The Psychology of Music 4

Do you ever get that sheer buzz when a musical performer is so good, so proficient on her/his instrument that s/he just blows you away?  I find myself when it happens laughing in sheer delight; even on my own listening to a record or CD. Short limited laughter; but involuntary; like a sudden mental release

Like Shelley’s Spirit of Delight it cometh rarely; and few performers are they to whom I am able to respond in such a way.  I am an admirer of David Mellor and his taste and choice in music.  Weekly, on a Sunday evening on Radio Station Classic FM David Mellor presents his show.  He was a UK politician some years ago and held high Ministerial Office, he is a ‘widely-read’ connoisseur of music; and he is far more able than am I to sift out by sheer ear alone what is astonishing in musical performance (recorded).

Yet he has a very good ‘bedside manner’ and is not overbearing or shoving-down-the-throat with his superior listening and selection-power.  He really does give an impression to his listeners, and I have no reason but to believe it a genuine one, that he is so emotionally committed to music as a serious pursuit that his aim is almost a mission to ‘spread the word’ and make converts. Converts not to Mellor-ism but to good musical habits; his own love for music and for good musicians overcomes any self-assertion he might possess otherwise as an individual.

And of course, this is how it ought to be; for any person enthralled by and in lifelong pursuit of the glories of various kinds which life is able to offer as objects of studies or pastimes.  Mathew Arnold, that great Victorian; a man dogged by his loss of Christian belief ever after his early lapse from it; was of a like mind about how a person ought to pursue his/her interests in life.

Arnold came up with a phrase which I have found useful and sufficient ever since as a precise summing-up, an indicator of this selfless state into which true passion for anything outside oneself evokes. He called it; a person having a ‘disinterested interest’ in his/her pursuits.

‘Disinterested’ is a word not in use these days; unless when it is used mistakenly to mean ‘uninterested’.  Arnold remained a deeply ethical and I would say a profoundly Christian man all his life; even though he consciously eschewed Christianity as a viable position intellectually.

There were in his times special historical reasons for this desperate pain he endured as a Christian thinker bearing a non-Christian despair.  There was, one should keep in mind, in his days and during his formative years, an introduction into England from Germany of  the New Biblical Criticism which took the Scriptures to pieces and examined them in ways never before attempted because never before possible.

The European Enlightenment had give theologians the tools to dissect Scripture minutely; and the methodologies to pursue such an activity; and with this destabilising trend for Christian believers appeared around the same time the philosophies of Utilitarianism and Scientific Empiricism; so that the things attached to the earth became predominant in the intellectual milieu of that age and the things of the Spirit became obscured for a time.

Darwin added another hammer blow to the intellectual standing of Christianity, and Matthew Arnold became overwhelmed by this deluge of what seemed to many at the time to be incontrovertible evidence against Scripture and its burden.  Arnold however stuck with his quest to teach persons to aim for objectivity in their judgements; and in his book of social criticism called ‘Culture and Anarchy’ he insisted that in our judgements of affairs and ideas and systems that we ought to try to ‘see the object whole and as it really is’.

His other gift of phrase to the English language is ‘Sweetness and Light’; by which he meant to teach an appreciation in men and women of what he termed ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’.

These few phrases which I have cited as being the crucial values of Matthew Arnold tend to sum up his character as a person of integrity and culture and sensitivity.

These phrases also are alive and valid for us today; more so even perhaps than in Arnold’s day, since the loss of the word ‘disinterested’ from our current vocabulary is not an isolated accident of no significance; it is a symptom and a casualty of our present loss of grasp of objectivity, of our acknowledging there being such a thing, and of our loss of a sense that it is good to live for the sake of something other than ourselves; and the loss of the resultant ‘Sweetness and Light’ which such pursuit shines into lives; when we admit of and admire ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’.

Music comes into this category of ‘Sweetness and Light’ as one of its most illustrious prizes.  David Mellor knows this; and David Mellor has helped me to know it better than I had done.

This Sunday he was introducing violinists to his audience. Among them was a little known French woman who died an early death in the years after the Second World War – and she was something else.  I heard her play the first movement of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, a piece which when done well is riveting; but so often the balance between orchestra and soloist, and often too the ‘blancmange’ approach to its continuity of line, either alone or together mess the rendition of it almost to unlistenable.

This French young woman Ginette Neveu played at once like a possessed harpy but yet with a control and a passionate giving of herself which was allowed to happen by her supporting orchestra; and which was able to show to a person a Sibelius in a way I myself had not before seen. The performer was in this case able to bring to the music a living presence as if she had seen so much further into the written score and into other renditions than one (I) had thought possible. Her gift was to add, so as to, as it were, complete the music. And so give it that spirit which seemed buried within the page by Sibelius during his act of composition.

David Mellor also brought to light a Russian violinist; a contemporary of David Oistrakh; and a violinist who had been overshadowed by David Oistrakh in the visible world, but who had nonetheless carried on and led a life of concert–making, much of it within the then Soviet Union.  His name was (I think I remember) Leonid Kogan, and he was playing the last two movements of Brahms’ Violin Concerto, which is not a favourite with me.

Yet I listened and I was left wondering how he was able to bring into view such ‘wonderful things’ from areas of the music which I had always allowed to pass over me like a hardly-noticeable breeze.  The fact was that he had, for me at least, discovered music in those very places I had up to now considered ‘connecting pieces’ going from one attractive part to another.

It is more than sheer virtuosity I am meaning; it goes beyond technique and interpretation and into areas of the performers’ souls which are ‘taken over’ and ‘possessed’ by the music; and so they present a something which is there for the moment, like a wraith-light or a déjà vu, and then gone leaving behind what might be termed ‘an experience’ for a listener.

These two violinists then had given themselves over, not just for the moment, but their lives in toto, to their passion and to their daemon; had opted for a life of ‘disinterested interest’ in their pursuits; so as to delve into and mine out that ‘sweetness and light’ they saw in the potential of their music, so as to present to their audiences and to the world ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’ of music.

A coda. The drama of Christopher Marlowe’s ‘The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus’ is said by critics to be a Christian tragedy; which epithet is an oxymoron and almost a contradiction.  Christianity itself has been charged with causing an obliteration of the possibility of tragedy; since the Gospels are Good News’ ‘of peace and goodwill to all men’.

In the 1950s I believe a critic named George Steiner wrote a book influential at the time and it was called ‘The Death of Tragedy’. Steiner argued in it that the case of persons of high and noble standing falling from grace in a way which appears cumulative, unstoppable, and inevitable; such cases were in the modern democratic demagogic age no longer achievable in art. They were no longer achievable as art because they were no longer present in life as current situations. Thus tragedy could no longer be written because our modern life had levelled mankind off so thoroughly that no highly placed noble souls were available to dramatise.

Matthew Arnold was perhaps one of the first casualties of this state of affairs; a man who suffered greatly and who has passed down to history as a man of pathos rather than of a tragic cast. Arnold himself was aware of this situation of his standing. In his later editions of his poetry he deliberately excluded from these collections a poem of his titled ‘Empedocles on Etna’; a poem which narrates the tale of the ancient philosopher Empedocles in a fulfilment a life of despair casting himself into the cone of the volcano Etna.

Arnold justified this omission of his poem by saying that Empedocles’ situation was one ‘in which everything was to be endured and nothing to be done’. Thus Empedocles can be seen as reflecting pretty nearly Mathew Arnold’s own situation in life.

