Circling The Abyss

“A blog on politics, society and life as viewed from somewhere in orbit between the precariat and the event horizon.” – Circling The Abyss.

That’s the tagline for this outlet, and while reasonably descriptive, there’s more to be derived from this blog’s title. “Circling The Abyss” is a humanistic comment on living.

In the most obvious sense, we’re all in a decaying orbit, caught in mortality’s gravitational pull. We’re all slowly drawn towards a metaphorical black hole, from which once reached there’s no return. I’ve noticed too, as time passes by, that the rest of the universe seems to speed up – a subjective analogue for time dilation, albeit one for the thermodynamically advanced.

The trick is to resist the downward spiral in as far as is feasible, all while living out what time you have as best you can.

A relentless, downward tug isn’t the only thing you have to contend with. Life gives you challenges. All sort of detritus can be pulled into your orbital path ; hardship, malfeasance and malady. Occasionally there’ll be the random happy accident too, which you’ll want to embrace.

And then there’s the humanism; the human solutions to the problems of living, both for yourself and for others; the orbital corrections and the engineered gravity assists; the human built meanings.

In general terms my own personal challenges are incredibly common. Like an awful lot of people I live payday to payday, never quite sure what I’ll do when and if there’s a break in my finances. Like a good number of people, I’ve fought and will continue to fight against a downward spiral into insanity.

There’s also the ever-present peril of losing perspective despite being amidst the rest of humanity; of shifting your gaze away from your orbit around the abyss, in order to mentally orbit your own navel. Solipsism solves nothing. Humanism is best done collaboratively, and in good faith.

For my own not-at-all-special part, and like many others, I’ll accept mortality and approach the challenges of socio-economic decrepitude with the best mix of solidarity, stoicism and epicureanism I can manage; the solidarity to seek a common good, a stoicism adequate to accept what is real, and an epicureanism sufficient to remain sane in the face of death.

This is what’s meant by “Circling The Abyss”.

~ Bruce

Depression and kindness

One of the many shitty things about depression is the issue of not being there for people, and not just in the sense of being emotionally distant.

A example of what I’m talking about that’s common for me at least, occurs when folks drop their belongings in public. When you’ve got a head full of cold porridge, and someone drops a card, or some cash or whatever else, you may be the first to notice, but you won’t be the first to act even if you’re physically well positioned to.

Someone else will come along, and scoop that thing up and hand it over, or at least point out to the relevant party that they’ve dropped something, all while you’re left there gurning or with a blank stare. If you’re a bit unkempt, as I am on some occasions, you’ll probably get one of those “better pick it up before that hobo grabs it!” stares too.

I reflected on this more keenly early this morning, after automatically performing a minor act of kindness and then having had it brought to my attention by the beneficiary. The levels of cold porridge in my skull have been at a particularly low level for a few months now, and this latest episode made me recall that only the day before I’d also been first off the mark in helping a senior citizen with her misplaced pair of gloves – all of which seemed quite out of the ordinary.


It’s been bothering me for decades, this cycle of little failures to be helpful, the occasional weird stares, and somewhat less frequent objections to my apparently inconsiderate nature. Mainly it’s the not-helping part that’s the worst, although it has to be said that my own subjective discomfort with this is only a small part of the equation.

Every now and then there’s been a small window of opportunity for an act of kindness that’s been missed because I’ve been too slow, all while nobody else has been around to pick up the slack. I’m left wondering, in terms of utility, just how much is being lost in aggregate across the human population just due to kind acts stolen away by mood disorders and mental illness.

Then there’s the kids to worry about. The hasty judgements (ala fundamental attribution error) I’ve copped on account of my sometimes-lethargy span back as far as I’ve had depression (i.e. as far back as High School). A couple of teachers were pretty quick to tell me I was some variety of bad person, but in their defense, this was in the years back before Beyond Blue was even an idea, and before a lot of GPs were even properly diagnosing depression. (I know, it’s a shit defense, but a shit defense is still a defense).

Still, the thought that judgmental teachers are still going to jump down kids’ throats just because they’re a little slow in expressing their consideration rubs me the wrong way. It’s a lot less excusable nowadays, not that it ever really was.

I don’t expect kids to be mollycoddled or showered with affirmations, but feeding them lies about themselves isn’t going to help them either.


