MEANING

And so it begins.

The world affecting circus that is the Donald Trump presidency of the USA creaked under way last week and bumbled directly into a problem driven by the facts of a situation.

After showing an almost rabid desire to have the highest numbers on almost everything you could imagine (even down to pointing out that The Apprentice viewing figures for Arnold Schwarzenegger were smaller than they’d been when he’d been the one firing people) day one saw the delight continue. The number of people who were actually in attendance to see the inauguration and those who were watching on TV.

Now on it’s own, this point is nothing. In the grand scheme of things, the number of people who attended the event is an utter irrelevance. If Donald Trump is able to oversee world peace and be the driving force behind everyone coming together for the good of humanity as we start to explore the stars, he could have had no-one turn up to begin with and there wouldn’t be anyone who’d care.

The issue came that his ‘people’, despite evidence to the contrary, steadfastly clung to the party line of there being more people there than at any other presidents inauguration. Regardless of the facts, the decided line was going to be what they wanted it to be. To compound this they defended what was said with the soon to be immortal phrase, “alternative facts.”

Alternative facts as an idea scare me.

Information can be interpreted in different ways but if there are one hundred thousand fewer people in attendance of an event, you can’t spin the fact to be anything else. Facts are facts and as such aren’t subject to the whims of people wanting to say the opposite. Indeed there was no such concern with alternative facts when the result of the election was decided.

As a writer, I deal with words all of the time and there are examples where words can be used in many different ways which can be at odds, wicked being  both good and bad depending on context. But truth is more than that. Personal opinion on any given point has to be up for scrutiny and if the facts show the complete opposite, your opinion is wrong.

Literature has many, many examples of the use of ‘alternative facts’ by systems and people trying to do something despite the truth. One of my favourite books is 1984 and the existence of doublethink within the story showed clearly how truth can become nothing more than a hindrance to what the ruling power wants, changing as is required.

I hope that Donald Trump and his team  are able to prove all of their doubters wrong and deliver for the good of the country and the world at large but even now, so very few days into the job, there are already clear examples of an almost dictatorial obsession with everyone agreeing with what he wants to be the truth. Is truth going to be lost along the way amidst alternative facts?

How many lights do you see?

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GOOD THING, BAD THING?

When I wrote The Circle of Duty, one of the main points I wanted to hold up to the light was the idea that an act in itself isn’t good or bad, rather it’s the context of that act which bestows the value.

The point that seems to have been looked at more readily is that of the bad deed done for the good reason. An example would be having to commit a murder in able to save a thousand lives. Murder is a bad thing but saving all of those lives is a good thing. Wouldn’t that ultimately mean that there was a net positive? All those people saved just for the loss of one?

I pondered this question when I was speaking with people at a recent convention and I received many different answers as people fell on both sides of the possible ethical dilemma. So we look deeper. Is it still a good trade if the person to die were a nun for example, and she were dying to save one thousand rapists? Would it still be bad if a rapist were to die to save a thousand nuns? Very quickly the water begins to turn a little murky.

So what of the other side of this moral equation?

If I were to do a good thing but for bad reasons, then what?

The reason I ask was driven thanks to a certain thank you speech given recently. Tom Hiddleston gave his speech at the Golden Globes and made comment about his charity work but rather than those words coming as a plea for said charity, they instead became a form of self aggrandisement at the positive effect he  was having for said charity. Now I can certainly believe his response when the world pointed an accusing finger at him, that his words were inelegant rather than deliberately rude but what if he’d actually been bang on the money with what he was saying? What if he had meant every single word and felt that he was worthy of particular mention for all his hard work?

How often do we see celebrities making heartfelt pleas for support of whatever monetary form or another? What if they were only doing said pleading for the positive effect it could have for their career? Is the act of giving somehow diminished due to the knowledge of that person only doing it for their benefit?

We saw a great many celebrities pass away during 2016 but a telling fact to come out in a few cases has been the vast amount of charity work which was undertaken without the need for the wider public to know. These people had been involved in countless causes and had been able to use their wealth and efforts to do good without the need to shout it from the roof tops. Does that make these people better? Did they ensure the truth came out after their passing to ‘pump up’ their legacy? Were they manipulating in their own way?

All in all, we have to have broad ideas of what is a good thing and a bad thing but just the examples I’ve waved about here could show that the reality really has to be considered on a case by case basis. Everyone and everything will have specific reasons to make the choices they do so I think it just shows that we can’t be too black and white when we look at what’s going on.

IT’S ALL A CONSPIRACY

I watch a TV show called Ancient Aliens quite a bit and I drag out loads of information to use in stories. Facts and speculation gets my mind ticking and things as simple as a location can find their way into what I’m writing.

