Thursday, 27 June 2013

Top 5 Most Annoying Things

 5) Having to have to use a cliché in a serious situation. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. Sometimes, using clichés is the only way to do your thoughts justice, but of course, the cliché takes away the genuine earnestness in what you say. For example, John cannot for the life of him articulate his love for his girlfriend Angela. So he resorts to the cliché “I love you more than anything” which is exactly how he feels. Angela merely thinks him tediously unoriginal.

4) Coming up with a witty remark to an insult you’ve received...after your enemy has departed. Subsequently, you end up feeling proud of your ‘quick’ thinking and storing it in your memory for future use.

 Standing behind somebody in a queue for a long time, and when they finally reach the front, they still don’t know what they want to order. I mean, come on! You’ve had 10 whole minutes to think about what you want! That’s 600 seconds! Then you get to the front and waste another five minutes pondering over what you think is the best thing to take up residence in your gut. Then you end up ordering a small bag of fries. Agh!

 People borrowing something from you, and keeping it for so long, that you have to borrow it back. My next door neighbour borrowed a power drill from my father, and kept it for over 2 months. So my father goes over, and using the skills he has acquired over the years as an unofficial inter-family diplomat, diplomatically asks “do you have a power drill I can borrow”, rather than “can I have my drill back.” The neighbour replied in the negative, at which point my father lost it and shouted “you have MY bloody power drill. I’ll have THAT one! If you please.”

 Someone repeating the last couple of words almost simultaneously with yourself to give the impression that they know what you are talking about. This, for me, is the most annoying thing. Example: An acquaintance of mine asked me to explain a certain aspect of organic chemistry. So, being altruistic by nature, I gladly consented and spent three minutes speaking uninterrupted (whilst feeling good about the fact that I knew something this formidably well-read acquaintance of mine did not), until I got to my closing sentence. Here’s how it happened:
              Me: ...which is why Lithium aluminium hydride acts as a reducing agent
Acquaintance: (Simultaneously with “acts as”) Acts as a reducing agent, yes.

No, unnamed acquaintance, don’t act like you know what I was talking about. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our Political System: Is it really a Democracy?

The subtitle entertains the implication that we do not actually live in a democracy. Yes, if eligible, British citizens are allowed to vote for whom they want to be in control of our government. Yes, there are different political parties out there, each of them offering us normal citizens what they think is good for the nation. Well, that is the impression one gets when listening to politicians speak and make promises, yet for the better part of their time in office, these promises are seldom delivered. Sir Winston Churchill, when asked what qualities a good politician needs, rightly observed: “the ability to predict what will happen tomorrow, next month and next year. And the ability to explain afterwards why it didn’t happen.” But, as you will see, there’s more to it than a simple ‘democracy.’

A democracy does not quite describe our governmental system and many other ones at that. From 1858 until today, all of our Prime Ministers received a first-class education, attending Eton or Harrow (if not the ‘lower’ public schools) then continuing to Oxford or Cambridge. More often than not, our Prime Ministers were from prominent, well-to-do families with a plethora of connections meaning that their climb to the top was not as strenuous as they would have had us believe. We have even been graced with aristocracy, such as our first Prime Minister, Viscount Palmerston, and more recently, the Marquis of Salisbury and the Earl of Rosebery (1886, 1895 and 1894 respectively). Each time a new Prime Minister comes into office, control and power doesn’t change hands from, say Liberals to Conservatives, but rather from one rich person to another. Power has always been kept in that one group of people; the Elite. Our politicians were and still are aware of this and so they had to employ various methods to keep us normal citizens ‘distracted, so to speak. Enter The Media. Using the media, politicians have managed to keep some of us sated and out of the real System. Look at football for example. The most popular sport in the world, football was actually endorsed, encouraged, supported and funded by politicians in its early days. Its potential as a mass distraction was obscenely obvious, and our statesmen capitalised on that. Observe how millions of people flock to watch 22 men in shorts exhaust themselves kicking a ball back and forth.
I think it prudent to mention at this point that, despite my arguments, I am a keen footballer, having once played for various football clubs, including a brief sojourn with Arsenal’s Junior Gunners. Fortunately, I am one of the few who can enjoy the sport but also see it for what its real purpose is: a distraction.

