Travels in the twilight of Western civilization

Peloponnesian war theme

How I came back to Thucydides

What follows here is not an essay or thesis, but a far less structured collection of observations, recollections, and meandering thoughts collected in my longhand journals through the late antipodean summer, autumn, and winter of 2020. The coronavirus isolation season in Brisbane. I typed up the longhand entries as I had time or inclination, with integrating commentary for the disparate entries as it came to me at the keyboard.

We don’t start with Thucydides at all, but with Alain de Botton, and Seneca.

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Reasons to be cheerful …

COVID-19 day 72: Morrison, Seneca, co-morbidity, and Wellington.

Both the ABC’s Laura Tingle and The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy cut Prime Minister Scott Morrison some slack in their analyses of his news media standup yesterday with his chief health officer, Professor Brendan Murphy.

I was incredulous.  What short and fickle memories these analysts have.  And I say ‘his’ chief health officer, because the man is too much a political pawn for me to trust anything he has to say.  My chief health officer is my GP, who gains nothing by lying to me.

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2019-nCoV exposes Chinese weaknesses

News stories this morning about contradictory reports that early coronavirus (2019-nCoV) diagnostician Dr Li Wenliang was dead, or had died and been revived and was now in critical condition, came with some indications that China’s public image as world power and international leader is a shallow façade.

It seems Dr Li was threatened by police to stop spreading unfounded rumours when he warned colleagues early on in the disease’s discovery about the potential risks.

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In the news …

China panic is more concerning than dictatorial overreach; Morrison confirms he’s a liar; more political instability coming our way.

Chinese panic

Like many others, I have only Western news reports on which to base my judgements about all things China, but it seems the coronavirus has created panic in Chinese corridors of power.

Twenty-thousand infections.  More than 400 deaths.  Building hospitals so fast the concrete surely hasn’t had time to cure.  Cremating bodies en masse regardless of family wishes.  Lodging official protests about editorial cartoons!

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This is what voting for dumb shits gets us

Just after the last federal election there was an onslaught of faux piety, socially and in news media, that had commentators wagging moral fingers: people shouldn’t be sore losers and now needed to get behind, or even embrace, a Morrison Coalition government.  I remember the tutting and frowning when I responded to such advice with a growling: Over my dead body!

The man’s a smirking, dumb shit so ignorant and conceited he’ll ruin the country rather than make a single move for the right reasons, I hissed at them.

He’ll keep ripping out public funding until public assets are handed over to Coalition sponsors at fire sales and we all pay extortionate prices for lower quality services. Have you looked at your power bill lately?
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Scorsese’s Irishman: sad farewell to an era

When I finally got around to watching The Irishman, I had still been isolated from conventional and amateur critique about the film.

As a spectator, I formed the opinion pretty quickly that this was a love story. A salute to friendships between Hollywood legends who knew they might never work together again. Perhaps not even see each other again, all in the one place and time. And maybe it was also a tip of the hat to us, the audience, for making these artists into living legends, and coming back this one more time.

To put it another way, The Irishman is a gangster film the way Homer’s Odyssey is a gangster story. Or is the Odyssey a travelogue? Meaning that the Odyssey is both. And much more. Odysseus and his men were indeed roving bandits whose travels were recounted. There’s plenty of theft, murder, and gadding about the ancient world to lay it to waste. But along with it also comes a meditation on personal integrity, spirituality and the caprice of the gods (or fortune, as the case may be), on patriotism and duty as much as the lure of lust, gluttony, and narcissism.

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Axelos empire building with ITIL 4

ITIL 4 book cover

February’s updates to ITIL, taking it from version 3 to version 4, strike me as largely cosmetic, and overly ambitious.

Although the diagrams have changed, the core ITIL processes haven’t, and the grab at incorporating agile methods, business process management, enterprise architecture, knowledge management, and security management strike me as overreach.

Each of those disciplines is a separate domain of professional practice in its own right.  While it’s certainly true that ITIL practitioners should know about these practices, it strikes me that Axelos is aiming at creating proprietary ownership for the subject matter and certification rights.

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Critical analysis toolbox in the age of imbecility

Imbecilicus Morritrumpicus
Imbecilicus Morritrumpicus

Here’s the thing: we live in an era of imbecility.  Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Scott Morrison have encouraged wilfully ignorant, aggressively stupid people to vigorously push cretinous ideas and propositions, demanding for them some kind of equivalence with facts, reasoned argument, and rationality.

Ugh!  What a repugnant achievement.

In itself that wouldn’t be so bad.  But since the late 1990s, our universities have no longer taught critical thinking.  Not even in the humanities, which used to exist principally to teach critical analysis of information about our history, politics, philosophy, literature, and other arts.  To create the intellectual engagement necessary to maintain liberal democracies, free from the depredations ushered in by the Trump-Johnson-Morrison imbeciles.

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This Storm (2019)

It took many night-time sittings, before going to sleep, to finish James Ellroy’s latest novel, This Storm (2019, Penguin, 608 pages, a hair-raising $33 for the paperback), the second book of his second ‘LA Quartet’.

When I discussed his last novel, Perfidia, I raised the dreadful possibility that maybe Ellroy might be past his prime.

I cannot now honestly say that he isn’t, but it might just be that he’s allowed his editors greater leeway than he should have.  To sanitise his prose and rob the story of Ellroy’s trademark manic flavour.

This Storm continues a story arc set in LA during the early 1940s (so far), using most of the same characters as Perfidia.  However, as ever, Ellroy is fond of killing some of his characters off along the way.

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