Freedom of information has been the death of truth.

 

The endless stream of information that is flowing around the world increases each day. Its sources: official, unofficial, opinionated, speculated, carbonated with hyperbole, salted with half-truths, outright lies, fabrications, and fantasy are replacing truth. So virulent is the flow of information, so indiscriminate is the information that is slathered across the news and internet, separating what is real from what is not has become impossible. Indeed, the truth is no longer the objective of information; rather, information is sought to affirm feeling and belief. Information is pounded out into the world as white noise filtered by personal conviction and sifted by preconception.

In an interview President Obama commented on the frustration of truth. “The deficit has been reduced by two-thirds, but most people think we spend more.” Why, because that’s what is said on the web. Sites like Snopes.com and Factcheck.org seek to provide truth and clarity, but even their content is used not as a resource for verification, but as a hammer with which to beat the opinion of another.

Society suffers from the mental gout of information overload, of opinion on tap. We drink it in, sucking it down as though it were Mother’s milk for the soul. There’s a flavour for any mentally fat, lazy, drive through opinion seeking person whose willingness to believe makes Fox Mulder look like a sceptic.  Data thieves are exalted because any data held by government must be evil, must be for nefarious purposes, must exist solely to subjugate the masses. Slick talking heads and billionaires spout nonsense and are lauded for their ability to “tell the truth”; their credentials established because they aren’t members of the political framework. That “old guard”, those members of the “establishment” can’t possibly have anything truthful to say. Truth can only come from the outsider, from the source that says things that match what is thought, however spurious, by the masses who eat information like take-out hamburgers on two-for-one day.

Drunkards at an “open bar wedding reception” of information, the mob steps up and orders another round of their favourite opinion and sups deeply from the trough of ignorance. My opinions right or wrong! Here’s to the rebel! Here’s to the outsider! Let us take them at their word, for they aren’t from the swamp of tradition we have grown the hate; we have found a smorgasbord of data upon which to fill our heads. We choose what we like and find smugly crafted sarcasms to denigrate the rest. Out of context GIFs have replaced the pithy retort. Endless pages of partisan insult and derision pass for commentary. Speak not into the echo chamber of one view with a contrarian opinion lest you are hammered down, “doxed”, and belittled into submission by the mob-like hate of the society of the hallowed “feeling”.

The truth has been usurped by the free flow of information. It has been buried beneath the fact of opinion – proof that what is believed is more powerful than what is true. Freedom of information has been the death of truth, for no truth can survive when all ears are bent only to hearing what they want and all wants are easily fulfilled by a craven mass of uneducated liars.

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Remembrance Day and the wearing of the poppy

English: A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn...
English: A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn on the lapel of a men’s suit. In many Commonwealth countries, poppies are worn to commemorate soldiers who have died in war, with usage most common in the week leading up to Remembrance Day (and Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand). The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert Fisk doesn’t wear a poppy. He’s not going to glorify murder by the wearing of that ‘wretched flower.’

In Fisk’s view the poppy is a ‘blood drop on our breast.’ He decries remembrance as selective as we do not mourn the fallen of Flodden or the Boer War and led on by an ‘orgiastic’ poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Canadian John McCrae we endorse the murder of more humans by displaying the poppy on our clothing.

Mr. Fisk’s hyperbole aside, does he have a point? For himself certainly, he is of the view that war is murder. He sees such actions as crimes. How could someone so convinced of his own rightness be persuaded to any other viewpoint? They can’t. This is his view. He sees the poppy as a symbol of murder. McCrae is a propagandist of government sponsored and perpetual murder of humans.

In his Op Ed on the subject, (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/poppycock–or-why-remembrance-rituals-make-me-see-red-8927751.html) Fisk outlines his observed hypocrisies and wrongs; he describes the lack of tears for some and the crocodile tears for others all the name of the murder machine that is war, and the sponsorship of it by government. He will not endorse war and murder by wearing such a symbol.

Fisk is a respected journalist. He’s covered war. He must know what he’s talking about or at least, what he’s convinced himself of and stated in his article. Yet, Fisk fails to convince others – an easy majority of readers of his own article disagree with his view. I certainly do.

Fisk’s opinion is founded on the assumption that there is a malicious desire by governments, and for that matter people at large, to actively murder each other and to promote such murder.  His narrow view can’t envision the notion of failed avoidance, mistakes, and state sponsored criminality as a cause for war. This latter case evident in more than one conflict. He is bereft of any notion that lifts sacrifice like that committed by our soldiery to a level where it might be remembered as that – sacrifice – separated from the cause and all the more noble because it was in many cases offered in spite of these causes.