There’s probably a hundred and one ways to extrapolate from what I’ve described here, and I’m going to stop myself right there if only because I’ve got a sample size of one. What I want to say in writing this, is just how easy it is to take the ability to be helpful for granted.

I actually needed it pointed out to me that I was being helpful – it just came that easily at no noticeable expense to myself, such that I was barely aware I did what I did. Now I’m thinking I may understand how people view mild unhelpfulness as both an exception and as pathological – it’s a bit like watching something autonomic switching off in that practicing little acts of kindness, normally, can come almost as naturally as breathing.

Though none of this means people are going to reach the correct diagnosis as to why someone’s kindness appears redacted when some of us aren’t first cab off the rank to help another.

~ Bruce

Contemplating Humanist affiliation

A number of years ago I left the Humanist Society of South Australia under somewhat of a cloud, ultimately opining in print at the end of an extended disclosure, that I didn’t have anything more I wanted to write about the organization specifically. Nothing much has changed in that latter respect; either in as far as I can tell, nothing’s happened that would make me want to comment further, or I’m left with smaller issues that I’ve been informed of that I’m not in a position to properly investigate before making a case. So don’t ask me to (thanks).

At any rate, after my departure, not wanting to sever with IHEU/CAHS affiliated bodies entirely, I did a brief mail-around of a couple of other CAHS affiliated bodies to see if they’d take a South Australian. Queensland didn’t reply, quite possibly relating to some pretty intense upheavals at an executive level at the time, while the Humanist Society of Victoria (HSV) did get back to me, and in the affirmative. So I joined the HSV.


It’s a fun fact that when you do anything remotely akin to whistleblowing in public, you’ll wind up being contacted by people who’ve either tried to blow the whistle themselves, or who have something they just need to get off their chest. I’ve had all sorts of feedback and information fired at me in the back channels, not all of it trustworthy, and even less usable.

But it’s the verifiably true stuff that you can’t or don’t know how to act on that’s the most vexing. The context of some of this stuff spans decades and countries, and it’s hard to tell if or how some of it can be meaningfully addressed; court cases from decades ago demonstrating malfeasance by a Humanist I’ve never heard of, who was then boosted by an overseas Humanist organization I’ve never had anything to do with are a little out of my scope.

People have told me things about individuals from the HSV, and they told me before I opted to join. I have no doubt that my joining pissed off at least one former HSV member who’d contacted me. The thing is, that while some of the info given to me was verifiable, it was hard-to-impossible to extrapolate from those facts, to the organization as a whole, or even the committee in particular. Stating that dickheads exist within an organization is a pretty insufficient critique. Functioning organizations have dickheads too.

In terms of cultural problems though, even at my distance from the organization – my membership is nominal and pretty much a mere formality – there are some pretty overt warning signs; the publication in the Australian Humanist (edited by a founding HSV member) a few years back of a poem that was zero percent critique of Islam, and 100% denigration of Muslims; a terrible defense of the choice to publish this poem and another work of garbage in the very same issue; a committee that wasn’t close to being properly visible, and so on.

Not a lot of evil, but a lot of things to make you consider how functional a group is.

In terms of my miniscule involvement – I’ve witnessed a couple of pathetic displays online by folks of influence within the organization myself, and have just recently witnessed one of the smarter ones – one with influence over a public organ no less – claiming that harassment, sexism and so-on within atheist circles is largely made up, essentially just because it’s obviously true. This kind of reasoning doesn’t bode well for an organization that’s supposed to pursue reason in service to compassion.

On the flip-side, at the very least the HSV’s organization and promotion of public events has seemed honest and professional. I can’t tell you how sick I’ve grown of seeing atheist promotional shenanigans, either from afar or up close; organizers publicly announcing speakers from serious projects prior to confirmation, only for those speakers to predictably fall through; promoting their own members as speakers with misleading titles, honorifics and superlatives, and peddling non-peer reviewed, untested and untestable crank hypotheses as central to public “seminars”. The HSV, however, possibly has the best average quality of speaker academically speaking, out of all of the Australian Humanist societies, and the speakers are promoted formally and accurately, without gimmickry. That ain’t nothing.

(No, I haven’t been to any of these meetings, being in South Australia during all the ones I’d liked to have attended, but I don’t need to to make the above judgements; a good number of the people speaking have published works they can be judged by.)

