Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Andrew's Owed

A bard, however hard he tries
Grows flabby without exercise
But flabbier by far the hacks
Who spout before they've checked the facts
Because you've hurt my feelings I'll
Regurgitate a little bile

I do not like you, Mr Marr
And jaunty step on Sunday morning
To work: to give a good stiff fawning
To some slimy politician
Or celebrity beautician
They flock to you from Near and Far
I do not like you Mr Marr

I'm sorry, but your face is not
A pretty thing, you jug-eared Scot
Watery of eye and weak of chin
Thin hair scraped over pasty skin
Hunched forward with a whining leer
You simper in some starlet's ear
The girls like their reporters hot
I'm sorry, but your face is not

You preen before your flock to see
This weekend's mediocracy
And pimp their policy or book
Then let them wriggle off the hook
Or slither off to Hay on Wye*
Who dare to publish what they think 
In plebian dubdubdub, not ink

And what's a "Cauliflower Nose"?
We've never heard of one of those
I take an interest because 
I rather like my chiselled schnozz
It's clear that, after many years
Of taunts, you wouldn't mention ears
You seemed so nice, but all the while
Your soul was steeped in raging bile

And these crass comments that you rue
Are simply piping up "me too!"
It's only human, joining teams 
Around some new (or ancient) memes
Like laying down your daily siller
For Daily Mail or Daily Mirror
Or writing - give the world a laugh - 
A letter to the Telegraph

And did you read, before debunk
ing ruthlessly, young Penny Trunk?
CO and Michael Wade soar free
Or bask in Eclecticity 
So back to blighty's rain-swept shores
My cozy corner of a world
That's multiplied a million fold

You jeer at pimpled youth with scurf
Have you not heard? The silver surf
You jeer at journals published new
We cannot all be Montesquieu
A cruel hist'ry will judge whether
Books self-published in limp leather
Bindings were a worse offence
Than blogging one's experience

No, what gets up your rosy neb
Is journalism on the web
For now the demos, in full cry
Tears down the lazy alibi:
"No matter what you said or heard
The facts are these, the printed word"
Yes, what you hate, you jaded hack
Is, now your victims answer back.

*All right then, Cheltenham if you must
Some other Festival of Dust

** The Guardian made me opine
The Telegraph, for once, is fine

***If you've just time for one I'd rate
Bright shards of wisdom: Nicholas Bate

Friday, October 15, 2010

Here comes the judge

The Angel of Final Judgement
Execupundit reminds us that "nonjudgementalism" can be a lily-livered excuse to evade our responsibility to think. 

The same is true of judgementalism. 

Unlike judgement, which is a characteristic virtue, both "isms" are frames governing how we behave when we don't have enough information.

But how much information do we really need? That's a matter of judgement.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let them eat poo

What's going on here?

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (HRH) has said something sensible, interesting and important. A large number of intelligent, good-hearted people have commented. (I got this from the amazing Eclecticity, who was sharp enough to spot that this was probably not a full or balanced report, but couldn't resist the joke headlines.) Two questions occur:

  1. Why were 98% of these comments so crass? (I'm not sure I've ever used that word in my life. Is it right? crass Yep.)
  2. What lessons can we draw for our own life and work?

Why would sensible people make stupid comments? 
Not knowing the individuals, I can only guess:

There is a ready-made story that superficially fits.

The story of the ruler who is out of touch with reality is as old as Cnut (the 10th century anagram who ruled an empire including Denmark and England but was unable to command the tide to stay out). HRH is a natural fit here. Like a US Supreme Court judge, he is accountable to no-one and nothing except his family and conscience. He has always spoken the truth as he sees it, knowing full well that the press will mock him. In an age of spin and sound-bite, he is a magnificent anachronism. (This does not make him irrelevant. The Prince's Trust is a practical counterblast to populist demands for zero tolerance.) 

I am looking in the wrong place
There is something about the Internet which draws a disproportionate number of stupid people. 
I don't believe this. The same people often demonstrate great wisdom in some posts and apparent ignorance in others.

I am looking in the wrong place
The comments on a popular blog are not supposed to be about scholarly analysis. They are a place to show your allegiance to the tribe. Clear, hard hitting professions of faith are the order of the day. And trolling raids on rival tribes, of course.
I am wrong
Clearly ridiculous. 

Lack of respect
Respect is neither admiration, which must be earned, nor deference, which is out of fashion. It is simply thinking of another human being as a person like you (or like the person you aspire to be). Not a thing. Not a threat. Not a victim. Not a problem. 
Here, people are not treating HRH with respect. That is fair enough: he's a public figure. But it does mean that they don't even attempt to work out what he was saying. Worse, though, they aren't treating the slum dwellers with respect. So they are not open to the possibility that they might be leading meaningful lives and have wisdom we could use. This is plain stupid.
Fluffy? Not at all. Using ourselves as models may be misleading, but usually it gives us the best chance of understanding. Without respect we can only build grotesque caricatures. And before you know it, there are heads on spikes. 
This story came from the Telegraph, a British paper. HRH's views are well known and widely pilloried, but it is possible that a humorous headline could have drawn attention to a serious article. Humour does not always travel well.
What can we learn?

Decide: tribal or thoughtful.
If tribal, disengage your nagging internal critic and get swept away on a wave of joyful glee or righteous fury. Let your love, or hate, flow like a mountain stream. THEN edit. If you must. 
If you plan to lead a tribe, of course, you need to be both passionate AND thoughtful. Tricky. Which is why we can't all lead. 
If thoughtful, I try to answer the question: "what would persuade me to say that?". This at least assumes some doubt and gives the other person its benefit. 
It doesn't always work, though: I'm only human. Which is rather the point.
Any other ideas?