Against the “Plain English Campaign”

In my very varied career of almost 40 years, I’ve spent a good half of it as a writer. My professional qualifications are technical, first in electronics and avionics engineering, and then I converted to IT (programming, application development, and business-systems analysis).

My professional writing experience has been mainly technical, and includes advertising copywriting, press relations, internal communications/PR, bids (in response to invitations to tender), and technical writing.

At various times of my career, including at present, I’ve been employed as a “Technical Author”, working for companies in electronics, IT, scientific instrumentation and aerospace. In the aerospace sector, in which I wrote aircraft-servicing manuals and pilots’ manuals, I was trained to write in a system of communication called “Simplified Technical English” (STE), designed by the Airbus Consortium.

STE has a small vocabulary, used in compliance with strict grammatical rules. It is now used through aerospace for operation-and-maintenance documentation, whether or not the text is destined for translation. (STE is not only easy for non-native English readers to understand, it can be translated quickly without risk of ambiguity, and is on the verge of becoming machine translatable.) The success of STE in allowing mankind to reach to the heavens has caused other industries to adopt the system and create their own STE dictionaries, these include pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and process control.

English is the official international language of aerospace. All airline pilots and air traffic controllers must have a good level of spoken English (and at a higher level than STE, which was designed only for written English). STE helps to prevent aircraft from falling out of the sky. It helps to keep us safe. When I write technical manuals, even outside of the aerospace sector, I always try to adhere to the principles of STE that I learned from my years within the Airbus Consortium.

I think that STE is good, and so why, you might be wondering, do I oppose the  Plain English Campaign? My opposition certainly confuses some of my colleagues in technical writing, who have come to see STE and the Plain English Campaign as the same thing.

The Plain English Campaign

Not only do some of my technical-authoring colleagues like Plain English, they’re convinced and committed by the campaign, and have signed up to it. The have become Plain English Campaigners (or PECs).

The PECs started out in the 1970s, with a mission to improve communication between public institutions and the general public. Typically, they would campaign for improvements to the forms we are obliged to fill in, such as for applying for a passport or declaring tax. Some of the work they did was good and necessary. However, the PECs became so convinced of the value of their work that they increasingly sought to enlarge their self-proclaimed remit, and today they are a powerful, rich and influential lobby.

The PECs have become ideological, and seem to be on a mission to stamp out every English word, everywhere, that is not a “plain” word: i.e. every word that has not made it into their “Plain English Dictionary”.

As in all ideologies, the members of the sect rally around certain fundamental presuppositions, half-truths and assertions that can never be questioned by the adherents. One of these assertions is that Plain English is good, and the rest is “poor English”, or “flowery”, or “gobbledygook”, or “utter drivel”.

The PECs then perpetually justify, to themselves and to potential converts (and customers), why Plain English is good and the rest is poor. They search out the worst examples of English writing and speaking. They even analyse the speeches of caricatures of the human race, such as Donald Trump. (Trump is currently a favoured target for the PECs.)

Apart from going after the caricatures, the PECs employ many other fallacies, without realising they are committing these fallacies, because they don’t, and can’t, do philosophy.

You cannot do philosophy, and the analysis of fallacies, logic and rhetoric, with the little subset of the English language called Plain English.

The PECs claim to have altruistic motives – helping the aged to fill out passport-application forms for example – but when you dig deeper you sense that much of the campaigning is borne out of deep intellectual resentment for those of us who have bothered continuously to expand our vocabulary, and use it too.

By limiting your vocabulary to Plain English, you are limiting your intellectual choices, and the life of the mind (we all think in words), and the ability to understand and appreciate and enjoy anything that was written before 1979.

I think the PECs are suffering from a kind of intellectual sloth, and a deep envy, or chip-on-the-shoulder.

If we don’t use our language, we lose it, and cut ourselves off from our roots.

Carl Gustav Jung, famous for “word association”, came to realise that words, every one of which has a long history, have what he called a “numinous” quality, a spiritual and metaphysical quality, and that we tamper with the natural and organic evolution of language at our peril.

If you think about it, the English language is perhaps the main reason that the English psyche (“psyche” being the Greek for “soul”) and culture is different from, say, the French psyche and the German psyche. After all, geography cannot be the defining factor. England was connected to France until the retreat of the Ice Age 8000 years ago, and the Alsatian border has changed hands several times between French and German imperialists. Our waking thoughts, and even dreaming thoughts, are language (or at least most of my thoughts are language, and sometimes my dreams switch from my maternal language to the French language, my second language). We don’t decide the words with which we think, rather the words come together, of their own accord, quite unconsciously, and become coherent thoughts (and it is only at this point do we decide what to do with the words, and whether or not to edit them).

The French Connection

On the PEC Wikipedia page, we are told that:

  • “In 2011 PEC criticised the Met Office for using the phrase “probabilities of precipitation” instead of “rain is likely”. The Met Office responded by explaining that precipitation does not mean only rain. A Met Office spokesman said: “Precipitation covers a wide range of stuff falling from the sky including rain, sleet, snow, hail, drizzle, and even cats and dogs – but sums it up in just one word.”

Precipitation is a French word (as are almost all words ending “ion”). And knowing the French and Latin words in English helps those who want to learn one or more of the Romance languages.

Learning any language to a level of fluency is difficult, but at least when I started French, I already had a lot of vocabulary and hints, because I have a good English vocabulary that is rooted in French, or that actually is French. Of course, one has to be careful of the “false friends”, and of the many French words in the English language that have changed their meaning, subtly or radically, from the French source.

The more that the PECs publish and distribute, and the more that they have influence, the less the need for the average reader to have a fuller and richer English vocabulary, including much of the French half of the English vocabulary. If the PECs were to have their way, it would lead to more class distinction than ever, in which only the English aristocracy, elite and highly-educated would understand French words such as precipitation and commence and premier, whilst the next generation of plebs would be reduced to Anglo-Saxon words only. This in fact was precisely the situation in England for several centuries after the Norman invasion: the Monarchy, the Church and the Barons spoke French and the masses spoke Middle English. King Richard I (or Richard the Lionheart) is often depicted as the most English and legendary of kings, but in fact his native language was French. He couldn’t be bothered to learn to speak English!

The Plain English Campaign Website has the slogan, “Fighting for crystal-clear communication since 1979”. And so we immediately see they cannot decide whether they are “campaigning” or “fighting”.

In my experience of the PECs, they are insensitive and brutal, and out for a fight. Naturally, they prefer the Germanic stream of English to the Latin and French streams. (The Anglo-Saxons arrived on these shores long before the Normans, and almost all of our most common words have Germanic roots.) I see the PECs as modern-day Vandals attacking what Saint Augustine of Hippo called the “City of God”.

