(no subject)

One of the things I noticed on HYS was the number of people who rather like Mandela now, but consider him a "terrorist made good", as though he underwent some sort of transformation which cured his previously wrong line of thinking.

So here's a couple of quotes from his trial in 1964 which for me make it impossible to consider him a terrorist:
I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.
And this:
I have already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto. I, and the others who started the organization, did so for two reasons. Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalize and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which is not produced even by war.

Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.
That about covers it for me..

(no subject)

BBC's "Have Your Say", arguably the most obnoxious troll pit outside of the Guardian's "Comment is Free", has managed to surprise me.

I'm now left trying to understand the motivations of the people who would condemn Nelson Mandela (now, not even during apartheid) as a terrorist. Obviously a bunch of them are probably resentful racists, grasping at whatever opportunity they can find to discredit a man whose politics are diametrically opposed to their own. But outside of that, there's another group that I hadn't really considered before..

Loathe though I am to refer to the "political compass", the upward axis refers to the extent to which a person exhibits authoritarian traits, and it's that tendency that I think is responsible here.

The only context in which I can imagine a person genuinely believing Mandela to be a terrorist is if they're so blinded by a respect for arbitrary authority that they can't conceive of violence as an appropriate response to state oppression.

An authoritarian would look at civil unrest in Soweto, see the police beating poor black kids on the streets, and would instinctively feel like they had probably done something to deseve it. Without necessarily feeling that the power structures in the country were fair, they would nevertheless probably believe that the government is trying to do its best with a bad situation, and that the police are ultimately there to protect law and order, and were probably provoked into anything they did.

Under these delusions that authority (which is almost always derived from power rather than any qualification) is always right, I can possibly see how such a person might arrive at the conclusion that attacking the state is always bad. Why did the ANC not try harder to negotiate? How can a "good" person ever advocate violence in support of their cause? All of these questions typically come from those who sit on the right wing of politics, towards the authoritarian end of the spectrum. A lack of relative perspective combined with an absolute view that might is right naturally leads to the belief that all "freedom fighters" are "terrorists".

What surprised me though was the very idea that the belief that Mandela was a terrorist could persist even after the end of apartheid, even as worldwide public opinion snapped back to the "correct" view (which was that the government of South Africa at times bordered on genocidal, and that any and all means to resist and overthrow that government were justified).

Just a bit of an eye opener really.. To believe that the ANC were the principle instigators of terror in apartheid-era South Africa betrays a very serious ignorance of the power dynamic at the time, or else a very twisted view about when direct action becomes necessary. Either way, the world is a slightly sadder place now that I know such people still exist...

(no subject)

Dear TMA,

I'm curious, do you ever stop and think about the wider implications of your political position?

This might be the point where you claim that your stated political beliefs are just an attempt to troll me for fun, but it's a bit tricky since they so closely resemble the beliefs you grew up with, and the beliefs you genuinely claimed to hold throughout your teens. If you expect to be taken seriously when claiming you're just trolling, you might want to work harder at establishing your actual position.

In any case, I got to thinking - what would things be like if you and I had been born, say, thirty years earlier? I'd wager good money that I'd be helping to organise pickets of companies that supported apartheid in South Africa. Meanwhile, you would be obnoxiously tweeting (or contemporary equivalent) about how I and my ilk are unwashed hippies, probably throwing in a "Mandela should be hanged as a communist terrorist" for trolling good measure.

A couple of decades earlier, and I wonder what you'd be saying about the civil rights movement as part of your right wing rambling.. Or a couple of decades more, and perhaps you'd be agreeing with the Daily Mail about how agreeable the "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine" of fascism is.

Now obviously I know there's a part of you that's just after a reaction, but there's another part that's sitting there kind of agreeing with everything you say if not exactly how you say it. Just want you to think about what company that puts you in - throughout history, pretty much, it puts you on the side of the "bad guys".

Consider me trolled,


So, 30, eh?

That is to say, in early December, I finally turned the age that I spent most of my teens wishing I was. That was always the plan - be thirty, have a job, have a house, have a wife, possibly have kids. My entire expectation of my future lifestyle was based on my home life as a child, and in a sense it was perhaps more of an ambition than an expectation - I decided from a very early age that if I could do as well as my dad, then I'd be doing well.

And I'm there, more or less. I mean, the turning thirty part is roughly inevitable if you can just avoid death for long enough, but the other stuff is about right. The only significant missing details are that I don't yet have children (which isn't a problem) and that I leave the house two hours earlier every day than he did (see, in my expectations, I figured I might actually see other members of my family before leaving for work, which is a stretching target when you get out of the door at 5:30am each day).

