Posts Tagged ‘art’

World Takeover – Day 1

Everyone! At last! It’s finally here! The world takeover begins! And remember, you heard about it here first.

Let me explain. It is a world takeover through art. Very very good art. Very pretty art. Well, how will that happen, you’re thinking, aren’t you? Just trust me. It will. When the queen gets a look at this stuff, she’ll be raving about it to anyone who’ll listen. Trust me.

The website is finally complete and can be found here – www.kjh-artificer.com

There are links to the Twitter and Instagram etc, on there so get involved, should you be feeling particularly arty today.

And when you look at the website, be gentle. Remember, I made it and I’m quite self conscious about it.

So what if I like pretty things…

Guess what, everyone? I have talented friends and sometimes I like to show them off. Today, I want to show off my friend, Kevin, because he is a brilliant brilliant artist and I think you’re going to like his pictures.

Take a look.

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I told you he’s brilliant, didn’t I?

Yes, I have some bananas

Hi all, it’s the guest blogger again today. Enjoy!

 

Just before getting into this week’s topic I thought I’d ask if, after last week’s post, any of you decided to do some three-word daily diary stuff. Here’s mine for the last few days:

 

Thu 31.1.13 Hospital blood test

Fri 1.2.13 Virus check done

Sat 2.2.13 Weekly shop done

Sun 3.2.13 Projector malfunction again

Mon 4.2.13 Projector fault found

Tue 5.2.13 Sun after snow

 

(A note from lazylauramaisey, mine for today is “loving new piano!”)

 

Ok so on to this week’s subject.

 

YES, I HAVE SOME BANANAS

I wonder if you know the derivation of the word BANANA? Etymologies differ and one suggests it is from a West African language spoken in Senegal & the Gambia and introduced by the Spanish & Portuguese who it’s believed first discovered the word; the other suggests an Arabic root from their word banan meaning finger. Both sound feasible; take your pick I suppose.

Banana facts: they are a good source of vitamin B6 (25% of our RDA), vitamin C (about 15% RDA for a non-smoker) & potassium (25% RDA). The fruit releases into the body dopanine and serotonin which are good for the brain. Bananas are picked green and start to ripen straight away. What actually happens to turn them from green to the yellow we’re familiar with when we eat them? After they are picked, the hormones in the fruit convert certain amino acids into ethylene gas. This gas then causes the production of enzymes that change the colour and also the texture and flavour of the banana. The reason they can arrive here still green is because they are carried in a temperature controlled environment with a certain amount of ethylene in it so that the ripening process is slowed down.

 

Check out the label here on the bananas I bought this week at my local supermarket.

 
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I wonder if you ever look at the labels on the food you buy. You may check a sell by date, best before date etc. How many of us look at the ingredients? Certainly those with allergies have no choice but anyone else is probably just rushing round as quickly as possible to get out of the supermarket or wherever the goods are on sale. I was intrigued last week to note the label on my bananas said they were a product of Ecuador; this week, as you can see in my picture, it was Cameroun. Ecuador apparently produces one third of all the bananas grown for export “in the world”. In 2004 there were 130 countries producing bananas; bear in mind the UN has 192 countries and the world has 195/6 depending on who is defining which land areas actually count as countries. That means basically two thirds of all the countries in the world produce bananas.

It got me thinking about the product. Where are the world’s bananas grown? How much? Here is a table showing production levels of the top 10 in the year 2011. However these figures are for both the main types of banana produced: plantains & dessert. Plantains are for cooking; dessert are the sweeter, and for eating raw out of the skin. You can see that Ecuador, supplier of last week’s bananas, is the 5th largest producer; Cameroon is 9th.

 

# 1 India: 29,700,000 metric tonnes

# 2 Uganda: 11,100,000 metric tonnes

# 3 China: 10,700,000 metric tonnes

# 4 Philippines: 9,200,000 metric tonnes

# 5 Ecuador: 8,000,000 metric tonnes

# 6 Brazil: 7,300,000 metric tonnes

# 7 Indonesia: 6,100,000 metric tonnes

# 8 Colombia: 5,100,000 metric tonnes

# 9 Cameroon: 850,000 metric tonnes

# 10 Tanzania: 3,900,000 metric tonnes

 

In terms of exports the order is 1.Ecuador 2.Costa Rica 3.Colombia 4.Philippines 5.Guatemala

However as we go about our weekly shopping do we think about how the supermarkets are able to bring us this fruit at such a cheap price. My bunch of 5 bananas weighed almost spot on 1kg so about 200g each; they cost me £0.79 ($1.25). They’re very good value. But how is this possible?

