Saturday, 9 February 2013

Glasgow Zen

There is a thing that Jon Arnold likes to call Glasgow Zen. It is the philosophy which I try to live my life out by. Try being the operative word.

I thought I'd sum it up in a few quick commandments, because I'm pretentious and all that. Its not particularly religious, though it has its formings in Jesuit teachings, I admit, because one can't help being a product of ones teaching. You don't need to be very religious to follow it though: heck, I'm not. Its just what a try to do to avoid being a complete git in public.



This seems quite obvious, no. I don't suppose too many of us have plans to go around killing people in general.

I am wary of the phrase "pro-life", due to the way that is being used in a certain argument. Let us rephrase it as "a respect for the life of all living things". Respect being quite important. It means a lot personally to remain as pacifist as one can without being a push over. Or as a rather maligned former Prime Minister once said, "try not to mistake empathy for weakness", I guess.

It has its own contradictions, of course. A human is a mass of contradictions. It is existence.

One such contradiction is the essence of being omnivorous. Humans, being born omnivorous, are, in many chances, given the choice to choose what they eat. They may continue to be omnivorous if they wish. They may choose to eat solely meat if they wish (though that would not be a wise diet). They may even wish to shun all animal meat and go vegetarian, or even all animal produce, and go vegan. It is an individual choice, and that is to be respected. One is not better than another because of what they do or don't eat.

I choose a balanced diet of both meat and veg. This does not make me better or worse than someone who does not. I am well aware of natures food chain, and the fluke of biology which makes us an apex predator in most places on Earth. Yet I am also aware that a human stands little chance against many other apex predators if they are starving. We are both the strongest and the weakest predator on the planet in that regard.

Choice is an important thing. It extends even to, yes, abortion. Now I have always kept quiet on matters regarding abortion, as it is a thorny subject that people are emotive on. The only important matter at hand is that I am pro-choice in that the matter is up to the individual woman involved, and what the opinion of any one else to that matter is as irrelevant as my opinion on Emmerdale to its cast, in the grand scheme of things.


Yes, I stole that off Asimov. It does fit though.

It's not just a cause of not harming folk. Its very easy not to beat up people. You just...don't do it. It's one thing another to let people beat themselves up.

It is a thing of mine to reply to any despairing tweet I see. You know the sort. "FML", "Oh something dreadful has happened", "I feel useless", etc and all its counterparts.

Even if I don't really know the person, and it flashes up via retweet or someone other means.

My honest belief is that it is better to offer a friendly word or help if need be, because as much as someone might get annoyed or not  need it, someone else bloody well might need it, and if 1 in 100 people you come across really need that friendly word, then those are good enough stats for me, because you never know when you are going to meet that one person who really needs the help.

Also, being a vulnerable person myself (words I hate typing, for the record), I am aware of how terrible it feels when you feel down and no one seems to notice. (Ok, thats because I keep it to myself, but still...)

If someone needs help and you can offer it, I feel it a duty to do so. After all, one day we may need the help ourselves, and then there might not be the people to return the favour. Especially, if, like me, you are a great believer in the law of universal karma.


Because, lord knows, nothing irritates a bully more than refusing to lose your temper.

Tolerance is a big thing for me. It should be a big thing for everyone in the word.

What does it matter what gender someone is, what sexuality, what race, what religion, what colour? It matters not.

All that matters is what kind of a person that person is.

A vile person will be a vile person no matter what shape they take. A charitable person also.

There is too much fear in the world. Fear brings intolerance. Intolerance is a by-product of ill-education. The more people know about something, the less 'reason' they have to fear it.

Asylum seekers became less the exotic other the more I grew to knew as a kid growing up. When they are friendly, smiley, people, despite all the shit they have seen and experienced, and continue to in our country, then it makes you turn a blind eye to the scare mongering headlines.

Indeed, I fully support the ancient rights of humans to come to our lands to escape persecution. (Or indeed, because they feel like it, if they so wish. Immigration scare stories are so much based on Fantasy Land, and yet are harmful.)

Women. Apparently a trigger topic. No idea why. I was born in a matriarchy. My mum is the boss. Her mum is the outright boss, like a mafia don. The last time I won an argument with my younger sister, she was three years old, and it might even have been a draw. My aunts are all strong women. The Great Cameron was a strong woman. The Great Margaret was a strong woman. Aunt Marion is a strong woman. I never got to meet her (thank you, genetic heart failure) but my dad's mum was, by every account under the sun, a very strong woman. My wife is a strong woman. My pal Emma, who I've known since I was...twelve, is a strong woman.