  • Saint Augustine of Hippo – the most influential theologian since Saint Paul and until Thomas Aquinas – was writing in North Africa as the Roman Empire and its culture were being invaded and sacked by the Vandals, who besieged Hippo, and made it the capital of their North African kingdom shortly before Augustine died in AD 430.

The English language is by far the biggest language in the world. The Oxford English Dictionary has over 500,000 entries. The Plain English Dictionary has more like 500.

As we know, English is a confluence of many languages, including the classical languages of Hebrew, Latin and Greek, some knowledge of which is essential for doing philosophy in a Western language. (All Western languages are centred on the Greek concepts of Logos and Sophia, and Onoma – meaning laws, rules and systems – which is why many of our intellectual disciplines are suffixed with an “ology” and “onomy” and “osophy”. Philo-sophy simply means love of Sophia, or love of Wisdom.)


The Brutalist Logic

The PEC website homepage is currently celebrating the fact that the UK government has “booted out” Latin abbreviations such as i.e. and e.g. from its websites.  But where does it stop? What about all the Latin expressions in English, and French expressions, such as à la carte, aide-mémoire, au pair, enfant terrible, Grand Prix, mange tout, par excellence, coup d’état, sang-froid, fait accompli… and the many hundreds of other pretty and evocative French expressions.

The prettiness, the evocativeness and the musicality of language are all lost on the PECs. All these things must be “booted out”.  The flowers of “flowery England” must be stamped on, heavy boots.

It is perhaps significant that the Brutalist movement in architecture came out of England at about the same time as the Plain English Campaign. “Form follows function”, the architects started to shout, and put up the hideous slabs of concrete from which many English cities are yet to recover. There was nothing superfluous about the Brutalist architecture, nothing useless: no fussy detail. The problem is, after the novelty wore off, nobody wanted to live or work in these buildings, or even walk near them or overlook them, because they are so damned ugly and soulless and somehow dehumanising. And so the buildings that the Brutalists wanted to convince us were to be supremely useful (and quick and cheap to erect) quickly became useless, and most of them have been knocked down, whereas the fussy and decorative Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings that escaped the Brutalist architects and town planners are now protected by conservation orders.

One form brutish colleague, who is a PEC, insisted that “the purpose of language is solely to communicate”. I realised that it was pointless trying to explore the words “purpose” and “communicate” with him. I tried to explain to that, for me, words and languages (or “tongues”) are sacred, and have within them something numinous and metaphysical, at which point my colleague made the gesture of putting his fingers down his throat as if to vomit.

I tried to explain that, for me, words are everything, as they have been for every Western philosopher and theologian of note. I quoted the great German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who came to realise that we don’t just speak language, but “language speaks us” (Die Sprache spricht), and that the very foundations of Western philosophy (and Western civilisation), Socratic, Platonic and Aristotelian, is the recognition of the objectivity of words/language.

“God said”, and “it was”. I like German philosophy, particularly GWF Hegel, although as you can imagine I’m not so enamoured with Nietzsche, and his concept of the “over man” (Übermensch) in place of God Almighty. Nietzsche tried (and largely succeeded) to cut off the 20th century from the Word, or Logos (and its ratios and harmonies).

With my technical background in electronics engineering, I know a thing or two about the waveforms of speech, and infinite harmonics, and amplitude spectrums. And I have engaged in dialogue with atheistic cosmologists who insist that we and the world are a product of blind mathematics (and few of these cosmologists want to acknowledge that modern mathematics, and algebra and algorithms and everything else beginning with “al” are gifts from our theistic siblings in Islam). Orthodox science, today, wants to tell me that mathematics governs space and time and all things. I insist that words (including numbers) govern space and time and all things.

God, the One, speaks… and it is. It is poetically significant perhaps, that God spoke the atomic number of 1 into Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the Universe, and 6 into the Carbon, the element of organic life on Earth (or “Adama” in Hebrew).  Der Dichter Spricht.

Wer ist der Gral?

Das sagt mich nicht;
doch, bist du selbst zu ihm erkoren,
bleibt dir die Kunde unverloren.
Und sieh’!

Mich dünkt, dass ich dich recht erkannt:
kein Weg führt zu ihm durch das Land,
und niemand könnte ihn beschreiten,
den er nicht selber möcht’ geleiten.

Ich schreite kaum, –
doch wähn’ ich mich schon weit.

Du siehst, mein Sohn,
zum Raum wird hier die Zeit.

From Parsifal, Richard Wagner.

I believe that words are everything. And Civilisation is, by definition, the written word.

The Rabbis tell us that God “creates as He speaks”, or ebra kidebra (the probable root of “abracadabra”). They tell us that the very 22 letters of Hebrew are the foundation of the world, behind all language, and all mathematics, and all the “laws” of the Universe. Language speaks us.

For the PECs, in the Beginning was Plain English. For me, Plain English is a tedious eddy, in which the PECs are trapped in a fetish for the sound of their own voice.

Luke the Evangelist, in the book of Acts, tells us that 17 living languages descended on the Church at its inception in Jerusalem. These were real languages, being spoken spontaneously by these uneducated people from Galilee, the tough and hilly and working-class region up North, far from the City. These languages were not the barking gibberish called “tongues” than can by drummed up by some “Evangelical” sects today, with drums, electric guitars and flashing lights. No, “the tongues” were real languages (as in implied in the very word “language”, which comes from the French “la langue“, meaning “the tongue”) witnessed and understood by at least one member of the sophisticated cosmopolitan crowd in Jerusalem. Language is a gift. We cannot create or re-create real languages, no more than we can create or re-create Time, or Energy, because Energeia, from which the English word “energy” is derived is (in Greek) God.

I suspect that Luke, in describing the Pentecost, was being historical in Acts, whereas his Gospel is narrative (as he admits from the outset), taking liberties with geography and chronology, and addressed to Theophilus [lover of God], who is perhaps imaginary :

  • “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1, NIV).

Language is everything: all language, be it logic, myth, narrative, history, numbers or prophecy. We don’t just speak language. Language speaks us. We are the words of God, named in the name of God, and there is nothing, no thing, in Creation, that is not the words of God.

  Je suis l’Alpha et l’Oméga, le premier et le dernier, le commencement et la fin.

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The Last Trump

Massacre of the Innocents, Rubens

Massacre of the Innocents, Rubens

My Christmas Wishes Against the US Empire

Mark Pickles, the Church of England

“Within humanity there is planted the organism of the Church to be the channel and vehicle of the life of the Kingdom, until at last the Church includes mankind, and all nations, coming into the Church, make Christendom [sic] co-extensive with the world, when at last the Kingdom of God will be come.”
Mens Creatrix, William Temple, 1916.


