Why the Prime Minister is going to the New York climate summit  


Hmmm, this optimism before the climate change meeting does not sound promising. My prediction is that the groups who have formulated this report will be disappointed at the “unambitiousness” of the resulting agreement rather than be thankful that 196 different countries are able to talk and find some sort of agreement on anything.

Originally posted on green alliance blog:

Global deal_CoverA version of this post was first published by the New Statesman.

A new joint report from Green Alliance, WWF, Christian Aid, RSPB and Greenpeace believes we will have a global agreement on tackling climate change by the end of next year. If we do, it will be an exceptional event. Nations working together is no longer the fashionable way to deal with  problems. The UN is looked upon as indecisive, the EU is seen as technocratic and even the United Kingdom is barely living up to its name. And yet the Prime Minister has just announced he will be heading to New York later this month to meet with other world leaders to discuss getting a global. Why would he bother?

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Eurovision: a real English victory

This is slightly late for a post-Eurovision post but maybe it could be considered pre-the next one. Every year, I sit down with my family and much of Europe to watch the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 because its the one night of the year when being European turns from concept to realisation.

The United Kingdom did not do as well this year (2014) with Molly’s “Children of the Universe”, admittedly one of its better entries in the last 10 years, but it still did not get enough points to be placed on the left-hand side of the results board. This is where lots of people – not me – grumble about political voting. I would argue that political voting is not such a big problem any more, if it ever was.

The U.K. is actually one of the most successful countries to perform at Eurovision. Since 1959, it has taken part every year but most of its success has been before 1999. It won five times, came second 15 times and, before 1999, only twice did it end up outside the top 10. Still, even the points scores since 1999 contribute to its success, as it has the one of the highest cumulative scores for the contest (joint second). If you are geeky like me, you are going to love the Wikipedia pages on Eurovision.

So why has the U.K. not done so well since 1999? I would argue it is because the contest has both become more competitive and fairer. The oft-made complaint of juries and judges, in whatever context, is always going to be bias – whether its true or not. But, as with X-factor, its far more difficult to make that complaint of the public voting. Indeed the U.K. won and gained a record number of points for any particular year in 1997 when televoting was introduced.
On top of the greater number of people who can have a say through televoting, there are many more countries taking part. That increases the randomness, although this is controlled to an extent by the introduction of semi-finals. Of course, this helps with management and timekeeping. But there are five countries, including the U.K. that have never had to go through the filter of semi-final stage on account of being the biggest contributors. Is this fair? On the basis of recent results, the U.K. would probably not even qualify for the final and perhaps that’s the problem. It could also be argued that the automatic qualification of the Big Five is not fair to them either because they do not have the same level of exposure and relationship building with the audience. On the other hand, it could also be argued that the Big Five do not to have to win because they already have a more important impact. Without their contributions, Eurovision would be half the show it is.

I would argue that the big change has been the dropping of language requirement for songs to be in a country’s official language. You are most likely to like and vote for songs you understand. What is often referred to as political voting is really an example with sticking with the familiar. Now overtwo thirds of Europeans speak English, but i suspect that there has been a drive to learn English for a long time. It is not surprising that most entries at Eurovision are in English. This suggests perhaps that before 1999 the U.K. had an advantage, now it does not.

A Good Friday poem: Deathbed Conversation

Father, Father, why have you, forsaken me?
Why does it feel like you’ve walked away from me?
They’ve left me to die, hanging on this tree,
Even though they’re the guilty ones, not me.
I know  that this is the crux of your grand plan,
To reconcile yourself with sinful man,
but part of me wonders why I agreed
To go through this hell so that they may be freed
from lives that are rife with lust and greed
But it seems to be what you have decreed.
But since that’s your word, who I am to dissent?
I rest assured that this is not the end,
That though I die, I shall live again
And return to be with you in  heaven
And I shall see those who trust in me   
And trust my death will set them free.
Thus, in your court, I stand accused,
I accept your judgment for what others do,
And wait for you to rescue me 
To rule by your side in heaven for eternity. 

(C) 2014 Pravin Jeyaraj

Happy Epiphany: Coca Cola bearing gifts

A belated Happy New Year. More importantly, Happy Epiphany (today). Or, if you are an Orthodox Christian, Happy Christmas (starting today or soon).

According to the stats, my blog is multicultural.

That’s what I like about Epiphany, when the the wise men came from somewhere in the East to see and worship Jesus. From the very beginning, it reminds us that Jesus did not come for a singular culture; the Gospel isn’t a Jewish or Western thing.

The same account in the Bible also sees Mary and Joseph, with Jesus, becoming refugees fleeing persecution by the regime of the time and others being killed.

I think both of these aspects of the Christmas story speak a lot to the world as it is today. 

Oddly, only one advert has captured this paradox: Coca Cola. I have reposted an advert from 4 years ago and this year’s version as a last (or first) day of Christmas gift.

From 2010

From 2013\4

The Gospel is like a bottle of Coca  Cola: everyone can share in it, it united all.

How was your Christmas Day?

Perhaps this is a question you’ve already been asked in the post-Christmas, pre-New Year lull. What was your answer? Or maybe it’s something to look forward to when you go back to work or school. How would you answer? For me, it was exciting.

Christmas Day was not exciting because of the presents I received. That’s not to say they were not good presents and I am not thankful for them. But the last time I would describing receiving presents from other people as exciting is when I was a kid.

It was not exciting because I spent it with family. Again,that is not to say it was not good time but, as I live with my parents and see my sister and brother-in-law regularly, Christmas Day was arguably in many ways just like any other day of the year.

Indeed, for 13 years, I increasingly found myself asking what’s the point of Christmas? If Christmas Day is not special because of presents and family, why bother celebrating it? 

I became excited about Christmas seven years ago, when I became a Christian.

Presents and family are precisely what Christmas is about, not in themselves but as symbols of God’s gift to humankind to welcome us back into his family. His son, Jesus Christ, was born as a human to live as one of us, be executed for all of us and come back to life so that each of us could be forgiven of our sins and be with God for eternity.  
Why do you find Christmas exciting or not? Please leave your answer below.

Christmas Thought: Waiting for Jesus

Its now 7 am on Christmas Day 2013.

The two days before Christmas Day is traditionally busy for me, but not because I am doing my Christmas shopping or trying to get home for Christmas. I live with my parents and I would have sorted out presents by then. On Christmas Day and during Advent, Christians remember not only that God came to Earth as a human, jesus, but also that Jesus will come again.

There are different views on how this might happen. Some Christians believe that Jesus will first return quietly like a thief in the night, take all genuine Christians of all time to heaven suddenly (the rapture), let Satan wreak havoc for a few years (the Tribulation) then come back in visible full force to judge everyone. This is meant to be a final attempt by God to let people accept or reject him. Other people believe, however, that there is no rapture and that we are going through Tribulation at the moment – I lean in this direction. Through my PhD, I am increasingly realising that ideology, including capitalism and communism, is the work of Satan. There are other interpretations too but all Christians agree that Jesus will come back when no one expects it for a Last Judgment. No one knows when though – only God does, as the Bible says, so if anyone claims to know he or she is a false prophet.

I always think therefore, how do I want Jesus to find me when he returns. This soon morphs into, if there is a rapture how do I want to leave my room for others to find.

Of course, Jesus could come back any day of the year. But the deadline of Christmas Day motivates me to do a mass spring clean just in case. This is why the last two days have been hectic but last night it was all done. (There’s still more to do but I’ll need something to do if Jesus doesn’t return today.)

So its now 7:45 am on Christmas Day. I am getting up to celebrate his birthday.

Happy Christmas.

Everything changes but you

Dear Green PhD,

Two months a ago, I wrote to you to break up you.

I’d been so busy worrying about and trying to finish my PhD (still am by the way) that I did not have time to think of you. I thought that my lack of continual lack of inspiration was a sign that our relationship had run its course.

I thought that you had been a fun distraction from the serious relationship with my PhD.

But I was wrong.

I’ve realised that you are as much an important part of my life as my PhD. Indeed, my PhD is the one whom I’ll be with for a short period of time – just nine months to go to now. But I can be with you for as long as I like.

In fact, you’re the one whose been creatively supporting me during my research and enabling me to play with ideas that won’t make it into the final cut. Just because I was having trouble communicating with you, it didn’t mean that we were finished. Perhaps I just needed a break, which I have had.

Once my PhD is finished, all I will have with you. To quote the ancient wisdom of Take That:

Everything changes but you,

We’re a thousand miles apart but you know I love you.

Everything changes but you.

You know, every single day I’ve been thinking about you.”

Please take me back.


Change: the universal constant

Dear Green PhD,

I’m sorry. I’ve not really paid you much attention in the last six months and I’ve totally neglected you in the last two.

I’ve been so busy worrying about and trying to finish my PhD that I really didn’t know what to say to you. I thought better to ignore you than suffer the uncomfortable silences of two months of posts.

But I know what the problem is.

We came together a year after I started my PhD. Researching and writing my thesis has been hard work, though enjoyable, and you offered me moments of light distraction to reflect. However, the deeper my relationship with my PhD became, the longer the distance between our moments together.

It wasn’t you.

It wasn’t me either.

With my PhD now close to completion, it’s just that “you and me” has run its course.

Yes, I am breaking up with you.

It’s time for me to move on and make a fresh start.

All the best,


After the viva…Can’t stop falling in love with you

“Wise men say, ‘only fools rush in’,

But I can’t help falling in love with you”

- UB40

In the first year of my PhD, my supervisor made an interesting comment about my theoretical reading. He said that I fall in love easily. He was referring to my tendency to want to jump from one theory to another whenever I came across a new one. When I submitted my registration document, three months after initial enrolment, I was proposing to use a theoretical framework that somehow brought together the work of Hegel, Luhmann and Sloterdijk. I soon realised that it was going to be way to unmanageable and I decided to stick with Hegel. After attending a conference, I almost dumped Hegel in favour of Foucault; fortunately my supervisor emphasised the importance of committing to a particular theory. I remember making the decision that I was going to stick with Hegel as the basis for my theoretical framework come what may.

Yet somehow I managed to come away from my PhD viva with the overarching comment that there were too many theories in my thesis  – and as a result they were superficially connected by the use of metaphor rather than exposition from the literature. The irony is that I thought I was being restrained. I started with Hegel and moved to readings of his work by Jessica Benjamin’s psychoanalysis and Catherine Malabou. As far as I could see it was Hegelian. The problem is that having set a boundary, I inadvertently crossed it by looking at psychoanalysis and other work by Malabou. For some reason, I also felt inspired by my supervisor’s work and included that as well, not too mention the more minor interventions. I somehow justified it my head by saying that Hegelian dialectical philosophy allowed for it.  I ended up with a Hegel as my first wife and a philosophical harem.

