Older blog entries for marnanel (starting at number 982)

First world problems are problems

There's a Ralph McTell song called Streets of London where the chorus goes:

So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind.
Read that again carefully. You may think you're sad, but there are people living on the streets of London who are worse off than you are, so you're actually mistaken about being sad.

I'm not in any way trying to minimise the terrible problem of homelessness. Go to Shelter now and give them some money, OK? But the trouble with the song's argument is that it's bollocks.

Firstly: trying to police another person's feelings is a fool's game. Everyone who's suffered from depression has had some patronising bastard come up to them and tell them that everything would be all right if they just got a sense of perspective. Don't be that person. The last thing we need is Ralph McTell singing about it to warmed-over Pachelbel.

Secondly: suppose the song's argument was valid: you can't be sad, because there are people on the streets who have it worse than you do. Well, is there a human situation worse than living on the streets of London? Maybe being tortured in Libya is worse? Well then, we should be able to go round all the homeless people in London telling them all that they're not allowed to be unhappy because they're not being tortured in Libya. Eventually you find the person who's having a worse time than everyone else in the world, and you tell them that they're allowed to be sad, and nobody else is. This isn't the Depression Olympics.

You often see this argument in the guise of "first world problems". Sometimes, yes, people do have to get a sense of perspective. But often this is just a derailing technique. Criticism of almost anything can be belittled this way. And you know what? Maslow's hierarchy is a hierarchy. It has more than one level in it.

OK, end of rant.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/259944.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2012-12-19 13:36:43 from Monument

Grue

A year ago last Thursday I was looking for some gold, when I met a dwarf who thought he knew the best, for the map I'd made said northwards was the way back to the house, but he followed me insisting it was west. So I turned off to the west, but straight away it all went dark, and I stood a moment thinking what to do, when all at once a hollow booming voice beside my ear said in a sort of whisper: "I'm a grue."

Syndicated 2012-12-11 19:15:56 from Monument

Dreams

“Fools!” said the man, stamping his foot with rage. “That is the sort of talk that brought me to Toronto, and I’d better have been drowned or never born. Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams—dreams, do you understand—come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”

Coat-wearing monkey found wondering around Toronto Ikea

Syndicated 2012-12-10 02:46:37 from Monument

Facebook, writing, etc

If any of you use Facebook, you might enjoy becoming a fan of my regularly updated writing page there:

https://www.facebook.com/t.j.a.thurman

If not, as you were.

Syndicated 2012-12-08 22:26:59 from Monument

Alfie

I walked into a room at Book End the other day. My mum sat at one end of a sofa, and the dog Alfie, the old wise head of the pack, was lying across all the rest of it. My mum looked up and said, "There's plenty of room on the sofa, if Alfie moves up." Alfie obligingly got up and sat down next to my mum so there was room for me.

I am not claiming, of course, that Alfie understands English syntax. But I believe he knows enough keywords to have a fair understanding of most everyday conversations.

Syndicated 2012-12-05 00:02:25 from Monument

What is it?

While tidying the flat, I found this attempted sculpture I'd made in Year 7. *I* know what it's supposed to be, but what do you think?



Anyone who wants it who can take it off my hands is welcome to it :)

Syndicated 2012-12-02 16:40:19 from Monument

Maths

When I was six, my class was given an arithmetic test at school. One question said:

"Write a story about the sum 12+4=16."

And I was confused about this, because it happened that I'd been away on the day when they explained about word problems. I had no idea at all what the question could be asking for. After several minutes of thinking, I wrote:

"One day, the sum 12+4=16 went out for a walk. Then it came back. The end."

Syndicated 2012-12-01 03:03:22 from Monument

Hoaxes

I have just woken up from a dream, and I wish I could give you a coherent picture of it.

It began with a scene from a later Harry Potter book, not one that exists in reality. Soon I realised that it didn't make much sense. But this was soon followed by the revelation that Harry Potter, as a whole, was a hoax. None of the story ever happened. Now, in the waking world, most people know that Harry Potter is fiction. But in the dream, people were shocked, and started making death threats against J.K.Rowling. It was only made clear in a conference held after the final book.

Soon afterwards it came out that another major multi-volume series was also a hoax, to similar results. (I forget which it was; in the dream it was another one about as famous that I'd read.) And then a third series, although that one was translated from Russian and I was only keeping up with it by reading the summaries online so that I could talk as if I'd read it.

You have to understand that these three successive revelations were bombshells not just to the literary world but to the world in general. They were front-page news for weeks.

And then, less than a week after these three stories had come out in quick succession, I found myself at a writers' conference where the three hoaxes were to be discussed. The eyes of the world were on this conference, and most news organisations had at least one representative there. What was to be done? What could be done?

[personal profile] brainwane stood up to give a speech on the matter, and it happened that I was the first to realise. There hadn't been three hoaxes. There had been one hoax. Rowling and the others were inventions or dupes of Sumana; she had arranged all three series, and all the films, and the faked deaths of many major players in the literary field and beyond, and several believable scenes in the lives of people involved, including my own, over many years, merely in order to tell a good story. Each discredited series was a necessary part in the metanarrative, and highlighted a different part of the human condition. And she was explaining where all the pointers to this had been buried since the beginning, and how we should all have known.

I should have been angry, but instead I was full of admiration.

Syndicated 2012-11-30 07:25:00 (Updated 2012-11-30 07:30:03) from Monument

Hrothgar

Kit has given me an early Christmas present. It is called THE STAFF HROTHGAR. It is a stout branch about five feet long, polished up with a ferrule on the end and my initials carved into it. It is at least seven kinds of wonderful, and very good for walking with. I intend to lacquer over a small RFID tag on it somewhere so I can hold it up to a door and make the door open.

Syndicated 2012-11-29 17:31:15 from Monument

Hereditary peerages

Since 1965 there have only been three hereditary peerages created for non-royals. Two of these are already extinct.

In 1983, Willie Whitelaw was created Viscount Whitelaw. He had no sons (although he did have four daughters) and so the peerage became extinct upon his death.
Also in 1983, George Thomas was created Viscount Tonypandy. The title was a bit of a joke: it had been his nickname since his youth. He had no children (he was gay, although he fought a losing battle to keep it secret all his life) and the title also became extinct upon his death.
And in 1984 Harold Macmillan was made Earl of Stockton and Viscount Macmillan. His titles were inherited by his grandson, who now holds them.

Syndicated 2012-11-29 16:41:19 from Monument

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