William Temple was Archbishop of Canterbury for 2 years until his premature death in 1944. He was politically very influential and was largely responsible for the great political shifts in Britain after the War: the Welfare State, the National Health Service, the ecumenical movement, and paid holidays for all workers. Apart from being politically astute, and vocal in the House of Lords, he was a great theological philosopher (whom I often quote) and was in my view the greatest Archbishop of Canterbury we have ever had. Temple’s critics today, most vocally the military historian and crusty old Tory Sir Correlli Barnet CBE (“Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”), blame Temple, and the British Christianity of his period, for Britain’s decline from ‘greatness’ and its will to be the predominant world power

I profoundly believe that what our world most needs is the collapse of the American Empire. And I think that President elect Donald Trump might be the right man for the job.

I think we might be witnessing the divine last laugh that will bring down the topless towers of American hubris, and heal the world: a world that, for the first time in the history of the world, has the capacity, knowledge and wisdom (and technology) within the body of mankind to release the “organism” of the “life of the Kingdom” that was planted there about 2000 years ago.

Merry Christmas, Ho, Ho, Ho!

Of course, the “great light to all nations” 2000 years ago inevitably brought a great darkness. A great light casts deep shadows which equally “cover the Earth”.

In fact the Nativity story itself is as dark as it gets. King Herod, the Roman client king of Judea, indiscriminately sets his army on the “Innocents”, massacring babies and children. But thanks to supernatural protection, the refugee family of Jesus escapes to Egypt, and the baby Jesus comes out of it unscathed.

Fast forward to the advent of Christianity, and then the advent of Christian imperialism, and our historical records show us that few Christian leaders have been any better than King Herod. In fact in our times they seem to be much worse.

Take Tony Blair for instance, who wears his Christianity on his sleeve. In his reign he was effectively US client king of Britain, which in 2003 helped the Christian USA to indiscriminately massacre about 1 million human beings in Iraq. These people were, in the main, civilians, often pulverised in their own home or place of work: children, doctors, nurses, accountants, museum curators, market-stall holders, builders, managers, shop-floor workers, farmers, fishermen, miners, scientists, engineers, architects, religious leaders, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and Christians (there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq in 2003, one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world), etc. Many of those who survived, and are now having to flee from Islamicist terrorism, still have no homes, and are orphaned children. They are all people, like you and me, and like Jesus the Christ, indeed especially like Jesus, whose race, like the Iraqis, was Semitic.

Jesus, the Messiah, knew all this of course, and that many of his followers would deceive themselves that the old ways were better and more pragmatic, and that the old ways more obviously and immediately produced results than the new ways: the new covenant.

Love and forgiveness, and relinquishing temptations to revenge and temporal power and status, are hard things to do. Violence on the other hand is easy, especially if you are safely ensconced behind a desk in Washington or Westminster. The ways of hell are easy, and easy to understand, and require no dependence or trust in God. The ways of paradise are hard, and hard to understand, and they require much dependence and trust in God.

Jesus forgave his executioners, and the Roman Empire, rather than ask his followers to fight the Roman Empire. Of course, the majority of the Jews were not convinced by Jesus’ claims to be the Jewish Messiah. Some of the messianic pretenders to follow Jesus were more convincing, and convinced the Jews to war against Rome. We cannot blame them. This after all is what the long-awaited “Messiah” had long been expected to do. The three Jewish-Roman wars between AD 66 and AD 136 were messianic wars, particularly the third, led by the charismatic and messianic pretender Bar Kokhba.

Jesus knew that few of his followers would actually trust God, or if they did, would fall at the first hurdle. His very own Apostles ultimately deserted him after all (apart from Our Lady and Mary Magdalene and “the Beloved Disciple”). And he consistently said he was bringing with him not an age of Peace, but the age of the Sword: not Unity, but Division, but to “be not troubled”: in the context of Eternity it doesn’t much matter: there will be justice for all: in the meantime, become good in character rather than evil in character. “Do good”, “forgive all”, “forgive your enemy”, “do not kill”, “be as wise a serpent harmless as a dove”, avoid temptations to take your “reward already”… And take care of the “little ones” and the oppressed, because that is where I will be: with the oppressed, cold, naked, thirsty and homeless… Jesus did not promise that the good times would be imminent: the sun would continue to shine equally on good men and on evil men, the rain would continue to fall on the just and the unjust.

You, my reader, know the script, I’m sure. And seeing as it’s Christmas, let’s look up to the heavens and remember the cosmological dimension. We can hardly detach the Christ child from the starry heavens after all !

Setting the Christmas Scene:
A Great Light brings Deep Shadows


“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  Isaiah

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John

Yes, the Christ or the “Wisdom” or the “Son” or the “Light” (these words are all synonymous in Scripture) of God is in us, as a singular centre, just as, we might say, the very moment of the Big Bang of Creation is in us: what the cosmologists of our day call “singularity”.

As I see it, the Christmas story is the “Big Crunch” inside the mind and soul of mankind, bringing us ‘back’, through the painful dialectic of history, to the One centre, and, importantly, to know the One centre. This is why, I think, we need the journey, personal and collective, national and international, of history. After all, without memory, personal and collective, there is no consciousness.

Innocence, if we are unconscious, is easy. Innocence if we are fully conscious and self-conscious requires a lot of experience, growth, wisdom and knowledge. And I would say that the more intelligent and talented we are, the harder the authentic journey home, and the harder it is to avoid temptations to use one’s talents purely for selfish gain. Or as Jesus said according to Luke: “to whom much is given, much is expected”.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

from  the Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

However you look at it, whether you are an atheist or a theist, the Cosmos was innately conscious from the beginning (just an oak tree is innate in an acorn, and a human being in a fertilised ovum).

Earth (“Adama” in Hebrew) was innately conscious, we are bound to say, because we, man (“Adam” in Hebrew), the dust of the Earth, are conscious. And uniquely (I think) in the animal kingdom we are self-conscious, and conscious of good and evil, and of the whole cosmos, and its hypothetical beginnings (“Big Bang”).

God the King is at the still centre of us all, and the centre of the “collective unconscious” of mankind (if you accept, as I do, C.G. Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious). And we are called to come to know God who has entered us, light and shadow, Dove and Serpent.

On Earth, at the end of the “Aion”, Jesus insisted, it will all come good. He didn’t say how long the Aion would be, and the records suggest he didn’t know (and told us not to guess). However, he did say, consistently, there would be God’s justice for all.

We must not confuse Christ’s teaching of God’s justice with that of Christian American Presidents and British Prime Ministers, who, in the name of Christianity, say “justice will be done”, and then amass guns and bombs, and aircraft (manned or unmanned) from which to drop those bombs, to effect their self-righteous and perverted ideas of justice, all the more scandalous when sanctioned by some (but by no means all) of the bishops of the Church of England.

Yes. Justice will be done. If this were not the case, if there were no justice, if everything were contingent and open-ended, there would be no point to anything, or at least no point that would interest me, and make me passionate about anything that involved solidarity with mankind.