So the last month or so, I have been trying to figure out which theoretical intervention are essential to my thesis, and which are just fluff. The examiners’ report has been very helpful in that regard. The problem with it is that the examiners themselves have made a number of alternative recommendations as to how I could proceed with my thesis. Perhaps too many recommendations, because I have been having trouble deciding which recommendation I should take.  So then I have to ask myself, what is the primary purpose of my research and what is the dominant idea I want to get across. I have been bouncing from one thing to the other this last month, unable to make a decision, worried that any decision will be the wrong decision. I am also seeing how much my thesis is like a ball of wall; if I try to pull on one particular strand, the whole ball comes apart. I think I am slowly figuring out my favourite theme. Oh where is my supervisor when I need him the most? More importantly, why did I decide that I wanted to have my viva the day before he goes on holiday for two months?

I said in a previous post that my PhD has been an opportunity to learn things about myself as well as my research topic. Well, I have learnt that this tendency to fall in love easily and difficulty with decision making has been an ongoing problem for me, to various degrees. I could write more on that, but I won’t out of respect for others affected. If past experience is anything to go by, I needed the shock of the viva to force me to make a decision (though I wish that the examiners had just made one or two recommendations). Once again,  as with the preparation for the viva, I think the most useful advice  comes from my dad, whom I paraphrase: “Right or wrong, the important thing is to make a decision; if it is the wrong decision, I have to work to make it right.” He said that in a different context. As i understand it though, it doesn’t matter how I decide to deal with the problem of having too many theories in my thesis; I have to be able to justify it with proper evidence.

I give the final words to UB40…

It’s been a long road…After the Viva

If you follow me on Twitter, you will probably know by now that I had my PhD viva on Tuesday 30 July. You will also probably know that it did not go exactly as I hoped. Instead of walking out with a doctorate, the examiners asked me to make amendments to my thesis, gave me up to 12 months and said that they expected the final version to be substantially different enough to require a second viva. I believe this is what is commonly known as major amendments, although the university regulations do not explicitly mention “minor” or “major”.

As I expected, the first question was “Tell us about your thesis”. My supervisor had previously advised me about drawing up a metaphorical roadmap in order to answer this question. Oddly, though, I found the most helpful tip came from my dad. As an incredibly practical, qualified engineer, who had always worked in industry rather than academia, he suggested using headings of aims, objectives, methodology, findings and conclusions. As my research is in a humanities subject, I was initially skeptical but I tried it out. With some amendments to make it appropriate to my thesis, I found it worked. As a result, it turned out to be my best question. It was downhill from there.

I can’t remember exactly the order in which each examiner spoke. I can’t even remember the specific questions asked. Indeed, I found that I only became aware that there was even a clock in the room towards the end, when the examiners had clearly stopped asking questions and started providing some feedback. (It was to my left, just out of vision.)  But what I do remember is that every question, whilst focusing on specific aspects, dealt with the same apparent problem: that I superficially connected concepts from different theories through the use of metaphor rather than a step-by-step exposition from the literature. The use of metaphor was appropriate in the context of my thesis, which was interested in the logical conclusion of the ongoing privatisation of regulation and general decentering. The problem was that I had not written that in my thesis and had not even realised that that was what I was doing until after the viva. Thus, I could not justify the metaphors. That probably sounds like I had not carried out proper research. Alarm bells started ringing in the viva itself when references were made to omissions of relevant critiques in the literature. For example, my theoretical framework is a large part on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right but I had not considered Marx’s critique. I also suspect now that I may have used one of the examiner’s own work out of context. Then, immediately after the viva, my supervisor and I were walking to a local cafe to conduct a post-mortem, and he mentioned his disappointment that the examiners did not realise what I had been trying to do. When he said that, a question came into my head: ‘What had I been trying to do?’ I suddenly realised that I did not know what I was trying to do – how, therefore could I expect the examiners to know? I did receive the blessing of my director of studies to submit, but I think that, under various pressures and due to poor time management, I may have induced labour before my thesis was ready. Liz Thackray and Jane Davis   perhaps put it best in responses on Twitter:

  • I delivered prematurely and the baby needed to stay in the neonatal unit before I could take it home;
  • The baby was fine but it needs cleaning and feeding before it can walk and talk; or
  • The baby needed major surgery.

I think that I might have had the wrong view of the viva to begin with. Beforehand, I was so keen on getting through without having to make any amendments. This was partly due to a focus on the end goal of a qualification, the doctorate, and the change in status from Mr to Dr. It was also partly due to the presence of “examiners”. I had likened the viva in my mind to a form of exam. So, when I did not walk out with a PhD, without having to make any amendments or only minor amendments, I was shocked and felt like a failure. But slowly, thanks to my supervisors, my PhD colleagues and the PhD community on Twitter,  I changed my perspective. Whilst the PhD is a qualification, it is also a piece of original research. It is perhaps misleading to refer to assessors or examiners; in reality, they are peer reviewers, in much the same way that I have peer-reviewed others’ work for publication. Given that the vast majority of PhD students are always asked to make amendments, with less than 5% getting through first time, I would perhaps argue that the viva is not an exam. Instead, the viva, the transfer/upgrade and registration are opportunities for your research to be independently reviewed by people who are not intimately involved in its development (that is, yourself or your supervisors). Of course, at the same time, the viva is also an exam, because of the possibility of failure. But, my supervisor gave the ok for me to submit my thesis and go through the viva because, despite its weaknesses, it was ready. It could have been readier but it was ready. So going through the viva and not failing or not being awarded an MPhil shows that I really am almost there.

At any rate, as my supervisor told me before the night before the viva, whatever happens, it is still an achievement to have made the journey from journalistic and policy-orientated writing to deep Hegelian philosophy.

So, I leave the final words to Russell Watson…

Reflections on my PhD

Almost a month has passed since I submitted my PhD thesis. I am this strange period of limbo: I am technically still a PhD student but I have nothing to study until just before the viva. There is a sense of plasticity; half of me is excited at having completed the text and being only one small step away from a doctorate and being called ‘Dr'; the other half resists as I restrain myself from becoming too excited until I pass the viva. Out of all my jobs and post-18 education, doing a PhD has been the longest project I have ever worked on; what’s more I came to an end of my own accord. There is also an element of sadness as I realise that the journey is almost at an end and I will have to move on. So I thought I’d write about some personal lessons from doing a PhD.

Firstly, there are some things I would do differently if I were doing my PhD again.

Get funding

I was fortunate in that my parents had said they would always pay for education, so when I found an idea I only had to find a supervisor and apply for a place. Certainly it meant I had no obligations to the university. However, I was continually aware that my parents were getting on years and the PhD is a big expense. Furthermore, I am aware that I do not have the experience of obtaining funding that my colleagues on studentships. Finally, if I had been on studentship, it would have probably been a lot easier to find teaching opportunities than it was through my own networking.

Set more deadlines

When people ask me how long it has taken me to do a PhD, I say three and a half years. Surprise, surprise, that is not completely true. It is not as if I have been working 5 days a week, 40 hours a day either researching or writing. In the last three and a half years, I have also organised events such as this, attended events and seminars, wrote articles and papers, invigilated exams and co-founded an academic journal and procrastinated. My productivity in relation to my PhD itself was like a sine wave, with peaks and troughs. What I discovered was that I was most productive whenever a deadline loomed. Without someone external implying a deadline, my brain thought I had all the time in the world. This is of course the big pitfall with the structure of the PhD. Now, one might argue that all that time gave me the opportunity to do all the other academic things. That may be true. However, I found that deadlines do not mean that everything else goes out the window, even when close to submission. Deadlines emphasise the need to manage one’s time and prioritise. Could I have completed my PhD in three years as I originally intended? On hindsight, probably yes. But I’ll deny it if asked.

Work from home or a library

I live in South London. My university is in Central London, (Oxford Circus to be precise), a one-hour commute. I somehow convinced myself that I would be more productive if I created the illusion of ‘going to the office’ every day. I stuck doggedly to this belief even though procrastination proved it to be wrong. Truth is, relatively speaking, very little of the time I spent in the office was actually spent on the PhD. Sometimes, as indicated above, there were other academic activities, but I think a good part was spent on simply web surfing. Perhaps, as well as setting myself more deadlines or targets, I should have taken a leaf from many of my colleagues’ books and also worked from home or from the library; really I only needed to go into uni to see my supervisor or if there were planned seminars and the like. I thought there would be more distractions at home but, in the office, there were just as many distractions. I did work from home in the closing months of writing up. I also found that my parents were possibly the most effective “motivator”.

 So that’s what I would do again. That”s not to say I haven’t gained enormously (and I don’t mean a doctorate – obviously I am anticipating passing my viva here). I have found that the doing a PhD is not just about undertaking objective research. It is also about doing subjective research, in the sense that it is a process of discovery about yourself. Yes, I have learned about environmental law, waste policy, Hegel, Catherine Malabou, psychoanalysis, posthumanism, feminism, etc. I have also learnt about myself. I have discovered I am a lot more conservative than I like to think. This is because I am a walking bundle of contradiction (or internal dialectic) as well as attached to people and things outside of myself (external dialectic).  In a sense, there is a dialectic between the research and the researcher. As I wrote in the ‘final word’ section of my conclusion, I projected myself onto Hegel and then Hegel projected himself (from beyond the grave, posthumously, through his text) onto me [Jeyaraj, 2013, 154-155]:

It is arguable that it is beneath the status of a philosopher like Hegel to apply his work to something as mundane and everyday as a household waste collection service. After all, he is the pivot around which the Left and the Right turn. However, if we are to stay true to his master/slave dialectic, then we must accept that, through a dialectical reversal, even a master like Hegel must humble himself and make himself a slave if there is to be a future for his mastery; otherwise, idealising him and putting him on a pedestal, away from the detritus, means that he quickly becomes irrelevant and is toppled. At any rate…Hegel’s whole philosophy was about turning humility and apparent defeat into victory. We are the masters now who depend on the labour of Hegel but, as we cannot see the body of his work, we must attach a prosthetic through our own plastic reading. In the beginning, we hover like a spirit over his text which appears to somewhat formless and empty. Through plastic psychoanalysis, we listen in to the dialectic, symbolising its operation with images stored in our own minds; as we read, we thus form the text, which then resists deformation. We say, ‘Let there be light’ and there is light. At the same time, Hegel, through his text and others’ reading of his text, projects himself onto us and reforms us in his image; we become Hegelian, with the ability to listen into the dialectic in his text but also see the dialectic outside his text. We therefore recognise Hegel and Hegel recognises us.”