In addition a tragic hero may be foredoomed and may be inevitably crushed by circumstance; but he or she has to be able to deny that fate in spirit and so resist that inevitability with say violent and or haughty action and thus die noble if yet defeated.  Modern life, Steiner argued removed such options for a would-be tragic action in the drama; removed a possibility for high and noble defiance in action. Steiner was writing at a time when dramas like ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘The Caretaker’ were being feted on the European stages; dramas which almost celebrate this dead-end lassitude which modern life engenders.

My own contribution to this debate on tragedy and its possibility for our times is this; and it connects I hope to what I have been trying to say about Mathew Arnold and about great musicians.

There is a huge irony happening in our times concerning modern life and tragedy and the loss of Christian belief in many parts of Europe today.  There is tragedy, and it is happening all around and in ‘real life’.  The tragedy is to be seen in the loss of awareness of a possibility for tragedy in our lives.

Just as the word ‘disinterested’ has been diverted as a misnomer into the word ‘uninterested’ so too the word ‘tragedy’ is misplaced by us and is being used by us in regard to road traffic fatalities and with regard to untoward and unfortunate disasters. Every journalist and newsreader seems to use the word several times each week these days.

Ours is a generic and endemic tragedy; and we are all the victims of it.  The Lord Jesus tells us who are happy to believe in worldly power and in paper and other worldly wealth; which are but shadows and dreams able to work us by strings; and yet we are unwilling and unable to consider or to entertain The Lord’s message any longer; a message in fact of more substance, bearing more evidence, and still more presence in our lives than either worldly riches or worldly power have; Jesus said to his people who were just like us:

To what, then, can I compare the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sittinginthe marketplace and calingout to one another: ‘ We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep’. 

There is no way visible to us that offers escape for us from the fly-bottle; and out of the mousetrap; because we by our captivity to a lack of vision see ourselves cornered-in from one way and cornered-in from the other way; yet there is before us and in sight all the while The Way forward.  As the Lord Jesus calls to us in the marketplace:

 ‘He who has ears to hear; let him hear!’

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What Words Say (3)

‘Common’ – from the Latin root meaning ‘together with’ and ‘binding by obligation’: see:  An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language by Walter W. Skeat

One working person says to another working person ‘huh, she’s common’. How is it that this word ’common’ is used in this instance as a term of disparagement? And why is this so when its root meaning is rested in ‘togetherness’ and in ‘binding obligation’.  The term ‘common’ to many, possibly most, people’s ears means something pretty low down the pecking order of value. How might this relegation into low value and this ‘coming together’ – ‘binding by obligation’ reconcile one to the other? How did such a diversion of the word ‘common’ into such channels of other meaning happen?

The answer, like the answer to the queries I made about the words ‘rule’ and ‘office’, refers back to questions of authority and command, as well as to queries about social class and the dominion of one set of persons over another.

Britain, particularly England, is riddled with social class distinctions and their resultant exclusions and inclusions into and out of ‘society’ or ‘the club’, or ‘the restaurant’ or the ‘art form’ or the ‘recreational activity’ or the ‘way on does one’s gambling’ and so on.

This class system is a legacy, but not a leftover, since it is very much alive and busy sorting us here into ‘formulated phrases’ and ‘fixing us on that pin’ to which we are thought to and accustomed to being thought to belong.  But how is ‘common’ bound up with all this?

Well, even today, in more polite villages and their folk who live in them the word ‘common’ is alive in an otherwise defunct general meaning for the English language.  The ‘common’ is the venue at which local cricket matches are played; the place where picnics are eaten and children’s playgrounds are found. This is because the ‘common’ is the title of a piece of ground, normally grass lawn, possibly with a few trees and bushes at its outer boundaries, on which the people of the village enjoy leisure and recreational activities.  The name is held in aspic in certain London and other place names: ‘Clapham Common’ ‘Wimbledon Common’ and such.

Common’ in this usage of the word as meaning a piece of ground was in the times of Old England that piece of ground, in the days of Lords and Serfs and of Feudal ties between servant Serfs and Ruling Masters, their Lords, on which low caste working villagers we able lawfully to graze their few animals and maybe raise a crop. The ‘common’ as a piece of ground was accessible to all these low caste villagers; and it was a concession of the law held in place by custom and tradition, and with its origins deep in the early days of England first coming together as an integrated and discrete nation.

So today we might explain this usage of the word ‘common’ by saying to our children that; ‘The common people were allowed to make use of the common ground.’  And this is how commoners, or ‘common’ people, low status people, got that appellation ‘common’ in the first place; they were commoners allowed to use a piece of land denominated ‘the common’.

Interestingly enough most commons, pieces of land, have disappeared from the face of Britain. Since the first stirrings of The Industrial Revolution erupting out of the massively increased opportunities for commerce and wealth creation which the ‘discovery’ of the ‘New World’ brought about (another interesting set of terms with ‘connotations to explore) in Europe; Britain became first off from the gate in providing a spate of very useful inventions, mechanical and administrative, which helped immensely to ‘fire-up’ the locomotives and the manufacturing factories, those ‘dark Satanic mills’ which were soon to devour the British landscape and the low caste working ‘commoners’ who dwelt therein.

Land at that time came more and more to be at a premium – for agriculture; because in order for a securely based Industrial Revolution to occur it looks historically-speaking like an Agrarian Revolution had to occur first. The way forward in this Agrarian Revolution at the time seemed to show itself in the shape of items like Jethro Tull’s inventions of The Horse Hoe and of his ‘Seed Drill’, along with many other technological inventions made by many other contributions.

These inventions stimulated an idea for what was called ‘enclosure’. Indeed there was a series of ‘Enclosure Acts’ (see Inclosure Act 1773) passed in the British parliament in the eighteenth century (in the main) and this series of  acts made it lawful for the Landlords and Landowners, those guys who were mostly the descendants of the Feudal Lords who were the controllers of their Serfs; lawful for them to close down common lands and to expel the ‘commoners’ and to land grab and thus overthrow settled longstanding rights in law and tradition and custom in the name of big bucks.

‘Enclosure’ was designed to make arable and pasture fields much bigger and under a single crop or purpose, and Masters. ‘Commoners’ lost their grazing rights, their rights to congregate together on their ‘commons’ and so on – and all at the whim of a government comprised of the same guys who most benefitted from the fruits of enclosure. The upper crust

The new agrarian inventions and methods asked for large and homogenous farming in large land areas – so these land areas were grabbed by the wealthy and influential who were seeking to be more wealthy and more influential. Thus the ‘commoners’ were dispossessed of their heritage – at a stroke – and by those appointed to be their governors and protectors.  This was how these low caste agriculturally-based workers became in truth even more so ‘commoners’ – the shiftless, landless, uprooted, and cast off the land.

In the course of the next 50 or 80 years these ‘lost sheep, all gone astray’ ended up in the burgeoning towns and cities of Britain where a great vacuum requiring factory labourers was irresistibly drawing them in to work there. They had no other place to go to. They became the Lumpenproletariat of Marx, the peoples of The City of Dreadful Night.  These were the ‘common’ people, the Serfs, the items who were reckoned as ‘hands’ and ‘bodies’ by their employers and by their masters.

And that, in somewhat crude but essentially accurate form, is why working persons are called disparagingly ‘common’.

And what has this all to do with ‘Awakening The Christian Inside’?  Well, the story, which is utterly the truth and not much biased as a history of what happened, points up several items to bear in mind, and which should help you see that you must not be fooled into thinking; ‘This is the 21st century and we are all much more civilised now. Things like this can no longer happen.’ Error. Major, major error.

