Our earliest ever ancestor had a big mouth and spewed – er –

Humanity’s earliest ancestor was dug up a while ago. Well, when I say ‘our’ ancestor, it’s also the ancestor of fish, amphibians, reptiles and starfish among other things. It’s  540 million years old, it’s called Saccorhytus coronarius, and it’s a primitive deuterosome, a type is thought to be one of the earliest common ancestors of quite … More Our earliest ever ancestor had a big mouth and spewed – er –

What Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ tells us about authoritarian bullying

A significant hallmark of an authoritarian government is the way it uses the power of the state to bully people. The spectre was raised a century ago by Franz Kafka, whose unfinished novel The Trial summed up the whole problem. In the story, Kafka’s narrator was arrested and put on trial – all without even … More What Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ tells us about authoritarian bullying

Why do we always see an apocalypse around the next corner?

A retired Professor from the University of Arizona, Guy McPherson, told an audience in New Zealand last year that the human race will be extinct from climate change in a decade. Except here. Apparently we’re well placed at the bottom of the South Pacific to survive. And there’s a precedent. Until the 1280s, for the … More Why do we always see an apocalypse around the next corner?

How societies get sucked into authoritarianism

I’ve been thinking lately about one of the eye-opening experiences of my university life, and what it tells us about today’s world. In 1981 I arrived at Victoria University of Wellington as a bright-eyed eighteen year old, filled with the idea that university was the place where people could express their intellectual ideas constructively. I … More How societies get sucked into authoritarianism

How authoritarian bullies get away with it

When I was at primary school in Napier, New Zealand, all the kids – including me – were terrified of a particular teacher, the ‘go to’ disciplinarian who was invoked when other teachers wanted a kid especially punished. This bellowing drill-sergeant of a teacher demanded total submission to his power, even down to punishing kids … More How authoritarian bullies get away with it

Why 2016 was a historical trend year – not a one-shot disaster

There was, I suppose, a universal sigh of relief when New Year 2017 ticked over and the world left the Year from Hell. We like our arbitrary calendar dates. Reality seldom conforms. After all, Lemmy Kilmister kicked off the big celebrity die-off that marked 2016 on Boxing Day 2015. A friend of mine suggested that … More Why 2016 was a historical trend year – not a one-shot disaster

Where did the commercial Christmas zombie frenzy start?

One of my pet irritations about Christmas is the zombie mall frenzy, when shoppers go into a kind of trance amidst the glitz and glitter of the mall and start shelling out cash for chintzy consumer items made of cheap plastic. Most of these gee-gaws break 28 seconds after being unwrapped, and by 29 December … More Where did the commercial Christmas zombie frenzy start?