Just when I need motivation…

Thanks, BBC.  I’m trying to get my dissertation finished by the end of the month and did not need to see a news story saying I’ve gone to the wrong university.   It is no news that “job applications are filtered by university ranking“; we all know Oxford and Cambridge graduates will also get through job filtering before University of Southern Rutland graduates.


Being told that Russell group university graduates get jobs, despite appearing lower in the university table rankings, while those who went to Aberdeen, St Andrew’s and Lancaster won’t, despite their academic achievements, is not reassuring.

Being assured our levels of debt are the same, and the uni appearing higher in the rankings than the prestigious ones, but won’t get work afterwards, is a nice miserable message to put out at the end of one academic year and the start of the next.

Just keep going

This year has included a death, moving home, a new job which itself is requiring training and my wife getting some awful medical news which will effect the rest of her life.  But I am still going, doing 120 credits of study at level 2.  It requires selfishness to do a degree as a married adult, and it requires an understanding partner who will let you be selfish… for years.

TMA05 of A222 Exploring Philosophy has been a toughie.  Running two weeks late, the content meant little to me, and I could not relate to the material.  In trying to write the essay, I could not grasp how the arguments, counter-arguments and counter-counter-arguments worked.  I could not see how to construct the essay.

In frustration I just defined the terms, gave the context for the essay question, mentioned the philosophers and their theories and then proceeded to rant about the material, the subject and generally vented my spleen.    Three days I spent on that, mostly tearing my hair out, writing what I thought of the material.

It confirmed what I had thought while reading the material – I should have saved myself some time and skipped this TMA.  Just not done it.

Then, having run out of time, I submitted it anyway.  

I got more than 40% !    My rant about the material got marked (and I even got advice on how I should have presented it so that it would have been a valid philosophy essay!)

As a consequence, the average across the first five TMAs went down by 1%.  Had I submitted nothing, a very poor mark for the final TMA, TMA06, would have meant failing the module.  I now cannot fail the TMA part of the module.

Moral: no matter how frustrated, always submit something.

Re: I feel depressed because of war 2

I get so sad , and also can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t ignore the fact that they are suffering.

The solution to feeling sad is action.

How are you going to stop war in the world?  You can’t it’s impossible.  You can stay as positive as you want its not going to stop war.

There have been, over the past few centuries, many treaties which have defined and redefined what is and is not permitted in a war.  We’ve moved on a long way from the massive horrific hack-people-to-death battles of the middle ages that in a couple of days could kill a significant percentage of a country’s men.

  • All sorts of tactics and weapons have been banned because of their cruelty or long term effects.
  • Rules have come in about targeting civilians and what is permitted by those in uniform and what is forbidden by those who are not.
  • The law has changed around much of the world regarding conscription; it is no longer legal to force someone to fight and kill others if it is against their conscience to kill.

So, there have been many changes made to violent conflict.

There have also been changes to prevent conflict, such as:

  • The formation of the EU which arose from a treaty designed to prevent another war between France, Italy and German.
  • International courts have been set up on every continent to prosecute those who break these treaties and laws.
  • The League of Nations and then the United Nations were formed to provide somewhere for communication to occur so war can be avoided.

So, there have been changes made to prevent conflict.  These have all happened because people have been active and made them happen.

I don’t think violent conflict will ever be eliminated. But we can continue to prevent it, reduce it, constrain it and clean up after it to minimise its impact.

Re: I feel depressed because of war

A discussion on the forum of The Student Room started like this:

[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60094763] I can’t stop thinking about what children must be going through in their war-torn countries and witnessing their parents shot and stuff. All these graphical images/videos on Facebook and it all makes me sad  🙁 They were born in the wrong place at the wrong time they don’t deserve to go through all this. I can’t stop over-thinking and getting all sad and stuff. I try to avoid news and facebook and sh*t but that’s not helping :/ [/QUOTE]

There are things one can do.  Here is the reply from yours truly:

[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095245] It’s impossible for the an average person to change the world. [/QUOTE]
It is that belief that makes you feel depressed about it. But that belief is not entirely accurate. Every change that has ever occurred started with someone thinking “I want to do something about this“.

