Music and my eulogy

Music and my eulogy – what music tells of me and my thinking.

The me that i am

I’m laying here, late at night, and all is dark and quiet.

Or is it? The sound of an aircraft in the distance suggests otherwise. And lights play at the edge of my vision. The pure white of the modem with its myriad connection and signal indicators, the deep red of the amplifier sleep light, the vibrant blue of the subwoofer. All small but distinct, and in this not-so-dark darkness, significant. The light of my tablet reflecting off the puckered leather indents of the couch I am reclining on ever so slothfully, and comfortably. My left arm is bent back with my balled fist making some form of pillow under the nape of my neck.

music and my eulogy dark thoughts image by Volkan Olmez via Unsplash

I tilt my head for no discernible reason other than perhaps to alleviate some of the discomfort from the headset of my Marley on-ear headphones, which have always been too tight but provide such an immersive and compelling musical experience that I simply cannot give them up or consider exchanging them. To do so would be a form of buyer’s remorse, and that’s just not me.

music and my eulogy thinking of when i fade away by Leeroy from unsplash

I’ve never really suffered from the gnawing doubts so readily recognisable to those who are wont to suffer buyer’s remorse. If I like what I have then some part of me is satisfied that such liking is a sufficiency. Even with a faulted liking. The grass may be greener over some real or fanciful fence construct somewhere but there is no clarion call inside of me singing that beguiling siren song with the lure of more or better. Perhaps that is why I find buyer’s remorse of any kind so bewildering and frustrating when I observe it in others? What drives a person to make a decision if they have not already considered the alternatives? Sometimes, it occurs to me that a lack of buyer’s remorse may indicate a failure to aim high enough or lead to missing out on opportunities or experiences. That I’m selling myself short or gaining less for me and mine than could otherwise be the case.

I considered using “than is available” in that statement but discounted it – and I don’t know why. Some part of me was clearly assessing the balances of value and applicability between the two phrases but the me that is connected to the part of me driving the thoughts that drive this pencil stylus isn’t aware of the minutiae of the scales used and isn’t overly interested in directing sufficient thought to address the problem.

Did i aim to be the best that i could be?

Maybe the same thought limiting condition or reflex that keeps this me from investigating that internally prepackaged decision on choice of phraseology is also responsible for keeping buyer’s remorse at bay? This me that is I doesn’t know. And/or isn’t interested. Perhaps because I’m trying to get to the story? Is that all my lack of buyer’s remorse is suggesting? That I’ve moved on to a new story or imperative, and going back over past decisions is of little use in the next unfolding of life’s story?

Music and my eulogy What is life's story? standing in sunshine thinking image by Sunset Girl via Unsplash

And there is always the nagging of Voltaire’s Panglossian concept that I’ve perhaps taken too much of the world as being acceptable or OK, simply because I’ve failed to see the world as it truly is or because I’ve accepted the world as it is as representing the best that things can be? A part of me is chilled at the merest hint of my sharing old Pangloss’ outlook on life.

I’ve adjusted my head and hand position twice now, and my left hand is a little numb. Possibly because my raised and bent arm is reducing flow of blood? A quick adjust of the headphone pads reminds me just how tight these headphones are. And how humidity must be a touch high, as I felt a rush of cool on my ears as what I am assuming was a little sweat evaporated away as soon as the leather earpads were lifted. Still no urge to replace or “fix” that excessive tightness.

Music and me

I’m just going to put music on and soak in that float tank of sensuality that music can be for me.

Music and my eulogy - floating by Christopher Campbell via Unsplash

“Tell me something good” – Pink. Not exactly a float tank but those beats, and rhythms, and voices and drums and clapping hands and some sort of electronic distortion… They combine to wake my mind and stimulate thoughts and thinking.

“Can somebody find me someone to love” is lifting the hairs on my inside thigh – a tingling that won’t go away but crawls through my mind as much as my skin. A good feeling. Not sensual as such but immensely satisfying and wantable. A mood swing that doesn’t arc but instead lifts and moves in a roofless, open-walled elevator of emotions and feelings. And such is the mystery that compels me to ignore sleep, and instead commit this swag of concepts to word, even if not to paper.

And the eulogy?

