Welcome to an age of sharing

“Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques,” wrote Paul Mason, in The Guardian – just over a year ago now. “It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.”

Is it utopian to believe we’re on the verge of an evolution beyond capitalism? Read Paul Mason’s piece before you make up your mind.
Welcome to an age of sharing: illustration by Joe Magee

Welcome to an age of sharing: illustration by Joe Magee



Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!

"La Marseillaise"

“La Marseillaise”

Yesterday, on the eve of Bastille Day, I experienced “patriotism” more profoundly than ever before. The agent of my enlightenment was Mireille Mathieu – and I have not a drop of French blood. 😉 PS: I was listening to a radio programme of music by French composers on Radio New Zealand Concert.

This post appeared on a certain Facebook page on 14 July, but I did not have the opportunity to post it here at that time … so I have adjusted the publication date.

Culture of encounter – the foundation of peace

Pope Francis with dove

Pope Francis

“Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace: this is what Pope Francis said at Mass this morning at the Domus Santae Martae …” (Vatican Radio, 22 May 2013)

“In a message delivered Wednesday via Vatican Radio, the new pontiff distinguished himself with a call for tolerance and a message of support – and even admiration – toward nonbelievers.” (Salon, 24 May 2013)

The pope spoke of the need to meet each other somewhere on our on common ground. “Pope Francis … stated that it doesn’t matter if people are non-believers as long as ‘we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.'” (Free Your Mind and Think (24 May 2013))

But doing good, according to Francis, is not a matter of faith. On 16 March this year, the new pontiff told journalists he was “inspired to take the 11th-century saint’s name because he was ‘the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,’ the same created world ‘with which we don’t have such a good relationship.'” (Catholic News Service) For Francis, doing good clearly means tackling the world’s problems.

“This commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace,” Francis explains. The story in Salon calls the pope’s words “a deeper affirmation of his comments back in March, when he declared that the faithful and atheists can be ‘precious allies … to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.'” (Salon, 24 May 2013)

The words of the Dalai Lama come to mind here: “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”

Predictably, Pope Francis’ call to “do good” has met with a wide range of responses. One comment on Facebook was quick to remind us that “he still condemns same-sex marriage, last I heard.” Other comments accuse the Roman Catholic Church of “protecting pedophile priests”.

On and on it goes.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. (Rūmī)

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. (Rūmī)

Charlatan words

Religion, Psychology, Philosophy, Fiction: charlatan words pretending to capture a moment, to know the future, to exist beyond death. The more we weave patterns, the more we think we cover the body of life. Whenever holes appear we adjust the weave, add more words, pretend that our days are not doomed to unpredictability.

I want to believe in patterns.

(Colin McAdam, in Fall)

I’m not against scientific research – chemistry was my top subject in high school (many years ago) – but isn’t it obvious that science cannot answer some of our most pressing questions? For those, we need all the trickery we can muster.


McAdam, Colin. 2009. Fall. London: Jonathan Cape. [p255]


Love is an expression of the willingness to create space in which something is allowed to change. (Harry Palmer)

Waiting in the queue to pay my electricity account today, I noticed ahead of me a woman wearing a purple T-shirt – or rather, I noticed the headline across the back of the purple T-shirt. “COMPASSION,” it read, in large white letters. Once the woman had reached the transaction window, I was able to read the text for which the big word was a headline.

Purple tag (18 Jan 10)

“Harry Palmer?” I asked myself, and wanted to ask her (but didn’t). “Who’s Harry Palmer?

So that’s how today’s blog came about.

PS: Earlier in the day, my favourite florists had a bucket of purple anemones outside their door – and they wrapped them in clouds of white tissue for me to take to a friend. In the Christian calendar, this is Holy Week: purple and white is quite appropos.

Formed, transformed and equipped to respond

Ideology … is indispensable in any society if men are to be formed, transformed and equipped to respond to the demands of their conditions of existence. (Louis Althusser

Following up recently on a friend’s Facebook posting about the ideas of Louis Althusser, I got to pondering that old chestnut, ‘nature or nurture’. And I dug a little into some of the stuff I got via Google. 

Drawing on Marx, Freud and Lacan, Althusser’s theory of ideology describes the structures and systems that enable the concept of the self – structures which, for Althusser, are not only agents of repression, but inevitably so. It is impossible to escape ideology – impossible not to be subject to it. (adapted from Wikipedia

While some are of the opinion that “Althusser is notoriously vacuous as a philosopher, constantly changing his ideas and positions as each came under attack or proved in practise [sic] to be less than stable …” (see Wikipedia on this point), the matter is worth thinking about. 

To further summarise my friend’s summary: individuals are not born with an immutable ‘self’; our perception that there is a ‘me’ is a cultural product, and everything about that ‘me’ results from external social forces and material conditions. “Society makes people’s individuality, not the other way around,” my friend concludes. 

Yes and no … maybe.