Perhaps the most significant way that my PhD has changed me is that it has made my faith in Jesus Christ stronger. When I started my PhD, I had only been a Christian for 2 years, still very much a baby believer. Though I accepted them, I very much struggled with the various apparent paradoxes within the Christian faith. I was also frustrated by the way that other Christians were able to simply utter “it’s a divine mystery”. But as I learnt more about the dialectic – and no doubt through the work Jesus himself – I saw how it was possible for the co-existence of contradictions. What’s more, I saw a complexity and richness to Christianity and God that I wanted to dive into and bathe. And most recently I discovered that I did not have to choose between Jesus and my roots in Hindu culture. I am a dialectic between the two. So from a Christian from a Hindu family, I am now a Hindu believer in Christ.


My PhD thesis
My PhD thesis

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that I have finally submitted my PhD thesis on Tuesday 28th May at 2:30 pm. I wanted to wait a few days before I posted and reflect and the only thing I could think off was an account of submission day.

In a sense I have been working towards submission since my transfer (or upgrade). The consensus at the time was that I should be able to submit by April so only one month later than expected, although in theory I did have until September.

The week before, the Research Office had clearly been chasing my supervisor because he emailed me saying that I needed to give a final date for submission. (I had originally said I was going to submit at the end of March, which was the Easter bank holiday.) As I was only proofreading the text and had some “minor” technical issues to take care off such as the abstract, page numbers, tidying up footnotes, etc, I felt confident that I could submit by Tuesday 28th May. On hindsight, I probably could have taken the whole month, but knowing me, I would have let the final tasks spread out to fill the time. Anyway, there was a conference on 29th May that I wanted to attend and a podcast for the Westminster Law Review that I wanted to take part in. Furthermore, I had a whole bank holiday so, psychologically, I felt there was really no reason why I needed that extra time. I told my supervisor and he felt that my chances of submitting by 28th May were ‘favourable’.

I sent the final-ish draft to my supervisor by Sunday, 26th September, with a list of the key changes I had made and the things I still needed to do. There was a period where I wondered whether he would come back with more changes but, by Monday morning, he said I was good to go. The only part of my thesis he did not see was the abstract, which was the final thing I wrote. But anyway, by the end of the Spring or Whitsun Bank Holiday, I had  a full PhD thesis from cover to cover including appendices. It was 1 am. I went to bed, happy in the knowledge that all I had to do the next day was to print, bind and submit. I had planned in my head my schedule and felt that the last day should go smoothly. Of course, things never go quite as planned.

I had to oversleep, and woke up later than I intended. Immediately, I brushed my teeth, shaved (obviously), a quick shower and got dressed. There was no time for breakfast or to make my lunch, so I grabbed an apple, banana, a couple of satsumas and a couple of cereal bars. When I arrived at the train station, there was time for me to buy a coffee, which would effectively be my breakfast. Public transport was running fine, I think, and I arrived at the Law School Phd Office by 9 am. So timing not too bad.

Before I printed the thesis out, I decided to do a final scroll through of the table of contents and appendices. And I noticed that there was something odd about them. The text seemed a bit cramped, compared to the rest of the thesis. I realised that I had not used double spacing as per the regulations. Of course, once I rectified this, I then had to make sure that the page numbers in the table of contents matched up. This was made slightly more complicated by the necessity leaving a gap in the page numbers: I had to separately print off emails and other documents that I had obtained by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in order to redact the personal details of the sender as per Data Protection legislation. The actual printing of the thesis went smoothly – in the previous week, I had made sure that there was sufficient paper and a spare printer cartridge.

So, by 12:40 pm, I went down to Rymans with three copies of my thesis and a copy of the redacted FOI documents. I first asked the guy at the print desk to photocopy the redacted emails. I put the photocopies into my copies of the thesis. I was ready for them to be bound by 12:50 pm. Then I realised that I had forgotten to check what the actual requirements for binding were. My first thought was, do I need to carry these three PhD theses all the way back to the office? So I took a risk and askedthe Rymans guy if he would keep them to one side behind the counter while I went to look up the binding requirements. By just after 1 pm, I came back to Rymans; but it must have been everyone’s lunch hour because there was a queue of people and the guy who I dealt with previously was serving other customers. So I ended up queuing while I tried to catch his attention.

I eventually arrived at the front of the queue. Rymans guy took my copies from behind the counter and gave it back to me. When I separated the bundle into what needed to be bound (roughly 220 pages per copy), Rymans guy took one look and I swear he went pale. His immediate response was “That’s too thick for comb binding.” I started panicking and was that close to shouting WTF. To be honest, I had no idea of the different types of the binding and the university regulations simply stated that it had to be fixed binding so that pages could not be removed. Somehow, he found some hardback binding and, through a struggle, he managed to get the three copies bound.  I ended up paying more than I should have done (£25 per copy) – I found out later from a colleague and the Research office that Rymans guy did not know what he was talking about – but by that time I just wanted to get it done and did not have time to argue.

So by 2:15 pm, I was ready to go to the Research Office to submit. Oe f course, I had to carry three heavy, in essence, books, walking a good ten minutes. As it was raining, I also had to balance an umbrella in one hand. I finally arrived at the reception and told the receptionist that I had an appointment for 2:30 pm with the named person in the Research Office, before going to sit down. For the first time, it really started to hit me that I was about to submit my PhD thesis, after three and a half years. Then I started panicking that the Research Office would reject it because I might not have complied with the regulations. But it was fine. I handed them the three copies and had to sign a form to say it was my own work and that I did not object to my supervisors attending the viva (they won’t though) and that was it. I stepped out of the building, into the rain with my umbrella, and started walking back to the PhD office. I started smiling. And I treated myself to something from Pret a Manger. I am just the second person in my year’s intake to submit.

An alternative Star Trek theme tune?

Ok, I have to admit, I don’t know whether this is a parody or an actual rejected theme tune for Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. The presence of Weird Al Yankovic and Taryn Southern suggest the former. Nevertheless, after Star Trek: Enterprise (the series) I think it could pass off quite comfortably as a theme tune. Anyway, I felt like sharing…

Now the end is near and so I face the final curtain

If you reading this post, you’re probably expecting something on Frank Sinatra. I am sorry to disappoint. As I write, I have just finished the second draft of my PhD thesis (although it feels like a new first draft). Technically its not quite finished. I still have to put into the right format, tidy footnotes and get ok from my superviser but the hard bit is done. Of course I am way behind my own schedule. When I started, I was aiming for the end of my 3rd year in August 2012. This has kept being pushed back. First December 2012, then January, Easter, then i gave up on schedules.

I feel a lot happier about this draft than I did the previous one, which was more about getting it done. The irony is that I could have had a first draft sooner if I listened to orthodoxy.

Originally I had chapters of 15000-20000 words, which was normal. Then one of my contacts, whose area of research is the nature of doctorateness, suggested that I split my chapters into smaller chunks of 5000-8000 words to make them more readable to the examiner. This made sense to me. I spoke to my superviser, who did not object. So I could have had a first full draft in November. I decided to make smaller chapters. However I realised that splitting was not as simple as it sounded; each chapter needed its own introduction and conclusion something which I had already done before. So I ended up spending 2 months on restructuring before submitting to my superviser.

After receiving comments back, I ended up rewriting whole Phd and ended up back at the more orthodox-sized chapters I had originally. And I realised that, whilst there is nothing wrong with questioning tradition, it’s worth remembering that traditions don’t survive because they are inherently irrational. Indeed, following Hegel, one could argue that the negation of an orthodoxy that seems irrational is necessary in order to realise its rationlity.

So what’s my point? That there’s a time and place for doing it “my way” and its not when I am near the end.

Finally, for those of you who came to this blog post looking for Old Blue Eyes, here’s Frank Sinitra “My Way”

God did not make me narrow-minded

For someone with a broadly liberal outlook, it is disconcerting to be called narrow-minded. Before I became a Christian, I saw nothing wrong with sex before marriage, homosexual practice, abortion or inter-faith marriage. Since I accepted that jesus died for my sins, I have struggled with how I should view them. But in the end I accept that God has put forward a particular template for life; who am I as a lowly human to question God? Every time I try to reconcile his law with an opposing world view, I am saying that the manufacturer of the world is wrong. Thats like saying Microsoft cannot know how Word works (probably not the best analogy).

On the contrary, being a Christian has meant that I must be even more open-minded. As Peter writes in Acts chapter 10, God does not show favouritism to one group of people. Jesus died for the sins of all people. He will accept anyone who accepts this truth because they have been cleansed. So, being part of a global church family, i am called to love people whom my liberal self would have seen as the tools of the devil. I am called to love those who live what the bible calls sinful  lifestyles because I am a sinner; they need Jesus as much I need him. I am called to love my neighbour because we are all made in God’s image. And finally I am called to love an infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing God;  how can such a God be contained within the limits of mind? I have to open my mind just to consider him.

In truth, it is atheists who are closeminded because they cannot conceive what they cannot see. It is liberals who are closeminded because anyone who disagrees with them is biased, prejudiced, even if the reason for their bias is beyond the limits of this world. (Those who are biased because they hate others who are not like them are just as closeminded.) And finally, those who believe that there is more than one way to God and that all religions are the same are closeminded for not accepting a faith that says there is only one way to God.  

In my experience, trying to keep God out involves erecting some kind of mental boundary. It is like living in a closed society, that cannot look over the walls and becoming more and more fearful of what is beyond. The irony is that Jesus is outside, knocking, waiting for you to call him in; at the same time, all God needs is a crack in the wall and he will gradually knock it down.

For the record, I am still a liberal who believes in freedom. That is because only God can really free or liberate the mind.

15 Signs You’re An Adult

I am 35 years old. That means I am an adult. Big deal, you’re probably thinking, that happened 17 years ago when the law told me that I was an adult. Well, yes, but the realisation has been more of a slowburn.

This post has been inspired by Taryn Southern’s video of the same name, included below. So here are the 15 moments I gradually realised I wasn’t in high school any more, in no particular order.