As much as I disagree with almost everything the Buddhists teach, I accept their point that making a change that appears to be for the better will inevitably lead to another change, perhaps into something much worse than before the first change was made (and so the Buddhist decides to negate his desires for change, or for anything in fact). The Christian schema is very different. In the Christian schema (and Jewish and Islamic too), justice will be done. We don’t need worry about a seemingly endless cycle of changes, because we don’t believe in an endless cycle of changes. Time might well have cycles, but it has linearity too. God can and does make definitive changes (or “judgements” if you prefer). The first Christmas was one of these definitive changes.

Christians are called always to work for good changes, regardless of the fact that the good work can be quickly undone, or negated, or bombed. No act of kindness and compassion is wasted, even if often it seems to be the case that it is wasted. In some mysterious way, every good thing is not wasted: “whatever you bind up on Earth will be bound in Heaven”, and all that.

Justice will be done. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t be using my time to write this article, or wasting my time with Christianity, rather I would do what the majority of my coevals in England seem to do: spend my life seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, and trusting the politicians and the democracy to sort the rest out.

If the torturer becomes fat and happy, and the tortured is forsaken, and his or her screams are unheard or ignored by God, there is no point to Christianity, and we might as well all aspire to be like King Herod, or Pontius Pilate, or Tony Blair, or George W Bush or Barack Obama, Cameron, Osborne, May or Donald Trump or all the other Fat Cows of Bashan.

[To be fair to Trump, he hasn’t yet, as far as I know, ordered the assassination of people or peoples in the name of God. Yes, he is a racist and islamophobic bigot, with whom I could never shake hands, but so it seems are most white Americans (he got his democratic mandate from somewhere, obviously). There is nothing un-American about Trump, obviously. He has used his celebrity to flatter women into letting him “grab their pussy”, but so, it turns out, have male celebrities in Britain and the BBC, and this kind of thing pales into insignificance when we look at what Bush and Blair have done.]

Down with Empire.
Long live the Kingdom Come on Earth.

I believe, and I hope and pray, that the American Empire will be the last empire to dominate the world. In the final analysis, there is no empire: no nation that dominates the world with, at its head, a caesar, kaiser, fuhrer, king, president… In the end, as the nations come into their destiny, God, only, is King, and “all the world will know” this, as the Jewish prophets consistently told us. There is only one crown, one centre, and that is the Christ. Even the Muslims, it surprises many Christians to know, accept a “second coming” of Jesus at the end of history (and it also surprises many Christians to learn that there are more references to the Virgin Birth of Jesus to Mary in the Quran than there are in the Gospels combined).

But what is the Second Coming?
On what the Christ, Alpha and Omega, actually is, at the end of the Aion, you are unlikely to find two thinking Christians who can agree. My belief, with thinkers such as Hegel, Jung, and Teilhard de Chardin, is that the Parousia (which is better translated as “the Arrival” rather than the “Second Coming”) is mankind’s arriving into God. After all, we, mankind, are now Christ. As Jesus symbolically told us to remember him at the Last Supper, and as Paul taught, we are now the body of Christ on Earth. And Christ is in our minds (and in Paul’s letter to the Philippians we read that we are expected to become like-minded to Christ, no less).

In the end, there is no room, and no need, in the Christian schema for an empire. “All things are brought to one head”, and that one head, I think we can safely say, is not Donald Trump.

I think that empires have been a necessary evil in history. And it seems that Jesus recognised this. Empire is the other side of the coin, and Jesus used a coin, with its portrait of Caesar, to make the point.

Whatever we make today of Pax Romana, without the freedom of movement across Europe made possible by the Roman Empire, it is hard to imagine how Christianity, transmitted by the Apostles, could have spread West as quickly as it did. Even without the Internet, telephones, radios, newspapers (and even very little writing material, and very few people who could write) the early Christians and martyrs could almost immediately begin to spread the Good News, thanks to the Roman roads, ports and protected routes of communication.

The USA: The Empire that says and thinks it’s not an Empire

Since the War, the USA has attempted, often successfully, to overthrow about 50 foreign governments, some of whom were democratically elected, in order to impose its client kings. It has to said that Britain has often been implicated in these projects, not least the military coup of Iran in 1953, orchestrated by the US and the UK, following an officially-sanctioned Anglo-American campaign of “dark propaganda” (false news), to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister to impose a puppet monarchy: a client king for “British Petroleum” in Iran.

Of course, the USA never calls itself an empire. This was strategic marketing, set out by Edward Bernays (an atheistic nephew of Sigmund Freud who emigrated to the USA, and was the author of “Propaganda”, a psychological science, known to be the favourite work of the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels). Bernays, “the father of public relations”, persuaded the American leadership that there should be an “invisible government” behind the elected politicians, composed of the CIA, the military, the corporations, the media, and the banks.

In the inter-War years, Bernays, with President Calvin Coolidge, came up with the political system called “Consumerism” (originally called “Coolidge-Consumerism”) which now dominates the West and beyond. Bernays persuaded the media that its two key roles were:

  1. To stoke up greed and envy in the people to ensure their materialistic “consumer” desires are never sated, and
  2. To ensure the people never vote for someone outside the “invisible government”.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country [USA]. …We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organised. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.”

Edward Bernays, Propaganda, 1928

By turning people into self-identifying “consumers”, the empire did not need to assert itself as an empire. All it had to do was to focus the people’s attention on consuming, and convince them their leaders’ main concern is consumerism. No-one who thinks he is a “consumer”, after all, will ever vote for someone (such as me, or my colleagues in the Green Party) who is anti-Consumer-ism, and anti-Capital-ism.

The First truly Global Empire

The American Empire is certainly the most extensive empire in history, perhaps the first empire we can truly call a world-dominant empire, with everyday influence on the majority of citizens of the planet. It has about a thousand overseas military bases, including here in Britain (and Britain’s American Trident nuclear system is how British governments purchase their status of “special relationship” with the US Empire).

The British and French empires the USA replaced were very extensive, but the fact that both existed, and pursued different things, means that neither can be seen as a world-dominating empire. Admittedly, the British and French were often in cahoots in their final decades of their greatest period of power, even in French “Indo-China”, and particularly in the Arab world, not least through the notorious Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, which set the scene for the Western-induced “geo-political” conflicts from which the world has yet to recover. Sometimes the British and French were at war with one another, and in their subject nations they did different things, and introduced different economic and political codes, and imposed their own language. And so we cannot say that either the British or French empires were truly world- domineering empires.

I hope and pray that the American people are the last grouping of people (national or political or religious) in history who feel the need or desire to rule the word or make it conform to a distorted or diminished vision of the world. As noted, no man can be king, Caesar or president of the world, rather the world comes to know that God, and only God, is the King of the world. At this point, to use a common Biblical metaphor, all nations are held in their great diversity as birds in a great olive tree, whose branches shelter the whole world, and in which the strong nations are “rebuked” and cut down to size.