[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095325] No, I’m not going to sit back and watch people die [/QUOTE]
Good. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

You could support Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières. They help the victims of war (amongst others) and, given they’ve just had two hospitals destroyed by airstrikes lately, they could do with some support. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the USA had said “Oops. We’re not taking responsibility, but how much $$$ do you need to replace that hospital?“)

You might want to learn more about The Movement for the Abolition of War. They are an organisation of volunteers with a huge dream trying to make a huge difference. Their web site has links to lots of similar organisations.

War Resisters’ International are a pacifist activist group. Perhaps you would be proud to be a War Resister. They are active in all sorts of areas to try to prevent violence and promote peaceful alternatives.

You may be more interested in the Peace Pledge Union. Would you sign a peace pledge to ‘renounce war and never again to support another‘?

If you want to not pay for war, there is a Peace Tax bill going before the government next year, which, if accepted, would mean you can say you want your tax money that would have gone on military activity (about 10%) to go on peace-making work instead. Conscience Taxes for Peace not War are leading on this. Writing to your MP to say you support this would help. There’s a news article about the bill here.

Conscience and Peace Tax International is UK based but campaigns globally for the right to legally object to paying for armaments or war preparation.

There are numerous religions groups too, if you are that way inclined, not just Anglican but especially the Quakers.

Do any of those float your boat?

Hanging on to the big dreams

I started out with this big dream about three years ago of finding some way to convince my own government to use methods other than war. Of the people I have spoken to, very few have said “war is inevitable” or “you can’t have society without war”. This has not just been because of the people I have started to mix with, not do I think it is people just being polite. It feels like an idea whose time has come. Those who do pooh-pooh what I say I find are easily countered, despite my lack of knowledge.

But sometimes I think I have bitten off more than I can chew, especially when I see what others have achieved, or what large or long-standing organisations have not achieved. I start thinking I should wind back a bit on my ambitions. And then I’ll see something like this quote, which I just read when trying to go to sleep:

The biggest things are always the easiest to do because there is no competition.

William van Horne

It is nice, the number of the random strangers I have met this past few years whose attitude has been “go for it”. There’s a lot of hope out there.

Tiresome security vulnerabilities and wannabe l33t h4ckerz

The 11112018 organisation web site got hacked last week.  Some child replaced the site with a pro-Islamic page that boasted of their l33t h4ck1ng skillz and claiming to be an Afghanistani member of a hacker team:

Screenshot of the hacked 11112018 web site

Hacked 11112018 web site

Meh.  The page was the sort of thing one saw on bulletin boards back in the early 1990s with a link to an (uncredited) image of a Moslem knight.

It is a shame that in doing so, they trashed the 11112018 anti-war web site. How to make friends and influence people, not.

They managed to do so because I had not applied an update to the Drupal web content management software I was using; the version had a security vulnerability this person took advantage of.  A quick Google search shows they have uploaded identical content to over 700 web sites.

What amazes me is the poor quality of their work.  The HTML is full of stupid errors that shows the child responsible did a simple cut ‘n’ paste of downloaded code into existing HTML without knowing what they were doing.  It also includes embedded JavaScript, some of which does not execute at all because it is incorrectly implemented.  The layout of the HTML also demonstrates a total lack of understanding of what they were doing.

This is the technology equivalent of putting sugar in someone’s petrol tank or letting their tyres down.

(But they were unwise to leave log file traces, names, IP addresses, traceable script and a trail of identical destruction to other web sites online.)

My To Do List for June included replacing Drupal with something else and putting up a load of content onto the 11112018 organisation site.  Well, now it seems I’ll be replacing the site completely.  Time that would have been spent working on peace studies and pro-peace activity.  But now with slightly less motivation than I had before.

Although I could claim “Hey, I’ve arrived!  A pro-Islamist activist group have targeted my peace web site for taking down and replaced it with their messages of hate!”  But the reality is they have an automated script that just trawls the domain lists for sites due for renewal and searches for this specific vulnerability, then automatically applies their—rather awful—content.

They have just as mindlessly replaced a web site for childcare and a children’s skateboard park web site.

It’s just the same childish, mindless vandalism as spraying swastikas on bus shelters.

I am so disappointed.

“What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”

Another answer to a query from an aspiring author.