In none of my experience growing up were women seen as a weaker sex. I could have taken from hints, like my mum being the first woman in her part of Glasgow ever to go to university, that that meant within modern times there had been a time when it wasn't. But it didn't occur. My mum and dad shielded me and Cat from almost all intolerances growing up, and I remain eternally thankful for that.

So when I first came across it, it hit me like a punch from a brick.

And I still don't get it.

The genders are equal, to my mind. In intelligence, sporting (though I am aware the female is better at long endurance sports, like running or tennis, according to science), empathy, etc.

I am opposed to Uni Lad type cultures, to misogyny. I am also opposed to people who use the card of feminism to attack others and to call for intolerance. There is, to my mind, little difference between Richard Littlejohn and Julie Bindel. Both spew the most intolerant guff.

And you know, being phobic isn't a defense. "Oh, I'm not a bad person, I just don't like the blacks."  "Oh, I'm not homophobic, but..." Both genuine responses I have heard in my time.

Bollocks to that.

Let me be honest. When I didn't know any better, I was, for lack of a better word, transphobic. It was a fear of the unknown. We are going back to my early teens here. Then, I became friends with someone I later learnt was trans. The more I learnt about the situation, the more wrong I realised how wrong my previously held position had been. It was based on idiocy, ill-education.

Most scare tactics only work on people who don't know the truth.

Tolerance itself is a sword.

Be tolerant even of flaws, as long as they are not criminal ones. (And even then, the only unforgivable events for me are sexual abuse, murder, and abandonment. And the only grey area is lapsed mental responsiblity, which comes from being mentally handicapped or having another such mental health issue, and not because one was in a foul mood one later regretted...)

But besides those, every person has their own flaws. A person is not beautiful because they are flawless, but for what they achieve despite those flaws.



We need not know when that Spring will come. But come it must, as with all things, life is cyclical.

When a recession comes,  people panic. Yet economies are by nature cyclical, for every boom there must be recession. For every depression, there must be a boom. Even the longest depression burns itself out.

I speak economics, I could as easily speak life.


Things are not either ors.

A great danger of modern life is the fact that people seem content to push things immediately in a box marked conclusion.

Nobody is all one thing, or all another.

We all live in great shades of grey.

To ignore the greys in life, and to immediately fix upon set targets, is to fall prey to binary thinking.

Here is a popular example.

"All Tories are evil."

I would have voted Tory once. Admittedly, it was in 1959, and the man in charge that year is one most modern Tories have forsaken.

When I was writing my Memoriams up, I spoke highly of several former Conservative ministers. Flawed though he may be, I don't believe Tony Newton was an evil man when he showed up in the House of Lords WITH AN OXYGEN TANK to keep going during his final illness, to speak out against the horrors of the Welfare reforms. He was a Tory, yet showed himself an honorable man.

The flipside is that my local MP has had to apologise for slandering a friend, has called me a Fascist before, and is a deeply unpleasant man. He is a Labour MP.

Partisanship is a great evil in modern politics, as much as the ghost of Milton Friedman which continues to live on in the hearts of all the major powers economies.

I don't give a hoot which party proposes a good policy, as long as it is a good policy. Also, a bad policy is a bad policy, regardless who puts it forward.

In my time, I have been referred to both as a socialist and as a right winger, based on peoples perceptions of what people on their side OUGHT to be. Both snap decisions appall me. I am a politico of no party. It is different.

People who focus on what the last party did instead of focusing on solving the problem are as much a part of the problem as the people they profess did.

I believe the public look less keen on the blame game than the do on someone fixing the problem they were issued with. And the issue is not deficit. It is the human issue. Take care of the human issue, and the deficit will be dealt with. Else, if we can't take care of the human issue, what else is a government for?

One can be great at some things and utterly terrible at others. Take Enoch Powell. The Rivers of Blood speech was a bloody nightmare, and it still holds ramifications today. Its hard to believe the same man was key outspoken against the British Mau Mau atrocities, or pivotal in immigration relations (fast tracking jobs for immigrants in the NHS) at an early point, and even was a sponsor of the bill which led to the decriminalization of homosexuality. It is hard to put a definite label on a man who did such great good and such great evil within the same decade of his life, let alone in his entire life.

It might be easier to label Hitler as a bad person, or what we know of Jesus as a good person. But hardly anyone is Hitler or Jesus, you know.

Mostly, people are Enoch Powell (great horror, but with great good too), or Michael Foot (great good, but with a right nasty streak too at times).

We are all a mass of our flaws and achievements.

In short, as some chap people look up to despite being dead for two millenia might have said if he was alive today, and saw all the fights and the current government, and the intolerant strands of society:

Don't act like a git to others, as you wouldn't want others acting gits to you.

And that, my friends, is Glasgow Zen.