Tag Archives: opinion

Gordon Ramsey and a kick up the a@*e

4 Nov

I recently had a brief chat with someone about their ultimate dream to go on Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen” , which sent me off into my own little world on a tangent…as these things usually do.

The person I was chatting to mentioned how Ramsey has such a bad reputation as a nasty person, and how this actually didn’t matter to them one bit. Sure, he seemed like a nasty person, but there was a method behind it which this guy recognised and appreciated.

Seeing him explode like a nuclear bomb full of the english languages worst offenders on tv can give you the wrong impression, and in this day and age where many people flinch at the slightest sign of conflict* it’s understandable how he’s gotten the reputation he has. Look a little deeper into things though and this attitude makes some sense. Hopefully I can explain it well enough for you to agree or at least understand.

* it seems that these days the perception of ‘conflict’ has turned from “an actual situation whereby someone is giving you unwarranted/undeserved abuse” to “a situation where someone is telling you something about yourself you might not like; cry, cry, for the love of god cry about it…your warped sense of self isn’t going to hold up unless you deny any and all criticism!!1!”.

Okay so; cooking is a discipline. Like taking a career in Law enforcement/ the army, learning a martial art, studying dance/music or engaging in any other activity that requires consistent improvement for you to attain a level of comfort within the discipline.

The first method of teaching or leading someone in any of these arts is to give them enough information for them to realise they need to be their own spur and their own worst enemy if they want to improve. This method takes time and tends to weed out the ones who don’t have the heart.

The second method, as used by Gordon Ramsey and the Army, is to well…push them as hard as possible. This also weeds out the ones who don’t have the heart, but in more spectacular fashion.

Neither method is superior, both are just different. One method might be better depending on circumstances (the discipline in question, the person in question, circumstances, etc…) but both have the same aim: to get the student to realise that they need to do this for themselves.

But of course, as I’ve mentioned before ( https://rhinoprayer.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/youre-not-finished-not-at-18-19-21-30-40/) people have a tendency to think they’ve finished learning/improving once they hit a magic mark. Oh of course they’ll spout ridiculous soliloquoys about how they’ve “got passion, determination, a good attitude, etc…” but a lot of the time it’s quite obvious they’ve put more effort into thinking of those words than actually embodying them.

And here’s where Ramsey’s attitude steps in. When he meets someone who is full of talk but then fails to show any substance behind it, he flips out at them because here’s an adult who’s kidding themselves into thinking they’re a fully functional and well rounded person when the truth is they’re having trouble boiling an egg because they’re too busy pumping themselves up by shouting adjectives and motivational slogans at the same time.

“Fortitude! I’m level-headed! chicken stew! WHOLE NINE YARDS!!”

And I can understand it. Both sides. I can easily understand how someone can fool themselves into thinking everythings alright and that they don’t have to put too much effort into consistent improvement – it’s a tough thing to take a long hard look at yourself when your grown up and think “wow…yeah I’m not all I’m cracked up to be…better do something about it”.

And I can understand Ramsey’s attitude too, because very often the “softly softly catch a monkey” approach doesn’t work with people. Try to persuade them softly and they’ll just take it as an opportunity to sit back into their bubble of self delusional to shout a few more slogans at themself. In some cases, and specifically in Ramsey’s case -where he gets people wanting to learn but refusing to take a long hard look at themselves, break it down and build it it back up- people need a good kick up the arse.

Advertisements

Inspirational quotes and Kerouac…damn you kerouac…

21 Oct

I don’t like inspirational quotes. I just don’t. As much as they’re a great point to jump off from in a search for personal excellence and improvement; they’re more often used as an end- a point to say “gee shucks I’ve read it so I know it”- and this disappoints me greatly…

“Oh!: ‘ be the change you want to see in the world’? OMG THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE YOU’RE RIGHT!!1!!! lmao roflcopter hurhurhurhur…”

As simple as it sounds, “being the change you want to see in the world” is anything but. First you have to think about and realise what that change is, then begin the long hard journey of embodying it. You want the world to be a more kind, caring and openhearted place? cool; don’t be a dick next time someone takes their time in front of you at the cash register. No, this doesn’t mean “be quiet about your dickness”, it means take a long hard look at the situation and ask yourself why you’re getting so worked up over someone else taking their time, then be cool about it all. BE COOL.