Think about this – the journey time by sea, on one of the largest shipping lines in the world, is about 28/29 days from the port of Douala (Cameroon) to Felixstowe (UK). Bananas require a temperature-controlled container for transport to keep them fresh (13.5-15⁰C). They then have to have an artificial ripening process, as they’re shipped very green, followed by delivery across the UK to warehouses and stores that need the supplies. There are a lot of links in the chain from producer to consumer.

 

Today’s world production of bananas is controlled by 4 companies nicknamed “The Wild Bunch”: Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, Noboa

 

On the website freshplaza.com/news there is a headline “UK Supermarket blamed” & “Documentary exposes exploitation of banana workers in Cameroon”. You can read about a Scottish film maker, Jan Nimmo who got access to some of the plantations in Cameroon. She reported on the adverse conditions that employees are having to work in. Perhaps this is why my bananas are cheap. The difficulty is in knowing whether it is the supermarkets that drive down the price they’re willing to pay to their suppliers or whether it is unscrupulous bosses at the supply end who force workers to accept low wages to maximise their own profits; or maybe it’s a bit of both.

Perhaps next time I go I’ll look for the ones with the Fairtrade stickers on. I read that Sainsbury’s switched to getting their bananas from only Fairtrade producers over 5 years ago. The benefits to the local communities where these agreements are in place really do make a difference and in some cases mean that producers no longer have to take risks crossing borders to get better prices for their goods. Fairtrade purchases by the supermarket, in the Windward Islands (Dominica, St Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Grenada), have resulted in local communities being able to buy computers for schools, fund scholarships, sponsor a school bus and bus shelters as well as enabling local farmers to invest back into their own businesses. It is reckoned that about 10 million Fairtrade bananas, from the Windward Islands and South America were consumed at the London Olympics.

 

Anyone fancy some Banana Trivia?

Here we go then:

 

1- Canadians eat approximately 3 billion bananas a year.

2- Bananas do not grow on trees. They grow on the largest grass in the world.

3- 90% of the world’s bananas are NOT grown for export

4. 99% of bananas grown for export are of the Cavendish variety.

5. Four million 40lb boxes of bananas are imported into North America every year.

6. In 1998, the entire banana crop of Honduras was wiped out by Hurricane Mitch.

7. Bananas are the fourth most important staple food crop in the world.

8. Bananas were first imported to the UK in 1878 from the Canary Islands by Fyffe, Hudson & Co

 

What about bananas in songs?

 

If you fancy watching this check it out. It’s the video for the song Juanita Banana. If you don’t think you can make it through the whole 2.5 minutes just go to the point where the lady starts wailing. It’s worth it just for that bit!

 

 

The song tells the story of a Mexican banana farmer’s daughter who has operatic ambitions and with a chorus which is an adaptation of Caro Nome from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. Just the sort of subject for a song you’d think of writing – right?

 

You’ve got to have a watch of this one as it gives you the deep meaning lyrics. It’s the Banana Boat Song. I’m sure you’ll recognise it as soon as you hear the opening lines:

 

 

You think this is a joke song? Just wait till you see who’s covered it: Shirley Bassey, Harry Belafonte, a group called A Bunch Of Coconuts & Stan Freberg. It’s even been used in the film Beetlejuice.(Check out that version on Youtube if you’re interested.)

Also remember that 1967 album by the Velvet Underground & Nico with this cover:

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And finally – how about banana art? Check this one out:

 

http://www.jungilpark.com/banana-art.html

 

Then ask yourself – how long will this stuff last once the skin starts to age. It’s clever but it’s not going to last. I guess that’s why he’s got the pictures.

 

And all that from a tiny oval sticker on my bunch of bananas. Food for thought anyway!

 

Just don’t want to finish this book!