RJ: “What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”

Are the British Isles part of Europe, or some independent islands in the North Atlantic? What looks like a geography question is really a socio-economic question: do we want to be part of of Europe?

Firstly, what do we mean by “Europe”. Currently, that appears to be something called the “European Union”.

After a century of fighting Germany in ever expanding wars, in 1951 France formed the European Coal and Steel Community with them plus Belgium, Italy and others to pave the way for international co-operation that would make future central European war both unnecessary and undesirable.  And right there is a great example of an alternative to war being implemented.

This expanded in scope to include atomic energy and governance to produce, in 1957, the Economic European Union or EEC. For many years we debated in Britain: should we join the EEC? It was a difficult question because of the fear of loss of sovereignty.

The original French vision had been to create a single Europe with one government, one defence force, one agricultural policy and so on. This vision was quashed back in the 1950s by the founding countries as they feared the consequences of it and it seems they still don’t want it. It may have meant the loss of cultural heritage, loss of control, failure to recognise differences in values and loss of identity.

These concerns are what put us off: would be be forced to eat garlic sausage and other foreign muck, like snails?

In 1973, we took the plunge and joined. We immediately stopped driving on the left, started speaking French, began eating frog’s legs and stopped buying beer in pints. Well, maybe not. But there were changes, especially around trade, travel and the legal system.

This became the European Union in 1993 when we signed the Maastricht Treaty. Amazingly, this got little press at the time but it is one of the most significant events in British history. We also do not notice the changes it brought about.

Anyway, the European Union is the current name of this ever expanding organisation (although some surprising previous members have left, such as Algeria and Greenland). It expands both geographically and in scope and so is ever changing. And nobody enjoys change.

But after 40 years of membership we still drive on the left, don’t like garlic sausage, still can’t speak anything other than English and measure distances in miles.

So back to the question. “Do we want to be part of of Europe?

We’ve identified “Europe”, but who are “we”? Ireland wants in. Scotland, traditionally allied with France against England, wants in while nearly being out of the UK. Wales can’t make its mind up. And England? Who knows?

All you need to do is predict the future, and the answer to the in/out question will be clear.

Online queries from an aspiring author

RJ: “I just want to open a discussion here (definitely not criticizing) but don’t you think it’s our job as a first world country to protect the innocent and defend what’s right even if it is overseas, and surely that sometimes must mean going to war? Just curious to hear another point of view on the subject.”

1. In what way does our country have the right to assume sovereignty over another country? Isn’t that the old colonial / great power attitude that we get criticised for? Perhaps we should stop making the assumption that we have the right to impose our will over other countries just because we can.

2. Does “defend what’s right even if it is overseas” mean protecting our financial interests such as access to mineral resources? Should we be allowed to replace a government of another country to suit our economic needs? Many think that was the reason for two Gulf Wars and behind the Arab Spring. These incidents have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians – if that is our fault, are you OK with that?

3. “surely that sometimes must mean going to war” I don’t think so and so do may others. Just because we can fire missiles and drop bombs on people to change the opinions of their leaders, I don’t think it is right that we should.

There is a common assumption that because there has been wars, that war is the solution to problems. If you have a dispute with a neighbour, is the solution to fight it out in the street? There are alternatives to war including education, sanctions, charity, freedom of movement, lowering trade barriers and listening.

War is easy and sexy and makes people rich. It is also ugly, random, lazy, cruel and no longer necessary. It is an anachronism.

RJ: “I see what you mean! sorry if it seems rude I’m just curious”

No, you were not rude at all and I am sorry if I came across in a way other than responding to your query.

I got to a point a few years ago of thinking “Nearly a hundred years ago we had The War to End All Wars and yet we’re still having them. Why?” And the more I thought about it, and the more I read, the more I discovered it is down to ignorance, laziness and greed.

Imagine you are a male Prime Minister. Let’s pick one at random like Tony Blair. The President of the USA calls you and says his advisers have a fool-proof plan for a quick and clean war that can be called a “liberation of oppressed people by a tyrant”. It will result in you looking like a serious statesman on the world stage, you’ll go down in history as a war-leader and there’s a promise of some valuable non-executive directorships in armaments companies plus very well-paying consultancy work that would come your way if you play along. All you have to do is get someone to “sex up” some stories about weapons of mass destruction and missiles – stuff that could never be dis-proven. Bish bosh it’ll all be over in a few days and you’ll be a rich hero.

