Thursday, 21 May 2015

Bruno's Execution And Those Who Attempt To Justify It

If you search online for Giordano Bruno you'll come across some extraordinary articles that attempt to justify his execution by the Inquisition. Justifying the burning to death of a man because his beliefs are different to yours seems to me unjustifiable.

For those unfamiliar with Bruno, he was a troublemaker in Renaissance Europe, he said and wrote stuff that upset the status quo. As an obviously intelligent but poor child he was educated by monks, then inducted into the monastery. He soon wearied of the superstition and idolatry, removed pictures of saints from his cell, questioned some of the supernatural aspects of the teachings of the church. This misbehavior lead to him having to flee the monastery before he was brought before the feared Inquisition. The rest of his life was spent wandering the world, often in favour with the aristocracy because of his brilliant mind and prodigious memory, other times hounded out of cities and countries because his views were considered heretical. Among these beliefs were the idea that the Earth revolved around the sun, that the stars were other suns that might have other planets revolving around them, that the universe was probably infinite and Earth definitely not the centre of it. Obviously this sort of thinking was intolerable to a church that relied on the idea that humans were the children of a god who was particularly interested in them. 

I find it astounding that religious thinking has changed so little since 1600. I find it ridiculous and appalling. 

So these articles that speak in favour of his execution, some written by the devout, others by people who call themselves scholars, are disturbing in many ways. The most obvious way is that any scholar who can't count to ten and somewhere in that number find the commandment that says killing is bad in no way deserves the title of scholar. The devout who haven't read their New Testament far enough to come across the turning the other cheek reference are in no way devout. That modern, civilized humans can identify with the Inquisition is just disturbing.

The thing these articles hold in common is the belief that the church is the victim of unfair criticism, that some sort of campaign to undermine its authority is behind any historical reference to Bruno. I would have thought the victim in this case was the bloke who was imprisoned and tortured for seven years, then tied to a stake to be burned to death, I'll say that again, burned to death, I'd have thought that bloke might have been the victim. That he was murdered for saying and writing stuff, not for any violent acts, makes it even more inexcusable. That it occurred in 1600 makes it understandable, those were turbulent times, and the church was out of control, a brutal and vicious entity that protected its corporate privilege at any price. That people in 2015 still try to justify that brutality simply freaks me out. The sort of people who write these articles are still medieval in thought, they frighten me. 

One of Bruno's statements that upset the church was that the church followed the people, that it adjusted its teachings to fit in with what the people were up to understanding, to fit in with the narrow thinking and superstitions of the masses. The orthodoxy was created by the ignorant, then enforced by the church. Pick up a newspaper today and see if that has changed over the last four hundred years, if any major religion isn't still beholden to the ignorant. 

Bruno was tortured so brutally for so long that he was unable to walk unassisted to his execution. His tongue was bound so he couldn't say any more of those words that upset the church so much. That he turned away from the crucifix was seen as proof of his devilry. 

Bruno was both courageous and brilliant. He was a hero. Most of what he thought and taught has since been accepted as common knowledge. This planet is not the centre of this universe. The church, any church, is a corrupt organisation more concerned with itself than any god or the welfare of the people. Attempting to justify his murder is so obviously ridiculous that when I came across a large number of articles making that attempt I was shocked. 

Bruno was the victim, the church the criminal, no amount of words can alter that. Freedom of speech is an essential human right, anyone who would kill people for exercising that right is stuck in the Dark Ages.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Francis, Man Or Muppet?

Following revelations that George Pell, a man who holds the rank of cardinal within his peculiar religious sect, protected a pedophile instead of reporting him to police, we'll now discover whether the man who calls himself Francis and holds the rank of Pope in the same sect, is a man or a muppet.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Ravioli Napoli At Pellegrini's

From my food column, published in Toorak Times.

Ravioli Napoli At Pellegrini's

The food: Ravioli Napoli.

The cafe: Pellegrini's Espresso Bar, 66 Bourke Street Melbourne.

The price: $17.

The vibe: The definition of cosmopolitan, come as you really are.

The website: Of course Pellegrini's doesn't have a website.

If you live in Melbourne, or visit Melbourne, you have to try the ravioli Napoli at Pellegrini's Espresso Bar. It's filled with good ricotta, firm and mild. It is served with a simple, flavoursome, slow cooked tomato sauce. That's it. That's all it is because that's all it needs to be. To add anything else to this classic dish, save a sprinkling of Parmesan, would be a foolish thing to do. It is perfect as it is.

If you live in Melbourne you don't need me to tell you about Pellegrini's, hasn't changed since the 50's, your parents took you there for creme caramel, Barry Dickens wrote a poem about it being the soul of the city, you've heard it all before. If you are visiting Melbourne don't expect anything grand, this is a vintage Italian shopfront coffee bar where the service is gruff, on a good day, the food ungarnished, where everything is simple but well cooked. 

Whatever you eat and drink your bill will come to $20, I'm not sure how it works, one of life's mysteries. Pellegrini's doesn't serve alcohol, the granita and coffee are both superb. 

You'll usually end up sharing a passing joke, a conversation or a pass the sugar please with a fellow traveller at the bar. Barrister chats with tradesman, artist with accountant, the poet was right, Pellegrini's is the soul of the city. Some days I feel it is the ghost of Melbourne past, I hope I'm wrong. 

You have to try the ravioli Napoli at Pellegrini's, to feed your body and your soul.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Standing And Falling For Things

"If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything."

The above statement, on first reading, appears to make sense, the use of two opposites makes it sound profound. Of course it is one of the stupidest statements of this era of stupid statements. It means nothing. 