Now I’m not saying everything that goes on around us is all about aliens (although don’t tell Giorgio) but having had someone else think that such things aren’t beyond the realms of possibility does help when I put the narrative together. The thing that nudged me this week was the question of why we as a species seem to be so keen to take any given data and run off in the most bizarre direction possible? How is it that rational thought and investigation can be almost outdone simply on the assumption that strings we can’t see are being pulled in ways we can’t know to achieve goals we can’t possibly comprehend.

Why the conspiracy?

You type ‘conspiracy theories’ into any search engine and you’ll be bombarded by all manner of ideas covering anything you could possibly conceive. The faked moon landings. Elvis is actually alive and well. JFK. Creationism. There are people lined up to give their opinion on any and all of these and so many others as to make even the hardest of hard nosed sceptics take pause. What if, buried amongst all of the outlandish claims and ideas concerning everything and anything, someone is actually telling the truth or has worked out what’s really going on? We have to be sure that we don’t just believe everything we hear, instead questioning and researching but surely there comes a point when we can accept details of what we’re being told?

Is it just that we have a curious streak running through us? Are the conspiracy theories being driven by an inherent distrust of systems of power? Do we think we’re being lied to?

I have no doubt that governments around the world will have very dark secrets of all kinds that they keep from the population as a whole for the health of the public but that doesn’t mean that every single fragment of information which comes from ‘the system’ is automatically to be thought of as a lie.

Every time we hear anything we have to apply critical thinking and assess it on its merits. I meet someone and they say they work in banking I’m likely to believe them but if they say they’re a multi-billionaire playboy who fights crime at night then I’m likely to need some proof.

Watching Ancient Aliens I find it remarkable when the various talking heads on the show run through their logic and everything is going fine until the final step when whatever point they reach on the road of logic, the last one is always ‘Aliens’. No matter where the evidence is taking them, ‘Aliens’. In every step along the way there is a reasoned application of logic until ‘Aliens’.

Maybe the conspiracy theories are just so many people wanting the stories to be true and are doing everything they can to squeeze the merest hint of possibility out of the barest scrap of plausibility. Don’t we all want there to be a little magic and wonder left in the world?

Even if we have to blame Elvis or Aliens to do it?

DONE

I was back in work this morning.

Without really trying, getting back onto the rails of the required bits and pieces that have to happen on every Monday made it worryingly easy to almost forget that the festive period was still taking place around me. All the jobs that I needed to complete were the same as if it had been a Monday in June and aside from the tinsel and tree at the front of the building, there was a void which sat everywhere and just engulfed all the festive stuff.

I then nipped into town on the way home and despite the fact that many of the shops were closed, it was again only the presence of the decorations which gave any clue to the time of year. People were doing what they’d be doing on any other day and you’d never guess that there had been anything different going on.

Everyone must always take a breath. Surely we’re all in need of making the most of the time to relax.

Let’s not get back to work too early.

ALMOST OVER

For this post I only have a single point to make.

I feel that after the 2016 we’ve all witnessed, where division and anger seem to have exposed the gruesome heart of the human race to the light, I open my arms to everyone out there, regardless of all those defining characteristics we all cling so very tightly to, and which seem to be always pulling us apart, and say to each and every one of you,

“Let’s celebrate our humanity and do what we can to make the lives we touch every day a little bit better. Let’s make sure 2017 is the perfect antidote to what we’ll soon be leaving behind us.”

Have a good ‘un all.

THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK

In any given situation, do you believe the best of people?

If someone tells you something, do you accept what they say without question? Do you expect them to lie? How do you assess what you’re told so you have the best chance to weed out the lies in the pot?

Every day we all have to make these assessments when we read, hear or watch anything but one story, despite it’s truth or otherwise, is only as good in the first instance, as the mind of the person who’s hearing it.

Do you know someone, or are you that person, who will just treat everything they’re told as something to be suspicious of?

Each and every one of us is the product of all of our experiences with all of the days of our lives adding up to create a way to look at things. We build opinions based on things we’re told but things we experience as well. If we have a continuous outcome every time we experience any given event, that’s going to colour how we behave the next time we have that same event. We all have that one friend who is distrustful of new relationships after having been the one to be dumped every time any of their previous couplings came to an end. Over time they’ve come to the conclusion that every time they enter a relationship it’s going to fail.

I get told all manner of stories when I’m at my non-authoring work. I deal with a large number of people on a daily basis and I have to admit that after the years of doing what I do, I have become more and more sceptical when I’m told all of the reasons why people can’t come to work. Granted there are several examples which are only one very small step above the dog ate my homework, but that doesn’t mean that each and every person who is explaining the reasons for their absence is automatically lying. I try my best to remain optimistic that the people I speak to aren’t just full of it and that I’ll be able to help those who need it but there will always be those who want to push the boundaries. Indeed, I’ve been told by someone that they’d had keyhole surgery on their knee, removing cartilage, the day before, explaining their absence, but said they were fine to get back to work, walking about, now. They seemed shocked when I pointed out that I’d had that op myself and asked to compare scars as it took me weeks to get back to work, and eventually admitted that they’d just overslept.