1. Finding the women in furniture adverts are actually quite sexy.

2. Finding fhe furniture in furniture ads are also quite sexy.

3. Start to get drunk after only two pints.

4. Hungover the next day after only two pints.

5. Partly dreading your sister’s wedding because you know evergone will ask when you are getting married.

6. The ages of people getting married are not only the same as yours but have also carried on falling.

7. Internet dating and arranged marriage make sense.

8. Realising you haven’t watched much TV lately and not caring.

9. Having civilised conversations with your parents and, shock horror, laughing at their jokes.

10. The world did not end aged 29.

11. Sometimes agreeing with the Conservatives. Sometimes.

12. Realising you are more conservative and that revolution is not necessarily the best option.

13. Sexual fantasies end up in marriage; white wedding dress replaces black leather outfit, but you still say “I do” to the dominatrix.

14. Getting turned on by a hot property opportunity.

15. Finding that the best feeling in the world is being able to pass on what you have learnt to the younger generation, e.g. teaching.

So, on the whole, becoming an adult is not a bad thing. But I still have some way to go.

Not A PhD Thesis’s Review of 2012

Well, we’ve come round full circle to where we were this time last year: 31 December, the last day of the year. So, mainly because everyone else is doing it, this post is my review of the year from the point of view of my blog. (There is an ancient Tamil proverb apparently: if you see one man running down the road, ask why; if you see a whole crowd of people running down the street, don’t ask questions, just run.) However, unexpectedly, those nice people at WordPress have done the hard work and produced an ‘Annual Report‘ for me. (Another ancient Tamil proverb: Great people do things without asking.) The report itself is probably not the most interesting thing in the world unless you are me, which you are probably not, so I’ll let you indulge in the detail at your pleasure, and I’ll just focus on my most popular posts.

In the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, my post on the interesting “history” of the Dutchy of Cambridge is the fourth most popular post. Indeed, since it was written in the aftermath of the Royal Wedding in 2011, it has been in the top two for much of the time. Pretty impressive for something that based on a Wikipedia entry and perhaps one of the few posts which started with a bit of journalistic curiosity. It has lost its top position to that curious mix of God and sex; triggered by an article I came across in the New Scientist on what happens in the brain during sex and orgasm, I argued that there is a lot of truth in that “Yes, Yes, Oh God, Yes” moment. In essence,  sex was created by God to  give us a momentary glimpse of what it will be like to be in relationship with him in Heaven. This post was one of the first of 2012.

One of the most surprisingly successful posts, again written in 2011, came out of a conversation I had with my dad following the conviction of a gang of Asian men for grooming white girls. Somehow, the conversation got onto the bizarre subject of the traditional ‘coming of age’  or ‘age attainment‘ ceremony that Tamil parents arrange for their daughters following the first period. (I don’t know if other Asian cultures have something familiar.) I have always felt a bit uneasy about the ceremony for what is essentially a natural bodily function. I was quite shocked as to the original reason for the ceremony, back in the day, but was shocked even more that the tradition of the ceremony is still followed even when it is no longer relevant. What is interesting is that ‘age attainment’ was one of the most popular keyword searches of visitors to the site. It might also explain why I have had quite a lot of visitors (to the site) from India.

Of course, 2012 was the year that many people thought the world would come to an end, on 21 December. Of course, this New Age belief was a a very bad interpretation of the Ancient Mayan Calendar. A co-written post with @everythingreal, who I follow on Twitter, on what western astrology has to say about the day scraped in at number five. I have to be honest, I don’t know to what extent this post’s popularity was as a result of the topicality and to what extent it was down to heavy promotion on Twitter. I can be certain that this post brought a whole load of readers from United Arab Emirates, mainly friends and followers of @everythingreal who is based in Dubai.

Finally, perhaps the biggest moment of the year and of my life – my sister’s wedding – was the reason for my favourite post. In keeping with Tamil Hindu tradition, I was the Best Man (or Maapila Tholan), so of course I had to give the Best Man’s speech. And it went down really well, with people laughing in the right places; I received good feedback on the day too. I have recently seen myself speaking in the wedding video: I was amazing, if I do say so myself.  This post has been constantly in second place since the wedding. Of course, at the back of my mind, I thought that guests might be telling me what I want to hear. But, in the last weekend of 2012, at a birthday party, someone who was a guest at the wedding told someone else completely unprompted that my speech was  spot-on and well-delivered.

So, I have had an enjoyable year blogging even if my best ones had nothing to do with my PhD, Hegel, or environmental law. I have learnt that God, sex and the Royal Family sell, so to speak. (In that respect, I am really looking forward to the birth of the Royal Baby to William and Kate.) I have also learnt that it pays to be on Twitter, from a blogging point of view, as more people came to the site from there than from WordPress itself. Good writing and originality are important and I need to work on my presentation of Hegel.

So apart from the Royal Baby, what has 2013 in store? Most importantly, my PhD will be submitted and Not A PhD Thesis becomes Got A PhD Thesis. ( I don’t know whether and how I will change it on Twitter as well.) God willing, I will be able upload another wedding speech, but this time as the groom (I’m open to any offers). I will be back on the job market again, hopefully not too long (Again, I’m open to offers). I would like to take more contributions, so if you are interested in writing something, please contact me. And who know what will happen in the news?






The Irony of Plasticity

I have always been in favour of plastic Christmas trees over real, fresh ones. My parents bought one when my sister and I were really small – I don’t remember not having it – and we are still using it 30-odd years later. That means we contribute a bit less to climate change than those who opt for a fresh tree every year and we save money by being able to reuse the same tree (although, technically, fresh Christmas trees tend to be of the evergreen variety so could be reused if cared for). As the short film, Gloop, points out below, plastic is a fantastic material because it can be formed into any shape and, once shaped, resist deformation. French philosopher Catherine Malabou adopts the metaphor of plasticity to describe the dialectic or relationship between different entities.

Byproduct of oil production notwithstanding, plastic’s adaptability has led to somewhat of an environmental revolution in that products could be made without extracting finite natural resources. However, in an economy driven by capital, the resistability of plastic has had the unfortunate, unenvironmental effect of plastic mountains on land and sea. Furthermore, in the long term, it does break down, with smaller pieces ending up as part of the food chain. The irony is that this contradiction in plasticity fits with Malabou’s description of an underlying relationship between entities that influence each other who also resist the influence.

Christmas post: It is the thought that counts

It’s the evening of Christmas Day – presents unwrapped, stomach full and I am so tired. Personally I am content with this year’s haul. However I was disturbed to see loads of tweets in my timeline this morning from people moaning they didn’t get this or that. (Apparently iphones and ugg boots were particularly desirable.)

It does not matter what present or gift you receive or how much it costs. In a Hegelian dialectic, we exist when we recognise or acknowledge others as capable of recognising us. Whilst there is mutuality to the relationslip, there is an element of co-dependence. We desire recognition from the other through something the other can provide, and vice versa. The relationship is abstract when the self becomes aware or conscious of the other as someone/thing that is not the self, but it is realised when we not only act on that thought through our body but the other accepts our action. A relationship is therefore not just something intellectual or emotional but there is materiality. Giving presents is an expression of that materiality but when we prioritise the present over the act of giving or receiving, the relationship takes on a master/slave quality. When we receive a present, we can see that the donor thought about us. The present could be rubbish for all intents and purposes, it does not matter. However, if we think it is rubbish, it is perhaps an indication that we do not properly recognise the donor. On the other hand, the same applies if we put no thought into the present and give rubbish for the sake of giving.

Christmas of course is about a gift that God gave us. He thought of us and loved us that he gave himself in human form. The gift was about as expensive as it could get: it cost him his place in Heaven and it cost him his life in,the most painful way possible at the time. By comparison, any present we give to or receive from others is always going to be rubbish and fall short of our expectations. Hegel argued that the only way we can be content is to recognise ourselves or, as Slavoj Zizek says, to change our perspective.

The Procrastination Natio

This Christmas, I am probably entering what will be the end-game for my PhD. (I know, I have said that before, but I think I mean it this time.) By the New Year, I should have a full draft for submission to my supervisors and by March I will be ready to officially submit to the university. Actually, that deadline is as much externally imposed, because that’s when my funding runs out. You could say I am cutting it fine.

To be honest, that is pretty much my own fault. I had planned to submit by July 2012, then somehow it kept slipping back and back. I would love to say it is all because of the depth of my research. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For in the last three to four years, there were quite a few periods where I was not working directly on my PhD. Like all PhD students, I became particularly susceptible to procrastination. I was sent the following graphic recently and, in my opinion, it captures the struggle of the procrastinating student: the stress during procrastination, the rush once one is sufficiently close to a deadline, the ease with which technology facilitates procrastination and even the steps for tackling it.

Internships Infographic

Picture provided by OnlineClasses.org 


I have written a new post for the Legal Focus blog

Originally posted on Legal Focus:

By Pravin Jeyaraj

10 week old FoetusFormer UKIP candidate Geoffrey Clark was suspended after calling for an urgent NHS review into compulsory abortions of foetuses with Down Syndrome or spina bifida to reduce the national debt.

Clark argued on his website that people with the conditions could become financial burdens on the state. He also said a review should consider the legalisation of euthanasia for people aged over 80.

He stated that his comments were his personal opinion and that he was trying to provoke a national debate “for those disenfranchised with our politicians”. With reference to the Paralympics, Mencap branded his view “abhorrent” and questioned whether he was fit for public office.

On the face of it, it makes sense that Clark’s candidature – for the Meopham North ward on Gravesend Borough Council in Thursday’s by-election – was suspended; he seems to have said the government should consider eugenics. But all he has…

View original 266 more words

Media regulation: A Hegelian perspective

As I write, the town of Newtown, Connecticut, is dealing with the aftermath of an elementary school shooting, in which the shooter Adam Lanza killed 27 children. If that was not tragic enough, there has been one more victim, but this time at the hands of the media: Ryan Lanza, simply because he happens to have the same surname as the shooter.

According to Wired, various big name media outlets, such as CNN, Huffington Post and Slade, somehow identified Ryan Lanza’s Facebook page as the page of or for the shooter. This was picked up by social media and soon Ryan and even his Facebook friends were receiving, euphemistically, not very nice comments. Wired’s assessment was that in 24/7 news environment and a fast-changing story, media organisations were so hungry for information that they were not carrying out basic journalistic checks. But this is not a unique to the US. There have been plenty of incidents in Britain where the media have ignored or bent the law, in this case principles of journalism, for the sake of a story. The most obvious, recent, examples came out in the recent Leveson Inquiry, such hacking into people’s voicemails and taking personal, often intimate, information, without permission.

