The Meaning of Life, Part 2: Ain’t No Power in the ‘Verse

Reading Time: 4 minutes
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Chuck Hamilton 

Yes, that’s a reference to Joss Wheddon’s space western Firefly.

Under Ireland’s 2009 Defamation Act, “A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000.”  Seriously, Dail Eireann, what the fuck?  Have you even HEARD of the 21st century?  And if there were a God or Gods, he/she/it/they sure as hell wouldn’t need you to stick up for him/her/it/them.

“Man is an animal,” wrote anthropologist Clifford Geertz, “suspended in a web of significance he himself has spun”.

On Planet Terra (Earth) of the Solar Planetary System in Orion’s Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy in the Local Galaxy Group of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster in the Laniakea Supercluster of the Universe, during the Anthropocene Chron of the Subtlantic Stage of the Holocene Epoch of the Quartenary Period in the Cenozoic Era of the Phanerozoic Eon of the Current Supereon in Galactic Year (GY) 20, Jews believe that Adonai speaks Hebrew, Muslims that Allah speaks Arabic, American evangelicals that Almighty God speaks Elizabethan English, Roman Catholics that Dominus Dei speaks Latin, Eastern Orthodox that Kyrios speaks Greek, Hindus that Brahman speaks Sanskrit, Zoroastrians that Ormazd speaks Avestan, Buddhists that Adibuddha speaks Pali, Shintoists that Amaterasu speaks Japanese, religious Daoists that Tai Di speaks Mandarin Chinese, and Sikhs that Vahiguru speaks Punjabi. 

Each of these groups, and each subgroup and splinter and cult and sect within each of them, believes they are the Chosen People from which will come the Anointed One to assert their rightful dominion over all Creation for all Eternity.  

That belief is absurd.  In fact, all “belief” is absurd.

* * * * *

To believe is to define.  To define is to limit.  To limit is to control.  To control is to corrupt.

Belief is not humble; it is aggressive.  Belief is not a sign of submission; it is an assertion of domination.  Belief makes itself superior to that in which it claims to believe by controlling it through the very act of belief.  Thus, belief is blasphemy.  Belief is vanity.  Belief is futility.  Belief is the very antithesis of faith.  At the opposite end, disbelief affirms belief by that very negation, which is another attempt at control.

To have faith, one must surrender control.  To surrender control, one must abandon limitation.  To abandon limitation, one must give up definition.  To give up definition, one must let go of belief.  To have faith, one must neither believe nor disbelieve; one must unbelieve.

* * * * *

There is no Higher Power in the ‘Verse, no Supreme Being, no Divine Creator-Redeemer- Transformer, especially not an anthropomorphic and anthropopathic God such as humans repeatedly create in their own image with whom to have an illusory personal relationship, an illusion of an illusion with an illusion.  

Every form of Ultimate Reality conceived and believed by human religion and philosophy, each of which is geocentric and anthropofocal, is too small for our Universe.  Even in the very rare instances in which humans have perceived an Ultimate Reality as something genuinely Other, they have then proceeded to append to that insight intermediary realities to connect it to our own in order to believe, define, limit, and control, reducing fairly advanced intellectual and spiritual concepts to mere ideological dogma.  As the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda admits, “The gods themselves are later than creation”.

To state categorically that there is absolutely nothing beyond what we can see with our five physical senses, however, is as unscientific as religion.  For all we know, that Something may be so far outside our ken that it is as invisible to us as the tall sailing ships of invading Europeans initially were to the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere whom their passengers were about to conquer, kill, rape, and plunder.

In Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, protagonist Larry Darrell said, “A God that can be understood is no God”.

So, if there is Something that was before all Time, is now, and will be even after the end of Time, with Time here being defined as the lifespan of the current universe, it is beyond personhood, beyond being, beyond effability.

If there is Something, it produces yet claims no possession; it redeems yet requires no gratitude; it sustains yet exercises no authority.  It has no need of obedience, worship, prayer, praise, adoration, supplication, benediction, love, or even respect.  It just is.

If there is Something, it is both perpetual and ever-changing, flowing through and animating all that is throughout spacetime and beyond, transcendent yet immanent, metacosmic yet omnipresent, eternal yet omnitemporal.

If there is Something, it has no name.  It has no need of a name.  Since it is the one and only Something, there is no other Something from which it needs distinguish itself.

If there is Something, it is the Source of all that is, the Course shaping its formation, and the Force energizing its manifestation.  From our perspective, these are different things, but in reality they are One.