Before I start, the answer to yesterday’s blog about how much I spent on a ‘small’ shop in Waitrose was £64 – which I felt bad about to start with, until the guesses where closer to £100. Now I feel quite restrained and pleased with myself!.

Today, we have another post from my regular guest blogger on a subject I’m sure a lot of us can understand….

I wonder if you’ve ever started to read a book and then not wanted to finish it; perhaps you did finish just because you started it and didn’t want to be beaten by it or perhaps you didn’t and just put it back on the shelf, passed it on, threw it away or whatever.

There are some books which you begin reading and you lose interest in. Sometimes it’s the story line: you don’t think it’s that good or believable. Sometimes it’s the characters: he/she/it just wouldn’t or possibly even couldn’t do that in your view. Maybe the characters themselves are a little “thin” or superficial so you don’t feel as if you can empathise or even marvel at things they do. Maybe the plot of the whole thing just doesn’t work or some of its parts don’t hang together very well. I’m sure you’ve been there. I’m also sure, like me, one of those books you’ve put down was praised beyond belief by another reader or even critic who has reviewed it. You sit there thinking “Is it me? Have I missed something?” I’m sure you’ve got a few of those T-shirts – I know I have. You’ve only got to look at some (of course not all) of the various prize winners of the many different awards to know it’s true. Literature has a way of dividing opinion just like music, art (and sculpture) and other cultural areas. It’s very personal. It’s your experience. Normally no-one else shares it with you. When you read a book you’re in your own little world for a time; you don’t usually read the same book with someone else there and even if you did it wouldn’t be at the same speed. It’s a solitary experience although you can be in a crowd while it is happening: on the Tube/Subway, on the bus, in a car (not driving of course), on the beach or even in a library. If anyone speaks to you it’s like they’ve interrupted your mind’s interaction with the book. It’s like they’ve “butted in” when you didn’t ask them to. Your imagination runs wherever you want to go with it for a while and you want to enjoy the “dream” and not have people “waking you up” as it were. Been there? You know, you look up and give them the “Do you realise you’ve just spoilt my reading experience” glazed look or a more serious “keep away” snarl. You may try to be friendly through your gritted teeth. You might even try a half smile when they ask “Good book?” and you reply “Yes I’m just at a really exciting point here” hoping they’ll take the hint and leave you alone. Perhaps a Reading – Do Not Disturb T-Shirt could be a winner; (now where are those phone numbers for GAP, Calvin Klein & Tommy Hilfiger?) You can speak to me when I’ve put my book down, when it is closed with its bookmark sticking out of the page I’m up to; you don’t fold over the top corner of the page, do you? Of course you don’t, one just do that sort of thing!
But there are some books which you begin reading and you don’t want to finish because they’re SO good. You want the experience of reading that novel or biography or straight factual book to go on so you can enjoy it for longer. You’re in that imaginary world of where the text on the page has taken you, even captured you. Perhaps it’s generating emotions of love or dislike of a particular character; perhaps a mystery is unfolding and you’re enjoying all the twists and turns and trying to work out the “whodunit?” yourself; perhaps a relationship is formed and you don’t want it to end but you can see the signs. All of these things can make us want to prolong the experience of reading that particular book although you know it really does have to end.

Knowing there’s a sequel or even a number of sequels because it’s going to be a series may make you get through the book more quickly as you want to find out how things progress.

So why do I not want to finish the book I’m reading right now? If you’re wondering which book – it’s called The Land Of Painted Caves by Jean Auel. It’s part of a series called Earth’s Children. Let me give you the series list with each book’s first published date (it is relevant):

1. Sep 1980 – The Clan Of Cave Bear (also film)
2. Sep 1982 – The Valley Of Horses
3. Sep 1985 – The Mammoth Hunters
4. Nov 1990 – The Plains Of Passage
5. Apr 2002 – The Shelters Of Stone
6. Mar 2011 – The Land Of Painted Caves

Overall 31 years from book 1 to book 6! As you can see there’s quite a variation in the length of time between each of the novels; the longest gap was from book 4 to 5 – 12 years! I came to the series in the late 1980s beginning with the book & film.
Book 1 got me hooked and I’ve read the rest over the years since then. Each paperback is a kind of “brick-sized” thickness; the last one is 782 pages so a good size to keep me busy. The action is in a pre-historic world of Southern Europe involving tribal groups of Cro-Magnon & Neanderthal origins. I’ve watched characters grow together, sometimes grow apart, go on long journeys, make friends and lose friends; I’ve seen them age & have children; I’ve seen some move up the social scale and some down; I’ve seen them discover things about their world and about each other – some likeable, some not. It’s a bit like everyday life today set in this early world. You may not agree with some parts of the story in terms of personal belief but this is their world and it’s what they believed in their world at that time.