To me, these are clear manifestations of a Hegelian master/slave dialectic. A master entity, or entities, is only interested in its other – the slave – for what the slave can produce for it. The master’s life depends on the work of the slave. In this case, the slave is anyone from whom media organisations want information. The slave is valued according to how much information can be provided; the more open it is, the higher its media currency.  And, media organisations then value themselves against each other based on the quality of the information they provide. The problem is that they are not so much concerned with their relationship with the slave beyond its nature as an object of a story or provider of information. If the slave suffers adversely – or even refuses to work – it is considered a minor inconvenience at best, because there are others to take its place.

Sometimes the media justify their actions by pointing to us as readers, that we want to know. Perhaps to an extent that is true, but the question is whether we are interested in wrong information (what’s the point) or information that has been obtained at the expense of someone else’s suffering (if we are, then why have not used any of the Nazis’ research on eugenics? Just saying) Furthermore, one could question how much of the information that comes through media organisations is important, perhaps it is just another consumable. A further justification is that people who provide information have their own agenda for using the media and so it makes them fair game. We tend to call them celebrities, i.e. famous people. But the word ‘celebrity’ or ‘famous’ is becoming a broader and broader category. But, just as men (and probably still) would idealise women and put them on a pedestal, only to exploit them, so perhaps the media idealises celebrities.

The media acts as a master over people because it needs their information. The irony is that, as Hegel argued in his dialectic, the media is also a slave to people, because it not only depends on us for information, it also determines its value by how much we want its information. If we were to stop producing for it and then consuming what it produces, a media outlet or organisation would die. Or would it? On the one hand, a media organisation, by definition, mediates information between those who provide it and those who consume it. However, there is third party: those who fund that mediation of information, the advertisers and business owners. As long as media organisations can depend on the money – and PR – provided by commercial organisations, it almost does not matter that they do not think about their relationship with the public.  As long as they have the funds to exist, they do not need our information or our trust or love.

But I say almost. Just as there is a dialectic between the public and the media and the media and business, there is a dialectic between business and the public. After all, the business need the public to buy their products and/or to trust them. In this sadomasochistic love triangle, between the public, media and business, Hegel would argue that there is always a risk of dialectical breakdown somewhere. But it is that fear of breakdown – and the potential consequences – that prevents for the most part any one entity from pushing its luck too far. Sometimes breakdown does occur, but it is never so catastrophic that the system cannot repair it. There is also something posthuman about it in that now the public can be the media, those who work for media organisations or businesses can be people, media organisations are businesses, people have interests in businesses as employees, shareholders and future entrepreneurs, and so on.  But it is the creative tension in the system that actually ensures that – whatever else happens – everyone eventually recognises the right value of each other. If things went so smoothly, where would be the fun in (blogging or writing) about that?

The problem highlighted by Leveson and Wired is that media organisations ignore the law for sake of more and more information. However the media is regulated, the role of the law is to remind media organisations and journalists that they are in relationship to other entities and they have a responsibility to them. Whilst information is important, it is not more important than the underlying dialectic.

From Journalist to Academic: A Dialectic

As a fourth year PhD student, I am supposed to be in the position when I am ready to present my research to the department. If I were pregnant, I’d have a clearly visible bump, I’d be waddling and people would give up their seats for me on the bus. I’d also want to get the damn thing inside out of me. In a sense, I am ready to pop.

But when I gave a talk on my PhD research this week, it was as if I had only just done a pregnancy test. In fact, I was wearing so many extra layers that people could see I had put on weight but they did not know why. PhD research, like pregnancy and childbirth, suppose to be a beautiful process, but I had simplified it so much that I turned a baby, not even into a foetus but into a clump of cells.

In a former career, I was a journalist, and I now I blog and still do the occasional bit of copywriting. Like every other experience, it had shaped me in way that I was able to take useful life lessons. One of these lesson was: when communicating information, don’t assume that my reader or listener knows what I am talking about; indeed, it is generally a good idea to assume they know nothing. (Incidentally, I heard a similar version of this lesson in relation to driving: just assume everyone is an idiot.)  Of course, I don’t take this lesson to the extreme but I have always found it to be a helpful guide. I do not find it easy, it does require being extra-vigilant but generally others have complimented me on my comprehensive writing.

When I started my PhD, I continued to adopt this approach. It is possible that I have assessed academic books and papers based on how easy they were to understand and I generally prefer writing journalistically than in academese or in a managerial style. Indeed, I would argue that all writing should be journalistic. Indeed, I  have noticed that, in terms of structure, a news story, a journal article, a first class dissertation and a PhD thesis chapter are very similar. (Of course, a news story is more condensed.) My supervisor has now and again made references to my journalistic style of writing and to my alter ego as a blogger, then at our last meeting he said that I am writing more like an academic. To be honest, I had no idea what he was talking about. My undergraduate degree was in Mathematics and Computing Science,  did not have to the three years experience of writing academic essays, and then I went straight into journalism for three or four years. So when it went back to university to study law, I did not consciously write any different. I applied the skills I learnt as a journalist. A good essay was about research and analysis, as far as I could tell. So when it came to my PhD, I did not consciously think that I  had to write as an academic. I simply applied the skills and lessons that served me well, like a habit.

And so, knowing that there would be people who were not familiar with my particular theoretical framework, I decided to dumb down so to speak. I did not think of it like that, I simply wanted to make my research easy to understand. But there is a difference between simplifying in writing, where the reader has something to refer on paper, and orally, where all explanation has to come out of the speaker’s mouth, with or without the help of Powerpoint slides. Unfortunately, I found that I could not do justice to Hegel in a few slides, so I decided to speak only. Furthermore, like a journalist, I focused on one particular thread in my research. Unfortunately, this was the most unHegelian thing I could do. I ignored the dialectic between the different aspects of my research except the most basic of original Hegel and household recycling.

Throughout my PhD, there has been an underlying creative tension of the Hegelian dialectic between myself as a journalist and myself as a (potential) academic. In a sense, my PhD is a synthesis between what I knew as a journalist and what I am supposed to be learning as an academic. But, according to Catherine Malabou, that means that I was relying on a habit of journalism (what I know) and at least consciously resisting an aspect of academia. However, I was also submitting to academia as well, because I found that – by surprise – I was able to understand books in my third year that I could not understand in my first year. The dialectics between resistance and submission is plastic, in that both clearly were shaping it and it was resisting deformation . But then, there is an explosive quality to plastic as well. In my talk, I entered a situation where the need to submit was as strong as the desire to resist and I think I had a major explosion (or implosion). Perhaps I was have been applying the paradigm of journalism to situations where I should have been applying the paradigm of academia (whatever that is). Sometimes it worked and where it had not, I had put the failure down to something else. so, Thomas Kuhn argues, it was only when the conflict between two paradigms were sufficiently great that I reached a point of what Malabou calls le voir venir (To see what is coming). It was like a prophecy given by the Ancient Greek gods warning what might happen if I did not change course. The problem is how? What does say with regard to journalism and academia?

21/12/2012 – End of the World or Just Another Day?

When I realised that there might be a God after all, 7 years ago, I started investigating different world views. My first port of call, probably due to my penchant for science fiction and fantasy TV series, was the range of beliefs that have come to be known as the New Age Movement. It was not long before I came across accounts about the supposed significance of 21 December 2012, the last day of the calendar of the Ancient Mayans (apparently, they did really good calendar systems). Some said that it might be the date of the end of the world (otherwise why is there no Ancient Mayan Calendar for beyond that date). Others said that it was the date for the beginning of the Age of Aquarius and some major shift in the world’s consciousness, although the end of the world could also fit into that category too. Personally, it just seemed obvious – the Ancient Mayans did not have any calendar system for beyond 21 December 2012 because they had to stop somewhere and they probably hadn’t worked it out before their civilisation came to an end. Anyway, the Bible says that only God knows when the end of the world is. I have never been a big believer in astrology but I was curious what astrologers said about the day. That’s when I “met” @everythingreal on Twitter….

I was asked by Pravin to comment on the once-predicted and now over-hyped 21/12/2012 outlook. I am an astrologer by profession besides being a part of the publishing industry. I also have an MSc in Heath Psychology, which I think is enough proof to validate my prejudice against anything that has a fuzzy logic. Don’t get me wrong, I by no way am trying to discredit the Mayas or their calendar, but I feel – even if I had not looked at the planetary chart of 21/12/2012 – that it may be a bit too far-fetched for people to assume its the end of the world just because their calendar ends there. My astrology software that generates planetary charts also has an end-date. That doesn’t mean the world ends on that ‘last’ mentioned date.

To start off, I choose to state my conclusion now because I want you to read the whole article and not scroll down just to the end. Also, I see no point in keeping the conclusion a mystery throughout the article. So, in conclusion, the world will NOT end on 21/12/2012. And if it does – well – you can’t catch me.

Astrological chart for 21/12/2012
(c)2012 @everythingreal

The planetary chart for that day (see left) is interesting and eventful nevertheless. The energies are raw, especially planet Mars, who remains peregrine for most of the day (EST). Peregrine means Mars does not form ‘aspects’ to other planets and is located in its constellation of comfort. This means the energies of Mars will be completely raw and potent. The qualities of planet Mars are aggression, dominance, courage, action, and fighting spirit. With such raw energy available on that day there could be chaos, but seen on a micro-level, this could manifest as general restlessness or irritation, wanting to have work done on time, expecting results and bellowing at the top of your lungs if not done. Some could take a stand in areas that they weren’t able to earlier. Others could get over-zealous and over-ambitious about their ideas to do something fun, challenging or ambitious. This is a great day for personal ambition and will-power, so it’s definitely a fabulous time to begin or plan out creative projects or personal ventures.

On a more macro-scale, Pluto, the power-planet, and Sun, the life-giver, start forming a conjunction, i.e., moving closer together, which means there could be some collision or power-struggles between countries. This is too generic a statement, I know, but on that day (and the next few days), there could be hidden agendas revealed about a certain government or big functional organizations. When it comes down to organizations, these could be banks, investment banks, property developers, coal mining companies or oil companies. The underlying issue could have something to do with ‘over-indulgence’ or an over-exaggeration of some kind.

Moving on, this could also be a day when stock-markets around the world could be over-active. Lots of quick fluctuations, and share values of IT companies could increase, and perhaps one could expect drama with the values of commodities such as oil, silver, and gold. The price of these commodities could jump the gun in figures (go higher) quite a bit on 21/12/2012.

This is actually a great day to strike big financially, but its the experimenting geniuses who are going to walk away with the prize by the end of the day.

What I don’t like about the day is a possible manifestation of forest-fires and earth-quakes in sensitive or prone areas. This is also a day (rather a period – plus/minus 5 days) where extremist groups could get excited and make demands in sensitive areas.