If there is Something, it is neither male nor female.  It does not take sides, nor have sides.  From it emanate both light and dark, good and evil, order and chaos, yin and yang, life and death, integrity and entropy, creation and destruction, everything and nothing.  Each of those antitheses is defined by its opposite.  Without their counterpoints, none of them can exist, and the fact that those opposites exist in competition with each other is what give us choice, the choice which is the definition of freedom.  And without death, life has no meaning.

The essence of life, of all existence, is change and evolution.  The nature of time is this: The future has already happened and the past is yet to be, and the moment where we are now is the beginning, and the end, and every moment in between.

Tune in next time for, “The Meaning of Life, Part 3: No Gods, No Masters”.

 

Catch up with The Meaning of Life, Part 1: Cosmic Perspective

All we Are Saying…

Reading Time: 1 minute

Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

 

 

On this episode, introduced by Neil Scott,  we’ll have the late, great Ron Mackay talking utterly opposing war, Simone Charlesworth discussing fox hunting, Steve McAuliffe’s Spin Cycle, an election night broadcast, Em Dehaney performing Richard Wall’s poem Strong and Stable and Fuad Alakbarov will be speaking about the NHS.

We’ll also have Red Raiph, reminding us to Get the Tories Oot, Teresa Durran will be talking about Making a Difference, and Chuck Hamilton will be telling us The Meaning of Life, Part 2.

With music from Woodie Guthrie, Roy Møller, Kes’s Conscience, Atilla The Stockbroker, The Dolls, Thee Faction, Gladiators Are You Ready, and John Lennon.

Ron Mackay

Reading Time: 2 minutes
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Ron Mackay

 

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Ron Mackay was a lifelong peace activist, socialist and anti-capitalist, and inspiring force for change, who will be sorely missed from left activism. Born in 1923, and raised in activism, Ron’s father and grandfather were both conscientious objectors in the First World War. His 18-year-old father cited his socialist and Christian beliefs as grounds for refusing to go to war, and was tortured by the British Government for doing so.

Ron’s parents joined the Communist Party when he was three, and as a young man he joined them, and much later the SSP where he hoped to help build a viable vehicle of socialist change in Scotland. Originally a Physics teacher, Ron’s career prospects were stymied after being arrested for protesting at the Holy Loch American nuclear base near Dunoon in 1962. 51 years later Ron told a Faslane Peace Camp rally that the jails were full of fellow anti-war protesters in Argyll, Ayrshire and Renfrewshire and he had to miss a days work. On his return, against the advice of his Head Teacher, he put his absentee reason as “fighting for the future of the world.” As his Head Teacher warned him, he was unable to get promotion in Glasgow because of this.

Ron had a passion for music, and learned to play saxophone after his formal teaching career came to an end. An enthusiastic lifelong campaigner, he would cheer people at demos and street stalls with his playing, and even months before his death aged 93, Ron’s huge energy for helping in the fight for a fairer world was still outstripping much younger activists.

Ron will be remembered as a warm, generous and kind man, with an immense inner strength that not only kept him fighting, but inspired others to fight on too. It’s rare that such wisdom and intelligence is coupled with the quiet humility and modesty Ron displayed. Ron Mackay will be sorely missed by peace campaigners and socialist activists alike, and he will not be forgotten. His legacy will be the many activists he inspired who will continue the struggle in his name.

Left, Right and Centre

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Ok, let’s get this left/right political spectrum thing sorted out. Some people believe that the centre ground has shifted, especially since Thatcher, and that is certainly one way of looking at it, but I’m not convinced. You see, the evidence of 2015’s election just doesn’t support that explanation. Labour did not lose because they were too left wing (the very thought! Hilarious!!), they lost because they were unable to articulate any coherent alternative to the policies of the incumbents. And the statistician in me rebels at the idea of this free floating centre anyway. That’s just not the way a spectrum tends to work. A spectrum can return a data set, that data set can be plotted as a graph, and plotting that graph will produce a bell curve. The top of the bell curve defines the centre. It’s where most people are. And where most people tend to stay.

Politics is a special case anyway. We long ago defined what were left wing and right wing ideas. By default that defines the centre. Now, let’s have a look at the last 50 years, which happens to be roughly my lifetime. When I was born a one year old centre left Labour government was in power. They had replaced a Tory govt. which was widely regarded as centrist. We’re talking about Harold MacMillan’s ‘One Nation’ Tories. In opposition the Tories shifted somewhat to the right. Fast forward to the two elections of 1974. I want to look at those because they are the first I can remember clearly plus, I would contend, that was the last time voters in the UK were offered any kind of balanced choice, centre left v. centre right. And they were both close, but the centre left edged it.