By about page 200 I was thinking – this is the last book (so far as the, now 76 year old, author has herself said) and this imaginary world which I’ve been a visitor to for just over 20 years will come to an end. These familiar characters will stop – frozen in time at the end of this book. I don’t know what they might do in the future because there is no future for them – they will cease to develop any further whilst I, on the other hand, will not. Time for me will continue (without my imaginary friends from the book) as it will for everyone but I just don’t want to leave these folks behind. I suppose, in a way, they will stay with me in my mind, because I know about them, because I’ve visited their world, but there will be no more stories about their lives. So what did I do? I picked up another book and read that for a while. Soon however I wanted to find out what was going to happen in that world of Earth’s Children’s so back I went to The Land Of Painted Caves. I read some more and got to page 300 & then 400. Then, guess what? I put the book down again and picked up another one, different to the book I read after 200 pages. And I read that for a while, hoping to keep The Land Of Painted Caves alive for a bit longer. I only got another 100 pages or so before putting it down again and going off with another book. It’s tough as, inevitably, I was drawn back once again to TLOPC. As of today I have reached page 629 so just about 150 pages left. Even if I restrict myself to 10 pages a day I’ve only got 2 weeks left. I know it’s got end but I just don’t want it to be now. Maybe I’ll pick another of those books up and spend some time with them. Eventually, I know and you do too, that TLOPC’s Jondalar, Ayla, Jonayla and their “Cave” & the other “Caves” and “Hearths” of their world will draw me back. You see the big difference with this book, which wasn’t true for the other five, is that I know there will be no more. If the author had just said nothing I would quite happily have read through to the end and just waited for the next one – maybe 2, 3, 5 or however many years.

I’m curious though. Is it just me or have any other readers found a book or series of books so fascinating they just didn’t want them to end? Have you actually stopped and then gone back later?

I feel I’m on the fringes of addiction here but not sure what the cure is. Where’s my nearest literature re-hab centre? I wonder whether I’ll meet some of you there; I’m “virtually” certain I will.

Nothing to get excited about? Yes there is!

I’m handing over to my regular guest blogger again today… Enjoy!
Well, I suppose it had to happen – an art exhibition about “invisibility”. I couldn’t see the point really but at the moment there is a gallery in London which has an exhibition on called – Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 – 2012. (£8 entry fee!)
One of our national newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, reported that the gallery “will gather together 50 ”invisible” works by leading figures such as Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Yoko Ono for its display of works you cannot actually see.” Now just read those last 7 words again. Yep that’s right you can’t actually see them. It is thought to be the first such exhibition staged at a major institution in the UK. At this point I’m struggling with the concept of “display”. The gallery director says that “….art is not about material objects but about setting our imaginations alight…..” Oh well that’s ok then. As well as empty plinth on which Andy Warhol once stood, Yoko Ono will be contributing a series of typed instructions encouraging visitors “to conjure up an artwork in their minds”. Are you getting the idea now?
Check out the picture below and ask yourself can you believe this? Someone who has paid £8 to look at nothing!


A woman at the gallery looks at Tom Friedman’s ‘Untitled (A Curse)’, 1992
The Daily Telegraph also conducted a survey using the following question:
Can an empty plinth and a blank piece of paper be classed as art? The two possible answers were:
1. Yes – art is about the concept or
2. No – there is nothing there.
The results are surprising – “No” has got 2,714 votes (86.3%) & “Yes” has got 431 (13.7%). Now it’s not surprising that the “No” vote is winning but it is surprising that 431 people thought looking at nothing could be classed as art.
Some of the comments about the gallery & the exhibits are quite interesting:
Dbarry said this: “Tried to pay the entrance fee with invisible money. Needless to say it didn’t work.