There is nigh on nothing useful on television; each year, more and more of these ‘reality’ programmes are produced, rendering people addicted to what the Spaniards rightly call La Caja Tonta (The Stupid Box). Personally, I cannot see what shows such as “The Only Way Is Essex” and “Made in Chelsea” are doing on television. What is so fascinating about cretinous youths indulging in their self-importance and revealing their dirty linen to the public?  Yet, it is precisely these shows that are responsible for keeping the majority of the British population out of the political system. And you were calling it a Democracy? Yes, on paper, technically we live in a democracy but the creed of every politician is: Keep people distracted with worthless television and they will not be able to see that what we are really doing is comparing apples with oranges.
Even the News has lost its seriousness. I am sure you will have noticed how news reporters suffer from the ‘And Now In Other News’ syndrome. Let me explain. You may have a serious news broadcast about, say a double murder following violent rape. The news reporter will manage to wear a sombre countenance throughout the report. Then the facade drops as a big smile dawns on her face and she says, “and now in other news, a dog with pink fur and a glass eye has been the first of its kind to swim 100 meters...” or words to that effect. It’s as though the murders never happened. Even the news has become entertainment.

The existence of the various political parties helps to maintain the illusion that we have the option of electing different some extent. Yes, two Conservative leaders will say more or less the same thing, though years apart. Likewise with two Labour leaders and two Liberal Democrat leaders. They do have differing political ideologies, do not get me wrong there. They do want to obtain power in order to apply their policies. I’m not suggesting that there is a great conspiracy between politicians involving trading power between upper-class chums. What I am saying, nay asking, is why does our political system so resembles a plutocracy? To all intents and purposes, we live in an Elitocracy. Yes, I did just coin that. That seems to capture perfectly our political system. Modern politics is simply a platform on which hedonists attempt to deceive the people.

I realise that my points seem to depict me as an anti-citizen and even, forgive my blasphemy, a communist. No, no, no, dear Lord! Although, the idea of a communist system is very, very good. Equality for all? Great!... Communism will never work though. Here’s why. In every society, there will always be at least one person with ambition. This ambition will cause said person to want to do more than just ‘go with the flow.’ Thus, the ambitious person is the most likely to begin something new, with him/her having a prominent, if not leading, role. A communist system cannot accommodate people with ambition for this reason; it goes against the Communist Grain.

On a final note, my idea of the perfect political system would be one that borrows elements from communism and a Pantisocracy. Then, every year, a vote is held where the citizens put forward the name of the person whom they think is the most influential. This person is then exiled.

What IS the meaning of life?

For some, finding the answer to the meaning of life is akin to finding the female orgasm; on paper, the issue appears deceivingly straight forward, yet in practice, the search usually ends in a cul-de-sac. Which is why, I think, religion is still strong in this modern and scientific epoch. Fabricating a Higher Omnipotent Power (or the plural), must have been a comfort to our earliest ancestors. Their undeveloped brains (as compared, of course, to our modern super brains) must have found the notion of simply living with no purpose unfathomable. Thus, the first gods were created to alleviate any fears of the unknown, life’s purpose and ultimately, death. I have a theory that the first time this intriguing question was asked, it was asked in response to an earlier, even more enigmatic question. Picture this: our ancestors were one day enjoying their normal everyday life, grunting and pounding their chests and what not, when a strange, flightless bird crossed one side of a foot-beaten path to the other side, identical to the first. What was the reason for this strange phenomenon? Why did this bird choose to ‘cross the road’ so to speak? Wait, thought our noble ancestors. What is the meaning of the existence of this strange animal? Which of course led them to our question. For animals, the meaning of life is straight forward: find a mate, produce offspring, eat and sleep, usually in this exact order of priority. They don’t care for intricacies and metaphysics. As long as they eat and pass on their genes to the next generation. The study of animals’ priorities in life soon provided early philosophers with an answer: the meaning of life must be to perpetuate our existence by reproducing! This ‘eureka’ moment only went to show humanity’s chief desire, a vicious vice in my opinion; immortality. Yes, we all want to live forever, and those who pretend otherwise can pick up a gun, turn off the safety catch, place the barrel in their mouths and pull the trigger (n.b. make sure the gun is loaded to achieve maximum results).
As we developed as organisms, and our brains grew in size, and our understanding of the world improved, some of us broke away from the-meaning-of-life-is-to-perpetuate-our-existence-through-reproduction school of philosophy to more thoughtful observations. Now, belonging to a ‘Big Three’ religion, I personally believe in God. I also believe in the theory of evolution and the Big Bang. This may seem extremely paradoxical, but I shall explain myself another time, in a blog about religion. But I digress. Back to the point, when the first of the Big Three came in, Abraham being the harbinger/father, the meaning of life reverted to that of our earliest ancestors. The meaning of life, is of course, to please God on this Earth in order to gain membership to that exclusive empyrean club! Simples.
This was too simple for some, and thus the atheists and agnostics (euphemisms for infidels) were born. Fast forward through Jesus' and Muhammad’s time, through to the medieval period, philosopher’s continued relentlessly in their search for the meaning of life. Others, like the Arab philosopher ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in the West), came with answers that were agreeable with religion and profoundly sensible. However, what pleases one does not necessarily please another, and this was discovered after much annoyance. So the search for The Answer continued.
Despite their overwhelming knowledge, the philosopher’s seemed to have missed something. They did not seem to notice that each proposed answer to The Question was logical. They did not seem to notice that each new answer simply built on the last. In short, the philosopher’s were essentially saying the same thing for the past aeon, but with different accents. And if there was a radically different new answer, all the better! Humanity was developing. Even more important, individually, we were developing, both philosophically and emotionally. Thus, surely through experience, the meaning of life is self-development? Until the day we die, we endeavour to better ourselves, to increase our store of knowledge. After all, knowledge is power.