For want of a directly observable or internally ponderable link, I’ll ask you to settle on a simple statement of fact, as opposed to causality or an accumulated stream of conscious thought. Listening to – experiencing? – a mind full of music presented a vision of my eulogy being delivered by a faceless person in indistinguishable but clearly funerary surrounds. What music would I want to be playing in that scene? And what would the choice of music say about the me that I am? And would anyone care? And even if they did – or did not – would that music and its interpretation truly express the float-tank of comfort and immersive experiential feelings and emotion and emotive actions that so compels the me that is passing on to you this dissertation?

Do I need for anyone else to gain a sense of this me that is so truly me – that is never or can never be shared in the sense of a simultaneous elevation of thought and presence but only discussed and expressed and hopefully at some level, understood? Another human being listening to the same music at the same time and even with similar “liking” of that music is still not experiencing the same ‘thing’ that music is to me.

You and I and that other will each interpret our experience of that music through the prism of individually nuanced knowledge, understanding, experiential and genetically determined filters and co-existing environmental factors. All of which make up such a hugely diverse set of inputs that we cannot truly “share” the moment. Not in a full sense of what “share” could mean. At least, not in the way I am thinking of it right now.

Is there anything else that an eulogy should convey? Isn’t all else really just shadows and dust? Shadows and dust and illusion? A transient statement of impact, the permanence of which is determined by the sense of time and space capable of being generated by and in the people who are present? Is that a true or suitable or satisfying concept of the point of my existence and sufficient to justify the point of a having any eulogy at all?

Does it matter to me who is present for the delivery of my eulogy? Would it alter my sense of self worth now if I were to know if my eulogy was witnessed by few or many? What if there is to be no eulogy but a hurried semi-acknowledgement of my passing? I’ve never really taken the time to think of scenarios, which suggests I am as human as you dear friend and witness to, my internal musing on music in the context of mortality.

What seems readily apparent is that I grimace at the idea of my eulogy being delivered by a person unaware of or dismissive or disinterested in something as essential as music is to me. I’d rather not be remembered.

Which is both strange and startling to me – to see this me put forward such an unthought thought so surely. As a blunt statement of fact, where until now i have never thought on it in this sense at all.

Music and my eulogy - where do i fit or am i lost? image by Elijah Hail via unsplash

Music and my eulogy

Nothing in my visible life lived conveys the relationship music and I share. I cannot sing to a note. I have difficulty separating and identifying a ‘g’ note from an ‘a’ note. Music scaling up or down in a sequence of notes is a movement I can only relay after considerable thought and effort. I have bought many musical instruments and read basic music sheets without too much effort, yet would struggle to play a single song or musical piece in its entirety. Not just struggle to do so but am singularly disinterested in doing so.

There’s nothing to say about music and I, as we are estranged on any given day. Yet there is an experience in music that holds together strands of my atheist soul. And I am not alone. Why is it that music so quickly grabs the attentions of children? Why do millions gather to share music that can be readily enjoyed alone?

Does music in some way call to our basest of instincts? Not the immediately determined base instincts of food or sex or love or hate or want or self preservation or selfishness but a base instinct as a sense of resonance. An alignment of resonance with the energy that pulses and rhythms through each of our physical and mental being – an energy born not in conception but in the original pulse of life from times eons past and simply promulgated through conception? Is there a link between that primordial starting pulse or spark of energy, and the energy or pulse of music? Can a shared musical experience bring us all ever-so-briefly closer to the sense of what ‘life’ is?

So I close my eyes as music pushes experiences through my inner being, even as my mind dismisses the passing of night to morning, and tomorrow’s anticipations become today’s inevitabilities.

Music? I don’t know music but it does know me.

And I’d like for it to be present for my eulogy. To pass out of memory without music would seem to me the meanest of deaths.

Music and my eulogy - a senseless death image by Jacob Walti via Unsplash

Who is the me that I am?

who is the me that i am photo by Julia Caesar and Unsplash
Who is the me that I am?
[photo by Julia Caesar via Unsplash]
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

Well they can’t really, can they? Words, that is. They can infuriate, frustrate, annoy and yes – even hurt. But they can’t hurt “me”.

The me that I am isn’t affected by words or sticks or stones. The body the me that I am inhabits can be hurt. The ego and sense of self through which the me that I am gains perspective on place and position in a social environment, can be impacted. But can it be hurt?

If the body that the me that I am inhabits were to lose a limb, is the me that I am any less for the loss? Not really.

