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This is my personal blog. This is the place where I rant and witter inanely about all sorts of things that take my interest from opposition to odious far right groups to personal learning projects such as my intermittent studies on evolutionary psychology.

If you’ve arrived here looking for information on my mental health and social care training and consultancy services you might want to click this link instead. That’ll take you to my commercial website: The Care Guy

You might also enjoy taking a look at Care To Share Magazine while you’re about it. That’s not affiliated with my business at all (or indeed anyone’s business). It’s a community of people who are interested in sharing ideas and insights into social care without any distractions from political ideologies, corporate agenda or media ‘fashion’.

How far-right party Britain First is gaining traction through ‘Christian’ ideology | Christian News on Christian Today

Some of my Christian readers might find this account of Britain First’s blatant hypocrisy from ‘Christian today’ interesting. As a former Christian myself I agree – it really is extremely difficult (actually I’d say impossible) to equate Golding’s deceitful account of Jesus’ actions with Britain First’s bloodthirsty, selfish and discriminatory tactics. Britain First has nothing to do with Christianity. Its heritage is much more closely associated with Moseley, Hitler and Mussolini!

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The Stoic 2: Stoic beginnings

Zeno of Citium lived in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. It’s believed that he was a merchant from Cyprus who found his way to Athens after being shipwrecked. There he began reading about the philosophy of Socrates who had died some time earlier. Fortunately, Socrates’ philosophical legacy survived the man himself, most famously in the work of Plato who founded the famous Athenian Academy.
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However Zeno hadn’t heard of The Academy and so, eager to explore the ideas of Socrates further he asked advice from the locals. How might he find a living teacher to instruct him in Socratic philosophy?

Legend has it that as he spoke to Athenians about potential teachers, Crates of Thebes passed by and the locals pointed him out to Zeno.

“Follow that man.” They said.

Crates was a Cynic, part of the school of philosophy that aspired to live in harmony with nature. Cynics rejected all ‘unnatural’ ideas such as possessions and wealth. They took the idea of simple living to extremes even for the Classical world, focusing all their energies upon virtue (which to them meant the harmonious life) and mental training.

Zeno took the advice he was given and followed Crates. Seemingly though, he found the demands of cynicism (which were more than a little humiliating) difficult to bear. Crates himself had been born into great wealth but had given it all away and lived in poverty on the streets of Athens instead. After all, what need had cynics of property or fortune?

Eventually Zeno developed his own philosophical school, based upon some aspects of cynicism but also including elements of Socratic, Platonic and dialectical thinking. He began to teach under the Athenian Stoa Poikilie in Athens at sometime around 301BC. His philosophical school became known as Stoicism in reference to the Stoa where he and his students met.

Like the cynics, Zeno’s stoics were also concerned with virtue and living the harmonious life. To Zeno however this had more to do with thought, reason and emotion than it had with material possessions, or the lack of them. Zeno taught that negative emotions (we might say ‘unpleasant’ or ‘unhelpful’ emotions today) result from poor judgement and mental indiscipline. They saw emotions and the behaviours that flow from them as the result of bad thinking and maintained that the mark of the harmonious life was the interplay of thoughts, feelings and behaviours in everyday living.

Readers who are familiar with modern therapeutic techniques like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy will recognise the connection instantly. The emphasis upon thoughts, feelings and behaviours we find in today’s ‘cognitive model’ existed in Stoicism long before it was rediscovered by the likes of Aaron Beck in the mid twentieth century. We will see many parallels and links from Stoicism to other ideas as this series progresses. In fact, just as much of Stocism is based upon ideas borrowed from earlier disciplines so later philosophies from the teachings of Jesus to the Utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill and the politics of the welfare state owe much to the original ideas of this remarkable group of philosophers.

There really is nothing new under the sun – at least in terms of philosophy.

The Stoic 1.1: Contents

As usual I anticipate that this blog series will evolve and change as I go along but here’s an outline contents list to get us started.

The Stoic 1: Introduction

The Stoic 1.1: Contents

The Stoic 2: Stoic beginnings

The Stoic 3: The benefits of stoicism

The Stoic 4: Stoics are boring, aren’t they?

The Stoic 5: No surprises

The Stoic 6: Mood and expectation

The Stoic 7: The insignificant stoic

The Stoic 8: The insignificance of hardship

The Stoic 9: What’s the point of it all?