I hope that Americanism, and its propaganda, collapse as rapidly as Communism and its propaganda did with the fall of the Berlin Wall. This will be good for the world. And this will be good for the USA itself, including the many Americans who are imprisoned by their hubris and materialism, and the many Americans imprisoned in their Christian fundamentalism, and the many Americans who are, literally, in prison.

[The “land of the free” has 25% of the world’s prison population, despite USA’s comprising only 5% of the world population. The prison population is predominantly black, and the prisons are run as for-profit enterprises by American corporations: prisoners are full-time employees working for $1.30 per day, and on this salary they need to pay for necessities such as shoes, medicine and phone calls: they invariably leave prison in debt, and are thrown back in prison for recidivism and/or default on debt. This is, of course, Slavery (cf. “The Prison State of America”, by American journalist Chris Hedges). And of course, as in every nation, there are inevitably people in prison due to false convictions. In the USA there are a “staggering number” of false convictions (cf. And the US Empire can get its lawyers to legalise torture and capital punishment and assassination for anything un-American, just as the Roman Empire legalised the same for anyone who was deemed to be anti-Caesar.]

And, call me a hopeless dreamer, but I hope for, and work for, peace on Earth, or let us say “Kingdom come on Earth”. I hope for happiness for all those of us who cannot be happy until the world gets its priorities right: stops warmongering and begins peace-making, beats swords into ploughshares, begins healing and re-greening our dying planet (atmosphere, land and sea… birds, animals, fish…), and stops neglecting all who thirst for safe water, or who are malnourished or even starving to death, or who are dying from diarrhoea.

[Scandalously, diarrhoea is the world’s biggest child killer (of under 5s) caused by lack of access to potable water and a little salt, often in countries such as India where American sugary-fizzy-drinks companies, with powerful pumps or water mining, dehydrate rural communities, using up to 5 litres of potable water to produce 1 litre of junk food in the name of the “Economy”. The government of India does not seem to care. It likes “inward investment” from US junk-food companies to raise money to buy weapons from, mainly, the USA and France. India, the poorest country in the world, is the world’s biggest import customer for weapons of mass destruction. However, people and popular “anti Coke” movements in India are beginning to have their say, and in places of severe water shortage, or pollution from unregulated junk-food factories, the Indian government is being forced to respond.]

The American Empire is ostensibly Christian (as was the British Empire). The USA’s official motto is, “In God we Trust”. Donald Trump says and thinks he’s Christian. The problem is of course, Trump and Pence (especially Pence) associate the Christ with a kind of American caricature of “Cheesus”, no better satirised than in the song and video by Phil Collins called, “Jesus he knows me”.

Followers of Cheesus often have wide Evangelical grins, and wrap themselves in Stars-and-Stripes, and tell us how much they love Capitalism and bombs and Israel, and their reasons for demonising Islam. For Trump and Pence, the Christ is very like Captain America, and nothing at all like the historical brown Arab we English speakers refer to with the anglicised name, “Jesus of Nazareth”.

Trump is unlikely to know that there is nothing in the teachings of the Christ that encourages the building of a Christian empire, be it Roman, Holy Roman, Portuguese, Spanish, French, British or American. On the contrary, as noted, although Jesus (and later, Paul) seemed to accept that empires of his day were a necessary evil, those who wanted to follow him had much more important work to do than empire building. (Just to confuse things, there is nothing in the records to suggest that Jesus implied that all people in all empires were necessarily bad. In fact, according to accounts of Matthew and Luke, Jesus said he had never seen greater faith than in the Roman centurion, whose servant Jesus healed.)

Down with the British and French Empires

Britain and France still have empires. The remaining territories (what the British call “the pink bits” and the French call the DOM-TOMs) though are rather small, and no-one in the mother countries takes much interest in them, apart from tourists attracted to paradisiacal islands in the Sun, such as the French Isle de La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, or Martinique in the Caribbean, and apart from rich British and rich French people seeking safe tax havens that are reassuringly still under the administration of Britain and France.

In Britain, no-one today apart from a few crusty old Tories – and their friends the tax evaders – takes interest, or belief, in the British Empire. In Britain, it seems to me, most people are not really interested in Northern Ireland or the Falklands Islands, and most of us feel that the Ulstermen should accept their land belongs to Ireland, and the Falklanders that their island belongs to Argentina. In fact, the only places in the British Empire where you are likely to encounter enthusiastic imperialists are places like Northern Ireland and the Falklands. They think we should care about imperialism, and their Britishness and our Britishness, and that we should fly the Union Jack in out front gardens and have a portrait of the Queen hanging in our living rooms, but, frankly, we don’t (apart from the crusty old Tories, and perhaps their friends to the right of them, such as UKIP and BNP).

And whereas you will find much less than one in a hundred Brits who know there was a British king in the 17th century called King William III, of the House of Orange, obsessively Protestant who warred against anything Roman Catholic (including the King of France), the Ulstermen think King William III was the fulcrum of the emergent British Empire. They spend a few weeks of every summer (in “Marching Season”), parading up and down the streets for “King Billy” whilst banging drums and wearing bowler hats and orange sashes, thinking this is an expression of their Britishness.

In other words, apart from the bowler-hatted or ostrich-feathered cranks of the world, self-identification with empire and imperialism is neither fashionable nor interesting. And most thinking people in Britain and France today look back at our empires with an overwhelming sense of shame, and have done since the Second World War. The French still have some pride for Emperor Napoleon, and the British for Queen Victoria, Empress of India (and George VI, King and Emperor) but when the USA came to be the most dominant power in the world, the words “Emperor” and “Empire” were becoming unfashionable and gaining all kinds of negative connotations. Also, the idea of unquestioning loyalty to a republican Übermensch – a kind of super-man who had “struggled” to the top of the nation through his own merits – went out of fashion as quickly as it had come in. Mussolini and Hitler were now dead, and Fascist Spain and Portugal were hardly good advertisements for the new political model of submission to the Übermensch.

After the War, the British no longer had the resources to maintain their militarily-enforced empire, and, one by one, as the subject nations declared self-determination, the British government and people lost the will to war for the imperialistic ideal, and had to find ways to hand over power, and to decide to whom to hand over power (sometimes dividing nations with “partitions”, which led to civil wars and many millions of deaths, and are still being fought over today).

The World is now more Imperialistic than ever

We must not be fooled into thinking that, with the decline of the British and French empires we have seen the decline of Empire. The USA simply grabbed power wherever the British and French let it go.  And then the rise of Communism gave them the pretext to take power from any government, anywhere in the world, that was left wing and un-American. In South American nations in particularly, Edward Bernays, working with the CIA and the military, convinced the people of the USA that War is Peace, and that they must intervene in South America to “keep America safe”, and to protect the huge American vested interests in fresh-fruit crops.