If the me that I am were to be subject to persecution, abuse, bigotry, oppression, hurt or pain in whatever and whichever forms such angst should occur – is the me that I am any less for the woe undergone? Not really.

If the me that I am were to be shorn of dignity, pride, position or power, is the me that I am any less for the loss? Not really.

“Not really” because after all that physical and emotional hurt and suffering, the me that I am still exists. The me that I am still thinks, still filters and sifts experiences of taste, touch, smell, sound, perceptions, memories and expectations as it always has. Lose any individual or range of senses, and the me that I am remains. Shorn of input at some level but continuing never-the-less.

If my body, my ego and my sense of self can be battered and bruised but the me that I am still exists – then who is the me that I am?

If life is suffering in some Buddhist sense then how is the me that I am related to this life that suffers?

The me that I am gained awareness of my existence at some nebulous and undefined point or combination of points in time, so I wonder what the me that I am was doing before then?

If a disease can bring on forgetfulness, and take away a sense of place or time – then where is the me that I am while all this is going on? If a radical treatment could suddenly cure full blown dementia, what memories or experiences would the me that I am now hold? Would that restructuring of “something” (“mind”, perhaps?) bring about a new me that I am or would the me that I am simply hold extra perspective or information?

Who is the me that I am?




My Inheritance

A human being may bequeath to progeny their money, their property, titles, debts and rights. But there is more to it than that, isn’t there? We humans also pass on our genes, our attitudes, our beliefs and our cultural traditions. Unlike property, this is not a single and direct transfer that takes place at death. It is a continuous two-way interaction that takes place throughout our lifetimes, and in some cases, continues after we are dead – but it is nevertheless a part of the inheritance passed on. Some people see this non-financial transfer as a definitive task or a familial or social obligation, and many people seek control of the entire process as as if it were their absolute right, akin to the Western tradition of private property. The desire to control the destiny of private property and non-property estate assets past the finishing-post of death is a very strong human trait. Yet there are greater issues that flow from this seemingly most personal of acts, issues that impact on the evolution and efficiency of society as a whole, and that is the subject of this post. Let’s start this thought-walk by dismissing out of hand any pretence at considering the precise rights and obligations imposed by laws or regulations. Quite simply, the issues to weigh are greater than the haphazard implementation of a handful of mildly disinterested law-makers, and the haphazard nature of such implementation results in demarcation disputes over just which relevant law or body of laws applies in each situation. So we will dismiss the exactitudes of this or that local, state or national rule-book, and consider instead just what is happening when the process of inheritance and hereditary transmission take place.

Hereditary right vs inheritance

A hereditary right is one granted through the virtue of birth. For those fortunate enough to be born in the ‘right’ family, and at the ‘right’ end of a family tree branch, there will be benefits, obligations, position and prestige provided by society simply because of that accident of birth. There have been exclusions and exceptions over the years, with some societies limiting inheritance to the eldest son or positing exceptions of one kind or another, such as the inability of lepers to inherit.

Inheritance and property
Inheritance creates issues in ways that bewilder and confound.

(see this link for an example of inability to inherit owing to leprosy). An inheritance, on the other hand, may be benefits, obligations, wealth, debt, prestige or denigration. You may inherit land, buildings, income, precious art/ metals/ objects or basic cash. You may in some circumstances even inherit a debt. Now this is an interesting one, and an area where laws set a rather illogical precedent. It is a basic principle of Western laws that children are not responsible for the debts of a dead person – in other words, your estate balances up assets against liabilities, and pays out the net amount to beneficiaries. If there is nothing left then there is no inheritance. If the sum of assets and liabilities is a negative – that is, the debts are greater than the assets – then beneficiaries are not asked to make up the difference. They may not get the family farm or the family home that they through they were entitled to but neither are they going to be asked to put their hand in their pocket, and stump up cash to balance the books of their parent’s estate. It’s like a one-way valve – you can make money but you cannot lose. We’ll come back to that little anomaly…

Back to the non-financial inheritance. Prestige may come in the form of a very much revered and ancient family name – with or without any associated property wealth. Bill Bryson covers this in his book At Home, in which he points out that wealthy US folk married impoverished British aristocracy at a rate of knots in the 19th century. The British aristocracy obtained capital in the form of cash,  while the newly-wealthy of the United States obtained capital in the form of a historical lineage. And money was sufficient to grant more than just a financial inheritance. Bill Bryson goes on to talk about the Vanderbilt family, who “… at one time he personally controlled some 10 per cent of all the money  in circulation in the United States.” Bryson then highlights the benefits of inheritance, in that “The Vanderbilts grew so powerful and spoiled that they could get away, literally, with murder. Reggie Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius and Alice Vanderbilt, was a notoriously reckless driver (as well as insolent, idle, stupid and without redeeming feature) who ran through or over pedestrians on five separate occasions in New York. Two of those he flung aside were killed; a third was crippled for life. He was never charged with any offense.”