Of course, it’s not just the HSV that has merits and cultural problems. The NSW Humanists have quite an asset in Humanist House, and quite a liability in not having been forthright in discussion of how they fended off entryism from neo-Nazis, nor how it all got nearly as bad as it did in the first place. The Humanist Society of NSW has had changes to its leadership since then, and I’m not interested in castigating, or in investigating to see what miniscule portions of blame can be ascribed to specific members of the current executive, but still, it’s cause for pause. Things don’t ever go this badly without cultural problems being a factor, and a fresh new executive isn’t going to just make those problems up and disappear.

Then there are all of the asinine arguments and ideations that just grind away at you, turning your resolve to dust; “Public criticism of Humanist leaders betrays your oath!”; “Children are sexual beings!”; “I don’t care if they’re a demonstrably mendacious climate denialist, I’m interested in how they make me feel about myself!”; “Geert Wilders is just misunderstood!”; “I’m thinking of incorporating astrology into my counselling work!”; “The women who accused Assange of rape work for the CIA!”; “People should be able to fuck pigs!”; “If some of this finite publication space wasn’t allocated to voice sentiments at odds with the IHEU minimum statement, why, that would be censorship!”; “Michael Shermer is so cool *swoon*.” You’ll never be free of this kind of stuff, anywhere, but you’d think you’d encounter a little less of it from people in spaces purposed to rational, humane, critical discussion.

So basically, if I up and leave the HSV, it’ll be a choice between asking the ACT Humanists or the Western Australian lot if they’ll have me, or seeing if an overseas IHEU affiliated body will accept my membership (I’m thinking Humanists UK). I’d just like to be able to settle down, and ease my way into meaningful involvement, digitally, without having to worry about how a community’s accumulation of alfoil may influence my WiFi signal.


Increasingly I’m finding it difficult to credit Australian Humanist societies with the ability or even intent to pursue Humanist objectives. There have been a few recent positives – such as the turn away from awarding the AHoY Award to rather obvious celebrity choices, and the CAHS website has been improved dramatically.

But the speed with which time and energy can just be diverted away from intelligent, purposeful discussion, in order to service petty defensiveness and entitled bunyip-feudalism is just so damn discouraging. Too many Australian Humanists seem far too insular, and far too many are accustomed to being flattered as if flattery were the whole point of Humanism. The moment that Humanists of good will attain a little political momentum, that momentum risks being either co-opted for the purposes of virtue signaling, or shut down entirely.

I’ll continue to consider my options, and will ask around in due course.

~ Bruce

Still waiting for that bus (to fall under)

In October of last year, I wrote that metaphorically, I’m waiting for a bus to fall under. I made a few assertions that I honestly believe, but which have got other people – particularly women – in trouble when expressed.

By rights, at least by the standards of a lot of the discourse I’ve seen over the past couple of years, someone should have called me a transphobe, but nobody has. It’s not like I went out of my way to be inconspicuous either.

While I may have avoided inflammatory rhetoric, or strong claims that I’m not sure I can commit to, or statements that serve as answers to questions that I think are malformed, the post from last October was shared on social media by “known TERFs”. I saw the traffic come in, and yes, some of it may have been channeled via social media “bubbles”, but there was enough traffic from either open circulation or sources that have been ideologically policed, for me to be able to suspect an impending “TERFening”. And yet it didn’t occur.

I’m not actually intending to make a habit of harping on about transgender politics in future. This isn’t my gig. I’m not a stakeholder and I have other things I do want to write about. I’ve only got involved this far in because I think some of the elements that are pathological within trans-activism are generalizable, present in other forms of activism, and it’s these generalizable problems that I’m particularly interested in. While I’ll address these problems again in future, I can’t and won’t guarantee that it’ll be in reference to trans activism.

I’m nobody’s soldier in this, and all the blame here is my own, just so you know where to lay it.

