About Mike

An otherwise-unflustered observer of life's rich pageant

“Haters gonna hate”

This evening I walked home past Parliament and passed some people wearing sandwich boards with the usual “they shall surely be put to death” bits of Leviticus on them. (As well as a Gay Men’s Chorus singing “Express Yourself” a capella, which had a much larger crowd.)

What one friend of mine would call conformist liberalism comes perilously close to wanting them silenced, and I’m pretty sure that’s not something I want. (At least that’s the mercifully irrelevant Ann Coulter off my back.) But I did have enough of a reaction to post about it on Facebook, and ended up starting a reply comment which was really much too long for FB – and which properly belonged on my turf, not FB’s.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out why I’m irritated by the situation (which I am — both the trivially small protest and my response irked me) and I think it’s down to fairness and asymmetry (though I’m open to offers). Starting with an appeal from authority that I don’t recognise frames any engagement as a battle and a zero-sum game rather than a conversation, and I quite like conversations. Which is why I am doubly-irritated at my own temptation to fling a few choice verses back at them: Ha! I could yell, You’re wearing mixed fabrics and you shaved this morning – double disobedience, you hypocrite! — but any satisfaction from that sort of slightly-too-clever-sixth-former response would be brief and hollow: all I’ll have proven is my own ability to win a game they were never playing in the first place, and that makes me as much of a bully as I think they are. The opening gambit sets the terms and I lack the intellectual dexterity or maybe the moral courage to start a dialogue on a level playing field. Perhaps I’m also irritated by the recognition that fairness and debate aren’t available options to the sign-wearers, whereas life is in my experience rarely so obliging as to be binary (and that’s a bugger to reconcile yourself to) – and by my shades of disappointment that this is still how we as a civilisation end up managing a small fraction of our interesting disagreements.

This puts me in the near vicinity of a hand-wringing “why can’t we all just talk this over calmly?” You know, I’m not ashamed of that impulse, but I’m not sure I’m any closer to finding a credible and repeatable way to beat obstreperous framing in debate. Yes or no: have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Why My Unconscious Is A Douche, Pt. I

I woke this morning with a thought echoing in my head. Since My Unconscious Is A Douche, the thought was being pronounced in a Shatneresque tone of great portent and significance. And because my douchey unconscious had decided that this thought had an interesting texture, it needed to be repeated. Four or five times. In William Shatner’s voice (I mean, not in William Shatner’s voice, but it might as well have been).
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Complexity

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Sat on Richmond Green, enjoying an excellent pistachio ice-cream from Gelateria Danieli (genuinely extraordinarily good; drop by). Watching kids running around with footballs and dolls. It all seems incredibly far away from sovereign debt and credit default swaps and service-oriented architecture… Does this say more about how amazing humanity is at tackling complex stuff when it would really rather be in a park, or something vaguely zen-ish about maintaining room for a little bit of play and even silliness in life?