In a similar yet negatively correlated way, denigration can be an inheritance in circumstances such as being born into a family with a much hated history, to the wrong caste or class in a rigidly class-structured society. Being born an ‘untouchable’ could hardly be considered a hereditary right but it quite definitely is an inheritance. Similarly, it is possible to be born into a family of immense wealth and prestige – but with an odorous past. Perhaps one of the ‘great families’ who have recently undergone this or that demotion or event of shame. In this case, there are hereditary rights but the inheritance is not completely positive. So, why does it matter to differentiate between an hereditary right and an inheritance? We’ll return to this one but first we need to revisit the issue of ‘ownership’, most broadly understood in the Western sense,as “private property”.

What do you actually own?

Private property is the over-riding lynch pin of Western economic thought. Private ownership rules and laws have changed and evolved over the millenia, with empires, royalty, aristocracy and various other “ocracies” finding their claim to all that is built, made, born and present slowly erode, as others became able to earn and retain their own assets and wealth. This evolution of ownership eventually reached the stage where all individuals are able to own something in their own name, safe from state, institutional or ‘right-of-might’ confiscation, robbery, damage, coercion, cheating and fraud. This right to individual ownership of property is seen as a fundamental step towards the modern world. The benefits of private ownership are not universally acknowledged. Proudhon’s “Property is theft” slogan has been a rallying call for the anarchist movement throughout the years – but any real-world examples of this philosophy in action have been unmitigated disasters, and so ownership of property continues to be the fulcrum on which Western nations operate. Ownership and ‘private property’ are seen by some as the only practical way of ensuring the efficient distributions of scarce resources. Private property ensures personal obligation, concern, care, and responsibility. It obviates the “tragedy of the commons”, and ensures that assets and property are efficiently managed. The idea behind this is covered in this article from the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. The following excerpt is longer than usual but it does quite beautifully paint a picture of the point under discussion :

The rational explanation for such ruin was given more than 170 years ago. In 1832 William Forster Lloyd, a political economist at Oxford University, looking at the recurring devastation of common (i.e., not privately owned) pastures in England, asked: “Why are the cattle on a common so puny and stunted? Why is the common itself so bare-worn, and cropped so differently from the adjoining inclosures?” Lloyd’s answer assumed that each human exploiter of the common was guided by self-interest. At the point when the carrying capacity of the commons was fully reached, a herdsman might ask himself, “Should I add another animal to my herd?” Because the herdsman owned his animals, the gain of so doing would come solely to him. But the loss incurred by overloading the pasture would be “commonized” among all the herdsmen. Because the privatized gain would exceed his share of the commonized loss, a self-seeking herdsman would add another animal to his herd. And another. And reasoning in the same way, so would all the other herdsmen. Ultimately, the common property would be ruined.

The complete article is a worthwhile read. Just keep in mind that the site is on economics and liberty – so there is a clearly stated focus for individualism and hints of the Austrian school of economics. Climate change is a great example of the tragedy of the commons at work. Each country, company and individual can continue to degrade the atmosphere (and to all intents and purposes, the broader environment), as the benefits from doing so (in terms of standard of living and pure economic self-interest) are greater for them than the shared cost of the outcomes. The financial market equivalent is the ability of global level banks to take outlandish levels of risk and keep the reward, while stepping up to governments to share in the costs of any negative outcomes from those risks. “Privatising profits and socialising losses” is the phrase used post the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis. Private property is a central plank in modern economies. Even developing countries such as China, with their gradual steps towards capitalism, are finding that private property is a tricky concept to play around with. This article from the venerable New York Times reports on villagers in Wukan who have barricaded the streets and marched to enforce their individual property rights.