However, because I didn’t get any tar, nor so much as a single feather the last time around, and because I want to be quite clear about where I stand for anyone who harbors any suspicions, I feel I should re-iterate. Allow me to repeat, re-phrase and add a few assertions more bluntly this time around:

  • Having an interest in dolls or the colour pink does not make a child a girl. Boys can and do like these things on occasion too, and would more often, only they’re discouraged from doing so.
  • It’s not bigotry for people to refuse to have sex with someone else, irrespective of whether or not that someone else is a member of an oppressed group. Sexual intercourse is not a part of the commons to be dolled out via social justice campaigns.
  • Nobody is obliged to find penises sexually attractive. Nobody.
  • “Women have a right to abortions” is a legitimate political statement.
  • The concept of the “cotton ceiling” may not have originally been intended as rape-cultured, but it’s at least acquired that status.
  • Telling women on social media to suck your cock because they disagree with you makes you a misogynist.
  • Without assuming gender essentialism, “cis” doesn’t mean anything.
  • Sexual discrimination, as distinct from gender discrimination, exists and is enforced by implicit and explicit gender roles, sexist laws and institutional biases.
  • Intersex people exist.
  • The violent individuals who bash trans people in public toilets are far more likely to be men who don’t read Germaine Greer or Julie Bindel than women who do. They’re far more likely to be men who are far more likely to pay attention to the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Sam Newman (i.e. not feminists).
  • Whatever their mistakes, laying blame upon radical feminists for the actions of violent men they have no influence over is disingenuous at best.

Each of the above statements has met at least two of three selection criteria to be listed, the first two criteria being necessary, and the third optional; I actually believe the statement; I have seen people castigated by purportedly liberal-left or radical-left individuals for expressing the statement , and that I have seen a good number of my reflexively GLBT-supporting friends essentially making the same statement themselves.

If the above really does make me a transphobe, and you happen to be one of my lefty friends reading it, the odds are that you’re a transphobe too and I’ve seen you being it. Congratulations. Although I suspect the odds are that you’re less likely to be called on it if you’re a man, you never know. I’ll leave you to ponder what you’ve done wrong, because obviously I’m not going to be able to enlighten you, what with thinking all of the above is just lemon-peachy.

Trans acquaintances reading this will likely already know about this far better than I could articulate, possibly having been told that they’re self-loathing transphobes for expressing similarly verboten sentiments. (From where I’m sitting, this kind of condemnation looks an awful lot like calling vanilla-gendered men “misandrist beta cuck mangina” just because they happen to believe in enthusiastic consent, personal boundaries and so-on.)

As for those who I’m not acquainted with, I suspect either you’ve got enough here to judge me by, or you’re not inclined to judge. If you are inclined to judge, but can’t find anything objectionable, I’m sure you can copy and paste something from somewhere that makes you feel suitably righteous. Either way, it’s your call, and I can leave things at this point knowing that I’ve been forthright and open.

If it comes to it, please be decent to one another in the comments. I’ve seen this stuff get nasty before. Now if you’ll excuse me, a bus has got me to catch.

~ Bruce

Easing into it

So, a small handful of people may have noticed that I’ve posted a few posts in relatively short succession, at least by my former standards. I’m hoping to maintain this pace more or less indefinitely.

After the next few weeks, after renewing my ASA membership and paying some bills, I’m hoping to commission a graphic for the page header, and maybe crop that down into a profile pic for the Facebook page (and for individual posts on Facebook). I already have an artist in mind, so I’m not looking for suggestions at this point (thanks all the same).

I do have to generate a new blogroll. Some of the larger blogs from back during my more active blogging years have gone and shut-down, and I’ve grown a bit distant from some of the authors. My connection to the rest of the Oz blogosphere, the atheosphere, and the left-end of online content has changed a good deal, and the blogroll will no doubt reflect this. I’m probably feeling this a bit more keenly than I should, maybe because tomorrow will be the 12th anniversary of the commencement of my blogging.

Things haven’t been fully tied-in with Twitter and Facebook yet – I still haven’t automated the posting of links to new posts with either. And I really do have to wake up and pay attention to the latest norms of social media publishing/aggregating/promoting.

A selection of older posts from past blogs will need to be imported, a short “About This Blog” page and a longer “Circling The Abyss” post will be nutted out in due course, and maybe I’ll forge something resembling a comments policy. Blog comments threads aren’t what they used to be, so I’m still debating with myself about this. Possibly a short comment in the sidebar would be adequate – something along the lines of AV’s reserving the right to be capricious, back on Five Public Opinions all those years ago.

Themes! So what will I be writing about anyway?