You want the world to be a fairer, more well rounded place? cool, a noble idea…here’s how you can put that into action; don’t be a self-centred/-pitying/-justifying whingebag  next time someone starts grinding on that love interest you’ve been quiet about all those years. It’s just the way things are; you had your chance and didn’t take it because you were so busy watching dawsons creek re-runs in an effort to find the perfect words to say, so step back and let someone else get on with their lives.

It takes effort. A hell of a lot of effort. It is worth it though, when all the effort turns into something you can be proud of, but let’s be honest here; it’s a hell of a lot easier to just copy and paste a quote then think absolutely nothing else of it. That’s the way things are.

I don’t doubt there are a lot of people out there who put sufficient thought into inspirational quotes and actively work on incorporating their meanings into their lives, but the reason above is why I’m very careful about going anywhere near them. I could plaster this page with quotes all over the place and get a fair few more hits every day, but that’d be letting us all off the hook.

So anyway; Kerouac, you sonofa bitch.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”

….*sigh* here we go…

I’m gonna presume that you read the book and put this quote into context, knowing full well that the book is ultimately about disillusionment with that whole beat generation movement and that by the end of the book Kerouac is well enough pissed off with everything he thought he wanted/ saw in the movement that he pretty much does a 180 on the quote above.

Unfortunately, that’s all implied. There’s no counter quote which runs something like “I’m sick of going to parties and ending up talking to that flighty broad in the corner all night just so I can get laid thinking it’s a life changing event. It’s not. It’s two sad, sweaty, lifeless bodies rustling against each other while already mentally compiling the amazing story about it they’re gonna tell their friends the next day in an effort to seem “mad to live; now, then, here, everywhere”. It’s listening to some girl drone on about her friends and what they did while she repeatedly lights cigarettes from the wrong end and cries ‘this never normally happens to me!! wow this conversation must be sooooooo deep’. It’s not thinking she’s the absolutel right woman for me because she’s ‘kooky’, or ‘unusual’ in the way she doesn’t care for things other people do, it’s just ignoring the fact that she’s incredibly boring and empty because I simply want to get laid…no… no the only ones for me are the sane ones; they’re a lot freakier in bed cos they’re not trying so hard to be wild…”

Hipsters, by the way. Kerouac’s quote applies to hipsters. Yes. Unfortunately, where at least the beat generation had Ginsberg and jazz, the modern equivalent has nothing more challenging than Alexa Chung’s musings on fashion and dubstep…

But, for me, that doesn’t go far enough. Hipsters don’t go far enough. Why simply go to a few parties a week? why not make everyday a party? That’s the real way to be “mad to live”. Start your day off with a fine wine. Knock back a few shorts before leaving the house. Why limit yourself to being “mad to talk” when your only with your friends, and only talking about things you already know? Talk to a stranger; tell them about the universe and how mindbogglingly big it is. Yell out something in the street, don’t hold back in public; you gotta be mad.

Better yet; do something Wild and far-out! make a sign; something that implies a deep and meaningful thought while being vague enough to leave the reader thinking. Stand on the street somewhere, hold that sign up high! be proud! You’re mad to live and mad to talk! You blaze a trail across all lives you come in contact with, people coo “awwww” when they see you proudly go where no man, woman, child or animal has gone before!

NOooooo no nononononono….Hipsters -and anyone who lives by this quote thinking it describes them- don’t take it far enough. What; you go out to some fashionable club twice a week and all of a sudden you’re “mad to live, mad to talk” ?! fuck no, you’re nothing of the sort. You gotta take that to the limit…

I hope by now you’ve realised the ridiculousness of all of this. Take those things to the extreme and you’ll be a homeless drunk with a nasty drug habit who routinely yells at people in the street while holding a sign that read “LEMONS!! life! Art! SHOES!!1!”…

Nope, the only ones for me are the ones that know what they’re doing. The ones who say commonplace things in the knowledge how uncommon things can be. The ones who are mad to live by all definitions and not just the “wild, far-out, weird thinking party animal” kind. The ones who burn long, soft but just as brightly as a firework. Fireworks are gone quickly and leave barely a memory behind. No; the only ones for me are the ones who are not mad to talk but mad to listen…there’s a lot more to be learned from listening.