Stalin stood for something. The apartheid regime of South Africa stood for something. Drug gangs in South America stand for something. Hitler stood for something, as did Chamberlain. Pol Pot stood for something. Africans who mutilate the genitals of their daughters stand for something. Religious people who damn other people to eternal torture for holding different beliefs stand for something. The Inquisition stood for something. Putin stands for something. Those bloodthirsty lunatics flying a black flag in Syria and Iraq stand for any number of things. 

All these people and organisations were and are surrounded by dedicated followers. The statement, "the desire to stand for something leads to falling for anything", appears more accurate to me. 

If your Mummy didn't pay you enough attention and you feel the need to stand up and be noticed pick a Guiness world record and hop to the South Pole or something, just don't stand for something, and don't follow someone who stands for something and pretend that's the same thing as standing for something.


King Kent? Blame Garnet. And Capitalism.

Following a piece on capitalism my friend Garnet challenged me to explain how things would be different if I were king. I do like the sound of that, King Kent, it's just all you fools who can't see the merit in such a proposal. The comments section on this site isn't working for me at present, so I'll respond here.

My first act as King Kent would be to order Google, under threat of death, to get their shit together for Apple device users. I'd then admonish Garnet for being so cheeky. Kings enjoy admonishing people. 

I believe that political and social systems reflect the times and the level of sophistication of the people. Capitalism, moderated with a degree of socialism, seems apt for our times and the level of sophistication of our people. It's not the worst system in history.

I can imagine a time when people don't see other people as a means to an end. I figure this will result in less complex, less expensive government as we don't waste energy on protecting ourselves from ourselves. When humans feel secure in their society the desire for vast wealth will seem silly, the scramble for money uncouth and unbecoming. 

Everything needs to be paid for, one way or another. When the time and energy currently spent on friction is spent on results for the people, by the people, government will have almost nothing to do.

Of course by this time robots will be doing all the work and humans will be passengers on this life raft of a planet. Then we'll have to invent a new system, again. 

I can't predict what will come next. I think it's useful to look at our current system honestly, see it for what it is, how else will we know if any future changes are improvements or not? I can predict that King Kent will remain a fantasy, until all you fools wake up to yourselves.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Capitalism And Spare Money

Capitalism is a system that allows people with spare money to get more spare money. 

Money that isn't required for food, clothing, shelter and security can be lent to other people, at the cost of interest. This means that people with no spare money, those who have to borrow, pay much more for the shelter they borrow money for than the people who have spare money and don't need to borrow money. It's like a penalty for not having spare money, or a bonus for having spare money. 

The people with the spare money are protected by the law, which is written by other people with spare money. Those who take the risk of borrowing money to begin a business that actually performs required work and employs people are not protected by any law, they just take their chances. So people with spare money get more spare money on the back of people with no spare money who are willing to take a chance. Corporations that are made up of share holders who have spare money are protected by governments, which are nearly entirely made up of people with spare money.

You can see that having spare money is the optimal position within a capitalist system. 

Capitalists who have spare money look down on those who don't have spare money. They believe everyone should pay their own way, yet they are wonderfully socialist when it comes to services like the police or the law courts. Both these services work on behalf of the people with spare money. Those without spare money share the cost of these services, but have the least to gain from them. True capitalists should pay for their own police service, to protect their wealth, instead they are happy to use the state service that is paid for by all the people.

After a car accident people with spare money are taken to a public emergency hospital, then moved to a luxury private hospital. The children of people with no spare money are given the same emergency service, but without private insurance they remain in the lesser public hospital for treatment. People with spare money are happy to have a bet each way, they like that their lives can be saved at a public emergency facility, but they believe everyone should insure themselves for health cover. They value their own health above that of the children who aren't lucky enough to be born to parents with spare money. 

To succeed in the capitalist system one must find a way to get some spare money, then ride the system to get more spare money. This means making more spare money on the back of those without spare money. People who have spare money feel this is a fair system, people with no spare money are not so sure.


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

There Will Be No March

Earlier this year we witnessed world leaders and diplomats gathering in Paris to march in support of freedom of speech. Since then they have all become silent on the matter. This selective indignation is pathetic.

Yesterday in Bangladesh a secular blogger, a man who wrote words, was hacked to death by religious lunatics. In Thailand a mentally ill woman is facing charges for criticising a portrait of the king. In Singapore a teenager is facing harsh sentence for drawing a cartoon of a politician, not unlike the cartoons Charlie Hebdo published. World leaders are silent on all these cases.

In most Moslem nations any words that disagree with the state version of Islam is brutally, violently crushed. This is accepted as the status quo. In Russia opposition to the Czar has been all but silenced, a return to the good old days. In many nations women are unable to speak about anything. Last I checked that's half the population denied freedom of speech, and there's no sign of any politicians marching in support of anyone anywhere.

Of course what happened in Paris was shocking, and worthy of a dramatic display of support, but that's all it was, a display, a sham. On the same day that a Saudi ambassador marched a Saudi blogger was being publicly flogged. 

Any institution that requires a law that prevents criticism to maintain its image is an institution unworthy of respect. If the king is so great how can someone poking fun at a painting of him possibly demean him? If the state version of a god is so great how can a few words on a blog lessen him? How can a badly drawn cartoon of president Lee shagging Maggie Thatcher diminish anything or anyone? If the institutions are so flimsy that they suffer for a few words those institutions are already falling down. 

Without freedom of speech the only other option for a downtrodden people is violent revolution. It has taken Russian despots less than one hundred years to forget this. All politicians forget it at their own peril. 

There'll be no march in support of African women who don't want their daughter's genitals to be mutilated. There'll be no march in support of freedom of speech that doesn't attract media interest. There'll be no march because our politicians are weak. They're pathetic. 

It was only months ago that they marched on the streets of Paris and pretended they cared about freedom of speech.