them their standard attitudes, but will do it out of habit and not out of malice or greed. Perhaps the troubles of South Africa started with the fact that Europe in the 19th Century was truly powerful, and knew it. There was evidence that white people were superior.

A difference in attitudes became very clear to me when the book discusses the Voortrekker Monument. Dervla Murphy sees it as ugly, and as a despicable record of what Afikaaners did to black people. I liked the place, and saw it as a record of how a freedom-loving group escaped from British control. There are two different views about who was the underdog.

Creating a ‘better’society can easily lead to eradicating he past in the interests of what is believed to be correct in the present. This strikes me as extremely dangerous because one can’t then learn from history: neither the good lessons to be followed or the bad actions to be avoided. History happened – for good or bad – and contributed to the present state. Nobody is going to pull down the Voortrekker Monument, but pulling down statues is much easier. Is it really wise to pull down the statue of that evil creature Saddam Hussein? He did exist and he did have an effect – on his own country and on others. There have been attempts (happily unsuccessful) to deny The Holocaust. There has been a call to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford.

Attempts to air-brush the past are surely wrong. Many uncomfortable things have been done, sometimes excused for political reasons. In the UK, humans were dispossessed in favour of sheep in the highland clearances. And the UK owned Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean: the British Army forcefully evicted the population in the 1960s, before leasing it to the United States for military purposes. We should remember both the facts, and the reasons.

Hopefully, the history of South African will be spared the air-brush.

 

Sep
19

Today’s chosen subject for octogenarian rage is CHOICE. I am frustrated by the multiplicity of similar products displayed on supermarket shelves. There may be as many as twelve versions of what is essentially the same formulation, distinguished only by brand names and slightly different packaging. It is all so wasteful!

Behind each brand is a gang of clever marketing people, dreaming up new lies about why their product is different, and what makes it special. What a way to spend your life!  Sometimes it is hard to know what the basic substance really is. I have had to show a package to the person at the check-out and ask “Is this really orange juice?”or whatever. Why don’t I know what it is? Because the message of the branding often drives the generic name of the item into small print on the back of the package.

Does anybody benefit? Possibly a person who feels empowered by the ability to say, “I don’t like THIS ONE but I do like THAT ONE”. Maybe the choosing brings a feeling of individuality. Or perhaps it identifies one with a group of fellow-devotees. It seems to me that the aggravation of finding the basic item that you want outweighs such benefits.

Sep
13

I have become very frustrated  by the attempts to stop Boris getting us out of the EU on October 31st. To prevent my anger impeding logical thought, I used Google to find out what he EU is really all about. I found little that I did not know before.

It all started with the laudable desire to prevent any repeat of WW1 and WW2, in which European powers fought each other in appalling conflicts. A repeat is not going to happen. So that motive is no longer influential: the  ideal has been realised. Are there other reasons for promoting the ideal of European Unity? What might they be? What benefits is the EU supposed to bring? Through Google, I discovered the following quote from an article written in January 2019.

It is now well recognised in Europe that it is imperative for the EU to change fundamentally if it wants to survive.

The quote seems to endow the EU with a personal identity – as if it was a living thing. Perhaps that theoretical entity is made up of human beings – people who think that unity is a good thing in itself, or people who perceive a personal advantage (like politicians and bureaucrats). I myself see unity as something that, pushed to an extreme, is stultifying – and also damaging to the opposing forces of variety and creativity. And I don’t much like politicians and I positively hate bureaucrats.

What is so attractive about the EU that almost half our population want to stay in it? Easy travel, for a start, with no need for a passport, no customs delays, a single currency (once across the channel)and communication everywhere by mobile phone and the internet. These benefits do mean that knowledge of other people, other countries, and other habits is more widespread than ever before. That can be seen as a benefit. But to what extent do these capabilities arise from membership of the EU and to what extent do they arise from technology? I suspect that the only difference if we left the EU would be about passports and the need to show them. Europe would quickly become as much as a playground as ever.

Trade, for another thing. Some items we import from Europe will become more expensive after a no-deal Brexit, and some of our exports to Europe will shrink in number because of tarriffs. Will the loss be compensated by deals we can make with non-European countries – deals that we are currently not allowed to make? That is unknown, but it is human to  think more about loosing something currently enjoyed than to anticipate a benefit that is still hypothetical. It is my belief that following a no-deal Brexit we will adapt to a new reality without too much stress.

A major emotional factor is that some people believe that change is always a good thing. It is a matter of leaving behind he old situation in the confident assumption that the new thing must be better. That is an optimistic stance worthy of respect. But is there any evidence for it in this case? I see the gradual destruction of national characteristics, and the variety they offer, as a bad thing. I want Hungarians to remain Hungarian and Poles to remain Poles and Britons to remain British.