*Off topic* Economics: an incredibly simple way to change the world…

4 Oct

A few things in the news recently have gotten me thinking about economics and a book I read a few years ago which gave me a pretty decent idea of the state of the world (‘The shock doctrine’ by Naomi Klein, read it. read it now.). The events in question are the Wall street protest, and present republican muffin/possible future american fucknut Rick Perry.

I read an article in which he reasserted his opposition to regulation of greenhouse gases and pollution in general. Whatever you believe about global warming*, you can’t argue that having factories belching out smoke and chemicals into surrounding areas is a good thing. It’s not. Whatever you think about the grand scale of things, on a small scale it’s bad for us. Simple as.

*(I hope I can make this brief, it’s a big subject: Global warming is real. The majority of scientists who believe in it are well respected, qualified professionals who measure data and present their work to be peer reviewed so that any mistakes can be picked up by other well respected and qualified professionals. Those who deny climate change, usually keep their research to themselves or else have it laughed out of the community if they release it to proper scientists for review -usually because they’ve carried out that research for a dummy corporation/foundation set up by an energy industry company…yes that does happen. More than you think. A lot more. In fact, next time you hear/read about a climate change denying piece of research, do a quick search to see what company/institute it was done in the name of. After that, do a quick search to see who’s behind that institution.

Food for thought; the term “Global Warming” was phased out in the mid-90’s in favour of the more friendly and ambiguous “climate change” because, after all, who hates change? change is progress isn’t it? change isn’t bad- it’s damn good!! Lobby groups for the Energy industry used this confusion to soften the debate, and appreciated the long term decline in interest it helped contribute to…Oh, and one more thing; There is no debate about climate change. There are scientists who do their job properly, and then there are others who say what they’re paid to say. Simple as.)

So anyway; Rick Perry is hugely opposed to regulation, because it would harm the business interests of the companies involved and therefore do damage to the economy of his home state. Fair enough, he’s looking out for his own I suppose. The thing is though, that’s the exact same reasoning as that of a CEO.

The CEO of a company has a legal duty to look out for their shareholders’ interests. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it? If an investor puts a chunk of money into a company, they should expect a reasonable return, right? In the beginning of the 20th century this logic was well accepted and needed because big business was only starting out. People needed to have “investor confidence” (which had a totally different meaning back then), so this logic was inshrined in law. It’s a CEO’s/board of director’s legal obligation to look out for the interests of the shareholders.

But; and here’s the rub ladies and gentlemen, the almighty rub that has our mighty planet -socially, economically and politically- slowly crumbling under the weight of its own people collectively mumbling “Hey I’m just looking out for #1, fuck you I’ll do what I want!”…

That obligation is defined in simple money. You want to look out for your investors*? Make them money!!

*Investors nowadays are a far cry from the 19th century pioneer family plowing all of their mattress money into a travelling snake oil salesman. Sure, that used to be the majority of investors: small families hoping to improve their lot by investing in business but nowadays, it’s just a bunch of bankers.

And here’s where we tie back into good ol’ boy Rick: take those energy companies operating out of his constituency. They don’t have regulations because he’s so supportive of them, so to cut costs and make money-money make money-money, they dump a little waste into a sinkhole somewhere.That waste makes its way to an underwater aquafer somewhere else and contaminates a local river. Hey, doesn’t matter; those shareholders want money, not a damn conscience! Will a conscience pay for copious amounts of Viagra and Champagne?! Fuck no!

Let’s move into the world of business: A good old american car company wants to cut costs, so that the shareholders can see a return on their investment, see their stocks rise in value a little and maybe even cut them a nice profit. How can that be done? Well I’m glad you asked because it can be done easy-peasy: Move the damn factories to China! Their labour costs are a fifth of what they are in America, so the company’s stock will skyrocket! Happy days!

Then the company naturally hires The Fonz to deal with the redundancies, because nobody can get mad at the Fonz!
“eeeeeey; your security clearance has been revoked, go live under a bridge or sumtin alright”

One of the main reasons the world economy has been shitting itself like that old man who sits at your local bar every night, is this legal obligation and it’s interpretation. Sure, you could argue greed, self justification, irresponsibility, general dumbfuckery and all sorts of other human conditions laid waste to the fragile game of Jenga we were playing (…you don’t know how fitting that comaprison is..you really don’t…) but it all comes back to that one legal obligation: the CEO must look out for the shareholders, and that is taken to mean “the CEO must do everything possible to continue cutting costs and making profit, regardless of the ethical ramifications”. Everything that comes after is just icing on the cake.