Or, you can say “Can’t we just negotiate with this tyrant, use sanctions, make it impossible for him to travel and generally make his life a misery. If he isn’t toppled by his own government, then we’ll quietly offer him a pension to retire to Saudi Arabia (like Idi Amin).

You are an alpha-male who has got to the top by showing off and being The Man, all powerful and macho and most definitely A Man of Action. Which would you do?

I cannot stop the Tutsis being massacred by the Hutus, nor can I stop ISIS. Other people have skills and knowledge in those areas that I will never have.

But I have an idea or two for stopping artificial wars that result in 600,000 civilian deaths just to eliminate one man.

And if I come across as passionate about the subject, it’s because I am. I do not want artificial wars being started in my name, using my tax money.

RJ: “I can agree to that, but what you’ve got to understand is I am doing this because I want to be writer and although I’d like my writing to be read and enjoyed a fantasy novel is meant for enjoyment purposes. What I’m saying is my intentions in life are not to change the world, just to keep it entertained for a short while. So I’m sorry if I seem obtuse at times it’s not that I either agree or disagree I just find it interesting to hear people’s views and sometimes when doing that it’s also interesting to hear what they think of other people’s views on the same subject. Sorry if this is infuriating at times 🙂 “

No New Wars 11 11 2018

No New Wars 11 11 2018

Meaning, let’s ensure No New Wars start as from 11th November 2018.

How?  By making it clear we expect our leaders to use other means to achieve change.

It will have been a hundred years since the Armistice, a hundred years in which we have learned an awful lot not just people’s ability to harm other, innocent, people, but also about communication, reconciliation, change management, energy creation, environmental management, understanding, and sharing.

In our name, and with our financial support, people are dropping air-bombs, firing guided missiles, shooting long-range heavy-calibre machine-gun fire, remotely-controlling armed drones…to kill people, including civilians.  And is a person who picks up a gun to defend their home a soldier or an armed civilian?  Much of the 20th century involved the deaths of tens of millions of civilians; the 21st century so far has comprised the deaths of 100,000s of civilians, and if you include civilians carrying guns, it is already in the millions.  And the media is glorying in the “Arab Spring” ignoring that it is the worst kind of war: a civil war armed, funded, supported and maintained by external forces who benefit financially or politically from the suffering and deaths of those involved.

Wars are the principle cause of this suffering, and it is time they stopped.  They are not necessary for peace.  There are other means, and not just financial sanctions which are only a feeble exercise in trying to show the futility of peaceful solutions.  Governments and politicians are not ”’trying”’ to end war; it neither adds to their power nor is it financially attractive for their sponsors.

Wars are started by politicians being manipulated and promoted by the media.  If politicians can be made to see that war-mongering is no longer going to create votes, they will become peace-makers.  And if the media are hit financially by not getting readers and web page hits, they will lose advertising revenue and so will cease that behaviour.

The trite cliché “”War is the continuation of politics by other means”” is not only facile, but also two hundred years out of date and inappropriate in a nuclear-energy, internet connected, post-empire world.

I am not so naïve as to think existing wars can be just stopped.  But we can do our bit to create a world where it is not necessary or politically wise to start any new wars.

We—that means you—can tell politicians they will lose their jobs if they start down the path of war.

We—that means you—can tell the media they will lose advertising revenue and sales if they promote war.

I am not saying we should not support our troops nor have a defence facility.  I am not saying the campaign to stop population growth is wrong.  But I am saying we must actively prevent our leaders from starting down paths that lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians just because that is easier and more attractive to them than any alternatives.  We must make peace more attractive.

Other thoughts: I’ll need leaflets, email signatures and other means of publicity.  Also, a blog, a wiki and a forum.

I need to form a No New Wars movement.

I need to start a 11112018 – The Eleven Eleven Twenty Eighteen campaign.

Other thoughts: the modern heroes – the new Ghandis – e.g. the Tienanmen square person with shopping bags in front of the tanks; the people who stand in front of Israeli guns; wikileaks to expose the leaders who lie.  They should not be needed.

(This article was originally published on or before 13/09/2012.)