Scott of the Antarctic

Last night I was thinking about Robert Falcon Scott, or “Scott of the Antarctic” while he froze hungering on the edge of the Antarctic. A hero in many books for he died (some say knowingly) on his return mission from the axis of the world and, greatest discovery, human kindness. I have also searched for a particular expression of that, but I am left hungering. It goes like this: I try, then fall…I get up and fall again…it’s harder to get up each time I fall…I start to see that it’s over and it didn’t work…start again of course…but i’m tired… and that shouldn’t make a difference… but it does…so try harder… but my strength is less…ok here’s the fact of the situation…get up and get on with it or lie down and die. You see like Scott I am prepared to die for this pursuit; though I doubt I’d have the balls to do what Scott did. Instead my experience is as the earth turns, the years pass, I die a little here and there from conceit leavened with grief.

Minding the Gap

With my usual obdurate refusal to chill, I’m considering the challenge of becoming a full time feminist. Can I join? As a fellow feminists, (and men, I know you’re out there too), I should be doing more to be minding the gap. Where to start? Equal pay methinks.

Apparently women managers will have to wait 187 years to achieve equal pay with men at current rates of progress towards closing the earnings gap, the Chartered Management Institute said. Its 2008 annual salary survey showed the average woman in British management earned £32,614 in the 12 months to March, compared with £46,269 for their male counterparts.

The survey of more than 40,000 managers at all grades from trainee to director found women’s pay increased by 6.8% over the year, compared with 6.6% for the men. The institute said: “At the current level of annual pay increases, this means it will not be until 2195 before female pay outstrips men.” It would take even longer for women to achieve equal pay in the IT sector and, on current trends, female managers at board level in Scotland would not gain parity until 2366. The highest paid managers were men in London, who averaged £67,256. The lowest paid were women in Wales, who averaged £27,115.

Jo Causon, the institute’s marketing director, said: “At least with a glass ceiling it is possible to see through to the next level. However, when it comes to equal pay, it seems that the glass is now opaque. To have to wait several generations is inexcusable and it is time that the lip service of the three decades since sex discrimination was first outlawed is transformed into action.”

A British Media Triumph

In the latter days of the dying News of the World certain sections of the British media industry predicted a financial killing. They told us that we were going to go crazy over the last Sunday edition. They told us that we should buy early or be left out. They told us that they (the alliance of right winged publishers) would go down in red-top history and that we (the gullible public) should buy now instead of facing hugely inflated prices (Ebay and the like), because their last edition would be so much in demand.

Then, something wonderful happened: Millions of British people considered what was going down and decided to leave News of the World in the shops, newsagents, paper stands and garages. Millions of ordinary British people didn’t book a seat on the final ripoff-service-industry—jackpot-express. And the price of non-accountable News International shares pooped. And the price of our national soul rose upwards.

The British people said: “We may be stupid enough (like most people) to vote for anybody who says they’ll give us more and charge us less…We may be so stupid that we are more interested in what our currency is called, rather than in how much it will buy… We may be stupid enough to teach our children that some people are worthy of more respect than others, merely because of an accident of birth…

BUT, BUT, BUT   When you expect us to play Lambs to the Slaughter after you tell us that you intend to cash in off the misery of others (in a spectacularly, extravagant, illegal and immoral manner) and that in addition, you are doing us a favour…well… All we can tell you, oh spawn of La Thatcher, is……… no……… ”

People of Britain, at the dawn of a new age, I salute you.

Trouble with Lear

I admire greatly any actor who accepts the challenge of that Everest of theatrical roles, “King Lear”. Written by Anne Hathaway’s husband, a writer who has influenced your English speaking life even if you’ve never seen or read any of his plays or heard or read any of his love sonnets. King Lear is considered by many to be William Shakespeare’s greatest outpouring. But I don’t think so. No for reasons I hope to present, I can find no merit in this bogus tragedy.

I saw King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford—upon-Avon during the late 90’s (I don’t remember exactly anyway it was approaching the millennium and it is easy to be pretentious, affected and overly cultured). But all things come with age and since this time, with a foot firmly in mouth passion, I have managed to reveal in myself the dissatisfaction I have with this particular Shakespearean offspring.

The essence of tragedy, from the audience’s point of view, is that you must feel sympathy for the tragic figure. Trouble is, I don’t feel a micro—jot of sympathy for Lear. Abandoning his responsibilities, he arrogantly expects to be treated as though he was still shouldering those responsibilities. He expects his children to honour and love him merely because he provided the sperm. His loyal and good friend, the Earl of Gloucester, tries to help him and has his eyes plucked out for his trouble. And Cordelia, the only daughter out of three who does love him (and loves him enough not to dishonour him by being a sycophantic, hypocritical, self—serving toady) is executed for trying to help him.

King Lear is a true member of the British Conservative party: He knows the price of everything and the value of nothing; and those around him have to suffer (horribly and/or fatally) the consequence of his education. He is a selfish, self-centred, arrogant, “head in the sand” man. The tragedy is not his: it is the tragedy of those around him. And having known and observed so many of his ilk and the global suffering they cause, I find his saga irritating, annoying and frustrating rather than instructive or moving.

