The Source of Irony

Is it that deep within us, two modules collide, and what springs forth is something irreducible to either?

Is it that Angels and Demons have it out, and what gets through is either passible innocence or determined indiscretion?

Is it that we know what we want to say and intentionally sew it a cloak?

Is it that a hack is made and we say from suggestion what we never intended?

For the ignorant, there may be only one answer and always.

For the writer with a story to tell it is none of these, but rather a weave that touches many realities and still appears a single thread.

Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams”

This is an astounding book.

It is beautiful in its playfulness with such a simple and assumed thing as Time. He was not the first to play with Time – he had his inspiration – but he gives an expression of the capacity of human imagination which leaves the reader themselves with an expanded consciousness.

And ends it with an amazingly evocative and haunting suggestion of how the theorists search concludes – for both those who do and those who don’t succeed.

It is hard to imagine how it could have been better done, except to have given us more of the same. So please write of Space too Alan.

Empty Yet Destructive Escalation

Escalation is always problematic. If tit-for-tat continues indefinitely because no one knows who started it, or no one is willing to admit that a perceived first wrong was in fact a wrong, then eventually greater threats are posed for the sake of getting the other side to stop. More often than not, these don’t go unmatched, and the tit-for-tat can continue at a further higher, and much more damaging, level.

On the other hand, tat-for-tat often occurs when the person doing the initial wrong believes that the other side may justifiably retaliate – or already has retaliated though they are without proof – and sends yet another salvo. They may prepare with escalation and threats or do genuine further harm, in advance of any reaction by the other side at all, in order to keep them from doing anything in response. It can be this sort of self-justifying escalation which is the most destructive, because it is born from naught.

In such cases, it may be only more difficult to see how the initial recipient, now having only more threats piled on, and carrying around with them a reputation for ‘potential retaliation’, can actually achieve a peaceful and equianimous ends. This can lead some to escalate to the greatest extent possible, in order to finally clean the slate. Others are capable of recognizing that the best revenge is living well, but need the other side themselves to complete the retribution.

Among those who believe they can do no wrong, this can be a tough sell, especially those who insist on acting out of suspicion or falsified claims, rather than any genuine evidence. What is needed to stop the paranoia may be unclear, but it does not help to call the other side ‘paranoid’ in advance of them calling you the same.

It is not without reason that there is always a higher authority.

The Quest to be Yourself

Some of you have always been yourself. You live without any adopted affectations which are necessary for others to move fluidly in social situations. There is no need for hours in the mirror. There is no need for pinching pennies. Instead of investing discretely in a social appearance, which may persuade some you mingle in circles, you simply invite dilatants to your home to flirt with dignitaries. Others just don’t care for games of status. They come from family which valued work and friends and family and personal eccentricity and you have been capable of happily playing small games of little consequence and much reward for most of your lives.

Others were happily themselves as children only to have found their genuine selves vanishing with age, while running into conflicts or disappointment which later pushed them to affect manners, behavior, or appearances which were not true to their personalities or lifestyles, striving to be people they deemed successful.  They may desire to be elite or even desire to be more grounded.  Others were not allowed to be themselves even as children and strive to discover who they are, as much as they may try to flourish as themselves.  In such cases it can be very difficult for you to say who you are, or how you get there.  I don’t believe it impossible, but certainly it is very difficult.

Personally, I have always sensed that I was a little too old a little too early and a little too quickly. My parents did their best to preserve who I was so that I may live as I was, but the world caught up with me and led to the death of a child by a thousand tiny slights and a few verifiable stabbings. At some point in your life, you realize what is happening, and you fight against it, preserving for our children what you once had or wished you had or wish you had again. It is why people tend to, if not become conservative, then at least respect the conservative position with age.

I have identified the self with something independent of affectations.  The validity of this may be debated.  But to me it is clear that the more you know, the more affectations you must have, and it is much easier to withstand the onslaught without losing the vitality of life, if you were allowed to be yourself when you were young.

We Need Ethics, Not Just Governance

We still need Ethics, not just governance. The biggest trouble with prosecuting people is often establishing intent. It is for this reason that our governance often builds indicators of intent into their definitions. For instance, the UN tackles the problem of human trafficking under the definition below.

“(a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;”

I find it rather astounding that if you get rid of the slavery bit, you get something which is not Human Trafficking. The counterpart to this definition could read:

(a) “Business as usual” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of paying them a wage at or above minimal through employment from among a limited set of options to live an ostensibly normal life.

This is a joke, but the idea is that you can’t do all of the “Trafficking” part of “Trafficking in persons” and believe all is ok as long as they are not also slaves.

This stresses the importance of ethics and religion in addition to governance. The issue with governance is that if one, in the end, is living a life ostensibly normal with a wage at or above minimal, then it can be difficult to say if they were not really complicit in that outcome all along, even if atrocities are committed along the way and the victims at hand perhaps being staked to a reputation they do not deserve.  This is part of the theme of the first story of The Sevilla Trinity. That coercion of those financially vulnerable and transfer by deception, though perhaps not easily prosecuted, are still wrong and cause a great deal of problems that only a society’s stable moral foundation can make amends for.

I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of international law, but the problem with the law often is that the letter does not align with the spirit, which is here not merely abolishing of slavery, but abolishing agreements made under coercion and deception. Religions and the institutions of religion often need to step up where governance and the public education systems fail, and this is but one example.