A major problem is that some people have become so committed to the idea of ever-closer union that it is emotionally impossible to discard it. Such an action would be tantamount to saying “We were wrong”. Nobody likes to do that. Frequently they will fight to preserve a cause long after logic has departed. Think what happened to the Japanese Samurai at he Battle of Shiroyama on 24 September 1877.

Sep
01

Is it possible for the confusion over Brexit to be worse today than it was yesterday? apparently, YES. One result of the confusion is that emotional decision-making looks a better option than ever. I want OUT, and I believe BORIS has a good chance of delivering. The opposition seeks to make a NO DEAL exit impossible. Boris wants it to stay on the table.

I have often found it valuable to imagine that an event HAS HAPPENED or HAS NOT HAPPENED and then review the new set of options. So, suppose that parliament has somehow made it illegal for Boris to get a NO-DEAL Brexit and compelled him to ask for an extension. What will he do?

EITHER he gives in to parliament and asks for, and gets, an extension. Then we will be right back to the moment when Theresa May gave in and the EU will  as intransigent as ever.  I don’t think Boris will do that. It’s not his style.

OR he calls a general election. Many of his utterances recently have been about changes  he would like to make in our society and that suggests an election is in his mind. 

If he calls a general election, two results are possible.

EITHER he wins. Jump forward mentally and imagine it. His position will be stronger and he will be able to tell the EU I CAN GET THIS THROUGH PARLIAMENT BUT I CAN NOT GET THAT THROUGH PARLIAMENT. The EU may then be more accommodating. If they are not, and NO DEAL is the only option, what happens to the law that has supposedly been passed to make it impossible?

OR he looses and a Labour-led government is formed. Then there will be another attempt to reach a deal, with as little hope of success as ever. There might also be a second referendum.

So my wish-list runs.

  1. Attempts to block NO DEAL fail and independence Day happens with or without a deal on 31st October.
  2. If my (1) does not happen, then the Tories win a general election with a decent majority and Independence Day arrives on 31st October, possibly with a better deal than anything offered so far.
  3. We are OUT and can go our own way.
Aug
28

A few days ago I met a grand-daughter of a fellow resident in this OPH. Asked to meet her at the station. Same request yesterday but different grand-daughter.  I learnt a bit more about modern female thought this time, because I spent an hour with GM and GD.

Works in the caring profession. Studying psychology (Jung and Freud apparently still OK). Voted GREEN. Heavily into THE ENVIRONMENT and SOCIAL MEDIA and KINDNESS. Apparently has an active interest in old folk. I told her that her sister was already immortalised on my blog and she said she would look at it. Good Heavens, a reader! Socially skilled and very attentive to GM. Touched her, physically, often! I never thought of touching my GM.

How much do I agree with her causes? A lot, in the sense that they must be supported and fought for. But no expectation at all that their ideal will ever be realised. They represent one of many forces at work in society and they have a part to play in restraining other forces. If the ideas of Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler ruled the world it would be a terrible place. GD is a slight girl, physically, with no hint of any aggressive attitude. Would she be safe in the world of GK and H? In our society she walks around freely and confidently , all alone, offering SOFT views unchallenged! That is a good situation, but it makes me wonder if our safety and peacefulness does not almost invite attack. Has the world of GK and H gone for good? I don’t  think so.

Man is an animal, and endowed with a need to perpetuate his species. That means he must have the capability to be cruel, ruthless and aggressive when necessary. So the force that drove GK and H has a role to play. It won’t go away. But it can be prevented from taking over. The ideals of this young lady must be supported, but the hoped for world can never be taken for granted

 

Aug
27

A busy day.! Daughter wants studio photograph of herself with father. Quite pleased that she should want it. Place hard to find but just managed the right time.  What a performance photography has become! Here is an image of the Brownie Box Camera that I owned as a boy. brownie

That was about 1939, but i did not realise till now that Kodak first produced it in 1900. And (1939) I remember mu father organising a family photograph outside our house where the photographer fiddled around under a black cloth to insert a plate inside a rather larger camera (on a tripod) before holding up an object for us to look at and then clicking the shutter.

Nothing so simple today. Huge rolls of cloth of different colours that can be used as a backdrop. Three or four different light-dispersers that can provide different shades from different directions and improve the subjects’ hairline or jawline or whatever. A camera that the photographer can click again and again and record each image for instant display. When the father/daughter business is done, photographer suggests a few shots of bearded old man staring fiercely at the camera. In due course I shall be sent something to look at and may/may not put it on this blog.

Another adventure later in the day to explore the dental implant concept. (Not many teeth left LH side.)  Went expecting removal of damaged tooth as preliminary to commissioning of the replacement. Wrong! Just another session of pre-dental examination and form-filling.  He will now send me a ‘treatment plan’ plus a long questionnaire about the history of me and my teeth. Only when he gets this back will be prepared to take any positive action. It seems that, today, 80% of the process is bureaucracy and only 20% is dentistry. What a crazy society we live in.