But anyway, about the actual day itself.. It was basically a day of deception, in which I believed the plan to be that my mother in law would pop over and drop something off, and then Naomi and I would go to Bird World (in spite of the fact that it has limited opening at that time of year), to the extent that I was busy memorising the route when my mother and siblings showed up at the door. I hadn't been expecting to see them until the weekend, so it was an awesome surprise (arranged by Naomi behind my back).. Then my mother in law turned up, and the six of us went for a delicious lunch in Worplesdon. It was around this time that I twigged that we wouldn't in fact be going to Bird World at all - not a crushing blow, simply a lingering confusion in my head for the rest of the day as I retained this feeling that I wasn't where I had expected I would be.

See, that feeling is a weird one. The sense that "I was meant to be doing something else". It's very specifically not a feeling I have about my own life, and the absence of such a nagging doubt is actually a wonderful feeling in itself. I had to go back through my journal a bit to check that I hadn't just forgotten about something I was meant to be doing, and whilst I did find a reference to an ambition to visit every continent on the planet by the time I hit thirty, otherwise everything's fairly consistent with this being where I aimed to be.

On the subject of travel, in my condescending way I'm rather glad that I didn't naff off around the world after uni. Firstly, I don't think I would have liked it - I'm not sure that I was really ready to fully appreciate the significance of what I would have seen, and wouldn't like to gamble on developing that appreciation along the way. But more than that, it would only serve to delay the other plans - the get a job, get a house, grow up, settle down, that type of plan. The amount of work I would need to do in advance in order to afford to visit every continent in the space of the nine years post university would mean constant in/out of work, no stability, a perpetual repetition of a pattern. Whereas if I now aspire to do those things before I'm 40 (or older), I'm in a much better position not only to finance them, but to share them with someone special.

Which brings me to Naomi. It's worth mentioning, for the record and because I seldom do online, that I made one hell of a great choice there. Beautiful, smart, passionate, and hilariously funny in both intentional and unintentional ways, when I look back over my twenties she was easily the best thing to come out of them. Or indeed my teens, if we want to scrape the barrel. When I look back over my "love life", it's quite clear that from the very start Naomi held the title of "Girl most likely to be the object of a desire to settle down with", among various other desires which won't get an airing here. She was always and immediately what I was looking for, and I couldn't be happier to be with her.

I think that every now and then, she suggests (whether in jest or otherwise) that on some levels I see her as a means to an end, the modus by which my teenage ambition to be thirty and settled down is achieved. I can see her point, it doesn't look good for me in that respect, but she has it basically backwards. It's being with her that ensures that my ambition remains unchanged from that time. She is the reason why I'm able to consider settling down with her and building a life together as being worthy of its description as an "ambition" rather than simply an expectation. Her role is not simply to complete an arbitrary set of requirements, it's to bring to life the very reason for having aspired to that as a future in the first place.

So all in all, I'm very happy to be thirty. Mission accomplished. I own a house, one I quite like in spite of it not being the size I'd perhaps like, and in spite of my abject failure to do enough with it as yet. I have a job that I love, that as of a few months ago actually stretches me, forces me to think more and develops skills that I'd let deteriorate. I have a wonderful wife, whose own ambitions are a little less simple than mine and whose drive to achieve them drags me along with it. Basically, I have a life that I know that I would have been proud of at any point in my teens or twenties, and the peace of mind therein is a great feeling to have.

Goals for the next ten years:
  • Visit those continents I have not yet visited (Asia, Oceania, South America, Antarctica)
  • Voyage into Space
  • Start a family whilst maintaining a work schedule that allows me to see them in the morning
  • Make a contribution to the world of which I can be proud, and which will outlast me
Any one of those will do. Clean sweep would be ace.

(no subject)

LJ Like - surely the death of LiveJournal as a credible platform..?

I mean this purely from a technical point of view - it looks very much like they've decided that they can't be bothered with the idea of post metadata any more, and instead they're going to drive options through leaving tags littered through each individual entry.

To me, that just seems completely flawed as a strategy, and leaves you with all sorts of stupid features knocking around just littering what's supposed to be content.

So rather than actually building an extensible set of metadata and post options, and asking clients to query against it periodically to update the set of options they make available to users, instead they expect you to remember various code snippets which switch things on and off.. Meanwhile, presumably they just build addon after addon to parse entries for the various options you might have dropped into the code?

Surely it makes more sense to actually build support for social recommendations into the site itself, and have entry-level options to enable / disable those features (which could equally apply to comments). Instead, they're heading down a route that it's hard to get out of - building custom functionality in the most work-around way possible, which only clutters the site usability and codebase.

If the recent downtime wasn't sufficient to make it obvious that LJ is no longer the place to be, the cowboy coding would have done the trick...