During those five years that Labour were in power they were pushed to the right. This was, I think, in large part due to a fashion (Friedmanism) which was influencing economic academia. Yes, the centre had shifted, but only amongst academic economists, not for real people. They (the economists) managed to push Labour from the centre left into the traditional centre, sometimes through their influence over bodies like the IMF (and what an interesting case study the IMF would make, today forcing policies on Greece that they openly admit they no longer believe in, but that will have to wait for another day). We all know what happened to the Tories during this period – Margaret Thatcher. She enthusiastically embraced that economic fashion, which we now call neoliberalism, and dragged the Tories all the way from the centre right, through the mainstream right, to the hard right in a single bound.

Now despite superficial appearances, hard right policies have never actually been that popular in the UK. This was amply demonstrated in the polls of the time. Mid-term she was the most unpopular PM since records began and with the Labour Party under Michael Foot moving to reoccupy the centre left, she was heading for a catastrophic defeat. It has since become axiomatic that her subsequent victory was due to Labour’s swing to the left, even amongst Labour Party members. But that’s simply not how it was. She won in 1983 for one reason and one reason only, the oldest refuge of her political fellow travellers, a good old-fashioned war. Labour could simply have stuck to their guns and waited for the electorate’s natural distaste for extremism to deliver government back to them in 1987. Instead they chose to buy her narrative and tear themselves apart in an orgy of self-recrimination (today’s party take note), ensuring they would be out of power for another decade. This erroneous belief – that they’d lost in ’83 by being too left wing – led them into moving to the right during that decade, and not just a little bit. They went from centre left, through the true centre, to the traditional centre right by the time Blair was elected. And by the time Brown was defeated, that trend having continued, they were firmly ensconced on the mainstream right.

Now all of this has been going on for so long, with so few voices in the mainstream media to contradict the notion that the centre has shifted dramatically, that we’ve all become used to it. But our own views, individually and as a collective polity, have not really shifted that much at all. Result? We have become progressively more alienated from the mainstream political parties. In May 2015 we were presented with a choice between centre right and hard right, when what many of us actually wanted was a left of centre alternative. The media portrayed Ed Milliband as that alternative, on the basis that he was slightly less right wing than his brother, but we instinctively knew it wasn’t true. The exception was, of course, Scotland. There was a left of centre alternative for Scottish voters, and they grabbed it with both hands. Alienated English working class voters had only the fake populism of UKIP to resort to, though many clearly did so. That won’t happen this time.

So has the election of Jeremy Corbyn really made Labour unelectable, as all the journalists and pundits have been so eager to insist for the last two years? I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you guys. Because although you keep telling us how people won’t vote for left wing policies, there was very little actual discussion of what those policies might be. All the criticisms were trivial. ‘Look at his clothes!’ ‘And look at this, we’ve managed to photoshop out the WW2 veteran he was helping to the Cenotaph, and it looks like he’s doing a jig!’ You know, anyone who’s old enough will immediately get this three word reference, but if you’re too young to remember 1983 just google the three words: Cenotaph, duffel coat. You will immediately see why this campaign is so eerily reminiscent of that one. With a few differences. No Falklands War, just the slow buyer’s remorse of Brexit. And May is no Margaret Thatcher. You can tell by the fear in her eyes. And now she’s backflipped on a manifesto policy, and denied that it was ever any different. What is that, some sort of bizarre ‘1984’ reference? But, as I was saying, like 1983 very little discussion of actual policies. Until, that is, some of Corbyn’s enemies inside the Shadow Cabinet unwittingly did him a favour by leaking theirs, and they turned out to be extremely popular!  A lot of pollsters and pundits have got a lot of things very badly wrong in that time. A wise commentator might very well conclude that this was a time to step back, wait, watch and listen. Reorientate yourselves, reconnect with the real centre, then perhaps next time you won’t end up with quite so much egg on your faces.

Foodbanks aren’t just for Christmas

Reading Time: 5 minutes
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Victoria Pearson

If you’re a regular reader of Ungagged, you’ll remember that we asked you to  donate to your local foodbank during our Activist Advent campaign, and you didn’t let us down: the Trussell Trust received over 13 tonnes of food donations last December.

This week, however, Ungagged became aware of a desperate shortage of food at NW Glasgow foodbank.

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NW Glasgow foodbank shortage – the line represents two weeks supply of food parcels

The line in the picture above indicates two weeks worth of food to feed hungry families, including children. As you can see, NW Glasgow is falling far short, and struggling with the huge increase in demand.