SO. there it is. one simple way to change the world: Alter the definition of the basic duty of the CEO to take into account not only the monetary obligation to the shareholder, but also the moral health and social responsibility aspect. Simple as…

hahahaha, yeah right. Never gonna happen. Here: console yourself with a sweetbeat…

London Riots: Big society gives itself a big pat on the back…

10 Aug

(*for the benefit of those across the seas, the ‘Big society’ initiative was announced a good while ago by David Cameron and the conservative party as a remedy to all of Britain’s woes. It was designed to create a more harmonious society by encouraging people to take an active part in their community…

…It was quickly laughed out of the country when it became depressingly clear that it was nothing more than a nice sounding metaphor for drastic budget cuts and general political fuckery…George Orwell working in conjunction with Douglas Adams and a crate or two of Jameson couldn’t have thought of something more ludicrously twisted.)

Don’t panic…that’s just a ‘community participation liaison’ coming round to check you’ve done your share of the nations’ tax returns…

Some of the more heartwarming reports to come out of the london riots are those of people gathering together to protect and serve their own community. Yesterday, large groups of people organised themselves on twitter and facebook to clean up the scenes of the riots, showing that even though people were angry enough to destroy, people were also angry enough to rebuild. Heartwarming stuff.

“Gentlemen: TO BROOMS!”

It has only been mentioned in passing, but there have been rumours of people arming themselves and standing guard by their local businesses, ready to chase away anyone that might have an eye for trouble. This is particularly motivating because along with the large chain shops that have been looted, rioters have also targeted small family run cornershops and businesses in what is nothing more than senseless destruction. Tesco? yeah fair enough I can maybe understand that; they’ve got a nationwide organisation to back them up…Mr Singh the friendly man who runs the local chipshop? He’s got nothing more than yesterdays earnings to see him through.

I read a clip in the paper this morning about looters being confronted by a teary eyed woman when they emerged from a local fashion boutique, because the boutique was built and run by one woman who hand made all of the clothes herself. When confronted with this, a lady-looter stood there with a freshly stolen wedding dress draped across her arm looking very sheepish (but, importantly, she didn’t do anything about putting the dress back as far as I know). Heartbreaking stuff.

But wait! People gathered themselves of their own free will with those good old english brooms to clean up the mess! jolly good show, as Boris johnson would say.

Ah…Boris Johnson. Again, for the benefit of those across the seas: The hithchiker’s guide to the galaxy defines Boris Johnson as ‘ a floppy haired being, known to appreciate a glass or two of cucumber sandwiches soaked in Gin, who is so out of touch with his constituency, and the Earth as a whole, that he has been regularly sighted talking to a tree along the A127 dual carriageway, having stopped there for a rest on his way to pick up a mess of cricket bats from Basildon for use in his regular bi-weekly tap-dancing class. It is not known how the cricket bats felt about this, although the tree is said to be surprisingly despondent.

So he turns up to shouts of “Where’s your broom!” from the crowd being carefully kept far enough away from him that they won’t actually notice he’s probably goggle-eyed, and yknow what? he actually gets one and marches down to the crowd. Fair play to him I must say. He gives a speech about how he appreciates their work and effort and how they won’t let these hooligans represent London proper, and that they will all persevere in their efforts to show the world that London can not and should not be defined by that awfully obvious/lazy headline: ‘London’s burning‘.

But, unfortunately, this is where I have to put a dampener on it. I don’t want to, not really, especially with the solid example the people of London are showing in the face of mindless violence and destruction, but I have to say it.

The groups of people who protected local businesses could be described as taking part in the big society….but then again that’s what the police are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of london pay taxes so that the police can be trained, insured and paid to do that sort of work.

The groups of people who cleaned up the mess could very well be held up as a prime example of the big society, as I have a feeling they might when the smoke clears…but then again, things like cleaning up the streets are what streetcleaners are for. They’re trained, insured and paid for that sort of thing. And of course, the people of London pay taxes so that they can be trained, insured and paid to do that work.