NYTimes article on Wukan villagers calling for fair treatment for private property
Even autocratic nations tread dangerous ground when they fail to acknowledge the principles of private property

And so we return to the point under discussion – private property and inheritance. There are many ways in which to view the seemingly simple process by which the assets and liabilities of an individual are passed to beneficiaries. When viewed in a narrow sense, it involves little more than the transfer of cash and the assigning of private property ownership rights under respective laws. When viewed in a wider sense, we begin to touch on less definitive processes and ideas and thoughts.

Is inheritance A SOcial “Good”?

Why is it that the possessions and chattel that you or i accumulate during our lifetime, can pass on to others? This chain of possession is taken for granted by Western nations but is it a useless legacy of times and needs past? A bit like the appendix, a rather pointless left-over that from time to time can cause a lot of trouble but the thing itself is of no redeeming benefit? What is the alternative or alternatives? Maybe a free-for-all in which locals and family fight it out for whatever remains, as soon as your passing breath is made? There is a very disturbing scene in the classic movie “Zorba the Greek”, in which a elderly woman’s – Madame Hortense’s – house is ransacked as soon as she dies.

Inheritance - Dame Hortense style
Who owns what you own once you die?

It is reminiscent of the stories passed on to us about scenes surrounding the deaths of kings of the past – posts abandoned and royal bodies lost through the mad scramble to be a part of the new royal prerogative. Is this an appropriate way of dealing with death and the passing on of an inheritance?   Logic and polite society would suggest that this is a recipe for conflict, disagreement, disappointment and instability. So we have rules that allow a person to decide before they die, how they would like their possessions dealt with when they die.

Is society better off for enforcing the distribution of material wealth wishes of a person who is no longer alive? Touchy subject but an interesting one to ponder.Touchy, because most people want to do “the best” for their children or grandchildren, favourite pet or institution, and therefore aim to accumulate and pass on, as much financial asset as they possibly can. Interesting, because the person/people/pet/institution who inherits these funds has done nothing of worth to earn the capital. They have simply been born into or been liked by, the “right” family. And this, dear friends, is just another form of aristocracy.

If one generation does nothing to earn their beneficial entitlement then what benefit is there to society in this person receiving the endowment? One argument is that the private property transcends generational divides and death, so inherited wealth is just another logical outcome rewarding those who are successful in a capitalist society. The next generation has seen the previous work hard to generate money, so they are likely to be well suited to managing the excess capital. Better pass the wealth on to an indolent progeny than to distribute to hordes of the lazy and unimaginative.

Inheritance and private property

Inheritance seems so straight-forward. However, there are quirks in the system. How about theft? What if the current generation accumulates significant wealth but does so in an unethical, immoral or simply criminal manner. If that generational member dies, how legitimate is the claim to assets of whoever was nominated in the unethical, immoral or simply criminal testator?

So many things to ponder on this issue. We’ll come back to it in a little while.




Still Thinking about… the demagogue

Beware the demagogue

Oh yes my friend, you should beware the demagogue in our midst.

Is that statement a little too self-evident? Why the emphasis on what amounts to a stock-standard character in any developed world society? A demagogue should be overtly and starkly obvious to even the most cursory investigation so why am i being so tedious? For this post, we are not even going to define a demagogue. This is a positioning statement only. There is much left to say about the demagogue in modern society. Why?

Because common sense is anything but common, and our shiny developed societies place more value on the cult of personality than on speaking plain truths. Even the concept of ‘plain truths’ gets distorted, when political parties thrust Mr or Mrs, Miss or Ms Average onto the public stage to make overly simple statements that sound correct but actually hide a myriad mess of false premises and errant logic. Every community will have its example but United States politics is resplendent with such folk. People like Joe the Plumber. ‘Same logic but different front-man/woman’ is evident when we have leaders and authoritative figures devastating considered debate with a primitive sound-bite or home ‘down-to-earth and pithy logic’ that fails every test of logic. You’re familiar with the style – it’s usually wrapped around some fictitious call for authenticity and the return of a golden, more honest and honour-worthy past.

Who is the demagogue?