I haven’t delved into humanism as deeply as I’d have liked before, so there will certainly be more of that. My own humanism stems more from Dewey, than from Kurtz, which would potentially put me at odds with a number of Secular Humanists, if not cause at least a difference in emphasis. I’m entirely secular, but the focus Secular Humanism has had upon issues involving religion seems to me to have had the effect of subtly shifting Secular Humanism into a position of reaction; Secular Humanists are pretty clear about what they’re against where religion is concerned, but get them to articulate what they’re for, and how this may conflict with other secular viewpoints, and things sometimes get vague. There’s a lot to be written about here, I just have to work out what, exactly, and in what order.

I’m writing a book, presently, to shop around to publishers at a later date. It’s fiction. A lot of issues I wouldn’t mind writing about pop up in the work behind the scenes – especially regarding the subject matter. More on that another time though.

I haven’t regularly responded to goings on in the news for some time now. Even on my previous blog, where I posted a tad more frequently, analysis of the news wasn’t really a focus like it was before. I suspect this contributed to the decline of my traffic, which isn’t in and of itself a reason to alter my content, but still, a few more interlocutors attracted to discussion couldn’t hurt (provided they aren’t numpties). I should, if I can manage it, up my participation in this area.

I’ll probably cap off some of the more autobiographical threads I had running though Rousing Departures, albeit in as little an autobiographical manner as possible – abstract where feasible, generalize where it makes content relatable and relevant, and so on. I suspended my reservations about autobiographical writing a number of years ago, and while it served a purpose, long-term, with only a few exceptions, it’s just not my thing.

Maybe, just maybe in the midst of all this, I’ll throw in a little Linux or tech post here and there when Halt and Catch Fire, and Mr Robot are on air. That may be fun.

And hopefully, if I can really get off my arse, I’ll write a few reviews of gigs, albums, books and the like. I need to get into the swing of a regular system first, though.

Until then…

~ Bruce

10 Things To Consider When Reading That Progressive Listicle

As much as I’d like it to be otherwise, the reality is that listicles are going to be around for some time yet, and would-be progressives are going to use them in trying to get their message across. Rather than just condemn them outright, I’ll swallow my pride and raise some issues concerning the way they’re read, for the benefit of fans/addicts of the format – i.e. in listicle form.

1. Rote content isn’t geared for maximal moral comprehension because it can’t be. Listicles of the morally persuasive kind don’t have the space for complex moral calculus, counter-factual analysis, meta-ethics, interpreting statistical outliers or handling large arrays of case studies. Either a listicle is confining itself to simple issues people may have overlooked, or giving a limited glimpse at something more convoluted – it’ll never be the last word on serious ethical inquiry.

2. Gospel is for kids. Specifically, I’m referring to the “pre-conventional” to early “conventional” stages of Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.  Rote rules are more or less great for avoiding punishment… if you’re in kindy or a cult.

Kohlberg’s stages are contentious – more so than you’d want to go into in a listicle, so I won’t – but one of Kohlberg’s points that isn’t that controversial is that literal obedience to commandments, in thought, is not indicative of fully-developed moral reasoning. You may have not have a choice in the matter, but if the limiting factor in getting beyond gospel is the way you think about right and wrong, then developing the way you read a given progressive listicle may be more important than the content of that listicle.

“BUT [THOUGHT LEADER] SAID! *Inserts link to unoriginal electronic pamphlet*” – Derpy McInternet demonstrating poor moral reasoning.

3. Discussion is important, and not everyone is as good (or bad, or mediocre) as you. At no level of ability is it going to help ethical discussion for a person to consider themselves the pinnacle of correctness. Even at the top end of ability, doing so models poor mental strategy, and it’s not as if the very best will ever be right about everything ever published on lists of right and wrong anyway.

4. “But Hitler!” It’s not hard for everyone in a group to be right about the Nazis. A lot of propositions concerning the Nazis are pretty easy. I’m not going out on a limb by saying that “don’t kill all the Jews” is pretty fucking good advice.  But if you think you need to share a listicle to trot off things that obvious, for your friends and family on Facebook, then you may have bigger problems to deal with.

Are your friends and family on Facebook really that bad, or do you just like stating the obvious?

