Author’s Note: The provenance of the phrase history is written by the victorious is disputed. But what can attribution achieve in this instance? The sentence (or sentiment) must surely have been uttered or thought by many prior to the origin we seek, and also ex post facto by many unaware of their plagiarism. The point remains that the marginalised have, historically, been denied a voice. When you are dead or imprisoned, uneducated or denied access, putting forward your version of events becomes problematic. Once something has been destroyed, only those left standing can rebuild, and do so with the only tools available to them: theirvision.
It could be said that, to some extent, in the real-time networked world we have awoken in this side of the millennium, more people than ever have the ability to make themselves heard. But what do we find now that the curtain has…
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Author’s Note: The provenance of the phrase history is written by the victorious is disputed. But what can attribution achieve in this instance? The sentence (or sentiment) must surely have been uttered or thought by many prior to the origin we seek, and also ex post facto by many unaware of their plagiarism. The point remains that the marginalised have, historically, been denied a voice. When you are dead or imprisoned, uneducated or denied access, putting forward your version of events becomes problematic. Once something has been destroyed, only those left standing can rebuild, and do so with the only tools available to them: their vision.
It could be said that, to some extent, in the real-time networked world we have awoken in this side of the millennium, more people than ever have the ability to make themselves heard. But what do we find now that the curtain has not just been pulled back, but entirely torn from the frame? A cacophony of bewilderment and confusion. Given the ability to connect, we find the opposite: rival factions forming even within so-called liberal and humanitarian endeavours. True, beneath the media hype circus and informing every echo-chamber is a series of seemingly incomprehensible yet profound events. To make sense of these events we cling to the narrative structures that reinforce our own belief systems (even those who claim to be free of them entirely). But what we see is that these narratives, constructed in a context of individualism, serve to divide us further.
As well as the political and global turmoil, twenty-sixteen has, for various reasons, been a trying year for me personally and those around me with whom I am lucky enough to share a more intimate relationship. It is not my intention to emphasise either a positive or negative interpretation of trying. About midway through the year I discovered the writings of Charles Eisenstein whose philosophy has subsequently resonated with me profoundly: pulling together various paths of thought that I had been unable to do so alone. All ideology is narrative. Humanity has been driven by a story of separation, the self as a discrete entity. Science, politics, art, education, religion, economics &c. are all ideologies constructed to make sense of the world. All of these ideologies have failed because they are predicated on a falsehood (the story of separation).
What follows is my review of the past twelve months. It is necessarily my own perspective. A chronologically driven (linear and cyclical) second-person narrative, this story is one-part diary (personal and political), one-part consumption (books and music) and one-part philosophical exegesis (bildungsroman). Depending on your proximity: in jokes, pop-philosophy, bad puns, scholarly intent, juvenilia, paradox, pretension and/or pith. Anything underlined is hyperlinked to the source of the reference (music, words, obituaries &c.). Direct quotes are underlined and the reference is hyperlinked from the (Author, Date) notation to where the quote exists in its full context elsewhere on my blog. Before writing I set myself the following rules: Each entry must a) refer to the events of that month, both internal and external b) include a quote from every book I read that month that can be as seamlessly as possible woven into the overarching narrative c) contain a reference to some music I had on repeat that month, and d) reflect the nature and personal development of my philosophical enquiry. There follows a full bibliography and an appendix. Ma gavte la nata.
Adam John Miller
20th December, 2016
Later he said, “I apologise, Mr. Rennie, I don’t believe that. I believe this church will be knocked down, but first the mural must be made perfect. When a thing is perfect it is eternal. It can be destroyed afterward, or slowly decay, but its perfection is safe in the past, which is the only inevitable part of the universe. No government, no force, no God can make what has been not have been. The past is eternal and every day our abortions fall into it: love affairs we bungled, homes we damaged, children we couldn’t be kind to. Let you and I, Mr. Rennie, make eternity a present of a complete, perfect, harmonious, utterly harmless thing; something whose every part is the result of intelligent, loving care; something which isn’t a destructive weapon and can’t be sold at a profit by public-spirited businessmen. And remember, Mr. Rennie, we’re doing nothing novel. For five or six thousand years Egyptian and Etruscan and Chinese artists put their best work into graves which were never opened. The old Greeks and Romans had as many Leonardos, Rembrandts and Cézannes as we have, all painting on plaster that’s turned to powder now, apart from a few square yards in Pompeii. I’m not sorry. There are too many colour photographs of the Great Art of the Past. If it didn’t have colour reproduction, the mid-twentieth century would have no reason to think itself artistic at all . . . and if it didn’t have you and me, Mr. Rennie.”
“Stop condescending to me,” said a voice.
Thaw started and dropped his brush, for it was three o’clock in the morning. He laughed shakily and climbed down the ladder, saying, “I will never condescend to you again, Mr. Rennie, if you promise not to speak to me when you aren’t here. Excuse me, I’m a little tired.”
Alasdair Gray, Lanark: A Life in Four Books
Mr. Thaw wanted a keener intimacy with his son and liked open-air activities. There were fine mountains near the hostel, the nearest of them, Ben Rua, less than sixteen hundred feet high; he decided to take Thaw on some easy excursions and bought him stout climbing boots. Unluckily Thaw wanted to wear sandals.
“I like to move my toes,” he said.
“What are ye blethering about?”
“I don’t like shutting my feet in these hard solid leather cases. It makes them feel dead. I can’t bend my ankles.”
“But you arnae supposed to bend your ankles! It’s the easiest thing in the world to break an ankle if you slip in an awkward place. These boots are made especially to give the ankle support – once a single nail gets a grip it can uphold your ankle, your leg, your whole body even.”
“What I lose in firmness I’ll make up in quickness.”
“I see. I see. For a century mountineers have gone up the Alps and Himalayas and Grampians in nailed climbing boots. You might think they knew about climbing. Oh, no, Duncan Thaw knows better. They should have worn sandals.”
“What’s wrong for them might be right for me.”
“My God!” cried Mr. Thaw. “What’s this I’ve brought into the world? What did I do to deserve this? If we could only live by our own experience we would have no science, no civilisation, no progress! Man has advanced by his capacity to learn from others, and these boots cost me four pounds eight.”
“There would be no science and civilisation and all that if everybody did things the way everybody else does,” said Thaw. The discussion continued until Mr. Thaw lost his temper and Thaw had hysterics and was given a cold bath. The climbing boots lay in a cupboard until Ruth was old enough to use them. Meanwhile Thaw was not taken climbing by his father.
Alasdair Gray, Lanark: A Life in Four Books