…like in…some sort of…-oh gosh I’ve forgotten the word-…so..soci…God I’ve completely forgotten it. You know what I’m talking about: Where a nation, through thousands of years of hard work and perseverance, gathers itself together enough to say “Hey! why don’t we all pool our money, so that we can create neat things like a police force, who we can train for that job alone, then we can pay people to clean the streets, cos we don’t want our Janet from number 12 doing it anymore- she’s got a very bad back nowadays especially since the operation and she can’t miss anymore work- and then we can maintain it properly and find a place for everyone and look out for each other so that when people need protecting the police will be there in full force; well trained, insured and paid, and the cleaners too! when there’s a right big mess to clean up they’ll be there: well trained, insured and paid…

A SOCIETY! I knew it…it was there right at the tip of my tongue.

To drastically cut funding to schools, services and society as a whole is taking political fuckery to a completely new level. To then gather round for a press opportunity with the very people you’re fucking over and telling them they’re contribution is valued, is bullshit you could smell from the far end of Baltimore. They make a contribution. Every fucking week. It’s called ‘Taxes’, and you are crippling them with it. Don’t repay them by cutting essential services. Don’t repay them with a jolly good show. Repay them with the services they pay for: Well and fully trained, insured and paid.

(I am not in any way trying to imply that the people who did the good things that they did shouldn’t have. I am inspired by the things they are doing for their city.I am trying to imply- no sorry; I’m saying– that if the governments had actually focused on actively making society better, rather than just throwing everything in the air and hoping for the best, maybe they would have been in a better position to deal with the reasons and ramifications of the riots)

London Riots: don’t be misled by the debate

9 Aug

With the london riots, there has come the inevitable debate between sides as to the cause of the situation. Both sides have already begun wading into the argument with their own particular brand of special.

(Credit for the pic goes to whatever photographer who took it. I got it from breakingnews.ie, but it’s probably an agency copy. Apologies to the owner if you take offence at me using it, do let me know)

I heard a conversation last night on the BBC news channel between ( I think, not sure if I remember correctly) Ken livingstone the ex-mayor of London and the newsanchor. Livingstone, was quick to highlight the massive unemployment, bleak education prospects and huge cuts to youth services that had a hand in laying the foundations for such violence and destruction, and then the cuts to the police force and emergency services that had a big hand in denying them their ability to tackle the situation and do their job right. The newsanchor was quick to condemn this point of view, saying that we could not dismiss simple hooliganism because the people commiting it had no jobs: to do that would be giving them a free ride, which is true…to a point.

While I agree with both sides of the debate, I do lean towards the sociological explanation a little bit more, for this very simple reason:

To persistently say the London riots have been caused by simple hooliganism and thuggery -and nothing else-, is like saying the East African famine has been caused because the people there don’t have enough tomatoes. Sure it’s a part of the problem, but to hold it up as the absolute only reason the situation is as it is? well…that’s just ridiculous. There are a lot of other parts of the jigsaw that need to fit correctly before that particular piece fits*.

*Whether a person should learn morals, ethics and principles as soon as possible or only when they are financially and socially stable enough to tackle those big subjects is an interesting question, one that I don’t know the answer to.

The opportunism many people have displayed in looting businesses during the riots is most definitely a point of self control and personal responsibility, but quite a lot of the people involved need basic foundations before they can start worrying about the ethical remifications of their actions. When a kid of fifteen sees a louis vuitton shop bared open for anyone to waltz away with an armful of goodies, they’re not gonna think “Well shucks, I better wonder a minute about what my actions will do to my community and society”, they’re gonna think “Well fuck this innit, I’m stuck on the dole and want something nice to give my ma…louis vittin never done nothing for me, why should I care bout him”.

But, to only focus on these two points of view is a mistake (and to only agree with one side an even bigger one). A lot of the destruction can probably be put down to simple mob mentality and the fact that when you’re wandering round the empty streets looking at it with fresh young eyes- eyes that scream “Hang on a sec…the world isn’t as efficiently well ordered as we’ve been led to believe…I can do anything I want!”- you’ve got a tendency to go crazy and follow the crowd.

The crowd, which is made up of mainly your friends and peers. Single yourself out by not taking part, and there could be a lot more serious repurcussions than a few weeks in a juvenile detention centre. You could be cast out from your group for not manning up.

I should stress that I am not in any way condoning or agreeing with this mentality. There’s a huge difference between agreeing with something, and understanding it.