This was no different to the British military action (supported by the USA) against China in the “Opium Wars” to protect Britain’s trade in opium, until eventually it was declared an illegal recreational drug. Where the Yanks could not be convinced that South American governments were Communist, the Yanks could be convinced that the USA needed to intervene, and overthrow governments, to stop the world trade in recreational drugs.

When the British and French decided to leave Vietnam, and the USA went in, they essentially did what the British and French had been doing for centuries, but with a different kind of marketing. The USA effected the genocide of 3 million Vietnamese and Cambodians not as an Empire, but as “liberal democracy”.

The USA came to sense that the world needed the USA, and through its media and marketing dominance, convinced the world that the world needed the USA.

How will the US Empire Collapse?


The collapse cannot come about through lack of funds: the USA has power over world funds (such as the World Bank and IMF operating out of Washington) and skews the rules of funds in its own favour.

And the collapse cannot come about through lack of military might: the USA spends more than the other top-ten military-spending nations combined, and, as noted, has military presence in most of the nations of the world.

And the collapse cannot come about through Anti-American media, because the USA owns most of the world’s media and means of propaganda: this is why, in every nation, at least 50% of the “News” is news about the USA. Here in the UK, we never hear news about Japan, or Malaya, or Canada, or Gambia … etc (unless there is a calamity of biblical proportions, such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2010, which is the last time the BBC, which is fed by the US news agencies, bothered to report news from Japan).

No, this collapse will come about, I think, because despite the power of the mass media, Trump’s USA will lose all the credibility – that it never should have had in the first place – to hold the moral high ground. Once the Yanks fail to continue to convince the world that Project USA is “Good”, everything will become impossible for them. Everywhere, people, and nations, will resist.

No empire has ever survived long through military power alone. It requires cooperation of the masses, and client kings heading up its subject nations.

This is why I made no secret of the fact that I wanted Trump to win the election. He is no more or less evil than Hillary Clinton, but Clinton would have been well protected by American marketing, whereas Trump is the first President Elect since Calvin Coolidge to come from outside the Bernaysian “Invisible Government” and conventional marketing system.

Trump – A new kind of evil

Trump is a new kind of evil, whose hubris is so extreme he is incapable of disguising what he is. Clinton, like Obama, would have given us the same old evil: smiling Big Brother, or Big Sister, talking peace and liberty whilst warmongering behind the scenes. Obama, we know, has “Terror Tuesdays” in which he meets to decide the week’s “kill list”: targets for his drone bombs (based on profiles and photographs of the anti-American suspect). (According to a recent report in the Guardian, for every individual targeted by a drone, around 30 anonymous people in the proximity are also murdered. How can this man, Obama, live with himself, and smile self-righteously, knowing, week in week out, he is murdering people to keep his military establishment happy?)

Hilary Clinton, a “hawk”, which is a euphemism for what Leo Tolstoy called a “desk murderer”, led the USA into Libya. Libya was the richest country in Africa, with a good health service and good standard of higher education, but Gadaffi had plans to take Libya and its oil out of the Petrodollar, and create an African bank, linking African oil to gold rather than the dollar. This was obviously incompatible with the goals of the US Empire.

In Libya, a third of the 9,700 Nato “strike sorties” in 2011 were against civilian targets. As the Norwegian writer and historian Hanne Nabintu Herland tells us, the USA were ordering her nation’s pilots to “bomb anything that looks valuable”. The Libyan cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. Unicef and the Red Cross report what was essentially the mass murder of children, incinerated in their homes, most of whom, later discovered in mass graves, were under 10. We cannot just blame the USA here of course. The governments of Britain and France proudly led the initiative, it has to be said, as if to try to re-live their imperial “greatness”.

My point is here is that it would be absurd to think that Clinton is a lesser evil. Had she been elected, she would simply have been a better disguised evil.

Those familiar with my writing will know that I am politically Green, and Christian (Church of England). And I did my best to persuade my American friends to vote Dr Jill Stein, US Green Party. (Jill Stein, a medical doctor by profession, is a wonderful and courageous woman, with a healing vision for her nation. But in the USA, unlike in Europe, the Greens are suppressed and oppressed by the authorities and the media, to ensure they cannot meaningfully participate in American “democracy”. In fact Dr. Stein was arrested by the police, and handcuffed to a chair for a whole day, because, as presidential candidate, she turned up at a “Presidential Debate” at a New York university, claiming her right to participate.)

Trump, if God allows Trump to have his way, would be a disaster for Earth, which has already suffered man-made disaster after disaster in the past two or three generations. Trump is of course a climate-change denier, i.e. denying to himself that the activities of mankind are having any effects on the atmosphere, and the role of the atmosphere in the climate and temperature of Earth.

Apart from fossil fuels, our machines are literally ripping the planet to death, in the pursuit of fabricating synthetic and superficial objects and junk food. A report by the London Zoological Society published in September 2014 tells us that populations of wildlife have halved in the past 40 years. Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have fallen by 52%. And every year more and more species become extinct. And according to the United Nations, 93 percent of all plant variety has disappeared over the last 80 years. Industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion, as well as to climate change. We are killing the planet.

We depend on God now to keep His covenant and not allow the total destruction of Earth. And perhaps Trump is God’s way of, ironically, bringing about the change. After all, we read the “exalted will be humbled, and the humble exalted”.

Trump, and his hubris and stupidity, will help the world to learn about the hubris and stupidity of imperialism in general. And it will help to world to challenge certain presuppositions that are long overdue for challenging.

Concept “USA” depends on certain presuppositions, all of which are false and tautological. These are:

  1. Democracy is Good;
  2. Those who are democratically elected are supremely qualified to make and enforce the Law;
  3. The Law is Good (or even, “the Law is King” according to Thomas Paine in “Common Sense”, the pamphlet which fuelled the call to revolutionary war against Britain and King George III);
  4. The Democracy and Law of the USA are the most advanced in the world;
  5. “Freedom” is democracy;
  6. The President of the USA is the “leader of the Free world”. Therefore, nothing that he (or she) instructs his nation to do can be meaningfully deemed to be against the law (by lesser bodies such as other nations, the UN, the Roman Catholic Church, and international war crimes tribunals). The USA has the right to impose “liberal democracy” by military means on any nation where un-American democracy doesn’t exist. (I suppose the ideology is that every nation needs a mechanism that allows its Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to rise to the top.)

In 2017, as people watch Donald Trump take the imperial crown, they will question all the presuppositions above. They will ask themselves, “is the USA, and everything its empire stands for, Good?” And I am hoping they will answer to themselves, “No, only God is Good”.

I will give the last word to an American friend: a well-respected scholar and translator of the Old Testament, and theologian and pastor, who told me in a written exchange of ideas:

“Brother Mark . . . The American Empire is one of the most destructive forces in the world today, and I have no wish to defend the follies that now pass for public policy or world diplomacy. We imprison a greater percentage of our population than any industrialized society, and we destabilize nation after nation, driving entire regions into anarchy and disaster. All in the name of “freedom” and “justice”.