What can safely be drawn out of this history is that:

  1. ‘Common’ in its origins had no stigma of detraction about its meaning
  2. ‘Common’ as in ‘in-common’ is written into the King James Authorised version of the Bible as being the mode of life opted for by Jesus Christ’s first disciples. The Book of The Acts of the Apostles tells us: And all that believed were together, and had all things common’. Acts 2.44.
  3. The governors of all ages will act so as to prefer themselves over their social ‘inferiors’ whom they govern. It is happening to you today, believe it.
  4. That such acts before God as the ‘enclosure’ of common lands are in his eyes abominable. The perpetrators of these acts nonetheless happily, greedily, used the power of national statute law so as to forward their self-interests and so they enclosed the commons
  5. Ordinary people are ever to be dispossessed and made without livelihood in the name of ‘progress’ or of ‘gain’; but this will be said by the governors to be an ‘unavoidable’ thing – like ‘An act of God’ (irony)
  6. ‘Common’ in its older sense was a noble concept of kindness and consideration for others; of keeping one’s word, and in the course of history it has been trampled by the governors of the ordinary person.
  7. ‘Common’ nowadays is a put-down when it is used of a person. One should remember always its first and purer use and derivation.

Finally, God’s Gospel, or Good News, again and again is emphasised in the New Testament throughout to be Good News especially to the poor, the dispossessed, the hungry, the lost, the suffering, the low and the weak. Jesus Christ himself speak to us saying: ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven’

Jesus Christ himself tells us the story of Dives and Lazarus, who are the rich man and the poor man.  Most importantly, he tells us that as ‘no respecters of persons’ (see no.8 in this series) we ought to act in charity unconditionally so that we are able to read with gratitude but not with any gloating:

‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’


 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


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What Words Say (2)

In the first part of this mini-series within the bigger Awakening The Christian Inside series and concerning words we use every day and which we don’t think too much about, we looked at the word ‘rule’.

Another word, the word ‘office’, is now the next item up for looking at. In the etymological dictionary the word ‘office ‘ is said to derive from Latin, two words in Latin – the first meaning ‘wealth’ and the second ‘power to act’. Now, to me, that is a revelation indeed; and I can hardly go further than to say that this derivation contains in it the kernel of all which I want to say to you about the word ‘office’ and its brothers and sisters (words like ‘official’ and ‘officer’ and ‘officious’).

Everyone knows, even the child who badgers you for a couple of cents or pesos to buy a sweet candy, knows that money enables; and very shrewd children learn early that money in quantity enables almost everything for the possessor of its wealth. Thus, as we say in Britain ‘Possession is nine-tenths of the law’.

(We mean by this that ownership of goods money and capital in general is protected by law so solidly and fiercely in nations with economies of our kind, which are based on the idea and sanctity of private property; that in this nation to own something is to presume to have and to actually have the law on your side – most of the time.)

So in our nations here money enables at law also. In the USA the guy O J Simpson – many believe firmly that he literally got away with murder. In Britain the girl Rebekah Brooks – many believe she got away scot free from serious detention penalties. Both these alleged escapees from justice it is considered by many had in common that a) they had enough capital backing to hire the best lawyers; and b) that this their money was what brought them off to walk free from serious criminal charges against them.

And indeed, what does ‘official’ a derivative word from the word ‘office’ actually mean?

There are some words in English which just don’t pin down. ‘Official’ is one of them. Others are ‘public domain’ and ‘published’ and ‘reasonable’. The old adage ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ applies. Few out of any group of ten British persons would agree on what they consider to be ‘reasonable’ behaviour, or ‘reasonable’ prices. Copyright holders argue to great expense about whether or not an article has been ‘published’ or not. And just think about it for a minute: How might one decide whether an item is in the public domain or not? Tricky.

As for ‘official’ one hears of ‘Taylor Swift: The Official Lowdown’; and conversely these days one hears also of ‘Taylor Swift: The Unofficial Lowdown’; in glossy magazines for men and for women, and each is lure to a different attitude in us. The ‘Official’ Lowdown is going to have some evidential and authoritative credence for us, because the word ’official’ bestows this sense of veracity upon it and upon our understandings about the content. The ‘Unofficial’ Lowdown is more juicy, more likely to be salacious and seamy, the bits that the subjects want to hide from the public about their personal lives, and so on. And perversely there are those of us who take the ‘unofficial’ version to be more truthful, the actual truth; over and above the ‘official’ version; the flip side of the subject’s life in the raw.

‘Official’ then here is for devotees and old fashioned honest (naïve?) people. ‘Unofficial’ here is for the rebels, the ones who don’t take things at face value, the ones who always consider there’s a cover-up or a whitewash or a gloss over actually what happens.

Sceptics or cynics, gossips or nosey-parkers are on the one hand; on the other are straight-laced simple straightforward what-you-see-is-what-you-get people. Each group divided up in the main by the words ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’.

It’s the appeal to authority, just as with the words ‘rule’ and ‘ruler’ in the previous article, which enforces the power in the word ‘official’. In France and many European nations ‘officials’ as being people representative of authority vested in them are renowned and notorious as being, what we in the UK term ‘little-Hitlers’. The term is self-explanatory. Generally it is the case that one allows a person seeking its opportunity an inch of power vested in him/her as an ‘official;’ and no matter where you are in the world that person will take as much of the whole nine yards of that power as s/he can obtain and use.

‘Official’ then rubber stamps, endorses, with authority. To go back to our etymology for a moment ‘wealth’ connects with ‘power to act’ as being ‘official’. What might this mean? The petty official who makes life so difficult for so many whom they come into contact with; these serve their masters and mistresses religiously and devotedly; not so much out of loyalty, although loyalty might come into it; but rather out of the joy in the sway and exercise of power – of being able to push people around. And that’s it. Give a lumberjack an axe and he will cut down trees.

The loyalty, if any, to the sources of their power; be this the government or a local branch of a corporation, commonly is not much more than them knowing which side their bread is buttered on; or at best; gratitude to the sources of power for the investment of some of this power in themselves.

‘Official’ then lifts a thing, a person, a status, a service, a place, anything; into a different realm of being; as the thing which carries weight, ability to act (adversely against one) and so is a force to be reckoned with.

For many, many years in Britain ‘office’ workers, white-collar workers, were treated as, recognised in general as, and felt themselves to be, superior to manual workers, blue-collar workers. Employers treated them better. Better pay and conditions holiday entitlements and work environments. They were due more respect; were indeed respectable. They could obtain credit more easily were thought more reliable and honest, and a lower risk. Conversely blue-collar workers were considered less dependable, less credit worthy, more dubious people altogether. ‘Office’ worker was an appellation being a passport to privilege.

Government is always ‘official’. Government labels itself official as a hazard warning not to mess with it. The whole weight of the law and tradition and the constitution and the brute force of police and armed services are behind it when it warns you off public disturbance. Government has been defined by reputable sociology scholars as being ‘the sole place of legitimate force against a state’s citizens’.

‘Official’ to the experienced person then is a hazard warning; a caution that up ahead one has to go very carefully and steadily. This is just like the corporations’ ‘personnel departments’, now known dreadfully by the title ‘human resources’ which the naïve school leaver thought would help her to settle into her new job and assist her; but she discovered very soon that they weren’t angels but agents for the ‘official’ enemy and were not on her side at all. This is ‘official’.