I read a pretty interesting quote this morning in the paper. I can’t remember it properly, but it was something to the effect of “It’s not about what you do anymore, it’s about what you buy…We’ve got a generation of kids raised on consumerism going wild out there…”

Yes, the riots are based on an excess of aggression, destruction, a wildly skewed sense of entitlement on the rioters part and an an unhealthy disregard for people’s safety. It’s stupid to leave it at that though and forget about investigating the underlying causes. Economic depression, unemployment, lack of services, discrimination, lack of opportunities, apathy. (And of course, there’s the underlying causes for the length of time it has taken the emergency services to react properly to the disorder: massive budget cuts made to the public services). These are all parts of the jigsaw: each one needed to make sense of the next. To hold one single piece up and blame the whole ugly picture on it and it alone is a horrifically small minded mistake.

Captain America: This is the logic we’re teaching now? really?!

8 Aug

I haven’t seen the film yet, so no spoilers ahead. I know admitting this might render my argument completely invalid, but I highly doubt that seeing as it’s near impossible to hide a shakespearean tragedy underneath a punchy blockbuster. Yes, it happens in the comics, but almost never in films which are hoping to rake it in at the box office by aiming themselves at the widest marketshare possible.

There’s one line in the trailer that caught my attention. It’s an innocent, shy little line that can easily pass unnoticed. But, unfortunately, it’s the basis for pretty much the entire films logic.  I should tell you now that I hesitate to apply the same logic to the comics, because I do love me some Captain A. He’s a legend…I don’t want to think about it too much just yet to be honest, i don’t think I’d like it.

After Steve Rogers asks doctor Abraham Erskine, the doctor who will transform him with the super soldier serum he has created, “Why me?” The good doctor replies:

“Because weak men, know the value of strength…know the value of power”

It’s a tight argument, one I agree with to a point. I don’t agree with the implication of it though, an implication that shines through once you take into account the rest of the setup.

Steve rogers is chosen for the super soldier programme because he has repeatedly applied to join the war effort but been denied because he is physically inadequate. He doesn’t have half the muscle mass the other men have and, in the film, he’s actually ridiculously exaggerated. In the comics he’s just an average guy with a bit of an underdeveloped body but in the film he looks a malnourished child who has to grapple with gravity itself to gather enough air to breathe.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen the scene: Scrawny guy steps into a machine then steps out of the machine a hulk of a man, ready to fight for his country.

Now, my (first) problem is this: All those other guys, the odd million or so who succesfully got into the army, didn’t start off looking like Adonis. (for the sake of argument I’m gonna deny historical accuracy and ignore the fact that most of those who enlisted were nothing more than average joes who played a season or two of highschool football). They all toned themselves up through sweat and hardwork. They put in the hours working on their fitness, and it paid off. They got in by virtue of that work they put in.

But it’s not okay to give them the super soldier serum because they “Won’t know the value of strength”? Oh I’m calling that one. I’m calling that one straight up. They’ve decided to improve themselves, probably gone through a hell of a lot of heartbreak for it, and they won’t know the value of strength just because…well, damn, I dunno: just, because! Because they said so! Because!!!1!

But the kicker, and the thing that has me really worried for the state of the world, is that the implication is this:

You can bestow great power and strength on a weak but intelligent, morally strong, courageous, humble, respectful, honourable and benevolent person, but you can not bestow these virtues on a person who’s already strong and powerful.

This is the lesson we’re teaching people: If you’re strong, muscular, or if you can be described in any way near the label ‘jock’, you’re finished, we can’t teach you anything. You just keep on keeping on. No no, it’s okay, don’t worry about it. You’ve got great power and strength, but don’t you worry your little head about the essential virtues which, throughout history, have been used to keep the powerful in check and the warrior class aligned on the side of justice and righteousness. We threw those out the window with the 80’s, so just chill: you’re all good.

I’ve been scratching myself to think of a tribe of warriors in Western history that could illustrate my point properly, but none quite come up to scratch. The spartans, although they’ve gotten a good reputation in the past few years, were a crazy bunch. Sure, they pushed themselves to the pinnacle of the art of war, but they denied themselves a lot of virtues along the way that makes a good warrior. The greeks, although not in the same class as the spartans, were much the same.

The vikings, although they had a great reputation for courage and bravery, were a little bit too keen on rape and pillage to be held up as perfect examples of the warrior pinnacle. Native americans were pretty close I think, but I don’t know enough to say definitively.

No, for a good example of what a warrior should be we have to look East. The samurai in japan and the warrior class (shaolin monks, if you must…but there was a lot more to chinese warfar than the monks) in China lived by a strictly defined set of virtues and principles that kept them in check throughout their life.