Look, astrology or not, there’s always something or the other going on, just how it has been for the past years. These are simply the energies of that day, and keep in mind that energy is raw and is malleable according to the ‘free will’ of people.

What I DO like about the day is how wonderful it is going to be for couples. Venus is wonderfully aligned making it great for surprises and spicing things up. This is also a good day for meeting someone of interest out-of-the-blue as Uranus is also involved in the mix. The energies are such on 21/12/2012 where there is a possibility of receiving pleasant news. Depending on your own personal chart, this could be some fast-paced news about a new job, a sudden proposal, perhaps news of conceiving, or someone you know giving birth. This could also be news about a short and quick trip you may have to make soon.

So to wrap it all up, there is a down-side to the energies on 21/12/2012, but there is an up-side too. Basically, 21/12/2012 is going to be just like any other day of the year. Also, if nothing else happens, there could simply be a bundle of people creating ruckus around the world in anticipation of the world coming to an end. What I have done here is simply anatomized 21/12/2012, which I am able to do for any other day of the year.

@everythingreal is a writer, astrologer and psychologist. She can be contacted on Twitter @everythingreal

Being accountable for my PhD

My summer was, on the whole, very busy. Aside from two weeks off to watch the Olympics and two weeks over the period of my sister’s wedding, I have been holed up in the PhD office since June writing the final chapter of new material. My goal was to send my superviser the three main chapters for review by the time he comes back at end of September, and I did it.

I felt pretty good and can actually see the end of my PhD in sight. So, with my conclusion and introduction remaining, I formally started the writing up year. My superviser and I have previously discussed having a full first draft by Christmas – I said before, he suggested to use the holiday time. So not much longer to go. The trouble is, so far this month, I seem to have backslidden back into procrastination.

So today, with this blog post, I reaffirm my commitment to have a full first draft by Christmas (whatever that means). I will also be making this commitment on #phdchat and to my church homegroup. 

Being accountable for our time I have found is important. Otherwise, it is quite easy to waste time. Social pressure gets a bad wrap these days, but we cannot avoid it or eliminate it. Trust me, I’ve tried! Even Hegel – yes, him – says that true existence depends on (mutual) recognition by another person we see as equal. We care about what others think. Can you imagine what this world would be like if we didn’t?


When words fail us…

Originally posted on Tamára Out Loud:

Dear Reader-Friends,

I’ve been silent here for three weeks, longer and easier than I imagined. Thank you for your notes of concern and encouragement and especially for your prayers. They help, every single one. Please forgive me for not responding with my usual speed or faithfulness; it has certainly not been for lack of appreciation. You bless me, and I am grateful.

I wanted to tell you that I’d be on hiatus for a certain amount of time while I figured life out, but it turns out that life is a little more complicated than an orderly blog posting schedule allows, and so I have no idea when I will write here, but I do know that I will write because that is what I am here for. And as soon as I have life figured out, you’ll be the first to know, or at least you’ll be the first…

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The Radicalism of Nick Clegg’s Apology

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime minister, is actually quite radical in apologising for breaking the liberal democrats’ key 2010 manifesto pledge of not increasing tuition fees.

On hindsight, the pledge seems like just another crazy election promise that a governing party cannot keep. Yet, at the time, it was also something that was so easy to believe. Furthermore, the Libdems were neither the Tories nor Labour, so it was easy to believe that they could be different. So there was a lot of disappointment when they turned out to be more of the same. (I don’t think that’s a fair assessment.)

Clegg’s apology shows an awareness of a dialectic between resistance and change that is characteristic of Hegelian philosophy. in the opening chapter to my PhD thesis, I make the point that the only effective liberalism is conservative or incremental. It always looks to the future but lives from moment to moment. It would therefore take a brave politician to promise just a little bit of change. I disagree that the LibDems would have had to be “absolutely sure” that it could meet a manifesto commitment but a dose of realism regarding what’s possible would have been nice.

There is nothing wrong with aiming high. As my mum always said, if you aim for the sun, you’ll at least hit the moon. The problem is that sometimes if you only tell people you’ll hit sun, the moon can seem a bit of a disappointment.

Anyway, according to Hegel, we never actually know that we have reached our goal until we have. History is always written and rewritten after the event. Given this uncertainty, the most sensible option is to go in that direction one step at time. I would argue that many of our economic, social and environmental problems are perhaps a consequence of going too fast. Perhaps the reason why our economy isn’t growing is because the rest of the system is trying to catch up.

A loss of realism could be seen in other government policies too. For example, in the referendum campaigns for the Alternative Vote, both sides justified their positions with wild claims, when in reality the change was a small increment to greater representation. Discussions over the Royal Family also get a bit strange when they go beyond one of values to one of economic benefits. No doubt the same will happen with the referendum on Scottish independence. But at the end of the day, History does show and will show that we have always gradually been moving to a point where every individual will be  mutually recognised and acknowledged by other individuals and no aspect of a person will be suppressed.

A Best Man’s Speech for Hindu wedding

Yesterday my sister got married and, in accordance with Hindu tradition, I was the best man. This speech was probably the most important and difficult task I have ever done and will probably never have to do it again. And it was a success in that I received the laughs where I wanted them and everyone said how good it was. Even my Dad said so, without his added criticism. As far as I could tell, everyone loved it. I would therefore like to share it you, with the bride and groom’s deleted for their privacy. Hopefully it could inspire future best men’s speeches, just as I was helped by listening to others.


Ladies and gentleman, family and friends, thank you for being patient as you waited for the highlight of the evening: the best man speech.

For the benefit of those who don’t know me, I am Pravin. As the (bride)’s brother I have the traditional Hindu honour of being the best man. I have no other qualification for the role but 30-odd years of brotherly love. So at this point I would like to thank our parents for not having any more daughters.

Anyway, if tradition says that I am the BEST mane, who am I to argue with tradition?

What is the purpose of the best man’s speech?

Having listened to my fair share of best man speeches in my life, I was certain of what it was not. That meant it had to be mildly humourous, if possible, without embarrassing the bride and groom, while distilling some wisdom which hopefully   and could use. Then I remembered that, being single, I was perhaps not the most suitable person to give advice on marriage. 

I would like to thank the number of philosophers in this room who have provided advice on what makes a good marriage. The consensus is that a good marriage is about give and take, understanding each other and a fair share of allowing things to go in one ear and out the other.

After 30 odd years, I could probably tell a thing or two about living with (bride). However, the French philosopher Voltaire describes marriage as an adventure, so why would I want to spoil that?

Anyway, according to the German philosopher Nietzsche, what is most important is someone to talk to along the way. Since and both like the x factor, sport, similar type of movies and going to the temple, and from my own observation, I doubt talking will be a problem but, (groom), if you want to take a break, (bride) can make up the difference.

Socrates has some advice for (bride). If a man finds a good wife, he’ll be happy; if he finds a bad one, he’ll be a philosopher. I am not entirely sure what Socrates meant but his wife is recorded as being a bit of anag. However, I am not suggesting that (bride) is like that.

To toast my sister and brother-in-law, I turn to this famous, slightly-amended poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that one day they can look back and see it as reflection of their marriage.

How do I love you? Let me count the ways
I love you to the depth and the breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love you to the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love you freely, as men strive for right.
I love you purely, as they turn from praise.
I love you with the passion put to use in my old griefs, with my childhood’s faith.
I love you with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints!
I love you with the breadth,
Smiles, tears, of all my life;
and, if Destiny chooses, I shall but love you better after death.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand and raise your glasses to Mr and Mrs …, for the rest of your lives together and for eternity. 


A well-argued demolition of the myths that perpetuate the Sun’s Page 3, at least from a woman’s perspective.

I would add that Page 3 (and the lad’s mags) are damaging to men because it perpetuates the idea of the fantasy woman  and that women are sex objects. It  is also a possible doorway into more extreme forms of pornography, resulting in sex and internet addiction. My argument is based on experience rather than research. I would therefore argue that there is a logical and real connection between Page 3 and all forms of sexual abuse (whoever the victim).

One thing that my mum used to say when she discovered copies of FHM in my room in the past was: “I have to remember that I have a sister.” (I never really understood it until much later, when I had more experience.)

Originally posted on Slave of the Passions:

If like I did, you grew up in the UK, or have lived here at any point since 1970, you will be familiar with the existence of Page 3 in The Sun and other tabloid newspapers. For many people, I imagine that Page 3 is a feature of British life that they do not question or reflect upon. Or if they do think about it, they file it alongside Carry On films and saucy seaside postcards as an eccentric but ultimately benign quirk of our national identity.

Something that intrigues and amuses me is to imagine what non-British people must make of Page 3 when they encounter it for the first time. How completely baffling and perplexing it must be to learn that there is a British newspaper – indeed, the newspaper with the largest circulation of all – that every day, prints a full page photograph of a young…

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Who is your PhD for?

It may sound like an odd question, even presumptuous to ask who my PhD is for. I’ve always justified my choice to do one on the grounds that I love research and I found a subject I wanted to explore. (Why do people act environmentally friendly – answer, we always do.) In other words it was all about me. But if that were true, then I know from my own experience that I probably would have got bored. I have only been able to sustain interest in the most mundane of activities by looking beyond myself.

My experience is supported by a number of philosophers and scientists. Hegel’s philosophy in a nutshell is that a person can have a full existence not only if it lives for itself but also lives for another. Freud says that while pleasure comes from the release of tension, ultimately ending in the final release and death, our instinct for life goes beyond the pleasure principle. According to neuroscience research, neurons survive when connections are made to other neurons.

The question is, who else is my PhD for?

The immediate and obvious answer is that my PhD is created for my supervisers and viva examiners. After all, at the end of the day, I don’t want to have nothing to show for the time and money (especially as its not my money). So even though it is my research, I don’t think I have ever rejected any of the guidance or recommendations provided by my superviser. And I do have one eye to what the examiners will read and how I might justify what I have written, to the extent that I have cited my intended examiners’ work.

But if that’s all my PhD is for, it would probably be pulped after viva instead of being available in the library. instead, it becomes another brick in the wall of knowledge, waiting for others to build on it. So my PhD is for other researchers.

But I don’t intend that my PhD collects dust in an academic library, hoping that someone finds it. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and there’s no-one around, does it make a sound? Similarly, as Hegel argued, does my research exist if there is no one to at least acknowledge or recognise it. One of my favourite metaphors for doing a PhD is pregnancy and childbirth, complete with labour pains; why would I not want to show off my baby? not just at conferences and in articles, but a book,this blog and other social media channels. My PhD started life as an environmental problem. Well, I do think it may or may not suggest particular policy actions. I hope its not presumptuous of me to think that my PhD is for society.