How might all this relate to and inform ‘Awakening the Christian Inside’? Our Lord (my Lord, and he is yours too whether or not you want him or care for him) was said in several places in the Gospels to be ‘no respecter of persons’. This phrase is strange to our ears. It means roughly paraphrased that Jesus never took heed of ‘officialdoms’ of any kind. He was after seeking out the man and the woman in themselves; that item of humanity, in humanity, of whom Shylock says: ‘If you cut me; do I not bleed?’ That person within all of us; that which we call in our beds at night before we sleep: me.

The poet Robert Burns addresses also men and women without ‘respect to their persons’ without considering them as their Lordships or their Madames or their Your Worships or Your Dameships; nor as that beggar or those riffraff; but as human ‘poor forked animals’. Here is Robert Burns at his best:

‘Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head and all that?
The coward slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for all that!
For all that and all that.
Our toils obscure and all that.
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp.
The Man’s the gold for all that.

What though on homely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and all that.
Give fools their silks and knaves their wine,
A Man’s a Man for all that,
For all that and all that.
Their tinsel show and all that.
The honest man, though e’er so poor,
Is king of men for all that.

You see yon birkie, called a lord,
who struts, and stares and all that.
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a cuif for all that.
For all that and all that,
His riband, star, and all that.
The man of independent mind
He looks and laughs at all that.

A prince can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and all that,
But an honest man’s above his might.
Good faith, he mustn’t fault that!
For all that and all that,
Their dignities and all that.
The pith of sense and pride of worth
Are higher rank than all that.

Then let us pray that, come it may,
(As come it will for all that)
That Sense and Worth o’er all the earth
Shall bear the gree and all that.
For all that and all that,
It’s coming yet for all that,
That Man to Man the world o’er
Shall brothers be for all that.’

Jesus was the forerunner who cut through directly to the person beyond the title, the uniform, the regalia, the office. And indeed this is where we are to be found, if we are to say we are truly anywhere.

Until, as people and as a people, we are capable of seeing persons regardless of their trappings, their pretensions, their airs, their positions, their titles, their appurtenances and regalia, their vestments, and investments; until we are capable of judging ourselves by whom we really are; and against that Person Whom we all are to be measured next to, and never to be able to measure up to; until we see ourselves as responsible for every tittle and jot of our behaviours, and as required to abide the call to love and care-for, as being prime, primal and primary; and, pace Monty Python, as The Meaning of Life, we shall be embedded in entrapped by and incarcerated as unhappy lost beings whom ‘all like sheep have gone astray’. We shall have lost our gratis chance of happiness, and of course the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven.

God, and His manifestation in His Son, Jesus, might be looked upon as being ‘some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing’; a Presence waiting behind a door on which we are invited to, urged to, offered to, knock.

‘The blind men

Make the rules

For the wise men

And the fools

It’s alright ma,

It’s life and life only’

On Online Infringement and its Private Policing

When Brands, Trade Marks, Logos, Designs and Trade Dress or Get-up are stolen and used unlawfully. This is called Counterfeiting

When Copyrights – text, data, pictures, images, video, film, music, artwork, diagrams, and performances – are stolen and used unlawfully. This is called Piracy

Copyrights, Design rights, Trade Mark Registrations, Patents Granted and some other protections are called Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) because they protect your Intellectual Property (IP) (the actual materials registered/protected)

Unlawful use of IP is termed Infringement of IPR. Infringers can be actioned against in civil or in criminal courts, according to the type of infringement carried out, and the jurisdiction(s) to which one refers.

Under Civil law you yourself must prosecute an alleged infringer. Under Criminal law the police authorities or other consumer/trading authorities prosecute.

Technology & Methodology –

Software applications are able to be built which are able to sift through the Internet and pick out unlawful offers of products. These applications are built to order and to the (non-technical) specification a client provides. Each application built is normally customised and dedicated to the work specification required. Using such applications is able to provide a fairly comprehensive Situation Assessment of the web outlining and itemising the levels of theft of a particular copyright or other intellectual property that is occurring at the moment of the scanning of the web.

On the basis of a Situation Assessment one is able to plan one’s next moves. These can range from a straightforward Takedown regimen right through to full and complete policing of a Brand portfolio.

In addition Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of any Company, its Brands and the products they carry can be used so as to help against piracy and counterfeiting. SEO means recommendations for Branded products are able to be placed strategically on the Web so that buyers searching out a deal are introduced to their items before products that Brand competes with. In addition such placed recommendations are able to boost the popularity of your website by drawing more visitors to it.

Strategically notices can be situated on the web which help educate a potential customer-base about the hazards of buying cheap counterfeits/pirated items. People looking for unauthorised items get redirected to the Brand owner’s website – where they are offered the real deal along with some sound reasoning why the real deal is the best deal. (i.e. Guarantees; After-sales services, Quality Assurance and Testing of Goods and so forth).

Good quality commercial writers are best for this work, professionals who have experience in getting the right information to the right places, and so selling the products. Each review has to be unique and filled with densely-packed identifiers and pointers to the Brand, the Company site, and the products.

World Intellectual Property – A Brief

DMCA Takedown Services

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act under its strict interpretation legislates only for the United States geographical area. Thus its terms can be applied only to websites whose HQ or base; or when the website’s ISP, is situated in the US.

DMCA and Nations other than the USA:

In practice many nations have enacted ‘copycat’ legislation based on US DMCA law. This can mean in practice that US law has been lifted wholesale and applied with minor local adjustments in many smaller nations. There are a few important nations and economic blocs (ASEAN, the European Union (EU), and so on) which are of magnitude sufficient to underwrite their own customised legislation acting as their DMCA equivalents. Takedowns are possible in nearly every nation and so get a private policing company which offers a worldwide service

Global Organisation of Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement

Trade Marks

USA – uses its USPTO (United States Patents and Trademarks Office) which handles Protection and Enforcement

Europe – European Union has an organisation called OHIM Office for Harmonisation of the Internal Market – aka OAMI) which handles pan-European Protection and Enforcement. The EU also has an IP Enforcement Directive but this is not as strong a deterrent or protection as is US DMCA law.

There is a Madrid Protocol which allows for registration and protection of Trade Marks in the nations signatory to it. Madrid Protocol signatory nations are spread out across the globe


USA – has the statute law DMCA to handle enforcement of online copyright theft. Copyright is registrable in the USA (whereas in UK it is automatic upon creation of a work) and the USA has a Copyright Office

There is a global protocol named The Berne Convention whose terms protect copyrights to most of the countries of the world (again signatory nations)

What DMCA can do when an Infringing website does not comply with Takedown Notice

A Right’s holder can seek for Takedown at the leading Search Engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing and others). This effects a denial of access to your infringing materials by means of the route of a Google (or other Search Engine) Search

A Right’s holder can approach the ISP (Internet Service Provider) of the website that is hosting the infringing item(s). This ISP will consider that by hosting an infringer the website it provides its services to is in breach of their (ISP) terms and conditions

A Right’s holder can compose and deliver a Cease and Desist letter to the website admin concerned in the infringement. There can be a good level of success with such letters.

There are other more specialised online enforcement services out there also.


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Copyright Offences in the UK – A General Resume

UK Copyright

The data given below here comprises the general drift of UK law on Copyright Infringement and its accompanying offences and penalties as at around the time of posting this article. The text in red has been highlighted in red by Anomalist blog and does not show in this format in the actual statutory law published by UK government.

Nor do the footnotes added into the data here show in the actual UK law as officially published and they too have been added by Anomalist blog.

