The night was awful. Nightmarish. I didn’t attempt to sleep until close to midnight. The sounds around me of old men in pain or discomfort were psychologically disturbing.
I could understand why. I think some of my humanity was stripped away by my experience in the evening, when I insisted on taking a shower. This meant being assisted into the shower, with nurse Breena holding my piss bag and tubes, while I wheeled the drip stand, holding two big three liter fluid bags that were constantly flushing my bladder.
There’s a strange kind of intimacy between a shattered man and any woman standing in for mother, helping him to peel off a blood-soaked hospital gown, paying no attention to his penis, sprouting the obscene catheter tube branching out into three–the input, the output, and the capped channel used to inflate and deflate the saline-filled balloon in the bladder that keeps the whole thing in place.
Graphic designers are fond of sleight of hand: having it both ways. If you notice typography, they say, you’ve already failed. Meaning that on the one hand serif fonts are wonderful, and on the other hand so are sans serif type faces.
Except, of course, that great design is arresting, and therefore always noticed.
There’s the old argument about sans being more legible on-screen. Today, though, that hardly cuts it anymore, unless you’re still using a Newton.
I copied this post from tumblr, where it was part of a series called Postcards in My Head (Now deleted). I did so because the author, Dieter Mueller, killed himself. I don’t want these words to pass into some kind of digital obsolescence by being deleted or becoming inaccessible. There was no date on the original post, but I choose to assign 24 November 2014 for reasons made obvious in the post itself.
There is not any public domain evidence that Man Haron Monis was any kind of terrorist. Instead he appears to have been a mentally unbalanced man, using the cover of religion to justify a string of criminal delinquencies.
And therein lies the problem: sane, rational people have for too long excused lunatic words and actions because their perpetrators have found justification for them as religious freedom, and now even as illusory religious ‘rights’.
The epicenter of this disease afflicting Western democracies is not the Middle East.
It is the arrogantly assertive rise to astonishing public influence of American so-called Christian fundamentalists, who have a long track record, continuing unabated, of seeking to destroy every aspect of civilised behaviour, from education to an impartial justice system. What they demand, and increasingly get handed to them, is state-endorsed intolerance, misogyny, and a return to barbarbarism instead of common human decency.
My friendship with Dieter Mueller was brief, intense, and abstracted by his decision to end his life in the early hours of 24 November 2014.
We encountered each other in discussions on the Google Plus social media platform, and were drawn to one another by our mutual interest in debating what we saw as the big issues facing Western societies.
For two years we spurred each other on to inject serious essays and commentary into the shallow pools of endlessly re-shared, cutesy images, of idiotic fortune cookie one-liners posing as inspirational wisdom, and of the Silicon Valley hucksterism that passes as social media marketing nous.
It was our premiss that what was then a relatively new forum did not inevitably have to descend into a stagnant pool of spam and asinine crap.
We thought that talking about real issues in rational terms would connect a sufficient number of people willing to be thoughtful to carve out a sane corner in at least one social network. We were wrong. People online behave much as they do offline: politically apathetic, mean-spirited, willfully ignorant, and pathologically narcissistic. But it was a hell of a ride.
It was to be a meeting with an old colleague, in old stomping grounds, but it turned into a reflection on the paths by which people become alienated from each other, and even from themselves. Along the way it also turned into a recognition of missed opportunity for something genuinely human, because no meeting ever took place.
I last saw Laurent seven years ago, when we both worked at Elysian Fields. He had been my divisional chief before he was encouraged to leave the corporation because neither his ambitions nor function were required any longer. I lasted some more months before being deposed by the less noble but more profitable artifice of redundancy.
He moved on to greener pastures, with a smaller company based in West End, which is where I lived at that time, and with which I was in love as the ambient territory of more than a decade’s experiences that included triumphs and desperation enough to make for a melodramatic TV series.
That day, though, Laurent and I were to ‘catch up’ over coffee at a local café. He chose the place and the time. I confirmed it with him just a couple of hours before the appointed time.
The Economist’s recent Schumpeter column again floated to the top of my preoccupations today, coalescing with some more immediately personal ones as I rode my bicycle along the river in today’s perfect Brisbane spring weather.
The real Schumpeter’s influence in economics, and fairly much everything else, has been trivialised as putting into general circulation the much abused term ‘creative destruction’, which one must suppose has been taken by the Economist’s less skilled leader writers as a remit to deride whatever aspect of business escapes their understanding on any given day.
As I pedalled my way towards Newstead, I contemplated M Sinclair Stevens’ vehemence in excoriating Schumpeter for making an admittedly somewhat tenuous link between open plan office layouts favoured by a few of America’s über-plutocratic tech Wunderkindchen and the Montessori pedagogy attached by Schumpeter to Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, and Jimmy Wales by virtue of them having attended Montessori schools.
Reading the Schumpeter column in the latest Economist (possibly restricted content) had me rifling through my dim recollections of once having attended the Montessori-like Rudolf Steiner Schule in Munich, nowadays also known as the Waldorf Rudolf Steiner Schule (where Schule just means school).
Unlike Schumpeter’s implied assumptions about some kind of kumbaya-kind of hippie love-in, my recollection is of a much more disciplined approach somewhat antithetical to the anything-goes hippie philosophy that Schumpeter seems to snipe at contemptuously here and there in the column.
My days at Rudolf Steiner included being kept in the same physical classroom for most of my lessons, not as an exercise in open plan chaos, but to emphasise the notion that separate disciplines of knowledge are nevertheless interrelated – art, history, languages, sciences – to produce a well-rounded individual. In my case I must have been a distinct disappointment to my teachers because even then I was never going to be the model of the redoubtable Christian man Rudolf Steiner had in mind. I do think, though, that my ideas about the desirability of education aiming at facilitating the development of a well-rounded person who has not just technocratic grasp of skills, but insight and wisdom about knowledge, balanced by an ethical dimension, and at least respect for the idea of duty and honour as well as rights and entitlements, might all have originated at that school. Or at least in that era. And my subsequent brutalisation by the masters and some of the boys in the English schools I attended didn’t quite succeed in beating those ideas out of me.
In contrast, it seems, the principally North American examples cited by Schumpeter have far less to do with encouraging ethics, honour or duty, and much more to do with promoting an aggressive, anything-goes culture of exploitative, extractive, and ultimately nihilistically self-destructive capitalism. If that is a symbol of anything ‘progressive’, the meaning of that term has changed in my lifetime, and left me behind.