Maria Sol said, “Am I studying History of Art for this kind of nonsense?? I’d rather be unemployed, than an advocate for this snobbish “idea” of what art is. JMW Turner, please, COME BACK!!!!”

Ajikan said, “Since it’s all in the mind, there can be no point in going to the trouble of making the trip to the Hayward Gallery and forking out the admission charge to ‘see’ a load of formless ideas. Since there’s nothing to see in the first place, why not just publish the catalogue of exhibits and be done with it? After all, the logical conclusion of all this is an exhibition that doesn’t happen at all and occurs only in the mind.”

Don’t know about you but I can’t disagree with any of those.

But hang on a mo’. It’s given me an idea – what about having my own exhibition? Here are the first three exhibits. On a recent visit to a couple of memorable sites in Liverpool I was able to get the following pics.

See No.1 below. What – nothing on the pavement? Of course there is! All I want you to do is imagine you can see Paul McCartney, stepping on these two old paving slabs and then walking in through the front gate of his home at 20 Forthlin Rd in Liverpool. These are the two actual paving stones he would have walked on to get to his house. (The newer white ones, to the left of the picture, would not have been there when he was there.) I’ve added a view of the front door and the sign in the hedge outside just in case you thought I’d taken a picture of just any old paving stones. Now you’ve got it haven’t you?

1. Paul McCartney – “Coming Home”

Front Door of 20 Forthlin Road

National Trust Sign outside the house

The second site was the school John Lennon attended (1952-57). Nothing on that piece of ground? Of course there is! All I want you to do is imagine you can see John Lennon walking across that piece of ground into the school. (I included the bottom of the gates in the pic so you could see, in the second pic, that they are they actual gates to Quarry Bank School -its name was changed to Calderstones some years ago following a tri-school merger.

2. John Lennon “Going To School”

Front Gates to Quarry Bank School


Now for the third exhibit. I don’t normally allow people to see my private art collection but in the context of today’s blog I think it would be helpful. Here, on the lounge wall, is my picture – Polar Bear in a Snowstorm (by the artist Ian V. Zeeble). It’s unique – the artist told me there are no copies or prints so it may well accumulate value in the years to come! It’s there just to the left of the plant. Can you see it?

3. Polar Bear in a Snowstorm

A friend was visiting a couple of days ago and suggested it really needed framing. (He has a similar picture called: 3 Skiers Buried By An Avalanche by the same artist.) I hunted round and eventually decided I would buy a wood finish picture frame. Here’s the result of the framing:

I’m not sure about you but I feel this does not really add to the aesthetics and in fact may prove a distraction to people as they look at the main picture. Think I’ll probably leave it unframed but I’m definitely getting into this invisible art thing. Wow factor? Off the scale!

So there you have it. Probably a new experience for you but quite exciting eh? At least it should have “set your imaginations alight” as the director of that gallery said. Well it has, hasn’t it?

In the spirit of the blog, I was going to paint my reaction to the exhibition in London but I think Edvard Munch has done a rather better job than I could do. Here’s his effort (sold in May 2012 for $119.2 million!)

Nothing to get excited about? There sure is.

Attempting ‘sporty’

I’ve decided that it’s time to give my list of Stuff I’d Like To Do Post-Exams another go. I’ve done Getting Excited About Stuff, which was good. I think next I’ll do Being Sporty. I mean my version of sporty, by the way. Which I think is most people’s version of mild exercise. I’m ok with that.

Yesterday I went on the most epic walk along the river, which was amazing. I came across a boat race, a mariner’s club open day, an outdoor art installation, open air theatre, a jazz concert, a music festival, an open-house day at a group of artists’ studios, two schools’ open days and a wedding in a gallery. It’s lovely what nice weather can do. I discovered loads of things that I’ve been walking past for years but never gone in. Huge stately homes and beautiful gardens. Funny little islands and secret passageways. Fantastic statues and royal residences. It was such a lovely way to spend a Saturday.

Even when rain threatened to stop play and I didn’t have a jacket, I soldiered through and it stopped in the end. Even when my shoes threatened to tear apart the backs of my heels (silly me for wearing the trainers I hardly use for a long walk), I found a shop and bought plasters and kept going. I had a London Walks guide book with me and had just picked the first in the list and was reading the information as I went around. It was great fun.