On the eve of the battle of Agincourt in Henry the Fifth, Shakespeare has his character Williams state:

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at
such a place;’

Yes, it is the ‘King’s’ fault. The King led these mindless masses time and time again into war, and thus the King is to blame. Let us not celebrate the cruel and murderous King by wearing this wretched flower!

Shakespeare however was not done on the subject and his response, spoken by the disguised Henry, sums up what both ‘Williams’ and Mr. Fisk have forgotten:

“So, if a son that is by his father sent about
merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the
imputation of his wickedness by your rule, should be
imposed upon his father that sent him…

…but this is not so: the king is not bound to answer the particular endings of his
soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of
his servant; for they purpose not their death, when
they purpose their services…

… Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s
soul is his own.”

Mr. Fisk fails to remember that the poppy is the symbol of personal sacrifice – not of the states’, the state’s policies, or the rightness or wrongness of the cause which rendered loss. It is the personal sacrifice of each and every soldier that is represented by the wretched little flower I happily wear on my breast. Mr. Fisk would do well to remember whom Remembrance Day is for and why the poppy is not a symbol of murder, state policy, or some mindless adherence to a poem.

Kind regards,

A code of morals

Kipling, aged 60, on the cover of Time magazin...
RK - Nobel Laureate - Image via Wikipedia

I have always felt anyone who was possessed of any soldierly intent or experience required at the least a small knowledge of Kipling. Rudyard Kipling, the author and poet, wrote extensively about soldiers and soldiering during the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds. In my own view, he is required reading. However, with fashion and filters the authors of the past are often cast aside in modern days and we are left to encounter them only in the sad and rare promontories figuratively created through trivia questions in pub quizzes or board games.

I include therefore a poem that I recalled, quite by accident while assisting my youngest with her homework. Being a communicator in my youth and familiar with both the use and history of the devices of that trade, I respectfully inform those not similarly experienced that a ‘heliograph’ is a device, used to reflect the suns rays across great distances via Morse Code. Each flashes a ‘dash’ or ‘dot’ as required, in the AM Western transmission occurs, and in the PM the Eastern transmitter responds.

For your entertainment and edification then:

A Code of Morals – By Rudyard Kipling.

Lest you should think this story true

I merely mention I

Evolved it lately.

‘Tis a most

 Unmitigated misstatement. 

Now Jones had left his new-wed bride to keep his house in order,

And hide away to the Hurrum Hills above the Afghan border,

To sit on a rock with a heliograph; but ere he left he taught

His wife the working of the Code that sets the miles at naught.

And Love had made him very sage, as Nature made her fair;

So Cupid and Apollo linked , per heliograph, the pair.

At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise –

At e’en, the dying sunset bore her husband’s homilies.

He warned her ‘gainst seductive youths in scarlet clad and gold,

As much as ‘gainst the blandishments paternal of the old;

But kept his gravest warnings for (hereby the ditty hangs)

That snowy-haired Lothario, Lieutenant-General Bangs.

‘Twas General Bangs, with Aide and Staff, who tittupped on the way,

When they beheld a heliograph tempestuously at play.

They thought of Border risings, and of stations sacked and burnt –

So stopped to take the message down — and this is what they learnt —

“Dash dot dot, dot, dot dash, dot dash dot” twice. The General swore.

“Was ever General Officer addressed as ‘dear’ before?

“‘My Love,’ i’ faith! ‘My Duck,’ Gadzooks! ‘My darling popsy-wop!’

“Spirit of great Lord Wolseley, who is on that mountain top?”

The artless Aide-de-camp was mute, the gilded Staff were still,

As, dumb with pent-up mirth, they booked that message from the hill;

For clear as summer lightning-flare, the husband’s warning ran: —

“Don’t dance or ride with General Bangs — a most immoral man.”

[At dawn, across the Hurrum Hills, he flashed her counsel wise –

But, howsoever Love be blind, the world at large hath eyes.]

With damnatory dot and dash he heliographed his wife

Some interesting details of the General’s private life.

The artless Aide-de-camp was mute, the shining Staff were still,

And red and ever redder grew the General’s shaven gill.

And this is what he said at last (his feelings matter not): —

“I think we’ve tapped a private line. Hi! Threes about there! Trot!”

All honour unto Bangs, for ne’er did Jones thereafter know

By word or act official who read off that helio.