So the demagogue in our midst may not be all that obvious after all. They are unlikely to appear in their true form – they may appear calm, studious, considered… stoic even. They will have a specific lure. Perhaps they have a casual strength that lends credence to their every utterance or a massive authority by virtue of family background, corporate success or academic achievement? This can be a problem, as in acknowledging these positive forces we fall for one text-book fallacy after another. Authority of one form or another can and often does cloak fallacy, something along the lines of those classic words uttered by Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings, when talking about someone who eventually turns out to be a hero in the story… “i don’t know Mr Frodo sir, i’d think a servant of the Dark Lord would look fairer and feel fouler as they say…”. This does not automatically endow the ugly with a pristine character but it is an interesting take on the request to not read a book by its cover.


servant of the Dark Lord would look fairer and feel fouler - the demagogues are in our midst
How can you tell the demagogue in your midst? (image source

So why remind people of the blindingly obvious, and talk about something that is possibly already being discussed at coffee-tables? Why shouldn’t we just rely on our individual accumulated knowledge, experience and observation and trust that these will hold us in good stead, and guide us to good decision making? Is there a litmus test that we can use to help us identify the demagogue in our midst, and how do we delineate the demagogue from the righteous campaigner or the genuine societal reformist agitator? Are these character portrayals simply a reflection of perspective and outlook, muddled to insignificance in a world of relative values? To some extent they are, which is why basic values should always be questioned, poked and pondered under a slightly different light. It is only through continuous questioning that the true demagogue in our midst is unveiled.

Let’s start the thought process by looking a little closer at the social imperatives that create demagogues in our midst.

When leaders lie

Oh yes, my friend – not all leaders are setting out to gain your favour by telling the truth. At least, not the truth as you and i would assess it. And i’m not even sure about you now, am i? Elections in the modern world evoke universal cynicism to the point that truth-telling becomes far less important than spotting lies.

As usual, the United States provides ample illustration of the diversity of opinion that parades as fact. Checking the facts behind political throwaway lines has becomes something of an art, with a huge array of loyal followers. Does lying change mass opinion? Groups such as fact checkers ( help the average person to find those little or large fibs, filibusters and outright lies. Interestingly, the 2012 presidential election was most impacted by a truth told by one presidential candidate, who publicly belittled half the population as being less than worthy of consideration. For all the lies, it was a personal truth that made the greatest difference. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

What is it that allows us (makes us) decide to like/agree with/vote for/subscribe to someone who we have never met in person, spoken to or ever would encounter in the societal circles that we inhabit? Moving in closer, which version of chicken-coop-hierarchy are we following when a group of people voluntarily ‘elect’ a leader (whether intentional and overt or simply a granting of power and superior status)?

Let’s draw a long bow and declare that human society is based above all on the concept of leadership. Whether the national decision making processes are based on autocracy, democracy, meritocracy, aristocracy  monarchy, communism, anarchy or any model thereof, there is a requirement that the bulk of the society trust that their leaders will provide circumstances for sustaining life and hopefully for improving it. That the leaders will also provide clarity of action, and allow their citizens to navigate those intents and get on with the act of living life.

You could argue that leaders do not need to provide clarity or that these conditions do not always exist. You could point to slavery and examples where the larger population is not given any say or consideration (the Spartan Helots come to mind). However, it would be difficult to argue against the statement that in all such instances, the tensions and disparities that inevitably flow have eventually led to a realignment of the decision making process and the redistribution of power. (Counter argument – that could be a time-frame measured in centuries! Counter-counter argument – time required doesn’t make the statement invalid).

For the moment, if you would please just give the benefit of the doubt to the idea that human society is based above all on the concept of leadership, and consider what this means for the effective operation of any society – but most importantly, a modern society.

You could even argue that most people in a developed society almost expect their leaders to impart truth in small measures. This may be a result of disaffection, as pork is directed away from your specific interest group or it could be a track record of genuinely bad leaders or it could be the final result of a weary electorate after cascading years of shortfalls in honesty.

If we take the argument to its extreme then people should expect their leaders to be incapable of imparting the truth at all times. Here’s an essay style article which suggests just such a thing Of course, the moment one human being expects another human being to lie, those two human beings have lost one of the fundamental components of efficiency in communication. Each will need to second-guess the other for intention or motive, and assess the likelihood that there is a lie in any component of communication. In effect, these two humans have lost the ability to communicate effectively as well as efficiently. Modern society pretty much would have trouble coping with a leader who continuously portrayed the absolute truth.

Trust and truth

Oh yes, my friend these two virtues are only occasionally linked in the manner good faith would suggest. Trust is often granted in the absence of truth, while truth does not always engender trust. In fact, truth can destroy trust – but that is another ponder altogether.