So I decided this week I am going to challenge myself to do something active every day. Not just a ten minute stroll to Waitrose. Actually active. I’ll keep you updated.

I also started NaNoWriMo a few days ago (National Novel Writing Month). You write 1667 words a day and in a month you have a 50,000 word novel! Finding time for it is a bit of a challenge but I’ve kept it up so far

The end of freedom

It’s the final in my guest blogger’s series on Freedom.

We now come to the 6th & final instalment of the series on Freedom. There is obviously a lot of ground we haven’t been able to cover but if you’re still with me thank you for persevering. What I want to do is try and bring the series to a close by drawing lessons from the first five parts but also by giving you some further food for thought.

I hope you’ve seen that each of the areas we have looked at (musicartliteratureinternet) has its own problems with regard to freedom. However there will always be those who want more freedom than they have. What I’m about to say now may strike you as being a bit odd: total freedom equals total chaos! How so? Let’s look at a couple of examples from real life. Take the network of roads across whichever country you live in. Ask yourself what will happen if drivers have complete freedom? They can drive on whichever side of the road they want at whatever speed they want, they can ignore road signs and traffic lights particularly if they’re in a hurry and so on. What is the result? – Probably lots of accidents, no claims because everyone can do what they want so no-one is responsible, and therefore general mayhem. Roads & drivers, and indeed all road users (cyclists, pedestrians etc), need rules otherwise the system breaks down.

Now think of sports or athletics. In a game of football, baseball or whatever – what happens if you allow all the players to do whatever they want? What happens if runners on an athletics track can deliberately trip up other runners or ignore the lane they have been given to run in? – Once again chaos because there is no order to what is going on. Imagine watching a game or an athletics event with no rules! How long would you stay? Rules are needed for there to be a meaningful competition between opposing teams. It just doesn’t make sense to have no rules.

Try this one – Draw a circle or rectangle on a piece of paper. Put the point of your pen inside the line(s). Now move your pen wherever you want to within the boundary of the figure you drew. You can go wherever you want; you have complete freedom inside the lines, you could draw, sketch, paint, crayon or whatever. If I gave you a piece of canvas 77cm x 53cm (30in x 21in) what could you do? I would probably just have a mass of lines and colours not looking like much. (However, looking at some of the pictures in recent exhibitions featured in the news, I think I might have a chance!) Perhaps you would do better. Not many could produce a picture like the one of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo – (Mona Lisa, in case you were wondering.) Da Vinci, in the early 16th century, did. The painting had to have boundaries and within those boundaries he produced a fantastic piece of work.

Transfer these analogies to real life and let’s ask the question again. How can society function if everybody does whatever they want because they want the freedom to do that? They do not want you or me or some authority telling them what to do. They don’t want boundaries on their behaviour. Why should the idea of rules be any different for a society of human beings than for any other activity they engage in. We must have rules otherwise we and our society can’t function. The real problem arises when we try to specify what those rules are or should be. Who is going to make them up? Who is going to police them? And who is going to apprehend & prosecute those who do not obey them? In a democracy we give that responsibility to the elected government & its law enforcement agencies – they are the law makers and enforcers.

Do you think it’s best to live in a democracy because that gives the most or the fairest rights to those living under it? Most will agree it’s better than say a dictatorship. We tend to believe that democracy equals good, non-democracy equals “not as good” or even potentially bad. Would you consider the following example and seriously ask yourself if you still agree after reading it? Suppose you’re on a ship and the ship is sinking. The alarm goes out to “man the lifeboats” and the crew begins loading people in and lowering the boats into the water. Let’s say each boat is built for say 10 people and has emergency food rations for that number. Once the boat is launched and has been rowed or drifted away from the sinking ship you find that there are 11 people in the boat. The boat is unstable with 11 (6 one side, 5 on the other), it’s too low in the water and there are not enough rations to support 11. A vote is taken on who the people think should be thrown out of the boat. It’s democratic and it’s fair and YOU are picked. Are you still a big supporter of democracy? Or are you now frantically trying to state your case? – Why you should be kept in the boat and someone else, who in your estimation, is less worthy should be thrown out. Do you see the problem? Democracy is great until it’s you that has to leave or be sacrificed for the greater good. This is not a “balloon debate” – this is real life. What gives them the right to throw you out? Errr..Democracy actually!