In all stories, the characters have been shaped by their own experiences. When I started to write The Circle of Fire I was keen to make sure that there would be reasoning why the characters do what they do. There would always need to be a build up of detail behind the mind set of those involved rather than just having them as being two dimensional cut outs. How do these people view the world but then how would they then interact with each other? I wanted there to be conflict but to have a constant physical battle is impractical, and if everyone is pulling in different directions then the story can’t get anywhere. The result is the smaller alterations of view. The disagreements are what make things interesting but we can’t had everyone at loggerheads all of the time.

Cynicism or optimism create a flavour to the thoughts of all concerned. We all have our own way of reviewing things and we can’t ever forget that those things are uniquely ours. Very often, people can get caught up in the opinions of others and it’s conceivable that the political landscape of this past year has been shaped by just that fact. We all have to be open to the opinions of others but that doesn’t mean forgetting where we came from.

But maybe don’t always think the worst. Maybe the dog did eat the homework after all?

LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND

David Attenborough is a hero

I’m one of the millions who’ve watched any number of the TV shows which he’s been involved with and the majesty and wonder that exists at all corners of our planet is so far beyond just looking at animals etc.

In the latest series so many different environments all over the globe come under the spotlight and the lives of all kinds of creatures are shown in all of their beauty and horror. If you haven’t been watching Planet Earth II I’d absolutely recommend hunting it out and taking a look. So much sheer life to marvel at as it just takes place regardless of the people with the cameras, it brings to the attention of all of us that the human race makes up a tiny, tiny part of what’s happening every day.

Now my mind started to meander at the understanding of how very much is happening all over the place that it made me wonder about the story telling idea of leaving the planet behind and heading off into the great unknown of outer space.

Very often there is a storyline of the human race having done something steadily or indeed cataclysmic, which has caused us to have to flee the home we’ve all known. Sometimes there are outside forces which come in and force us to leave the Earth behind but very often it’s something that we’ve done to our own home. We have to make choices that send the human race into the stars, leaving the planet behind and to do that, the planet is so easily shown as a burned out cinder which can no longer sustain the life which remains. It becomes a no brainer that we as a race would jump ship when it was sinking.

The problem becomes the reality of what we’d be leaving behind.

The understanding is inherent that we could be technologically advanced enough to transport at least some of the population from the planet and in many cases there’s the addition of the idea that we would be leaving with a collection of the Earth’s wildlife in an attempt to colonise another planet somewhere and restart the life we had. So often the point is the struggle of doing all that can be done to save the few and as many of the creatures which surround us that the fact that the same technology which is being used to offer salvation has been that which has driven us to our downfall.

We’re quick to accept the thought that we as a species would not only destroy the planet we live on but that we’d then be more than willing to leave the mess behind and head off to another spot in the universe to just start it all over again.

Why is it we’re happy to accept that?

We focus on the fact that we’re amazing in how we can escape the horror we’ve created but why would we not be concerned that it’s likely we’d just be doing exactly the same thing at our next stop? How can we be content with the thought of upsetting the possible natural evolution of another planet just because we trashed our own home?

I don’t have the first idea about the logistics which would have to be employed to collect together samples of all of the life on Earth and then to be able to transport all of that off into space but I’d suspect that we’re some way away from being able to do all of the amazing things we see in the movies.

We have a story already which deals with the destruction of almost everything on the planet because of the actions of the human race and the efforts made to preserve everything do nothing but show that we have a need to endure and that we can. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we’ve made along the way, we can just pick up and start again but as the story of Noah’s Arc is a myth meant to show the importance of adherence to a supreme being, what this story says to me is that there’s an almost extreme complacency that no matter what happens, the human race will go on.

We assume that we’re the absolute pinnacle of life and we have the power to do whatever we want but watching the constant struggles which are taking place all over the world with every form of life imaginable on planet Earth puts us into perspective.

We have an amazing intellect and that intelligence is what’s allowed us to advance in the ways that we have but we have to accept that there is so vastly more to life on Earth than just us. We’re happy to consider the fact that we can leave but we’ve all got to understand that we can’t just leave all the other life on Earth behind.

I watched the wildlife programing and there were so many amazing images which fired my mind in terms of action set pieces all the way through to inter-relationships within groups but it really concreted in my head that the need to all come together and work together spreads beyond just the human race. We have to consider so many more things to be able to always achieve the best we can for all of the life on the planet.

David Attenborough knows.