But the tale is on the Frontier, and from Michni to Mooltan

They know the worthy General as “that most immoral man.”

Kind regards,

On Huckleberry Finn, Words, and ‘Splendid’

Cover of "The Adventures of Huckleberry F...
Cover via Amazon

I like the word splendid. Recently, in a previous post I was presented with the opportunity to use ‘Splendid’ in a sentence. I have to confess to a certain gratification, a sense of overall satisfaction bestowed upon me by the simple fact that I could use a word I seldom pull from my lexicon. Splendid.

Words can be wonderful fun. Sitting listening to a well-spoken, cleverly delivered speech, an interview where two quick witted participants fence, or merely engaging in a cross the counter chat at the local ‘In and Out’ store can deliver unto the listener a comforting and reassuring impression that the world is indeed not falling into decay or the intellectual abyss.  Having a pleasant read, allowing one’s self to happily become caught up in the text is a wonderful escape.

Clothes – another word I like almost as well as splendid. I find I like to ‘say’ clothes rather than read it. Say it with me slowly, ‘Clothes’. It has a certain ‘Sound Sex’ to quote Stephen Fry, a kind of sensual single syllable, multi-syllabic-ness that seems to suggest there’s more to the word than appears in the simple enunciation of it.

Taken on their own, words are wonderful.

Of course, words don’t stay alone; they congregate at the whim of the author or speaker. They band together in one instance like a chorus, in another like a mob. They are the framework upon which ideas are mounted, or the gallows from which condemnation hangs.

I like words. I find most of them appealing and can’t, for the life of me, think of one word I don’t like. No matter how crass, impolitic, rough-hewn, or degenerate no one word strikes me as bad. Even the favoured swear words have their place in the lexicon. The words that are banned or replaced in favour of political correctness have a special place. It is a failing to presume there is any other word that so completely and utterly sums up the degradation, history of abuse, demoralisation, and contempt that is embodied in the word: ‘Nigger.’ Slave doesn’t cut it, though ‘slave’ is a perfectly good word. Slave is not the ‘right’ word; nor is it in this context the ‘correct’ word. In the newest edition of the classic Huckleberry Finn, words deemed ‘offensive’ have been replaced with words that apparently won’t offend. No thought has been given by the professor, who came up with these changes to the offense caused by so completely altering the meaning of the book, the story. By exchanging the word ‘Nigger’ for the word ‘Slave’, he has inexorably pulled a filter, a gauze of acceptability over what is intended to be a word that rankles the throat, that sticks there with every utterance and permanently etches the fact of human abuse of another human into the reader’s mind. No one can read the original text of Huckleberry Finn and come away with any impression other than a negative one of the notion and practice infused in a nation that would brand those among it: ‘Nigger.’

As I said, I like all words. Yet, I recognise there are some that should only be pulled from the shelves of vocabulary with the greatest care and others that while contextually correct in by-gone days, should be left aside from modern usage save in reflection of those past times as a reminder of how conditions were. One cannot retroactively make an era polite and inoffensive by changing the words of that era. In fact, it is sometime prudent to pull out and dust off these callously used words. It does us well to be reminded sometimes of who we once were.

Words are reflections of ideas and while I would never advocate their careless and unfeeling use, there are times when the blunt instrument is the right one. However, we need not dwell on any one word. There are thousands to choose from. We are blessed with a dictionary so overpopulated with words that one could clog the synapses with the excessive use of their verbal and written chewiness. Words are egalitarian. They, and nothing else, deserve to be referred to as such. Anyone can use words; they have only their desire and willingness to stop them. While there are great words and little ones, right words, and correct words, there are no wrong words. I have said in the past, and others have said it better, context is all. There is a word for every moment and every audience.  Words should be used without fear.

Despite this wondrous freedom words provide and the blessings of those whose nations recognise the notion and fact of ‘Freedom of Speech’, some words should be used with care. Fair enough, as with all things forethought is always a good thing. However, if at all possible, use them all. Embellish and exaggerate. Use great heaping spoonfuls of words to dress and ornament your ideas. Buttress your notions with arching terminology, with the rich and sturdy descriptors that have through the ages been accumulated for liberal use. Grow your idea in the fertile earth of variety.

In the end, it all comes down to words. What will you say? What will people say about you? What will they say when you are gone and all that remains are the words you have left behind, the masses of them in terms and phrases, advice, and thoughts strung together over a lifetime spent using them. I can only think of one word I would hope for, ‘Splendid.’

Kind regards,