Almost 26,000 three day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by Glasgow NW, Glasgow NE, Glasgow SE, Glasgow SW and Glasgow City Centre foodbanks during 2016-17, compared to 21,838 in 2015-16. Of this number, 10,325 went to children.

The foodbank is run by The Trussell Trust network.  They provide three days’ nutritionally balanced food, cleaning products and essential toiletries to those in need in the uk, as well as signposting people to other agencies and services able to help resolve the underlying cause of the crisis; most commonly benefit changes or sanctions.

Kyle McCormick, Project Manager of Glasgow NW Foodbank said:

“It is deeply concerning that we are still seeing an increase in the number of three day emergency food supplies provided to local people in crisis across Glasgow over the last year, at North West this has been an increase of 62% on the previous year.

One family came to us following their benefit being stopped, resulting in no income while their case was being reviewed. The foodbank provided the support for the family while their Member of Parliament and the Citizens Advice Bureau were involved to resolve the situation as soon as possible. The foodbank supported the family until the point when their crisis was resolved. We are extremely grateful for all the donations that we receive, largely by customers leaving donations at our supermarket collection points. Donations are particularly great at Christmas, when we saw 13 tonnes donated in December, from various workplaces, schools and churches organising collections. The reality of the Foodbank is that we are open 52 weeks of the year across the city, you can see the startling figures of those that we are all helping, we need continued support to always have food on our shelves. In the last quarter of 2016-2017 Glasgow NW foodbank spent over £2,000 to keep the shelves stocked, as donations drop almost instantly at the turn of the year.”

Many people in crisis who access the foodbank are struggling because of circumstances out of their control, and Trussell Trust can be a lifeline when they’ve nowhere else to turn.

  Audrey Flannagan, Foodbank Manager of Glasgow SE Foodbank said:

“I received a phone call from a gentleman asking if we could help. He had had a relationship breakdown but his daughter and grand-child were living with him. He was working, but on minimum wage, but still paying full rent etc as partner had been working before the split and they didn’t qualify for housing benefit. His daughter was waiting for her benefits to be sorted and was unable to contribute much to the house. I told him to come and see us. We were able to help with food and as he had a prepayment meter fuel as well. We were also able to signpost both of them to the local law centre for benefit checks etc. He said he did not know what he would have done if the foodbank hadn’t been there.”

With massive rising demand, and donations tailing off as soon as the Christmas period is over, foodbanks in Glasgow are struggling to assist everyone who needs it, so are pooling their scarce resources to try to help as many people as possible. It’s brilliant that the foodbanks are coming together in this way, but they urgently need our help. Foodbanks are expensive to run; as well as the costs of food, toiletries, cleaning products and sanitary protection, foodbanks must also find the money for warehouse space, to sort and stock donated food, a van to pick up donated food and deliver to distribution centres, and other overheads like utilities and insurances and salary for the part time managers (who, as Ungagged discovered when we delivered our donation, are so dedicated to their calling, they have even been working through unpaid holiday time to keep the foodbank operational).

How to Help

  • The foodbanks will continue working together in the coming months when they will be collecting money for foodbank funds at Glasgow Central Station on the last Friday of the month from April to November excluding September.
  • The Foodbanks welcome any new offers of help with funding – local businesses, organisations and individuals interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at the individual foodbank’s website.
  • You can donate food at various collection points. Donations the foodbanks need in general are:

TINNED: fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, tomatoes,

JARS: pasta sauce, jam,

DRINKS: UHT Milk, diluting juice,

toiletries,

cleaning products

Food banks generally have enough soup, beans and pasta.

At time of writing, no political figure had responded to the desperate shortage of food in Glasgow’s foodbanks. We find that appalling. Lip service is not enough, people are going hungry. The time for action is now.

It is election time, so is the ideal time to let our representatives know we won’t tolerate people going hungry because our MPs refuse to address the causes of poverty, and refuse to fund foodbanks.

We are the fifth largest economy in the world. We shouldn’t have to rely on charity to feed our vulnerable people. But right now, you are all these people have. We know our audience are kind, generous, good hearted people and we know you’ll dig deep.

Foodbanks are for life, not just for Christmas.

 

If you’d like to donate through Ungagged, please leave your donation here, write “Foodbank” in the “add a note” section, and we’ll be sure to pass it on with donations we have collected from our contributers, just as we did earlier in the week.

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Our co-producer, Neil Scott, meeting with Kyle McCormick of NW Glasgow foodbank, to give in our team’s donations.