You can't handle the truth - the demagogues in our midst
You can’t handle the truth! – the demagogues are in our midst

If truth is too hard to hear, what is it that is being spoken? Half-truths? Paternal fibs to make you happy in your societal bondage? Glib nothings that pander to the mainstream thinking that is already directed by hegemonic forces that are, by definition, invisible.

Intercession – You’re not thinking – you’re just mumbling..!

Ok. That is probably a valid criticism. Let’s stop for a moment, and empty our minds of accumulated ponders. Why is it that discussion on demagogues is so easily subverted by a myriad of seemingly disconnected issues?

Beware the demagogue because they will always be acting against your interests

Because that is how demagogues work. They start with half-truths or even full truths, and add, build and develop that core of vague truths with outstanding displays of long-bowman-ship and convoluted logic. It still remains something of a mystery that such foolishness can be accepted as credible by an increasingly and historically very educated public and yet it is.

Perhaps it’s the law of small numbers tricking individual perspectives, as we highly connected, educated, informed and aware modern citizens increasingly narrow our inputs through selective news and data sources. Ever wondered what happens when the internet and modern communications allow a greater diversity of input and opinion and yet so many people simply use these tools to seek out similar minded folk, no matter where they may be? The internet is definitely the Great Enabler, yet it also allows people with specific or even extreme views to track down pockets of like minded fools from across the globe.

Demagogues have been a part of the landscape of human society since its inception. That is a necessary function of the urge for power, control and “leadership”. We should by now have a pretty good handle on this innate cancer of an enlightened society and yet we do not. That is cause for concern. It is also cause for this post, and for this reason we should should all be, Still Thinking.

Still Thinking about half-truth emails

Australia is considered a tolerant multi-cultural nation. There will always be those who are less tolerant, and who are not happy with the range of outcomes necessitated by a multi-cultural society. The Internet gives these people an avenue to spread their view of the universe, and quite often the message is more than a little  confused. Here’s an email received recently. The exercise of the day is to read it, and analyse your immediate thoughts and impressions. Now consider how a range of different people you know would be likely to receive, and react to such an email…

Following this email is a copy of the note that was sent via “reply to all”. What is your approach to dealing with examples of half-truths or misstatements?

The email has the subject line “Very powerful…”




A very powerful cartoon, please keep it going and remember they are putting their lives on the line for us all. We all should have the same rights, what ever your religion.

cartoon depicting a failure to take a pledge in front of disabled soldier
This should be posted in every school in the Australia and all Commonwealth countries.

Only31 words — Think about it!

Isn’t life strange? I never met one Veteran who enlisted to fight for Socialism!

If Muslims can pray in Martins Place, why are Christians banned from praying in public and from erecting religious displays on their holy days?

What happened to our National Day of Prayer?
Muslims are allowed to block off major streets, in all Australian States and pray in the middle of the street! and it’s a monthly ritual!

Tell me, again, whose country is this?
Ours or the Muslims?

I was asked to send this on if I agree, or delete if I don’t.

It is said that 86% of Australians believe in God.

Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a problem in having ‘God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s prayer said in our schools or public meetings.

I believe it’s time we stand up for what we believe!

If you agree, pass this on; if not, delete it.


and here is the response sent to all who were on the distribution list for this email…

ok. i’ll admit to being a bit of an anarchist when it comes to these sort of emails… i’ve added a few comments. feel free to delete, the same way the original email suggests…


i have thought about it a lot. i’ve taken myself to university to study it, and most of the reading that i do day-to-day is oriented towards just that kind of thinking.

A very powerful cartoon, please keep it going and remember they are putting their lives on the line for us all.

Agree that soldiers fight in wars that governments start, and that every injury and fatality – both military and civilian – is a horrible outcome. The cartoon however, lacks impact because it tries to tie together unconnected issues. For example, for it to be funny or powerful, you have to assume the child understands the full impact of his actions, or that the child who fails to act out the pledge cannot have sympathy for a disabled soldier – neither of these is a valid expectation. Let’s see how the accompanying wording goes for robust thinking.

We all should have the same rights, what ever your religion.

Totally agree.

This should be posted in every school in the Australia and all Commonwealth countries.

Totally disagree. The cartoon puts forward one view out of many possible interpretations of the underlying themes. If the cartoon is available at schools, it should be used as an example of how opinion is polarised by fallacy and inappropriate calls of authority through association.