The aim of writing this article has been to offer a taster and so encourage readers of it to go to the official statute law itself which is on view at:

Infringing Copies

The statutory definition of an “infringing copy” of a copyright work is contained in section 27(2) of the copyright, designs and patents act 1988. This provides that “an article is an infringing copy if its making constituted an infringement of the copyright in the work in question”.

Offences: Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Under section 107(1) a person commits an offence who, without the licence of the copy right owner –

(a) makes for sale or hire, or

(b) imports into the united kingdom otherwise that for his private and domestic use, or

(c) possesses in the course of a business with a view to committing any act infringing the copyright, or

(d) in the course of a business –

sells or lets for hire, or
(ii) offers or exposes for sale or hire, or
(ill) exhibits in public, or
(iv) distributes, or

(e) distributes otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

An article which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe is, an infringing copy of a copyright work.

Under section 107(2) a person commits an offence who –

(a) makes an article specially designed or adapted for making copies of a particular copyright work, or

(b) has such an article in his possession,

knowing or having a reason to believe that it is to be used to make infringing copies for sale or hire or for use in the course of a business.

Under section 107(3) where copyright is infringed (otherwise than by reception of a broadcast or cable programme) –

(a) by the public performance of a literary, dramatic or musical work, or
(b) by the playing or showing in public of a sound recording or film,

Any person who caused the work to be so performed, played or shown is guilty of an offence if he knew or had reason to believe that copyright would be infringed.

Penalties: Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Section 107(4) provides that the offences under section 107(1)(a),(b),(d)(iv)and (e) are offences tryable either way

On conviction on indictment the maximum penalty is ten years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

On summary conviction the maximum penalty is 6 months imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine.

All of the remaining offences under section 107 are summary offences carrying a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine.

DISCLAIMER: This article in no way aims to be professional legal advice. It is for general cursory consumption only and it is not being recommended or advised or offered here as a work one should or could or can in any way base a legal action upon nor any contemplation of a legal action. The writers of and those associated with having posted this article on public display wholly and absolutely disclaim all and any liability which does and which might arise to any other person or party who has not taken note of or else not heeded this disclaimer.

Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement and Statistical Measurement

In regard to seizures of counterfeit products, a typical reported story in the news media, even in the trade media of the items of product concerned, let’s say cigarettes and tobacco, might read something like as follows:

The Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1 billion per year.” (28 Jan 2015)

There is the old chestnut of an adage which assures us that there are : ‘lies; – damned lies – and statistics’; but do you ever wonder to yourself from whence originate assured assertions like these, usually alarming in their tenor, which emerge from the lockers of cargo within the minds of those who are termed by spokespersons as being ‘opinion formers’?

Now what I am able to tell you, and it is a veritable fact, is that figures like this item concerning the scale of counterfeit cigarettes smuggling in UK, are, for the most part, compiled and based upon ‘data’ taken from the streets of our major cities.

The UK cigarette manufacturing and marketing industry uses employees of its representative trade body to walk the streets of London, Birmingham, Glasgow, and to pick up cigarette packages which have been discarded by smokers in gutters. These packages are examined and segregated into a) counterfeit, b) duty not paid, and c) duty paid items, and it is from this kind of exercise that statistics like the HMRC guy bandied around arise.

Now this practice of the cigarette manufacturers is one of the better ones amongst those used in industry in general and on which are based statistical aggregations of magnitudes of counterfeiting and piracy. It has going for it one important thing – it is, albeit very broadly, empirically based and evidenced.

Of course one would never accept the calculation of one’s monthly salary based on such a schemata as this cigarette carton collecting entails, but as a very rough and ready ballpark it might just hold an iota of credibility for the tobacco industry? Although for the most part this guesstimate of theirs is on the cusp of acceptability for us simply because one asks oneself: what more is the industry able to do so as to guesstimate its losses? We soften and give them a few brownie points of empathy for their trying so earnestly.

Other industry sectors subject to counterfeiting and piracy almost always use evidence much less solid than the cigarette industry and quite frequently have zero empirical evidence on which to base their claims for scales of losses incurred. Local Government, National Governments and International Authorities all likewise, as often as they pronounce a figure or a percentage in the area of Intellectual Property fraud, are attempting ‘plucking geese out of the air’ – or might as well be.

This is why figures stated for the exact same scenario are very often in huge conflict with their colleagues’ and competitors’ figures in other countries or in other jurisdictions. It is likely, virtually certain, that if every EU nation was asked to give a figure estimate of say illicit ‘Brand X’ denim jeans imported into the EU in the course of a given year; there would be no satisfactory agreement between them. Their individual estimates would fluctuate wildly and merely act to muddy the waters still further rather than go anywhere towards solving the issue.

Why is this? Well, let’s keep it simple. Calculating a company’s money losses to counterfeiters is usually done by means of a concept called a ‘lost sale’. A lost sale in the abstract is the cost to a legitimate company of a consumer buying a counterfeit when the same consumer (had counterfeits not been available) would have had to have bought genuine. Hence the genuine manufacturer loses the price of one item of sale.

The problems begin when the abstract concept of the ‘lost sale’ begins to be applied to actual commercial day to day realities. Questions arise such as:

What is the genuine item’s price? In a free and open market such as the EU retailers are able to compete on prices and to undercut one another should they wish to; and they do. Furthermore identical genuine products are pitched at variant prices in different trading areas across the world. It is not uncommon that genuine items – say bankrupt stock – are offered heavily discounted to consumers. Discounts are also given for bulk buys and also to wholesalers. Many products have variant sets of accessories or bundles, and a like for like cost price is hard to ascertain.

Why use the genuine item’s price? A National Government statistician economically-speaking would be more interested in using the price the counterfeit item was being sold at perhaps?

There is a good argument broadly accepted in the music industry these days that, like mild inflation is desirable in an economy for it to thrive; so also a modicum of piracy and counterfeiting is conducive to greater genuine sales for the entertainment industries. The argument runs that people download free so as to ‘taste’ and if they like they will buy the genuine item thereafter.
In this last case it seems a ‘lost sale’ to the victim of piracy can represent in fact a plus money value sum!

But you will still hear the music companies and musicians beating up on the download and on the downloader, often sending out in the post to ‘culprits’ exorbitant compensation demands, and laying claim in the media to ruinous injuries. Companies on top of sales losses also lay claim to reputational and Brand status losses, and to damage to other intangibles. Music Collecting Societies likewise hit social clubs and old folks’ homes, church services and the gal who likes to listen to radio as she runs her market stall, criminalising them as nascent pirates and asking seriously wild fees for the privilege.

I grow so hot under the collar because there is a whole industry of half-baked statistical offerings which these rights holder guys promulgate and persist in. It is persisted in and promulgated precisely for this reason: to give a specious validity to their claims of grievous injury by the granny who plays The Beatles in her shop, or by the guy who likes to sing The Carpenters at the local karaoke.

One will note, this is a final flourish of mine, that always and without fail year on year, or at whatever period they are reckoned in, the statistical fictions bandied around increase in size and in monies lost to counterfeiters and pirates. They not only keep pace with inflation, they have an inflation bias of their very own. The industries themselves are in sole charge of, in control of, their own compilers of reports and reviews and of pseudo-statistical and other ‘calculations’. There is no balance.