Think about it. Take five minutes off the screen, close your eyes, and try to find some fault with my philosophy.

Introduction to the blog

Samir Kulaten is a Law student at the University of Sheffield. His interest in many things, both academic and non-academic, has served to make him the quintessential ‘well-rounded’ individual. A keen sportsman, Samir is also a self-taught pianist, lyricist, composer and playwright. He hopes to see his works performed on stage in the future but his primary ambition is to finish James Joyce’s Ulysses after two years of fruitless endeavours.
Whilst away from University, Samir alternates between living in the City and at his family’s country retreat in Carmarthenshire, where he enjoys hunting and playing polo. Very recently, Samir received the title of "Lord" after acquiring a substantial amount of land that came with the title...

...I’ve never realised how writing of yourself in the third person can deceive you into entertaining your sense of self-importance. Ah, business!

Welcome to Critical Musings, the blog which may be described as the jack of all trades but master of none. From philosophy to poetry, politics to economics, science to religion, history and even random ramblings, this blog will essentially be a platform for me to voice controversial points of view and provide different and insightful views on the world. I must admit, I have no academic credentials in philosophy, economics or politics. With science, well, I have an A grade in A-Level chemistry if that counts for anything. Having said that, I have written an (unpublished) economic treatise addressing Spain’s economic crisis, in which I provide various cogent solutions for the survival of Spain’s economy. As for philosophy, this new-born interest has introduced me to many a wise man, and I believe that I am now able to voice my philosophical ramblings. As I am already proudly listing my limited achievements, I might as well mention that I am an amateur poet. Nothing serious as yet (and I am sure you can deduce that from ‘amateur poet’) but I’ve composed an anthology of 60 odd poems, and an anthology of 20 Spanish poems (emulating Pablo Neruda’s Veinte Poemas de Amor). I am inclined to humour and wit, which I hope my readers will enjoy in this oh so serious life. Do not get me wrong. I am not averse to seriousness. Far from it. I merely think that nowadays, humanity takes seriousness to a stratospheric level that life loses its meaning. Which brings me nicely to the introduction of my first topic, the age old enigma: what is the meaning of life? This is my first time blogging, so I implore you to spare me negative criticism (given the nature of my blog, my request is, I see, extremely ironic). Constructive criticism I welcome with my arms outspread. Enjoy.

P.S. You will find in some places that I have began an argument and only dealt with it superficially. This is not due to a lack of ideas, nor indeed to lack of commitment on my part. I will broach a controversial topic and leave it mildly answered so that I induce you to think and form your own ideas to the topic being addressed. The proverbial ‘sowing a seed of doubt,’ if you like.