5. Progress doesn’t magically equate with the future, or with youth. I’ve been seeing a few millennials taking it for granted that prior to the last few years, with Trump and all, things had been getting more progressive year after year. This is not to condemn millennials, it’s just that left-wing Gen-Xers have been bemoaning the shift to the right for decades now. Homelessness and poverty, among other terrible regressions, have been increasing across the board in English speaking countries, and in spite of increases in economic productivity. For years now, politicians have been treading on egg-shells around proto and neo-fascist elements, yet if you put the same fascist wankers in proximity to a 1980s Australian Prime Minister, there’d be fireworks. Some thing have become more progressive, others not.

“We are the future!”

Everyone fucking is up until the point they die. Please spare us this bullshit.

6. Progress is a work in progress. How arrogant do you have to be to think that a few abbreviated principles on a clickbait article positions you as the end-point of a discourse? Unless it’s something obvious like “don’t kill all the Muslims”, the odds are that people will have more to say on the matter, and that there are people other than you working on it; possibly even people who don’t learn their politics from clickbait listicles (they exist!) People socially adjacent to you will likely be at different levels of understanding at least on a few topics. Some, as smart as they are, will be years behind you, while others may very well see your sharing of “10 Wokey-Woke Things To Make You Uberwoke” as representative of where they were years ago.

This works at all scales – entire countries on average lag, and advance, accelerate and regress, changing in terms of progress on any given issue, relative to other nations (e.g. Australia used to be a world leader in environmentalism, and now we’re shit at it). And the discussions between and within are similarly stressed. Unless you are the most progressive person that can ever live, at some stage something’s likely to come at you from a place of relatively greater enlightenment, and it could come at you from any angle. A listicle won’t prepare you for these circumstances. Progress is messier than that.

7. This also means there’s a backstory. How much do you know of the internecine disputes that lead to a contentious position being articulated, and why those internecine disputes happened in the first place? Did you even know, for example, that sections of the left have been criticizing “identity politics” for decade upon decade, or did you just assume that “identity politics” was something only grumpy, white, male, racist retirees up in Queensland complained about? Are the different groups invoking the words “identity politics” even talking about the same thing as each other? What happens when two or more lefties from the same disadvantaged social group come along with differing analyses? Are you going to just “shut up and listen”? What then? How do you decide when there’s contradiction? How do you tell which one’s right on a given point (or less wrong)?

Here’s something to ponder; how do you effect progressive change without making decisions? Even if you’re entirely obedient, you’ll still have to decide who to obey. Is your beloved listicle apt to help you with this kind of quandary?

8. The medium alters the message, especially when the medium is the market. Sometimes it’s not profitable to tell the whole truth. Sometimes that’s because things like long form are more informative, but disengaging, and at other times it’s because the whole truth is wildly unpopular with exactly the demographic who needs to hear it. How much less confronting is it to tell white people to just not think about race, than it is to point out that they’re probably to varying extents the beneficiaries of structural racism? There’s a profit motive in not pissing off your audience, and not infrequently media outlets will moderate the truth not as an educational strategy, but as a marketing one. Further, if a social group, even a disadvantaged one, has enough money in aggregate, there’ll be some marketing asshole contriving ways of influencing them to spend it on baubles and bullshit, and some of those marketing assholes will be apt to sell those baubles and bullshit as liberatory.

If your listicle is published from an outlet with a profit motive, you may want to pay closer notice to the lexicon they use and the language they erase. (E.g. Keep an eye on that dematerializing “i” in GLBTi, while it fades away out of marketability).

9. Class matters, as uncomfortable as that may feel. It’s very easy for presumptive progressives from the upper middle class to say “I support a progressive tax structure and increased spending on services, infrastructure, health, education and welfare”, even when there’s actually a chance of it happening. It’s so easy, that even conservatives argue for it on occasion; just tick that box. Actually staring the consequences of class in the face is not so easy, for anyone. That shit’s ugly.

It’s oft complained about; the spectacle of condescendingly telling a homeless or working poor white man that they have privilege. I don’t buy into the idea that it’s wrong, per se, for a middle class person to have a discussion with a poor person about privilege, where the middle class person may have the bulk of the theoretical content to impart. Rather, when it does goes wrong, I suspect the problem is that you have people who are usually middle class or better off, trying to curtail discussion of uncomfortable topics; functionally, valid concepts like white privilege and male privilege are being (mis)used as a bulwark against discussion of class – a diversion to protect middle class egos. Does your listicle do this?

