The Empathy of David Mitchell


I am about three quarters of the way through the new David Mitchell book, The Bone Clocks.  Although there is always the possibility that Mitchell won’t land the ending, and the ending of anything matters, so far I can’t help but feel this book is a masterpiece.  At different times throughout the journey I was highly engrossed in an extremely realistic description of a journalist in the Iraq War, the life of a serf in Tsarist Russian, a dark comedy featuring a modern writer, and science fiction action scenes that seemed as if they came out of a blockbuster movie.  Those are just a few of the different styles and perspectives that Mitchell weaves seamlessly in this book.

Although I can’t claim to know exactly what goes on in Mitchell’s head, I feel that after reading all of his books, except for the small amount of this one to go, that there is a purpose to all of these different styles and characters.  I think Mitchell understands that the only tribe that matters is the human race.  Most of the time when human beings treat each other poorly, it is because they put their tribe first.  That tribe can be a political, religious, or ethnic tribe.  It is seeing themselves as being more important than someone else.  It is the ability to not be able to imagine oneself in another’s shoes, to feel enough empathy.  Mitchell takes us inside the head of many different kinds of people and he does so using many literary techniques.

Again, I want to hold off final judgment until I finish the book, but Mitchell might have just painted a masterpiece.  Mitchell uses many of the the same techniques that brought him such acclaim in Cloud Atlas, but if anything this book might actually might be more entertaining from story one.  I can’t put it down, and haven’t been able to since I started.  Stay tuned for more about this book in the future, but you might want to check it out yourself in the meantime.

The Herd Mentality of “Experts”

All these effing geniuses: Ezra Klein, expert-driven journalism, and the phony Washington consensus via @Salon

A really interesting article that I think has a lot of truth to it. 

The Last of the Famous International Playboys

Morrissey Interview

The above link is simply one of the best Morrissey interviews I’ve ever read.  It is from the site Vegan Logic.  It should also appeal to the non-fan as their are interesting ideas conveyed.  Some choice paragraphs to follow.  

On the state of the music industry:

The labels don’t want the people to choose.  Marketing is all that modern music is about, and it is only marketing and not talent or ability that creates success. This is why only the dumbo generation succeeds in pop without much trouble, because synthetic excitement isn’t likely to be a problem for the labels. But because marketing is the only reason why any singer is successful, songs with no merit become huge hits, and consequently the music world is unconvincing, and it relies upon awards to make singers appear to be genuine artists.  At the same time, young people who are serious about singing or playing an instrument would look at television talent shows and find them morally repulsive.  Which they are!

On female discrimination in the music industry:

I don’t think anything has changed, thus you will hear how “she’s one of the best female singers” whereas you would never hear “he’s a great male singer.”  In your question you ask me about female musicians, but really, isn’t the term ‘musicians who are female’ because otherwise we’re acknowledging the proper musician as being without doubt male.  It’s similar to when people use the term ‘a female doctor’ as if men have the absolute divine right to be doctors whereas women do not.  “It was a female police officer” sounds as if we’re saying ‘not a real police officer’.  In music, we still look back on early Patti Smith and The Slits as being such radical breakthroughs because they were definitely not fluffy and feminine, whereas it’s now entirely flipped back to the helpless little girl voice being the one we only ever hear on the radio.  The Spice Girls were marketed as ‘girl power’, which is exactly what they weren’t.  If they’d had any guts they would have called themselves The Slum Mums, and of course, forget girlhood, it ought to have been ‘woman power’ if anything.  Could you imagine The Strokes announcing ‘we represent boy power’?  

On protests around the globe:

It’s a not uncommon story, and you must remember how the Syrian unrest began with Assad arresting ten schoolchildren under the age of 15, and throwing them into prison where they were tortured. Assad did this because the kids had written DOWN WITH THE REGIME on a wall. This incident alone started the Syrian uprising, and the families of the schoolchildren took to the streets, and it was here that Assad’s Security Forces shot at the families and killed some of them.  This action then brought 20,000 people onto the streets chanting anti-government slogans, and Assad was free to slaughter whomever he wished. The UK government is now ready to re-engage with Assad!  But increasingly we see how civilian murders don’t actually matter at all with governments.  The recent Malaysian plane attack is a perfect example.  In the first few days the media referred to it as an attack, and then suddenly it became a disaster.  By ‘disaster’ they were telling us that nothing would be done about it, as if it were a flood or something.  We all see how civilian deaths do not register with world leaders unless a loss of oil or gas is involved, and suddenly there’s no question of military intervention.  What enrages me is how people who rise up against corrupt governments are referred to as rebels, protestors or agitators but never ever referred to as “the people”, which is what they are.  It is corrupt governments who are the rebels. You will never hear a news report say how “the police shot at the people”, yet you will always hear “the police shot at demonstrators” – as if demonstrators are not really people.  By calling the people ‘agitators’ or ‘rebels’ it divorces them from being your mother or your cousin.  You suddenly imagine fringe anarchists butting in.  The so-called Security Forces cause the most trouble and the most deaths throughout the world – Ferguson in the USA is a perfect current example – and the problem is that the Security Forces are beyond prosecution.  Because of this, nonviolent protest is always deliberately made to become violent by Security Forces so that the political issues are overshadowed by the news of violence instead, and this absolutely never fails.  So, instead of hearing why the people are taking to the streets in peaceful resistance, we are told of how several policemen were hurt in violent clashes, and this alone becomes the news story, and the plight of the people is ignored.  The last thing Security Forces ever want is peaceful protest because then the anti-government message is being aired and heard as loud as a bell.

Understanding ISIS

The above article from the New York Times is really interesting.  It is not only about ISIS’s deft use of modern media, despite their often gruesome primitive behavior towards other human beings, but also gives one a sense of what their goals seem to be.  This is one of the better articles I’ve read in trying to understand them.  

A key paragraph:

A review of its prodigious output in print and online reveals a number of surprises. ISIS propaganda, for instance, has strikingly few calls for attacks on the West, even though its most notorious video, among Americans, released 12 days ago, showed the beheading of the American journalist James Foley, threatened another American hostage, and said that American attacks on ISIS “would result in the bloodshed” of Americans. This diverged from nearly all of ISIS’s varied output, which promotes its paramount goal: to secure and expand the Islamic state. Experts say that could change overnight, but for now it sharply distinguishes ISIS from Al Qaeda, which has long made attacks on the West its top priority.

What I find interesting about that paragraph is that although I believe there is a case to be made for international intervention against ISIS, it seems to be more because of their crimes against humanity then them actually posing a threat to our country.  If we are going to do something about them, I believe the only way to do it is through a large coalition.  

Israel Grabs More Palestinian Land

This above is an article from Huffington Post that is about how Israel is instituting a new land grab in the West Bank.  One can’t help but feel that a certain portion of Israel’s government is a criminal element that stands outside the law of nations.  It is not Jews in general or even all of the Israeli people, much in the same way that Rick Perry does not represent all Texans, that are responsible for this.  However, unfortunately, because these are the politicians that have the power in Israel right now, I believe we must treat the nation of Israel as pariah that needs to be checked if there is ever going to be peace in the Middle East.  Hopefully change will come from within.  In the meantime Americans should demand that our government quit sending Israel money.