The numbers are increased period on period because of two reasons, and two reasons only. One – to keep the pressures on legislators and the legal executive, which together with Parliamentary lobbying ensure, they believe, the best deals for the business environments of their industries.
And so they maintain a ‘siege mentality’ within all ‘right-thinking-people’ (excuse the pun)

Two – So as to put forward a sympathetic public face for stakeholders and rights owners, the songwriters and the musicians, the actors and the artists, the creatives, and so on; which helps to keep the public sweet towards them and so keep buying their saleables; since so much of the actual value due to them is ‘being lost’ to Intellectual Property theft. (Such incubated sympathy has generated a recent increase in copyright protection term in UK; now standing here at 90 years)

In the first book of The Republic, Thrasymachus attacks Socrates’ position that justice is an important good. He claims that ‘injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice’ . In the course of arguing for this conclusion, Thrasymachus makes three central claims about justice.

Justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger
Justice is obedience to laws
Justice is nothing but the advantage of another


This is the way the big Intellectual Property rights’ holder guys see things, is it not?


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Doing Business

Traditionally the choices have been three.

  • The unregulated society: in which business acts after its own interests and meets with competition others who conflict with its interests
  • The regulated society: in which business is dominated so that necessarily choice of action is delimited and freedom to do business and competition are controlled.
  • The middle way of interventions: wherein a regulator (usually a Nation State Government) is intrusive into unregulated business, so as to ameliorate the harsher social consequences which arise out of an untrammelled free market

In practice, concerning Choice 1, (unregulated business): it has merely acted to shunt from pole position regulated controlled activity down the economic and social class ladder.

What I mean is that in societies where business is relatively unregulated employers have built up their large companies as closed-off organisations, within which employees to a greater or lesser extent are exposed to command and control.

Employers’ command and control is seldom much less oppressive inside their organisations than that carried on by Nation State Governments which choose as their model a regulated controlled economy

Freedom and choice and opportunity pertaining to unregulated business models are enjoyed chiefly by the persons who own and run businesses under this model

Necessarily it is argued, according to traditional thinking, these owners/operators are compelled to control and command their employees so that their companies are able to perform in the most effective efficient way against their competitors in the free marketplace.

Normally speaking there is inside any business organisation which is operating within an unregulated economy a hierarchy of control by which those high up enjoy lesser degrees of direct oppression and control whilst those low down bear greater degrees of these.

These degrees of direct oppression in the main correspond inversely to the extent that:

  • a) Any economic business or society is unregulated, and
  • b) Any business employee is presumed by his/her employer to hold a stake of some kind in the business. (This is why a senior manager will receive higher wages and obtain to a higher degree of status, often also having lower graded employees to control and direct. Such a higher grade employee will be presumed to have a greater stake in the organisation (and so also have more to lose from dismissal) than those whom he controls and directs.)

Logically then, inside this traditional model, the low graded employees are those most directly oppressed because they are those most controlled and directed, and are considered to hold least stake in the organisation.

(This critique of mine is not Marxist; it is in fact how business operators perceive the socio-economic reality, and their perception is justified by them, by their approving it as being a ‘natural order’ of things.  Such an conception has a utility to them not unlike the concept of Divine Right for kings in days before industrialisation)

Their argument is classically expressed as being in accord with ‘human nature’, and its leverage is normally brought in to play so as to justify hierarchical organisation based on privilege and dominion.

The simple psychology behind this ‘human nature’ argument proposes that men and women who carry no responsibilities will be those most likely to act irresponsibly. This inductive generalisation is based on premises that include preconceptions that:

  • Lowly graded employees need closer managing so as to function well
  • They will naturally evade their tasks otherwise
  • The general mass of them are not suited to taking on bigger roles
  • They have poor self-regulatory powers
  • They will do no more than they are made to do
  • They have little initiative and few and basic employable skills

These then are the employees seen as having least stake in a business, and they are considered to be those employees who are most liable to act irresponsibly.

The concept of ‘having or not having a stake’ in a venture is essential to the upholders of the ‘human nature’ argument. Having a stake, so the pitch runs, confers responsibility and energises ambition to improve oneself; which all engender that self-regulation and other ‘virtues’ prized by employers.

Having a stake then allows employees greater freedom; but only to opt for ambition, responsibility and self regulation, in favour of the employer.

Conversely, those employees of the least consequence in any business are thus those who will receive most control and direction.

(Normally-speaking and collaterally, lowly graded employees also obtain least wages. This is because their lowly status, without stake, is normally perceived to warrant lower levels of trust and to incur higher levels of risk for employers.  The class of lowly workers is also normally present in an organisation in far greater numbers than the number of higher-status employees who direct them

More later on how this factor of ‘greater numbers’ tends towards being another wage depressing factor)

On the other hand, an employer who is allowing privileged high-grade employees a modicum of stake in his company, intends them to accept his ‘gift’ as a stimulus that encourages them to act responsibly towards him and his company; and so nurture the interests of the business. The actual degree of anticipated loyalty/responsibility accepted and acted upon by an employee will be commensurate proportionately to the rank, status and reward that employer ‘gifts’ to employees.

These arguments so far are nothing more than standard thinking.

A sense of responsibility then, it is expected, can be awakened and reinforced in the minds of some select employees by reason of the bundle of rewards they obtain from the employer in exchange. Thus a deal is cut between higher-grade employees and the employer.

Employees of higher status normally obtain higher wages, but not only as a result of their acceptance of ‘the risks’ involved in, and ‘the burden’ of, their positions and responsibilities; indeed and  moreover, their very rewards (so it is understood) act to ‘tie them into’ their employment and business organisation. The arrangement has similarities with the methods used by early Victorian Industrialists who provided their workers with ‘Tommy Shops[i]’ and ‘tied-cottages[ii]’.

Thus arises a belief that an employee’s loyalty is conditional upon his persuasion to self-interest, and that this can be generated in him by the enlightened self-interest of his employer providing to him adequate inducements.  Although bearing upon the privileged employee also are those pressures arising out of forebodings and concerns at the thought of his losing such gifted indulgences.

And so even the favoured higher-grade employee remains straitened; controlled by his employer’s will and power. It is his sense of the risks involved in being dismissed which delineates for him the opportunity cost of him stepping out of line.

[i] A Tommy Shop was owned by the employer. The employer paid his employees wages in tokens which were accepted only at his Tommy Shops in exchange for foods and domestic goods.  An employee was thus tied-into buying at the Tommy Shop, which were not unknown to charge higher prices than free-marketplace shops.

[ii] A tied-cottage was a house owned by the employer; who was able to hire and fire at will. When an employee was fired he and his family lost also their tied-cottage and were thus destitute on the streets.


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Building a Trade Identity 2 – The Dream Factory

The epithet is customarily used as a descriptor for Hollywood and the US movie industry as a whole.  Hollywood is I guess the most apposite location and industry to be know by this label. However, inbetween the movie shows on TV and at the cinema are slotted the advertising shorts, which are money-spinners for the companies who broadcast or show movies.

The ads are little movies in miniature.  They can become narrative like movies are when a theme catches the public delight and the ad guys exploit it to the full. In the UK there have been narrative streams lasting over several years in Nescafe coffee ads, and another in Cadbury’s chocolate ads as well as several more to my memory.

Building a Trade Identity is a bit like building an advertising campaign, and as such, for it to be successful it has to carry the kernel of a dream inside it.  It has to be a dream which its target audiences buy into. It has to be a dream which has a nuance which no-one else in the industry sector has already been successful with.

For an ad campaign to take the public by storm with a narrative dream represents a campaign which perhaps the touchstone for success in the industry; likewise it takes a global superdream which becomes internalised emotionally by their consumers everywhere to carry an Apple or a Google corporation to colossal and continued hyper success.

The dream is always inseparable from the company and the company’s products.