Finally, before I started, I prayed that whatever I produced from my research would not contradict the Bible. As far as I can see, God has answered my prayer. Indeed, my research has given me a greater understanding of many of the paradoxes in christianity. Furthermore, Hegel’s philosophy is obviously influenced by christianity and one cannot deal with him without dealing with the spirituality, which is heavily interwoven in it. So in the end my PhD is for God.

Originally posted on thebitchingbarista:


So if you’ve read my post on drive thrus, you know I’m not a huge fan of them. But I also know that it gives me power that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I won’t make you read all of that again. Unless you haven’t read that post. And if you haven’t. Shame.

Though one thing I didn’t write about was the fact that it can get kinda lonely in that cubbyhole of a drive thru. Other partners are running around on the floor, making drinks, being awesome, and there’s lil ol’ Kaldi. Left alone in the dark back corner of the store dealing with disembodied voices in the headset. I actually started singing that Celine song “All By Myself.” I only stopped when I heard the dreaded DING.

So I need stuff to do in drive thru while I’m there alone. I need entertainment. Oh sure. I could do my…

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What does a PhD and an Olympic medal have in common?

I have been distracted by the Olympics the last week or so and, as I watched Team GB scoop up medals, I noticed certain similarities between a PhD student and an Olympic athlete. (Of course, in its totality, doing a PhD is nothing like an Olympic sport.)

One could argue that it takes 3-4 years of intellectual training and gymnastics to produce a thesis. But it all comes down  to your performance in the viva, which I understand to be a stressful and nervewracking experience. Of course, there has to be something to defend, so the time and commitment to research and write and learning to be a researcher are one’s training for the viva. Indeed, Professor Vernon Trafford argues in his book “Stepping stones to achieving your doctorate” that preparation for viva begins on day one of the PhD programme, just as training for London 2012 arguably started when Beijing 2008 ended.

Submission is therefore qualification to take part in viva, which is where the real testing begins. Our thesis is subjected to real examination and only those that are strong enough get the medal of a PhD. As in the race between Victoria Pendleton and Anna Mears or in the individual showjumping, it comes down to discussions between the examiners and we’ll get either gold (no amendments), silver (minor amendments) or bronze (major amendments). Of course, we’ll train and hone our skill through conferences, articles, teaching and so on but without the PhD, nothing else really matters.

At the end of the day, we have to have confidence in our thesis as the athletes do in their ability. our success depends on our own entourage too. Unfortunately, we can’t look to the atmosphere of the crowd in the viva, but I guess we could simulate it beforehand using social media.

There are probably other parallels I could draw. But there are two key differences: an Oympic career is usually over by the age of 40 (unless you are a showjumper) but a PhD can be done at any age and it can often mean the start of something new. Also we get to wear funny costumes (again, like a showjumper).

If you can think of any other parallels between a PhD and an Olympic medal, please comment.

Why I don’t object to a plastic bag tax?

Despite recent calls from  environmental groups for a plastic bag tax in England, the UK government’s reluctance to legislate for it is a sign of its dominance over us.

This application of the ‘polluter pays’ principle in this instance makes complete sense. As the user of single-use bags, the individual is also the producer of bag waste. So, as with household waste, the state has recognised the importance of changing behaviour. A number of local authorities (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Halton Borough) have seen an increase in recycling rates as a result of reward-based incentive schemes run by Recyclebank and others (Bromley, Barnet, Islington) have had success by imposing fines on people who do not separate recyclables from waste. Similarly, when the Welsh Government introduced a 5p charge for single-use carrier bags in October 2011, a study carried out in conjunction with retailers revealed that bag usage fell by between 40-96%, depending on what was being bought. Furthermore, it claims that the fall was even greater than it was in England where some retailers do charge for single-use bags. These figures on their own seem to suggest that a single-use bag charge does have the desired effect of changing individual behaviour. After all, no-one likes to lose out, even if it is only 5p.

But negative and positive incentives (or law in general) do not change behaviour per se. Well, as Hegel would point out, it does and it does not. Of course, the rational consumer does not want to lose 5p. But, as Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler have argued, there is no such as thing as a purely rational individuals – homo sapiens (human beings) are not the same as homo economicus. That is perhaps why, in their book Nudge, they distinguish incentives from the more relational nudges, which are tools that the content architect (or lawmaker) uses to change the content architecture or environment. Libertarian paternalism indicative of a father as traditional metaphor for the state,  raising the metaphorical child (household or individual). But in reality, according to Hegel, the relationship is more like a mother and father, where both the state and non-state actors are responsible for the protection of children, or future generations. (Indeed, when Hegel said that ‘the real is rational, and the rational is real’, he was indicating it is rational to be real or relational.) Therefore, a nudge can be viewed as a physical act of the state, which interacts with the body or environment individual to which the individual responds. If an incentive were purely a rational instrument, everyone would have responded to a single-use bag charge equally in all circumstances. But, in keeping with libertarian paternalism, the single-use bag charge does not take away a space for opposition.

I would argue that incentives, such as a plastic bag tax, are nudges precisely because they are changes to the environment to which the individual responds; that is, they are rational because they are relational. As a result, the plastic bag tax is not the only thing in the environment which would call for a response; whether an individual chooses to take a bag depends on the prioritisation of environmental factors (or nudges). The Welsh government’s data showed that bag usage depended on what was bought and where. The food service sector recorded a smaller reduction than retailers because the product is less likely to require bags. In other words, a nudge is about an ability to respond, or be responsible in a particular situation. But, the significant reduction in single-use bags – in some contexts, as much as 95% – suggests that there are or were situations when individuals were using single-use bags when they did not really need them. If this is the case, then using a plastic bag is more than just simple behaviour; it could be argued to be a habit or even an addiction, which we think we need even when we don’t and holding on to it can be damaging. In other words, we have a responsibility to the environment but we do not know we are able to respond to the environment. Even if we we can recognise our responsibility on an intellectual level, our ability to respond is based on how much the content architect allows us to respond.

The state, in this respect, is not only a metaphorical father and content architect but also a doctor specialising in addictions trying to make us better. The physicality of a nudge is like the swallowing of medicine. An incentive – whether positive or negative – is like a spoonful or sugar to help the medicine go down. The problem is that sugar is also addictive if we become accustomed to it. Government research into incentives for household recycling found that incentives only led to an increase in recycling up to an extent. The Greater London Assembly has cast doubts on the effectiveness of incentives in the long-term – we either get used to the loss or want more and more – and there is a lot of psychological research which supports this.  Making it more difficult to have something – and ultimately going cold turkey – is arguably just as effective at encouraging desired behaviour. According to House of Commons research, over 59% of local authorities have reduced residual waste collection, which has led to an increase in recycling, because households were forced by a changing environment to think about what to do with their waste. Similarly, when WH Smiths stopped handing out plastic bags automatically to customers, it saw a 12% fall in bags handed out; because customers had to ask, they had to think about whether they needed it. It was as if WH Smith and councils had been feeding an addiction before. Incentives are not necessary to change behaviour but it definitely speeds up the process. Anything that helps us come off a drug can only be a good thing but to stay off, the drug has to be removed. In that sense, the UK government’s reluctance to adopt a plastic bag tax is only enabling our addiction and keeping us weak. It denies us the opportunity to be grown up and responsible; it does not mean that we have to do always comply – not use a plastic bag – if it is not appropriate to situation.

What’s the story of your PhD?

In writing up my PhD, the question my brain seems to ask the most is not “where do I go from here?” but “how do I get to where I want to go?” It seems to want to create the narrative or story first, before I have done the reading or research. Having come up with what it thinks is the story of my thesis does it then ask “well, is there research to make this story believable or viable?”

Of course, if there wasn’t, then the story would be rewritten accordingly. Nevertheless, my biggest worry was that I was being self-selective in the data collection. But I think the anxiety made me more vigilant and thus more willing to explore alternate storylines. Indeed, I often find myself becoming surprised at the direction that the research took me. When I transferred from PhD candidate to student status, me assessor noted that my surprise was evident in my writing, which I hope indicates that I have been prepared to change the narrative when the data changed. I guess that if my brain was expecting one answer, and the data pointed somewhere else, surprise is a natural response.

According to neuroscience research, the brain is designed to look for the most plausible story based on the subjectively known evidence. it is apparently the most conducive to survival if one considers something that looks like a lion and sounds like a lion to actually be a lion, unless proven otherwise. This of course emphasises the importance of doing research, because red berries appear to the caveman to be nice to eat unless they know that the neanderthal next door has died as a result. Nevertheless, there is clearly an inherent conservatism in the brain that is about the conservation of the body and progression or radicalism is a consequence of necessity rather than a default setting. This tension between conservation and progression is highlighted in the philosophy of Hegel, particularly in the reading by Catherine Malabou, that is characterised by plasticity, a capacity to be formed and to resist deformation. When I write, it is like a moment of le voirvenir, to see what is coming, that exists between what went before and what comes after.

I wonder whether the need for a story is why I have always resorted to the narratives of other stories – Oedipus, Thelma and Louise, star trek, Hamlet – and to a phenomological method. After all, narratives are a way of simplifying and ordering a mass complexity. After all, the creativity of the brain is limited only by the information stored. There is nothing in a story that is extraneous and my superviser and anyone who has reviewed my work have always asked “why is this sentence/paragraph here?”.

I also believe that my PhD is a way of ordering experiences that went before.

Originally posted on Tamára Out Loud:

“Yes, the whole study center did hear about your making out with gay people,” he said.

“Gay guys,” I clarified.

“Well, I didn’t want to make any assumptions…”

“I suppose that’s fair.”

I had been using the Christian Study Center’s tranquil space to work on my book for several weeks, and working so closely with people’s heartbreaking stories had been taking its toll. So when, stuck inside my own head to rehash my history, I stumbled across the odd fact that I’d dated fully three gay guys as a teenager, all I could do was laugh out loud in wonderment at what exactly in the hell was wrong with me.

I canvassed my friends for answers, but neither they nor anyone else in the study center knew what to make of it or me, so rather than just shrug it off like a normal person, I abandoned my…

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The Bible – God’s Thesis

There are many different ways to read the Bible. Some people choose to read it literally, which is problematic because not every part is meant to be a chronological narrative. Others read it christologically where every bit points to Jesus. Others will look for consistent patterns throughout or even as a love letter from God. I would like to posit it, in the greatest respect, as God’s Thesis.