Another quite serious example from the TV last Sunday – would you or your town/area want nuclear waste dumped underground there (in safe containers of course)? In the area of Cumbria, where the Sellafield Nuclear Plant is located, in a survey, 68% of people (just over two-thirds) agreed with the proposal to use their area. A democratic result but those who oppose it simply won’t accept that. In other words, in a democracy when a vote is taken, you want (and probably have) the right to object to it. So a democracy which produces a majority decision must allow those in the minority to oppose that decision which means a democracy may not produce a democratic outcome. Or at least only a democratic outcome in certain areas because some people don’t like the result of the democratic vote. Hmmm….

Bring it, literally, nearer home – suppose the people in your street decide they don’t like you and don’t want you living in their street. You have to move. What gives them the right to force you to move on? Democracy again. It’s not as easy as you thought is it?

This is not a new problem. Almost 2,400 years ago Plato was considering exactly the same sort of issues in his work The Republic. Philosophers and thinkers down the ages have wrestled with the same problem. Plato believed the best way for a just society to function was to divide everyone into one of the following groups: producers (those who literally make stuff: food, objects, etc), auxiliaries (warriors or upholders of rulers wishes and making producers obey) and guardians or philosopher kings (rulers). (Social mobility is not allowed; once you’re in one group or class you stay there because that is your function. Seems like a precursor of the caste system perhaps? Also with the restriction of medical care to certain classes we see a worryingly early form of eugenics. Not a freedom, I hope, any would espouse. You might be surprised at some of the supporters of “The First International Congress of Eugenics” in 1912 which included our own Prime Minister at the time!) When the three groups, in The Republic are in the right relationships with each other, and the people in them understand and perform their functions, everything will be fine. Interestingly, personal freedom isn’t considered important and is subject to the good of society which comes first. He also believes poets need to be banished from this proposed ideal society (Book X). If you want to know why and the answer to other questions you might have but don’t fancy reading the whole treatise there is an excellent summary on the Sparknotes Website at:

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/republic/summary.html

So we can say quite clearly freedom has to have boundaries, has to have limits beyond which we cannot go. What that means is that you can do whatever you want within the boundaries – in a sport for example that’s where we can see the skill of a player. One person can do things another person can’t because they don’t have that ability. Look at footballers with their ball-controlling skills, watch them as they dribble around other players in a match because of their superior skill and applaud the goal or home run or whatever is achieved within the rules. A referee decides on penalties for those breaking the rules. The admiration comes from recognising their abilities working within the rules of whatever sport is involved. And so it is with society. It is just a fact that things will work better and people will feel safer if there are rules and people keep to them. Those who want to push the boundaries have a big problem – how far? And who says how far? And once one boundary is pushed are we then waiting for the next person to come along and push even further? Again, I have to ask, “but how far?” Each new level simply proves that people are never satisfied because they want always to push a little harder, to go one step further. (In the newspapers, a couple of days ago, we read of the fastest selling paperback since records began (beating Harry Potter & the DaVinci Code!). It is described as an explicit novel and last week alone sold over 100,000 copies. Another boundary pushed! I hope you can see the inevitable consequences of this pushing. They’re actually all around us in the state of our societies.

Plato had an idea that the values a society needs to live by could come from someone or somewhere outside the people living in that society. Now there’s a thought – what happens if we don’t really know best? Who’s going to admit that – musicians, artists, writers, bloggers? What happens if freedom really does exist only within the rules not outside of them?

That’s the end of our look at Freedom in various fields and in society as a whole. Whilst it has only been brief I do hope you’ve asked yourself some important questions and perhaps found some answers or at least the road to some. I’d like to finish with the proposition of Democritus who said that a life of contentment cannot be achieved through either idleness or pursuing worldly pleasures but only by being satisfied with what you have, giving little thought to envy or admiration. So there you have it – the freedom to be content! Or not? It’s up to you. More to it than you thought? Of course there is!