“Here, upon these American shores, every problem is now a political problem, to be solved politically, by an almighty polis—a state that happens to be bankrupt of moral capital. I am in dissent, and have been for most of my adult life.”
Dr. Byron G. Curtis, Pennsylvania, April 2015

O Come, all ye Faithful

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What is the Meaning of Life?

What is the Meaning of Life? This is a notoriously difficult question to attempt to answer seriously in the English language. Indeed, it is almost always seen as a ridiculous question, and as the starting point for a joke.

Satirical author Douglas Adams came up with the answer: “42”. And the Monty Python comedy group realised that “The Meaning of Life” would be a good title for a popular film that mocks everyone whose life has meaning.

It seems that, here in England, only satirists and comedians dare to tackle, or can be bothered to tackle, the question: What is the meaning of life? When my fellow countrymen ask the question, they are not expecting a serious answer, but a funny answer. This is not usually the case outside the Anglo-Saxon world, as we will see.

I think that one of the reasons the Anglo-Saxon world is obsessively pragmatic, and generally unreflective and anti-philosophical, is because the English language is a very poor language in which to do philosophy.

If you think about it, there have been no great English abstract thinkers and visionaries in the history of Western philosophy: no Plato and no Socrates, no Thomas Aquinas and no Maimonides, no Hegel and no Descartes.

English thinkers have been great “natural philosophers” (or what we today call “scientists”) of course, and the English-speaking philosophers who have had an obvious influence on Western philosophy have tended to work on practical solutions to practical problems, be they material, mathematical, political or constitutional. Even the great English medieval thinker of the Church, William of Occam (in Surrey) was coldly logical, political, scientific and practical (hence we still refer to his methodology as “Occam’s Razor”).

Occam, with Duns Scotus (a Scot), essentially broke down the great and holistic vision of Thomas Aquinas (or Tommaso d’Aquino) and, to all intents, reduced the study and discourse of “God” to science and hard facts and ‘explanations’. They laid the foundations for what we know call the Enlightenment, in which thinkers eventually became so enamoured with progress and practical solutions to problems that it seemed pointless to waste time discussing the meaning of life.

And this is where we are today: at the arse end, or “le cul de sac”, of the Enlightenment.

In the philosophy departments of English universities today, you will find logicians and experts on all kinds of things such as ethics, medical ethics, political philosophy, the history of philosophy, transhumanism, the philosophy of science … etc. But you won’t find anyone who claims to be tackling the question: What is the meaning of life?

The mantra seems to be, “is it useful?” and never “is it meaningful?”

An Inspector Calls

The great author and playwright J.B. Priestley was one of very few 20th-century English writers who consistently sought out meaning, and who went against the mainstream obsession and uncritical belief in technological “progress”.

Priestley wrote his most celebrated play An Inspector Calls in 1945, but set the play in 1912. In the play, Arthur Birling – politician and wealthy factory owner – is full of optimism for capitalism, industry and new technology, promising a bright future, so long as businessmen and other strong men such as himself were left alone to get on with the task of Trickle Down, and allowed to stop worrying about “community” or “society”, or health and safety of people.

Birling talks enthusiastically about the Wright brothers, and the upcoming age of flight. But, of course, as soon as man learned to fly, he learned to drop bombs from the air. Dropping bombs from aircraft were crude efforts in the First World War, but a mere thirty years later, in 1945 when Priestley wrote his play, the Wright brothers’ American successors dropped nuclear bombs that destroyed two whole Japanese cities. And the USA proudly declared itself the “indispensable nation”, which essentially means, “we have the biggest and most bombs”.

Today, the bombs have got bigger and ‘better’. The science is ‘better’. The scientists and engineers have progressed. Indeed, the UK’s American Trident weapon is 1000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. And today there are more nuclear weapons, possessed by more nations, than ever in history. And so, to what are we all ‘progressing’?

What is the Meaning of Life?

Do you think there is purpose and intent in Creation? Or do you think that Creation is meaningless?

If you think that Creation is meaningless, I don’t think any of my writing will interest you. If you have made up your adult mind that – as the English philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell claimed – human being is “the result of an accidental collocation of atoms”, I cannot help you. Rather, I would point you to Monty Python, or Douglas Adams, or other people whose idea of meaning is to laugh at a world they see as meaninglessness, absurd, contingent.

But if you accept with me that Creation, i.e. the Cosmos, has innate purpose, then we can start to discuss meaning.

Let’s speak French

In Western philosophy, almost all thinkers of note have believed in linear time (chronos), and a progression of something (some have also believed in kairos, or cycles too, but not exclusively kairos). This belief has been shared by theologians and atheists alike, and all kinds of philosophers.

And because we have all accepted there is an arrow of time, i.e. of time moving in one direction, all kinds of thinkers, philosophers, scientists, politicians, theologians . . . have accepted some kind of overarching progress.

I say that we can think of the meaning of life as the journey of life, individually and corporately, and the destination of life, individually and corporately.

There is a sense, almost everywhere in Western thought and popular culture, of a destiny or goal, including a goal to evolution of life, and evolution of human being and the human mind. Even in all the crap that comes out of Hollywood, there is a consistent monomyth, as if even simple man intuits some kind of satisfactory chronological unfolding, that he likes to affirm by watching, perhaps every day, the tedious entertainment from Hollywood: the same theme reproduced a million times but which, by changing the actors and the title and the backdrop, never fails to satisfy mass-man, especially if it ends with a “violent redemption”. (Benighted men, religious and irreligious alike, generally think that violence will have the last word. And the Yanks are suckers for this kind of stuff, hence they will vote later this year for Donald Trump or Killary Clinton.)

I know there are some people who baulk at the idea that the human mind is waking up to greater awareness and purpose. For instance, some neuroscientists are now trying to tell us that we are not actually conscious at all, but that consciousness is just a kind of delusion caused by electromagnetic chatter of neurons and receptors and whatnot. This is a great irony of our times. As creature man become more conscious and aware of his place in Creation, and more and more conscious of Creation, he is now trying to deny that he is conscious at all ! The Hungarian philosopher/polymath Michael Polanyi (1891 – 1976) called this phenomenon “moral inversion”:  as man starts to wake up, he wants to convince himself, and everyone else, that he is asleep.

This is a dangerous phenomenon of course: at no time has man needed to be more aware of himself, including of his moral responsibilities and the moral consequences of his actions, and yet an increasing number of people are trying to convince themselves there is no such thing as moral human being: just electromagnetic chatter.

In my recent book (the first of a trilogy of books, averaging 90,000 words, that I have completed this year), I tackle meaning-of-life questions by working from the French expression for “meaning of life”.