Firstly, the Bible can be divided into sections equivalent to that of a thesis. The first 11 chapters of Genesis, from creation to the tower of Babel, is his introduction. It is difficult to argue that it is historical. It seems more mythical. It therefore succinctly states God’s overall argument: I created man, man disobeyed me, but I will save them even though no-one deserves because I love man. This is best captured in the story of Noah, who trusted God and did something which sounds ridiculous and unreasonable – build a boat miles away from water – because the boat  became the source of salvation through God’s power. (Ok, so God was a researcher-participant.) Noah’s drunkenness and Tower of Babel emphasises man’s ongoing capacity to sin, even after being saved.

From Abraham through to the letter of Jude, including the gospels, God presents his evidence and analysis for his overall argument. of course, there are many things which point to Jesus but also many references to first 11 chapters, including Jesus. The conclusion of God’s thesis is the book of Revelation. It summarises the evidence and reveals God’s message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Bible has also been put together like an academic thesis. God is the lead author with a large research team whom he has selected himself. Many of his team had other jobs. Not all the material written or researched has made the final cut, indeed the value of some of the writings, such as Hebrews and 2 Peter, was not seen until quite late in the day. One could say the real writing up didn’t really begin until about 300 AD and the various church councils. In a sense, his thesis has been complete for 1,500 years and since then God has focused on teaching and the conference circuit. Obviously, one cannot draw exact parallels between God and an academic, after all knowledge is created by him in the first place.

Finally, everyone calls it God’s Word or logos. In other words, the Bible describes his underlying reasoning, i.e. his argument or thesis. Of course, no post of mine would be complete without mentioning Hegel. The Bible is arguably a dialectical text; it deals with the paradox of God’s love and wrath, of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, and of God’s as divine and as human. It includes many things which seem ridiculous, not least the idea of God dying. So, God’s Word is not just a thesis but a synthesis of a thesis and antithesis. As a dialectical text, it also a conversation between God and his creation.

As a PhD student and Christian, I have sought to ensure that everything I read is within a biblical framework (or at least I hope so) but still true to the text. One could argue that research is all about understanding God (the author) through understanding the world (his creation). This ultimate purpose of research – among all the other human reasons – is reflected in the The Bible.


Regular readers will know that one of common themes and bugbears is how the Left and right resort to economic growth to justify austerity or anti austerity policies. Its good to know that psychologically I am in right track and things are getting better even if it doesn’t seem like it. As Hegel says, everything happens in time through a dialectic between resistance and change, Freudian life and death instincts.

Originally posted on Green tea and Velociraptors:

This is a slightly different post to the usual, you know, fossils and shit. It concerns the psychology behind climate change and mobilising towards a green future. Now this is by no means my area of expertise, but when I attended a talk recently by Oliver James at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, entitled “Our Mad World”, it really struck a chord with me. As a young research scientist, considering the psychology behind the science is really quite tangential to what I’ve been taught, and not something I’ve ever considered in detail. James gave a wonderful talk (without using PowerPoint, bonus!), and the way in which he spoke and delivered his message really resonated with the attendees.

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Dream account: from beetle to butterfly

Ok Freud, figure this out. I just had another weird dream. I am in my room tidying up. I lift up something, forgetting that there is a beetle which I caught earlier. It starts scurrying all over the place until it comes to my  bedside lamp. It stops on the vertical neck and opens up its shell. what then happens is a conversion into a rainbow coloured butterfly gradually but in a compressed timeframe. I rush to open the window. Then I grab to pieces of card. I gently toss the beetle-butterfly towards open window. But I am a bad shot and it gets caught on window frame and slices in two. Top half goes out, bottom half needs my help to do so.

if u know anything about psychoanalysis, what does this dream mean? Answers in comments please.

My conscious mind is already seeing the life and death instinct, with a final breakdown. Perhaps its the writing, cutting, rewriting of my PhD thesis. But it also reflects how I am shaping the plasticity and it is shaping me. it started of as something small, insignificant yet fascinating. Then one day it starts opening up to reveal something beautiful. I am in a rush now to finish and submit, but the thesis will always need me to develop it.

NCIS and the Oedipus Complex

Picture of someone dreaming

I woke up this morning with the strangest dream in my head. Somehow, I developed a final ever episode to the TV series, NCIS. Sort of. This episode, which involved Jethro Gibbs leading his final investigation, “answered” the key “question” that has persisted throughout the series: Why does Gibbs have a particularly special relationship with Abby, the forensic specialist, the most un-Gibbs person ever?

I have always thought that Gibbs saw Abby as a substitute for his daughter Kelly, who was killed as a child. Well, in my mind’s final episode of NCIS, it turns out that Abby actually is Kelly. In my head, obviously, Gibbs’ wife  got a divorce and moved with Kelly to Wiltshire, England. (Why Wiltshire, I don’t know – the only reason is that it came up in a conversation with someone else about something else a few days ago.). Gibbs is so distraught that he feels as if he has lost his wife and daughter for good, as if they have been killed. He obviously tried to fill the whole by continually remarrying and divorcing but it was never quite right. [It is interesting that in one particular case, he says to the murderer who killed his wife for cheating that if there's problem with your wife, you divorce her, don't kill her.] Somehow, Kelly, as a child, saw some pictures of a crime scene and decided that she wanted to work in forensics. Along the way, she changed her name to Abby and became a goth and, completely by coincidence, ended up working at NCIS.

Which begs the question, if Gibbs’ wife and daughter were never actually killed, then who did Gibbs’ kill? The back story to the series, mainly seen through Gibbs’ flashbacks, is that they were killed by a major drugs cartel based in Mexico in revenge for the younger marine Gibbs taking out someone in the cartel. Unfortunately, I woke up before my mind could reconcile my fantasy version of NCIS with the actually script. I do like the notion of Abby as Gibbs’ daughter but I think its more likely that she is a substitute for his daughter.

I have always believed, and neuroscience supports this, that the subconscious processes data after the conscious has given up on it. But the last time I saw NCIS was Wednesday night, I had the dream on Friday night/Saturday morning. I have noticed in the last few weeks of episodes that there seems to be a progression towards a points of moving on, as if we are coming towards the end of the series for good. Or maybe it is just the thoughts of coming to the end of my thesis that are predominant in my conscious mind and trying to tie all the loose ends together and answer the questions. In the process, it tried to answer the ‘Gibbs/Abby’ question in NCIS.

The connection with my phd is that my theoretical framework is based on a psychoanalytic reading of Hegel, where Freud’s Oedipus Complex – or at least my critique on it – plays an important part. In the Oedipus story, Oedipus fulfilled a prophesy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Freud takes the Oedipus story as a metaphor for the development of a child, in Freud’s case the boy. When the boy is born, its closest relationship is with the mother. It has to separate itself from the mother – be abandoned – in order for it to grow independently. After disidentifying with the mother, it makes up for the loss eventually by identifying with the father. In Freud’s theory, the boy desires to replace the father but it can only do so by killing him, something which, like Oedipus, it shies away from (the incest taboo). Because the mother is inaccessible, the male seeks a relationship with another female. Freud deals with the development of the male but the feminist critique of his theory is that it applies the female as well. In my NCIS dream, Kelly is separated from her father and Gibbs desires another female to fill the hole left by his wife. Of course, none of the women he subsequently marries can match up to his wife – they don’t even have the same hair colour as her. Well, except perhaps Colonel Mann. Is they only person who can fill it a substitute daughter? Perhaps, in the process of pulling the threads together, my brain was remaking the Oedipus Complex with modern-day TV characters.


An excellent explanation of why the notion of the green economy is ultimately flawed.

Originally posted on green alliance blog:

This is a guest post by Hannah Griffiths, head of policy and campaigns at the World Development Movement. She argues that measures to value nature and ecosystem services will only serve to undermine progress. 

The battle for the meaning of the words ‘green economy’ at the Rio+20 summit will be every bit as fraught as the battle for the meaning of the words ‘sustainable development’ was twenty years ago. And the outcome is likely to encompass an ‘all things to all people’ type approach. This is leading to some contradictory policy measures being proposed under the heading green economy.

There are many positive proposals in the green economy agenda, such as tax reform and regulation. But one key policy measure – the valuation of natural resources and ecosystem services – threatens to undermine any progress made in other areas.

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How much do you love your phone?

Girl playing with mobile phone
How do you relate your mobile phone?

I’ve just come out of a 13-year relationship…with a mobile phone operator. We had good times together but in the end she just couldn’t satisfy me completely.

I’m not quite sure how it started. There I was, just living my life. I wasn’t really looking for a mobile phone, when my parents introduced me to one in 1999. Everyone else was pairing off with mobile phones and asking me why I didn’t have one. I kept saying that I was happy as I was, I couldn’t really see the point, telephone boxes on the street were enough for my needs. Really, I just didn’t think I could afford to keep one, they seemed pretty high-maintenance. But, yeah, I did look on lustfully whenever I saw someone with a mobile phone.  So when I was offered one on a plate, I couldn’t say no.

Our relationship was pretty casual for a long time. We went when on dates on a pay-as-you-go basis and I used the phone sparingly, mainly just to ring to say I’ll be late or to confirm meeting or text. I remember that she was pretty in the beginning – not ugly, but not totally hot, but she looked fine to me. She had a number of plastic surgeries for my sake and I was always happy with the result. After a while, others started commenting that she was a bit chunky but I didn’t care.

It was only perhaps in the last couple of years that our relationship became more serious. We went from simply dating on a pay-as-you-go basis to a more long term contract that required regular investment. It was then that she really began to satisfy me with mobile internet access. We spent a lot of time together. I no longer had to wait to get a desktop PC to check my emails or tweet, she let me do it any time, any place.

But it was in the last couple of years that I noticed how chunky she was. It was so embarrassing being with her, when everyone else had slimmer, younger smarter models. Plus, she ran out of energy pretty quickly. So my eye started to wonder. I wanted a slimmer, younger, smarter model too. Unfortunately, I could not find one that was within my budget. So I reluctantly stuck with my existing phone, although of course I told everyone else that we were very happy.

Until last week. I finally found a slimmer, younger, smarter model that I could afford. It was love (or lust) at first sight. I reckon she could satisfy me more than my existing phone and she’s within my budget. I’m just worried that I will not be able to live up to her expectations. But after 13 years, it was not easy breaking up with who is now my previous network operator. I told her I wanted to go. She begged me to stay. She asked me what I wanted. She said she could change. We had a long conversation. But it was already too late, I had made up my mind to go and I was no longer in love with her. But it was still a bit painful.

Anyway, she is my ex-mobile phone operator now. We no longer have a relationship. Sort of. I still need to shift my contacts but keep putting it off.