The Stoic 10: Stoicism and utilitarianism

The Stoic 11: Social change and stoicism

The Stoic 12: Taking time to reflect

The Stoic 13: Exercises and pro forma

The Stoic 1: Introduction

What’s the most important and useful aspect of your life? What’s the thing that helps you not only to be effective but also to be content? What gives your life purpose and meaning? What keeps your life in perspective and balance? What’s your basic philosophy?

For me it’s Stoicism – that wonderfully simple and yet deliciously deep and far-reaching set of ideas and disciplines that have allowed me to maintain my emotional equilibrium in the world for years.

Stoicism is the philosophical viewpoint that encourages us to see ourselves in perspective, to notice our own ultimate irrelevance and insignificance in the universe and then to take control of our lives and emotions in positive ways. It’s the perspective that allows us to see meaning in the mundane without the need to imagine anything beyond the reality that can be evidenced.

Stoicism is like a shield, an emotional and intellectual defence against anger, anxiety, unhappiness and irrationality.

To practice stoicism today is to follow ancient wisdom in a modern world. I’m not usually given to praising ‘ancient wisdom’. That’s because I think the ancients were pretty clueless about the world and its workings, hence the plethora of magical explanations for things from volcano Gods to tree spirits. But some ancient ideas have merit. That’s not because they’re ancient, by the way. It’s because they work.

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As we shall see, stoicism has its share of intellectual nonsense to cut through before we reach the value within. Marcus Aurelius (perhaps the most well-known of the stoics) attributed much to the Roman Gods of his time. He was a Roman emperor, after all. Seneca too was quite keen on discussing the purpose of mankind in relation to the will of the deities, as indeed was Epictetus. Modern readers will most likely choose to discard those trappings of the classical world as they explore the wisdom at the heart of stoicism, free from the cultural assumptions of ancient Greece and Rome.

But that’s not a criticism of stoicism – on the contrary it’s evidence of stoicism’s greatest strength. It fits all cultures and all religions because it has something much more universal at its heart. It’s about reason and it’s about practical emotional management. Those universal human concerns cut through culture, religion and political bias like knives through butter.

Throughout this series we’ll look briefly at the history of stoicism, its roots in ancient Athens and Rome and the fundamental principles upon which it depends. We’ll also look at how stoicism has been kept alive through the centuries in various different guises including religious traditions and more latterly, therapeutic interventions such as Rational Emotive Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Modern therapists owe much more than most of them realise to the likes of Seneca, Zeno, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

Along the way (and most importantly of all) we’ll consider some basic exercises, thinking styles and habits that anyone can use to take greater control of their lives, their emotions, their behaviours and ultimately their circumstances. This will be more than just a series describing stoicism – it’ll be a manual for novice stoics who might want to try their hand at happiness. Who knows – by the time you reach the end of this series you might decide to become a stoic yourself.

Taking on Sinn Fein? Really?

This is just remarkable, not to mention very, very stupid.
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Fresh from their recent failure to host a conference, Paul and Jayda have gone to Ireland to poke Gerry Adams with a shitty stick. I wonder how many of Britain First’s ‘patriots’ will support them if Gerry’s old IRA mates decide to get involved. One thing’s for sure – Irish republicans are likely to be a bit harder to intimidate than young women and old men.
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I think one problem with Paul and Jayda’s youth and inexperience is that they probably don’t remember quite how bad ‘the troubles’ used to be. Much as I dislike this obnoxious pair of Nazis and everything they stand for, I really hope they’re not about to find out.

I’m happy to be corrected but so far as I know this is the only recent publicity photo of Paul and Jayda (since they started selling their tacky, tatty clothing) where they weren’t wearing Britain First ‘colours’. It’s also interesting that their ‘bravery’ didn’t extend to making disapproving gestures that Adams and co might actually have noticed. Why do you think that might be?

For that matter what the Hell do they want to piss about in N. Ireland for anyway? Jim Dowson’s left them hasn’t he?
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Whatever the reason that damp squib of a photo seems a tad half-hearted to me.