A revealing way to look at this phenomenon is through the lense of one’s memories of being a child.  Of all stages of life, childhood is the most impressionable. In the first five years of life humans learn more than they do over the next seven or eight decades. We are like blotting paper absorbing learning almost magically at speeds which usually astonish first time parents.

One of the first tasks we seem to succeed in learning pretty well is that the world is our home and  our home is the house, the household, and the family. Almost like young geese we come very close to taking in psychological imprints that are so strong that they are almost indelibly set in our minds.  Nearly everyone is able to remember childhood, with some of its idyllic moments; almost like pagan Peter Pan and Wendy stuff.

The ad guys are aware of this near imprinting capacity on human young; and like the Jesuits they aim often to get the child early so as to be able to present to the world the adult person suitably adjusted. In this way household brands in particular, like those beef stock cubes mother always used to use; or the car manufacturer daddy favoured buying from, and so on, remain in the memory, one might say they form a part of the vestigial memory of a person.

Childhood then shows the powerful example of the potency of advertising on people; and Company Identity is able to work in many ways just like advertising works, and captivates one’s mind so as to build a nascent and almost irremovable impression of deep subliminal familial connectivity.

Such are the deepest strata of our unconscious tendencies; such is consumer loyalty. The message of the dream must be straightforward,not sophisticated; it must appeal to the child yet within us. Thus ads as well as the accompanying mythos of the Company Identity and its brands work together always to address consumers as if they were children. (Listen to the ads on TV next time you’re viewing; and note the tone of voice being used to speak to you; and the music used too is often another giveaway).

The dream’s appeal is to the self, is personal, and usually attempts to make you feel special – if you buy the product.  Likewise the accompanying Company Identity ambience will often appear to have a paternal aspect; it will provide for you, so it says, and has selected you out of all the possible persons it might have selected.  The products and services a company offers for sale are supported by carefully crafted claims which give the (often rather loose) impression that the company does not do second rate; (so you are second rate to ignore this fact), nor do its products disappoint.  It has no chinks in it armour; and is able to wheel out abundant accolades from thousands of super satisfied customers.

The specialness of the Company’s dream image will often be in the straplines and short catches it uses about itself. ‘Do no harm’ and ‘Making Motoring Magic’ and the like. There is a strong element of a childish ‘all in the garden is rosy’ which is showing the world through tinted glass, so that your life, one is inclined to believe, will go much more delightfully with this Company’s goods  and services: so buy.  This is the ‘feelgood’ factor promoting itself.

There are parodies on this approach to identifying your Company; a very old one from before World War 1 was:

‘I used your soap two years ago; and since then I have used no other’ (from a vagrant) – and

‘Nothing acts faster than Annadin’ (a headache remedy)

But nonetheless the amazing persuasive efficacy of the methodology, simple though it is, even obvious, remains; and effectively sways even the most smart and perspicacious among us. Like LIncoln’s adage:  ‘You can fool all of the people some of the time.’

The good news is that if it can work for others it can work for your company.  You will not have the huge resources which a large corporation has and pumps into its dream-image for consumers. You won’t have teams of employees seeking out and obviating negative feedback; or placing strategic good feedback; or else thinking up new ways to place and promote the basic message of the Company dream image.

Humans are an animals who like things simple. We like definitive solution answers.  Look at how most of us view our nations’ history.  Salem witch trials and McCarthy are clinically interesting items now distanced by time into objects of a cool curiosity.  Custer is almost a National Hero; as is John Wilkes Booth. The Spanish Armada was a great victory; Dunkirk was an almost Divine Providential rescue; King Charles I was a Royal Martyr. The truth is not so romantic, nor so easily categorised or communicable. So much easier is what we prefer to believe; we are myth making animals and that is what Company Identity is – a series of commercial urban mythology.

A great Anglo-American poet wrote, perhaps half-despondently, and half- pityingly;

‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality’

A great Anglo-Irish poet wrote:

‘Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light;

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’

BUILDING A TRADE IDENTITY: 1 – Trade Identity and Trade Dress Outlined

This is an area in which all us small guys can take an object lesson from the Corporations.  The Corporations take TRADE IDENTITY to levels of a fine art form. Any one of them taken at random – go to a website now – and you will not see one hair out of place. Down to the last comma and final question-mark; all will be hunkydory.  And if not, should you spot a blip or a smutch, let them know and heads will roll in their Web  Marketing Teams.

For the likes of us and for the Big Boys the game is the same; pay minute attention to the fine detail so that in the aggregate the monolithic whole is a homogenous but organic presentation of the Company image, (involving and including its logos, stated mission and corporate vision).

Danny Devito as Maras Wilson’s father in the movie of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ (a movie by the way which surpasses the novel it is based on) sells secondhand cars and is an out and out crook.  But he makes good money at it – and he explains why he does:

I say appearance is 9/10 of the law. People don’t buy a car, they buy me – which is why personally I take such pride in my appearance. Well-oiled hair, clean shave, snappy suit.’

It is a commonplace in advertising circles to affirm that consumers often are not buying a product or a service so much as buying the ‘dream’ or the ‘lifestyle’ which the advertising of the product trades in and conjures in a typical buyer’s imagination.

Corporations carry this ‘dream factory’ image-making to the nth degree. They call it creating and nurturing a CORPORATE IDENTITY.  A CORPORATE IDENTITY done properly works inside the organisation every bit as effectively as it does outside it; on TVs and billboard hoardings and in showrooms.  The Company ‘line’ is sold to its employees as hard as it is promoted in the marketplace; although it may well be nuanced differently so as to incentivise and energise its workforce.

However, in this initial article on TRADE IDENTITY I want to trace quickly and on the surface the concepts of BRANDING and TRADE DRESS. These concepts are related to TRADE IDENTITY – they are two of its key components.

BRANDING is the Company logo usually incorporating a TRADE MARK or MARKS, which are able to be registered at government offices in most nations and trading blocs, so as to allow it monopoly protection in law against theft and unfair duplications of it.  BRANDING is considered by many BigWigs in industry and commerce to comprise the Chief Capital Asset of a Company or a Corporation.

Here below are the TOP TWELVE Brands for 2014 with their estimated $US billions valuations:

Each of the twelve logos is instantly recognisable to us; as if we were indoctrinated in their habit. And this is where the money is made from – by them being kept repeatedly in our minds like an imprint.

The grey apple with the bite out of it does not stand alone – behind it is a whole composite universe. Likewise for the Google mark and the Coke mark, and the others.  A major part of this composite universe is that the apple and the golden arches and the four-coloured square each signify very precisely what is being marketed by their companies. They are each, in the terms Trademark people use to describe Brand logos, Badges of Origin. They stand for a consistency of quality, and of technical specification, of functionality and appearance; and as a guarantee of aftersales and other as standard service packages.

The monolithic Trade Identities of the Companies (Corporations) behind these logos, and supporting the products and services they head-up, act as context and background in the same way as, say, a novel’s main narrative and plot subsists upon a fully built-up-with-detail world-picture sufficient to present to us, when read, as if a ‘real life’ experience.

The essence of Branding, of Trade Identity, and of Trade Dress, is consistency, self-consistency, so that everything which is capable of being duplicated exactly when placing the advertising, the marketing, the website and the paper goods, leaflets, hoardings, in whichever and every place they appear on public display – does never deviate nor contradict itself and is utterly word-perfect and conforms with itself.

The overarching aim in all this is to give an impression of perfection to their publics; leading on to an implicit assumption in our minds being suggested that these organisations do not make mistakes.