10. It’s a heuristic approach. You’d possibly be helped realizing when you’re using a heuristic. A heuristic is a process, or rule, that while not able to be proven universally true, produces true results in enough cases to be usable. Anti-virus software uses heuristics – they attempt to locate viruses using a set of rules, rather than computationally intensive proofs, and when all is well and good, these rules will identify viruses correctly. Occasionally the virus checker won’t find a virus that is present, or it will wrongly identify desirable software as a virus, but as a rule, it’s still better to have a virus checker than not*.

The odds are, in dealing with things as complicated as social phenomena, and with the limited nature of listicles, the progressive rules you’ve adopted from listicles are heuristic in nature. Like the rules of anti-virus software, occasionally even well crafted listicle rules will turn out to be wrong. Like anti-virus software, progressive heuristics can date and be circumvented by malicious parties. Like anti-virus software, progressive heuristics can even occasionally be co-opted to become a part of the problem (again, the market is good at this).

These drawbacks make heuristics neither inherently good nor bad – it just means you have to be vigilant and know there are limits, and beyond those limits you need other, usually more demanding methods. Methods to spot tricky regressive ideas, and to fix the heuristics that fail to find them well enough.

If you’re busy, and you don’t have to time or resources to deploy such methods, then like a lot of other people, you’re in a pickle. You can either trust your heuristics or trust someone else who has the time to check them for you. The bind in this is that you’ll have to trust someone, or something, at some point, and it can be hard to know who or what to trust, such that’ll you’ll be bound to be disappointed at some point. Get used to it.

And it would probably help if you’ve learned your politics from listicles, to not pretend to be an infallible moral authority, above and beyond your fellow progressives. There’s a listicle heuristic for you.

~ Bruce

* This sentence is a heuristic as well; “it’s still better to have a virus checker than not” will likely be untrue in some cases, and possibly increasingly so as virus checkers fail to keep up with newer security threats.

Things I would like by 2018

I know lists are a product of lazy writing, and I’m being a bit demanding, but if you could manage some of these things by the end of 2018, World, that’d be great. You may need to get started on some of them sooner rather than later, and it’s not an exhaustive list.


Impeach Donald Trump while politically knee-capping Pence. This requires no further explanation.
Bring back the old, odd, discontinued flavours of Quik, from back when Quik was called Quik.
Release a properly funded, animated biopic on the life of Slavoj Žižek, produced by Ralph Bakshi. This isn’t to say that I’d watch it, only if it were properly funded, it could become one of those mass-distributed, disposable things that sit in remaindered bins, which would suit Žižek’s brand of perversion quite well. Also, Bakshi wouldn’t be screwed by financiers for once.
Impeach Donald Trump. Please.
Another double dissolution for Malcy. Maybe after contriving Shorten’s stepping down for Albo (optional).
Turn surrealism upside down and let the misogynists fall out. Dali’s crypt will have to be cracked open for this.
Have more Adelaide locals buy their tickets to gigs in advance, instead of just turning up on the night; it’s stressful enough for promoters and organizers getting bands to travel all the way out here without the added layer of financial ambiguity.
Have the Black Sabbath legacy treat Tony Martin with a bit more respect – and re-release those IRS albums!
Stop treating millionaire activist celebrities with 7-figure corporate contracts as radical revolutionaries. Some of them may be nice people, but they’re too entrenched with the status quo to be radical.
Stop viewing feelings of “empowerment” born of bromides sold to you by corporations as liberating, and start viewing them as being like the compliments given by abusive partners in toxic relationships; manipulation purposed to make you psychologically dependent.
Stop pretending woke commercials are less shallow than that Pepsi ad. (Especially the yearly hypocrisy aimed at selling lamb, Australia).
Paris Accord.
Build the biggest, fattest base-load solar-thermal generator you feasibly can at Port Augusta. Investigate the feasibility of building a smaller one at Whyalla.
Get Australia talking about a treaty.
Get Paul McCartney to apologize for Wings.
Better protect the world’s libraries.
Give more arts grants to emerging artists who need it, and less to wealthy people who don’t.
Vaccinate your kids.
Realize that paleo is bullshit.
Be kinder to animals.

~ Bruce