Remember the video of Jayda in full aggressive swing bursting into the Conservative party offices in Rochester? I bet we won’t see a similair filmed invasion of the Sinn Fein office. Harrassing middle class tories or invading empty Mosques is one thing. Confronting people who might actually know real terrorists is quite another. There won’t be many peaceful Muslims or young female pacifists to bully behind those doors. Perhaps they checked Adams’ twitter stream first – the one that made it absolutely clear that he was actually in Stormont at the time, miles away from his constituency office. After all, since they only ‘invade’ Mosques at times when nobody’s around it seems unlikely that they’d risk actually confronting someone like Gerry Adams in person. That would require a level of courage that these Britain First fantasists possess only in their imaginations.
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Whatever the reasoning behind Paul and Jayda’s strikingly obvious attempts to go unnoticed I bet they scarpered pretty quickly afterwards. It’s like the Brick Lane ‘Christian Patrol’ all over again.
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Paul Golding and Christianity – psychology 101

I found this little video very interesting indeed but not for the reasons that many readers of this blog might expect. It’s true that I’m not above laughing at Golding just as I’m happy to poke fun at fascists everywhere. It’s also true that creationism is an easy source of ridicule but not today.

Anyone looking for humour needs only watch this brief video of Britain First’s hapless leader’s attention-seeking behaviour as he tries to use Christianity to justify his anti-social behaviour. For me the most amusing highlight of the video is Golding’s assertion that the bible tells us that nobody knows who created the earth. Presumably he never read Genesis! Whether he read the biblical creation story or not, his amateurish proselytising didn’t prevent him from being arrested.

Golding arrested creationism video

But I’d like to make a more serious point. I’d like to talk about the very real dangers of superficial thinking and the need to be wary of anyone who invests so much of their lives into a cause they understand so little about. This is not the hallmark of a reliable leader – rather it’s the sign of a fool who can only lead his followers into complete disaster.

As we all know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The world isn’t really made up of simple, black and white, good and bad dichotomies. Only the most immature thinkers pretend that it is. That’s a dangerous ‘thinking style’. You can learn a lot about a person’s individual thinking style by listening to their rationalisations and justifications.

In the video Paul Golding talks about his Christianity before launching into a bizarre and clearly ill-understood commentary on Intelligent Design (ID). I’ve written about Intelligent Design and the fallacy of creationism before and I won’t go into much detail about it here except to point out the really, really obvious points pertaining to thinking style. As you read these points please remember that the point is to analyse the psychology behind ‘the throne’ of this fascist organisation – to understand the superficiality of the mind that treats such nonsense as evidence and who is quite happy to expound about matters he clearly doesn’t understand. Remember also that the result of this nonsensical rhetoric is hostility and violence toward innocent UK citizens. Golding incites violence and hatred and uses notions of group conformity as a way of selling cheap tat to the gullible. And in the psychopathic style of fascists everywhere he cares little who is hurt as a result.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

We all know that it’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick. We all know that some topics and situations require genuine thought to be understood. We also know that some topics are just nonsense. That’s the beauty of scientific thinking. It lets us understand what is likely to be true and what should be discarded.

It was scientific method (the use of real world evidence to make sense of things) that led us to reject old, outdated ideas like homeopathy. It was science that taught us to reject even older ideas such as astrology. Scientific thinking taught humankind to reject the folly of still older ideas like the naturalistic fallacy or the position of the earth as the centre of the universe. The same scientific method that showed Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo that the earth revolves around the sun has allowed us to discard outdated ideas for generations. That’s how mankind progresses.

There’s a pattern here. As we advance we refine our understanding of things and old ideas are discarded in favour of better ways to make sense of the world. This process has many facets from Thomas Kuhn’s famous ‘paradigm shift’ to Karl Popper’s falsifiability criteria and, of course, the work of the brilliant William Gilbert. Gilbert was that rebellious, heretical Elizabethan physician who used observation and reflection not only to dismiss the long-standing assumptions about disease as ‘God’s will’ and ‘the four humours’, he was also the original creative thinker who inspired Galileo’s step by step methodology.

Interestingly enough none of these advances were the result of slavish obesience to earlier assumptions. Mankind advances by developing ever more accurate understanding as old, outdated models give way to newer, more accurate models of the world. Creationists simply say ‘We don’t know how it happened so we’re just going to make something up’. Why then would anyone try to pretend that scientific method is in the least bit interested in the unquestioning acceptance of bronze-age creation myths? And yet that is precisely what Golding would have us believe.