One might scoff and knowingly say – ah! of course they mess up, who are they kidding – but the power that resides in this meticulous, gigantic and even tyrannical effort to maintain a squeaky clean Trade Identity is not lost on the guys who demand this image of pristine purity from their huge marketing teams. They know well how we humans work – that we are suggestible and able to be awed and wowed and dazzled by so much conscious and deliberate intricate care and attention to detail

Our unconscious minds respond almost against our conscious wills in the ways the Boardrooms of the Corporations want them to.  We are very often prostrate before such an outright and demonstrative expression of power.  It is akin to standing at the foot of the Flatiron Building or in London The Shard, and being unable to help ourselves feeling their statements of ‘We are the Champions!’

Just a word about Trade Dress before this first article comes to a close.  When one buys a well-known popular Branded product there comes with it packaging. Often the packaging is elaborate and it is obvious that much time and some considerable effort and money has gone into presenting the product for sale in this way. There will be a colour scheme, an arrangement of designs and fonts and logos, shapes and angles, and endorsements and quality markers and star ratings and so on; all consistently identical on the whole Brand product run – it is the monolith in little.   Much of the Trade Dress – for this is what this rigmarole is – will tap into the general Trade Identity of the Company and its Brand(s) and reverberate against these, sending reminders and prompts to our passive receptive neurons, for synapses of association to occur to us.

Thus the power of the whole organisational entity is fed into and able to be released by each individual item of product.  Thus the importance of self-consistency in Trade Dress.

Like The Shard and the Flatiron Building, Corporate Identity and its monolithic homogeneity right down to the very finest last detail; are emblems of tyranny. They state openly and brashly where the money is; who the powerful are; what the strong are capable of.  We are like straw before them and we acquiesce as if to a Dagon or a Baal when the thunders and lightnings shake the firmament and we run to our caves for shelter.

That is how it is. Well, it is half the story, and the lesser half.  There is hope elsewhere.

The Importance of Vision

Vision is a conceptual grasp of the whole. More, it has a visual element; or rather, an ‘in the mind’s eye’ visual element.

Aristotle, in his treatise De Anima, puts forward an idea which says that all human thought carries at least some vestigial image – he calls this phenomenon, the imago anime,  ‘the picture conjured in the soul’; and further , he claims that strong images thus visualised show as if the objects of thought were present to the senses.

Now this claim, that ‘strong images thus visualised show as if the object of thought was present to the senses’, is not necessarily hyperbole or exaggeration.  Many recorded instances, especially amongst artists (musicians, poets, painters,) of them, as it were, being able to ‘hallucinate at will’ are reliably documented.

Ben Jonson, a dramatist and a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, writes of how he fell asleep at nights watching and enjoying at his feet noblemen with swords duelling together in animated combat, because his imagination worked on his senses so powerfully.

So it is not uncommon for people to ‘see’ in a way that in some sense is analogous to literal and actual vision; see items of their thought when set before their imaginations.

Furthermore, from my experience working with persons whose employment has required them to put into practice certain complex and detailed procedures accurately and methodically, it has been my observation that there is always a select few amongst them who are able to read and digest amendments and revisions of procedure so as to understand them and act upon them, purely from the written documents.

The remaining majority of employees got by because of these select few, whose duty of care it fell out to be to ‘translate’ these written word instructions into verbal communications able to be digested aurally and applied in their work by the others.

Taking these two qualities together: the strong pictorial imagination and the high competence in comprehension and application of complex written instruction; one might observe from experience that there is always in most walks of life, just a minority of participants whose capabilities allow them to perform at such high levels.

The profession of web designer of course benefits exponentially from having attached to it persons of strong visual imagination – this much is more or less self evident.

That developers perhaps might benefit from owning these characteristic, is perhaps a little less obvious to us?

But indeed, the best developers are most likely to be those whose minds and experience have melded over time so as to enable them to grasp as a whole the conceptual range of a complex and intricate task. And to be able to grasp such a range from the written word only also.  They will also be likely to be able to visualise in some depth of foreknowledge and in the abstract and in the round, written specified requirements expected of them.

Matthew Arnold, a Victorian cultural critic and poet famously wrote:

But be his
My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul,
From first youth tested up to extreme old age,
Business could not make dull, nor passion wild;
Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole

these words about the Athenian tragic dramatist Sophocles.

The seeing of discrete tasks and their corollaries and implications ‘steadily and as a whole’ is also what is best required in a developer one would choose. For a developer to have come so far in the course of her life experience so as to be so proficient will have been the fruit of her having employed and practiced her gift for imaginative vision and visualisation; and having joined it to the nurture and improvement of her reading and writing skills (her vocabulary, sentence structure, syntax, grammar, clarity and precision) in both natural language and in her software scripting.

These qualities when embodied together in her will make her a formidable developer; one who is a rare find and a treasure to be cultivated.

The signs that any developer one has in mind for doing a task has such gifts and accomplishments ought to be looked for right from the time one begins preliminary negotiations and discussion with her (or him).

The $64K question remains: what are these telltale signs?

Well, we have some written up here already – like command of natural language. A person whose head is clear and whose mind considers sequentially, a step at a time (and this is not incompatible with imaginative vision – indeed it enables, enhances it) will express herself eloquently in natural language as well as in script.  She will have a care to syntax and vocabulary, punctuation and grammar, so as to be understood rather than to be strictly observant of artificially imposed rules.

There is also temperament. Matthew Arnold compliments Sophocles on being an ‘even-balanced soul’ (see above). The dramatist Ben Jonson (also mentioned above) held a maxim about people generally. He said:

‘Words make a man: speak let me see thee.’

And it is true that a person’s disposition, whether wild or staid, or rash or impulsive, considered and measured; is all illuminated and can be seen because it is revealed, given away, in the way they use speech and handle language.  And so one should study the way in which a developer you are considering speaks, writes, negotiates; is she polite; is she considerate, does she appear to have some ‘depth’; does she interrupt you a lot; is she overbearing; is she confident yet not pushy; is she sensitive to others; does she broach tricky matters with tact?

Has she discretion, integrity, common sense, aptitude, does she talk well about her subject disciplines; does she try to baffle you with science; does she dismiss you because you know little about technical things; is she patient?

This long list of character traits may seem to have little bearing on her developer skills and experience; but you would be much mistaken to believe so. Good qualities in a person carry over into their works and into what they make and produce. Likewise bad qualities act in the exact same way.  Attention to detail for instance: can anyone doubt that attention to detail is an important thing for any developer you’d want to hire?  A general negligent, idle air – would anyone hire a developer who seemed to be wholly uninterested in the project of yours in hand?

Just think about how many mistakes and errors are made in development work by developers whose hearts and minds and selves are not in their works?   The Romans had a saying:

Laborare est orare’ (‘Work is prayer’)

The mediaeval masons working on the great Gothic cathedrals carving beautiful intricate stone-works and statuary wholly in the service of God; with stupendous skill – their names are unknown to us and they were not considered in their time to be celebrities – crafted exquisite traceries and ornament even in the roof arches of their buildings; in those places which never saw the light of day and are hidden absolutely from human view.

The first human eyes since the masons’ own to look upon their hidden works have been the modern day church roof restorers; yet the masons made as much effort, took every bit as much care, in these as they had taken in crafting the parts sculpted for human eyes and approbation.  Thus: ‘work is prayer’

The good developer works likewise. Those parts of her task which will never be inspected by her client; the backend, the coding, the scripts, will be tasks carried out in due honour to his profession and in the service, at the very least, to excellence; and as such they will possess a holiness of sorts about them also, for as long as they remain extant.

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