The French talk about le sens de la vie, meaning literally the direction of life.

Sens means “sense” too, and the translation for “common sense” is le sens commun, which of course implies the common direction, or the mainstream.

Le sens de la vie is not a case of double-meaning of the word sens. The French have other ways of explaining the significance of things without needing to use sens. Rather sens is to be taken literally. The French are contemplating the direction, individually and corporately. The French are just as likely to take the wrong or bad direction as the English, of course, but nevertheless, I find the French language, my second language, very useful in philosophy, which is why I embarked on my French-language studies many years ago, shortly after I embarked on my study of philosophy.

When we Anglo-Saxons ask about the meaning of life, we are usually asking for explanations.

When the French ask about the meaning of life, they are asking for directions, and questioning their own direction, or sharing notes about direction.

As a philosopher, I would describe myself as (Christian) theological philosopher, but I like to think that my writings appeal to people of all faiths or no faith. I am certainly interested in all faiths, including the wisdom of Indigenous peoples across the globe: wisdom that is needed now more than ever.

My first book, Manifesto for Harmony – Three Essays for Peace on Earth, is now available as an e-book (Kindle) on Amazon:

You can purchase it for £4.49 on

Or $5.49 on

Or €5.49 on the European Amazon sites.

Alternatively, if you are one of my LinkedIn “connections”, and would prefer to read the book as a PDF rather than on Kindle (or if you don’t use Kindle), contact me with your email address, and I will send the PDF for no charge. (I am hoping to publish all three books on Amazon print-on-demand within a couple of months, should you prefer to read printed material.)

My Manifesto for Harmony builds on a book by HRH The Prince of Wales called Harmony. I am in contact with the Prince’s philosophical academy (the Temenos Academy), whose academic chairman, Prof. Grevel Lindop (Manchester University) has endorsed my book:

“Pickles is a polymath, a philosopher, scientist (electronics), a painter (professional) and a bit of a joker (some of the jokes are quite good). . . If you are interested in the state of the world, in big questions, in religion, politics, the environment, science, the (lamentable) human condition generally, and in where we might go from here, read his work. Frankly it is different from anything else I’ve seen, and I am intrigued. You may be too.”

Professor Grevel Lindop, Academic Chairman of the Temenos Academy (the philosophical academy of the Prince of Wales).

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The Gut Feeling of UK Women on Fracking

The Science, the Politics,  and the Oil-and-Gas Propaganda

“Women don’t understand fracking”, reported scientist Professor Averil Macdonald recently in the national press.

Professor Macdonald is an emeritus professor of the communication of science, recently appointed as Chairwoman of  UK Onshore Oil and Gas, with a stated goal to encourage British women to approve of fracking in the UK.  (Surveys suggest that less than a third of British women approve of shale gas exploration, whereas the majority of British men (58%) approve.)

This short paper – drawing on my recent years of experience as a “Scientific Technical Writer” in inter-disciplinary science for scientists – is a response to Macdonald’s promotion of fracking in the UK, explaining why I am convinced that the women have got it right.  Click on the link below to download the pdf:

The Gut Feeling of UK Women on Fracking


Please feel free to download and distribute the pdf document, should you wish to share it.

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Painting of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant – 3 June 2012

Thames Pageant - Royal Flotilla Enters the City of London

Following a bit of a creative hiatus I’ve now completed what I think is my best painting since I launched myself in the art business nearly a year ago.
I think my two City-of-London paintings would make a great pair of prints for commercial premises. At a metre across (unframed) they’re probably too large for most homes, although maybe I will get them published in an optional smaller format.

Full details of the painting can be seen on my web site: Thames Pageant Painting

I am becoming more and more interested in our capital city, and it will be the target for further paintings I’m sure.  However I haven’t forgotten my Yorkshire roots and I’m planning to paint the capital of Brittianica Inferior, York or Eboracum, also a fascinating city which at one time competed for power with London, and was even for a time the seat of power of the Roman Empire.

City of London Paintings

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Realist painting versus photography

There are some very good ‘photo-realist’ artists around, who render photographs in oil paint or other media, aiming for near-perfect copies.  Whilst this requires very skilled craftsmanship, it is not my idea of art:  the creative process has all been done by the photographer rather than the painter.

Nevertheless the camera is an invaluable tool for a realist artist, just as the camera obcsura was for artists in centuries past, but I decided some time ago that I don’t want to just become a sort of human photocopier.  As an artist I feel that I should bring something to the party. The Thames Pageant painting gave me the ideal opportunity to demonstrate what a realist artist can achieve with imagination and creativity, especially when one considers that the Thames Pageant is possibly the most photographed event in history – in view of the fact that were over a million spectators lining the Thames, and the great majority with camera or mobile-phone camera.  According to an article I read recently, around 300 million photos were taken, and 70 million photo images have been shared on social networks.

I’m happy with the result, believing I’ve created an aesthetically pleasing realist image of the Royal flotilla entering the City of London.  A similar image couldn’t possibly have been achieved with a camera, even with photo-editing software, for the following reasons:

1.  A camera cannot see around obstructions (or imagine they weren’t there) !

2.  A camera cannot see sharply through the rain

3.  A camera computes the scene with a single exposure (this is why photographs of sunsets invariably disappoint), whereas the human eye can constantly adjust, many times a second, to correctly process the information it’s presented with.

4. The camera has a limited depth of field, whereas the human eye is constantly focusing and re-focusing on near and distant objects.

5. The human eye can effectively look in several directions at once, because it can quickly scan to take in all the essential information in a large scene.

6.  The camera has no imagination:  it cannot choose to see from an imaginary vantage point, and it cannot significantly rearrange what it sees.  (Of course, photo-editing software can be used to rearrange things, but within limits.)

I don’t think it would have been possible to get a realistic photograph on 3 June, which had details of all elements of the pageant:  boats, spectators, the cityscape, the sky and the river.

It certainly wouldn’t have been possible to get a photograph of the scene in the painting, because of the many physical obstructions between the camera and subject matter.  In other words, the camera, even with editing software, does not make the realist artist redundant, despite popular belief to the contrary.

In the 1800s, Impression was in part a reaction to the emerging new technology of photography, but in fact it is now easy to create an impressionistic image with a click of a mouse, in programs such as Photoshop.

Studying the famous Caneletto painting of the Lord Mayor’s river pageant, said to be the inspiration for the recent Jubilee Pageant, it is obvious to me that even if cameras had been invented at the time, it would not have been possible to get an image anything like the painted one:  Caneletto has been very creative with perspective to give his painting maximum interest and impact.  He had to make compromises, which is why, on careful observation, some of the boats towards the right of his painting appear as if they’re being rowed uphill.

Posted in About Art, Thames Pageant Painting | Leave a comment

Lucca – Mai 2012

Merci à toutes et à Marco.

Posted in Carnet de Voyages | Leave a comment