Actually the ‘look at this evidence of intelligent design’ argument Golding quotes was originally proposed by Rev. William Paley in the late 18th century and utterly discredited in the first part of the 19th Century. The idea was that a pocket watch found on the seashore could not have evolved – it needed to have been created. How much more then must man and the rest of nature need a creator?

Paleys watch

Paley’s watch, as the argument from design came to be know, was destroyed by philosophers such as David Hume even before Darwin published his ground-breaking book On the origin of species in 1859. And yet Golding in his stupidity believes not only that the argument is valid, but that it’s new. In fact it’s neither. It makes no more scientific sense than Bishop Usher’s assertion that the earth was created at 3pm on the afternoon of the day before October 23rd 4004 BC. And yes – Usher really was that precise. Not only that, the only logical conclusion of Golding’s ID argument is that Usher was correct. The logic is long and convoluted but if Golding believes in ID he must, of necessity also believe that the earth is precisely 6018 years old.

If anyone’s interested in this convoluted thought experiment let me know and I’ll outline the inescapable logistical problem in another post.

The nature of science and ID

The only real point I want to make here is that Intelligent Design has been utterly discredited and there is no reputable scientist working in the relevant fields of biology, archaeology, geology, botany, evolutionary science, linguistics, astronomy, dendrochronology or anthropology who takes it seriously. There are a few scientists working out of the Mormon sponsored Brigham Young University who keep trying to prove creationism (so far without success) because of a form of academic wishful thinking and the occasional furore from the American Bible Belt when schools try to promote ID as science. The most recent in Dover, Pennsylvania resulted in Judge Jones of the US Supreme Court ruling that there was nothing scientific about ID. The case from 2007 made it excruciatingly clear that Intelligent Design is really just Christian creationism repackaged to look like science.

Even in America the difference between true science and the nonsense of Intelligent Design is well known. Here in UK the very idea of ID and creationism is almost universally ridiculed.

That’s all very well but what does it tell us about Golding? Well – several things, none of which are particularly encouraging. It tells us that:

  • Golding is prepared to jump on an American populist bandwagon (presumably to attract more funding from Britain First’s large contingent of far right American supporters);
  • Golding is either too stupid to understand the problem with ID or he thinks his supporters are;
  • Golding is so uncritical of dogmatic ideology he will peddle nonsense in order to further his cause;
  • Golding is prepared to use religion to justify the widespread abuse of an increasing number of groups he decides not to like;
  • Golding is prepared to make far-reaching decisions based upon the notion that ‘a scientist’ found ‘some signs of something’ without the slightest awareness of who that scientist might be, what that ‘something’ might be or even how evidenced is assessed.

In short, this is not a man to be trusted. He’s either a fool or a liar who treats his followers as fools. Or he might well be both.

Either way, do you want to hitch your reputation (and possibly a criminal record) to someone as arrogant and ill-informed as this?

That’s a new one

According to Britain (Nutzie) First leader, Paul (Bigot boy) Goulding the police have closed down their conference. This is a shame since they managed to attract nearly 40 (yes forty) of their alleged half-million supporters to the so far undisclosed venue in Bexley or Swanley in Kent.

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Their original Berkshire venue pulled out once Bracknell Forest council realised who they were hosting (they’d booked it under an individual’s name rather than the organisation). That left them with a cloak and dagger exercise to get their few fans there without making the new venue public.

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There are rumours that Britain First actually set up the whole incident themselves – arranging for a complaint or allegation to be made to the police so they can scream ‘victimisation’. So far it’s hard to know without asking the venue management what happened to get these charmingly racist scumbags moved on.

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Do you recognise this venue? If so, please let me know where it is. I’d be keen to ask the manager what actually happened.

UPDATE 23/11/2014

And the truth comes out. Below are a couple of screenshots from Britain First’s own Facebook page. Thanks to Reporting BF for spotting this gem. It’s nothing to do with a police conspiracy to derail BF’s democratic rights (as they claim) at all then, is it?

Presumably they did their usual thing and booked the venue under a different name. That rarely works out well for them, does it?

Anyway the screenshot on the left gives the reason from someone who was there. The screenshot on the right shows the same conversation after the truth was deleted by Britain First’s admin.
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Now I really want to know where the venue is. I’d like to give the hotel a plug on my blog. It’s nice to know they value common decency over profit.

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