There. Glad I got that off my chest. Well, Shakespeare certainly has me boiling doesn’t he? I wonder if that’s the point. Perhaps the ability King Lear has to anger me… makes it a very good play indeed. Anything, but indifference eh?

Fiesta Brava

I’ve never attended a bullfight, a Fiesta Brava, though I have made myself watch film footage of the bloodiest moments, and also that moment fatal to the bull. The audiences applauded the matadors with joyous admiration (I find in my Spanish dictionary that corrida is slang for orgasm). The matadors paraded themselves in the “I’m the man” attitude.

Familiar as I am with my obdurate refusal to chill, my gut reaction to the Fiesta Brava footage was no surprise to me: I considered the matador a cheat. I thought the audience and he were collectively dishonest. It seems to me that if the matador wants to prove his bravery and honestly represent our human superiority over the rest of creation (our dominion over the beasts of the earth) then he should enter the ring naked, as does El Toro, and attempt to vanquish the bull without the aid of picadors (with their sharp lances) and banderilleros (with their barbed sticks).

At the same time, I wonder whether the respective genetic and intellectual histories of human and bull—kind should be taken into account. After all, we claim it is our ability to reason which elevates us above other life~forms. So, an accurate contest between bovine and   homo sapiens, should be between intellect on the human side and brute force on the steak side. Perhaps a “fair” fight between representatives of our respective species should include all that bulls (as a species) have learned, pitted against all that humans (as a species) have learned.

This would mean that the bull would pit it’s horns and muscle against a man or woman, positioned many miles away, armed with nuclear missiles (that most physically destructive expression of our powers of reason). Admittedly, the encounter would be brief and ecologically damaging but hey… don’t get me wrong… I’m aware of, and have been tempted by, the buzz to be had from violence and buckets of blood… but the decision to fight in the traditional sword/picador/banderillas way seems to me to be an arbitrary and false definition of fair; one which, as in other blood “sports”, demeans us.

Of men who have faced horror, felt the breath of death on their skin, some of these have said that for them, war was the best of times: the time when they felt truly alive. I suspect it’s the same for those men and women who climb mountains or skyscrapers, with only chalk and the strength of their fingers and toes between them and an insect death on the planet’s windscreen.

Unblemished Character (Re-edited)

In 1998 Murdoch was awarded a papal knighthood.  A Papal knighthood is not a courtesy title. The Pope was saying that Rupert Murdoch is the man your children should follow. After all, if you wish to please God … who better to emulate than a man with an “unblemished character”? An “unblemished character” suggests a sin free soul. This is a serious, heaven or hell assessment with crucial implications as to how human beings should behave in the eyes of God.

Perhaps Murdoch’s $10 million contribution toward the construction of a Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles suggests to Pope John Paul II that Murdoch has lead a blameless life – or perhaps it is that Murdoch, as Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation and owner of Zondervan Publishing House, is the publisher of the New International Version of the Bible (NIV). Although the NIV copyright is held by the International Bible Society, Zondervan has exclusive publishing rights.

But we now know Rupert Murdoch made his fortune by encouraging and preying upon base human instincts, through his ownership of newspapers such as the UK publications The Sun and (now defrocked) The News of The World. But Murdoch continues to promote racism, contempt for women (something Rebecca Brooks, nee Wade, appeared to have missed), homophobia and, in general, the hatred of those who are different from him by encouraging the base instincts of the mob.

Pope John Paul II is promoted as a man of morals, a moral arbiter whose opinions on ethics we are all encouraged to respect. In addition, a billion Catholics consider him to be God’s representative on earth. In light of John Paul II’s assessment of what constitutes an unblemished character, I suggest his admirers should re-examine some of his other pronouncements on moral issues such as condoms and HIV/AIDS, celibate priests,women priests, the family and sexuality in general.

Take sexuality for example. For human beings, intimate, mutually caring, relationships are not a matter of preference or lifestyle. I would affirm that, with few exceptions, at least one intimate, mutually caring relationship is a vital imperative for a human being, and the absence of such a relationship is unhealthy, damaging to the individual, and ultimately damaging to society, a society that Murdoch’s feeds his readership with. We should expect more than that from a much promoted moral leader with the political power of a billion followers.

Incredibly, a large numbers of people (who read Murdoch’s press) insist that homosexuals should abandon the search for love and should instead, like fish out of water*, struggle in pain as pretended heterosexuals or suffer a frustrating celibacy. I suggest that the equivalent, loving, heterosexual relationship is an equally vital imperative for homosexuals. People who commit to an intimate emotional and sexual relationship, have accepted, even embraced, responsibility for someone else’s happiness and wellbeing. Love is love, and such people, regardless of their sexuality, regardless of the gender constituents of that relationship, are the bedrock of an emotionally stable and responsible society and should be supported, nurtured and encouraged for the benefit of all.

See Three Seconds is Up: Part One.


* Several species of fish (spotted hand fish, stonefish…) are capable of “walking” and some (mudskippers, some species of catfish and eels) are able to survive prolonged periods on land. However, the ability to move on land “like fish out of water” does not validate the opinion that living in water is an environmental preference, or lifestyle, for fish. An accurate, honest, informed assessment would be that for fish, living in water is an obligatory, natural, necessary and appropriate requirement for the fulfilment of a healthy and environmentally useful life.