Granted that didn’t stop them from getting into fights and wars the same as anyone else, but my point is that when being trained in martial arts and warfare, they weren’t simply taught how to fight, maim and kill. They were taught how to live humbly, with honour, courage, benevolence and a host of other virtues drilled into them. No matter who you were or what size you were, you were taught the same as everyone else. If you were  a weak little shrimp you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. If you were a seven foot powerhouse, you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. There was no distinction, or rather -ignorant presumption, made on someone. If they wanted to learn, they would learn both sides of the coin, not just the one which they already knew.

Sure, weak men know the value of strength and power, but who’s to say we can’t teach strong men the same?! Why can a weak man be given incredible power and strength, but a strong man not be given incredible humility and perspective?…it saddens me to know that this corrosive mentality running through society is, and will be, met with a simple “hey, that’s just the way it is” mentality.

Anyway; if your interest has been sparked by the idea of a complete person then I suggest you read ‘hagakure’ or the ‘Tao te ching’. Both were read furiously by ancient warriors in the East to help them gain a complete understanding of themselves, the world and how best to live in it.

(oh, and I’d turn this one up…those first few bars are just beautiful;)

You’re not finished: not at 18, 19, 21, 30, 40….

11 Jun

Seeing a couple of poignant videos (scattered below) got me thinking about age and it’s perception. Whether it’s the young buck who thinks they’ve been through the social life equivalent of the apocalypse at the tender age of 18, or the same buck who thinks their young age is a decent excuse to act childish and shirk responsibility, our age and perception of it can swing wildly from one end of the scale to the other.

“Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind, kicked the moon”

When I was nineteen I was (as best I can remember) already working like a dog, in a fierce attempt to grow up. I figured that a hundred years ago I would have been married, had five kids (thank you very much, catholic Ireland) and been working for ten years already by that age, so I took great offense to my peers who sat back to piss about in college. The fact that I was still as immature as they were, smoking my brains out and ignoring a life of virtue and principle as much as possible didn’t make a difference to me: in my own twisted narrative, I had the moral highground.

For some reason we put so much emphasis on landmark years that when they’re reached, a little switch goes off in the subconscious; “Great, I’ve hit 18/21/30; I am the definition of maturity incarnate”. It doesn’t matter if we’ve actually achieved the virtues that those landmarks signify, all that matters is the number. And, naturally, you can’t go asking those questions of yourself…that wouldn’t be befitting of a dignified 18/21/30 year old, and it’d be socially unwise too; others might take offense.

The rise of shows like ‘My super sweet sixteen’ and the like, further compound the problem. Parents feel they have to shower their offspring with ridiculously lavish presents because that’s what’s expected. This is becoming the ‘done thing’ so much that the gifts and celebrations are almost taken as essential signs of respect, pride and love that parents should show their children. Without these physical signs, the children don’t quite believe their parents love them. Sure, they know in their hearts that they do, but there’s still a voice in the backround saying “Well…if they really loved me…”

If and when I eventually have kids and they hit those magical numbers, they’ll get nothing special. A pat on the back and a kick up the ass. “You’ve done well, but keep going kid; this is just the start”.

But, depressingly, it’s not just the young that take a meaningless number as the finish line. I knew an intelligent twenty eight year old woman once, someone who could talk about anything and have a pretty good opinion on it. The disapointing part of her was that, over the course of a few months, I realised that she thought herself the ‘Grand old Dame’, because she was so close to hitting thirty. She had been through quite a bit, so had experience to speak from, but the attitude still grated on me: quite a few times in a conversation she would fall back on the “Well, in my long years on this planet…” argument.

(if that one reminds you of Herbie Hancock; we’re on the same level;)

Those long years on the planet can easily count for nothing: a nineteen year old kid in the inner city, with junkies for parents and thugs for friends, can easily have been through more in their life than a forty year old. A forty year old can be wiser, calmer and less judgemental than an eighty year old. An innocent five year old can have a better outlook on life than a bitter thirty five year old.

Your life and learning is not finished at eighteen. Nor at twenty one, thirty, forty, fifty or any other random marker in time. You’re never finished. Never. Sure, you’ve probably been through some things at those ages; but there’ll always be someone out there who’s been through more, and someone who’s been through less. Remember that, and keep working on yourself.