Only31 words — Think about it!
Isn’t life strange? I never met one Veteran who enlisted to fight for Socialism!

The cartoon makes no statement about Socialism.

If Muslims can pray in Martins Place, why are Christians banned from praying in public and from erecting religious displays on their holy days?

The cartoon makes no statement about Muslims.

What happened to our National Day of Prayer?

What National Day of Prayer? This is Australia. We don’t have a National Day of Prayer.

Muslims are allowed to block off major streets, in all Australian States and pray in the middle of the street! and it’s a monthly ritual!

If they apply for appropriate permits, and the same permits are available to all under the same conditions then there should be no issue with this. The cartoon does not make a statement about Muslims being able to pray on the streets.

Tell me, again, whose country is this?
Ours or the Muslims?

The country “belongs” to the people who inhabit it, whether Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Agnostic or Jedi Knights.

I was asked to send this on if I agree, or delete if I don’t.

Once upon a time, i just deleted these emails. Then i realised that this is exactly the same sort of lethargy and apathy that allows such half-truths to keep in circulation. Now i annoy people by hitting “reply to all”, and pointing out the shortfalls in validity and logic, and the mistaken calls to authority based on just about every fallacy available.

It is said that 86% of Australians believe in God.

No. 68% of Australians believe in “a God”. That includes Bhuddists, Muslims, Jews, Spiritualists and the smaller denominations.

Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a problem in having ‘God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s prayer said in our schools or public meetings.

Religion was removed from schools and politics because Australia has a secular government and education system. Those who hold a religious belief are free to express that belief but there are limitations on their ability to push that belief on others through national government agencies.

I believe it’s time we stand up for what we believe!

No. You are making a fuss because the world doesn’t exactly reflect what YOU believe.

If you agree, pass this on; if not, delete it.

Like i said, once upon a time i did this but eventually half-truths have a way of becoming lies, so i don’t do that any more.

Using a disabled soldier image in this way is just as bad as the “bad” things that this email rails against.

We live in Australia, where i am free to stick my thumb at whomever i please, to call the Prime Minister a tosser, and to follow whichever brand of divinity i like or none if that’s what i prefer. i expect others to give me a fair go, in the same way that they can expect a fair go from me. People are free to follow whichever religion they like, so long as they obey the country’s laws. Let’s not change that. If there are examples of Muslims acting illegally then they will and should be treated exactly the same as the Christian/Jew/Atheist who acts illegally.
Let’s not twist logic just to put across a limited point of view.

Feel free to delete my comments.


Is it best to ignore tripe like these racist, bigoted or just plain wrong emails or is it important enough to do something about?

It is logical to assume the person who drew the cartoon was trying for a completely different message to that put forward by whoever composed this email. The cartoon’s message seems clear enough – that there are people in America who do not appreciate the sacrifices made by the nation’s soldiers in carrying out their duties. The cartoon is obviously aimed at an American market – the back of the chair includes the motto adopted by the US Marine Corps in 1883 “Semper Fidelis” or “Always Faithful”, and Australia does not have a pledge as such. The cartoonist links a lack of participation in nationalistic declarations as a rejection of the efforts of soldiers and members of the armed forces, and there is at least a superficial link that could make the issue a sore point for some people.

The Vietnam War highlighted the social difficulties caused when a country goes to war and the home front is openly divided on whether the soldiers should be fighting at all. In both the US and Australia, commentary on military casualties are treated with due respect and deference in a bipartisan approach, and even if there is disagreement about aspects of military operations, most politicians are careful to differentiate their argument and try to make sure that they are not seen to be denigrating the efforts of soldiers carrying out orders. Politicians are representing all of their constituents, and it is appropriate that they take the steps that they do.

However, there is no reason why it should be the case that every person within a society has to agree with the actions of the armed forces in a particular conflict nor is there an obligation on every citizen to perform civic rites of one sort or another. An individual can and should have a multi-faceted view of the world, and simply falling into positions of compliance is not a very robust indication of a good citizen. So the cartoon has an emotive call to action but not an overly strong argument to put forward as justification.

It seems that someone in Australia has decided to use the cartoon to promote their own agenda. In doing so they have woven a fairly slap-shod series of statements and opinions that should not be used as a basis for deriving the conclusions being sought. And this style of email appears again and again and again, in a range of guises.

How do you deal with them?

Just trying to work through the bigger issues, while living through the smaller ones.

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