Welcome to Meerkat Musings


Welcome to Meerkat Musings. I am your host Ben, and I will be your guide through this realm.

Who is that guide you ask? He is a forty-something happily-married father of one, living in Essex (which is in the UK, and not too far from London). He doesn’t usually refer to himself in the third-person but for this paragraph and this paragraph alone, he will on this page.

Ahem, now we’ve shaken that out of our system, what else can I tell you? Well, my descendants were possibly gypsies who lived in Scotland (right on the border with England), and they may have actually been classed as gypsy royalty, something that even came with Scottish Royal Approval. I’m still figuring that out. 

I’m not afraid to be political. I’ll gladly sink my teeth into discussions of social issues. I don’t like injustice, I can’t stand wilful ignorance, and I have no patience for wild conspiracy theories. I take a dim view of people using their religious views to justify bigotry and racism. I’m unashamedly left-wing.

I’m a published author! My book, The Awakeningis available to order via Amazon, and via Jumpmaster Press. UK readers are best off using the Amazon link, and US readers are better off using Jumpmaster Press.

A lover of all things Nintendo, I have proudly introduced my daughter to the wonders of Pokemon and Super Mario!

I grew up in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, surviving school and working in office environments for a number of years, whilst dabbling with fan fiction. Over the years I moved to Essex, and ditched the office for retail sales, something I am more naturally suited for. Whilst doing this, my love of sci-fi has never waned – Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who are big influences, whilst on the literary front, David Weber’s Honorverse and the works of Peter F Hamilton have shaped how I approach writing.

Alongside sci-fi, I have a keen enjoyment of Formula 1 motor racing, and I like to mention I lived in the same town as Lewis Hamilton (though I never met Lewis).

If you want to get in touch, drop me an email – darth_timon@yahoo.co.uk, or leave a comment! You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

21 thoughts on “Welcome to Meerkat Musings

  1. Ben, are there gun-nuts in the UK, also? Sheesh. I thought this was more of an American failing of logic. How discouraging.

  2. Hi Ben, we’ve chatted before some time ago.

    To murder the Andy Warhol quote, for 15 minutes, we’ll all have a blog, and for 15 minutes 15 minutes later, we’ll all have a podcast, and for 15 minutes 15 minutes later, we will all trend on TicTok, and so on, ad infinitum.

    After being retired for a few years now, I’m struggling with the idea of relevance, not just my own, but everyone. Why would anyone care what I think? Why should anyone care what anyone else thinks? When everyone is a pundit on everything, is anyone really a pundit on anything?

    Before you answer, I guess I should first ask you what you think “relevance” means. Is it defined by what expertise the one opining has on the topic at hand? Do all opinions equally actually affect or affect each other’s actual lives? Are all opinions of equal value? Is there a moral responsibility to giving an opinion? To getting an opinion? Does giving or receiving too many opinions somehow devalue them, and therefore are we facing opinion deflation to the point where it’s hard to even know what opinions are important? On a more esoteric level, is increasing amounts of discourse by more people on more media itself really valuable? The answers to these questions go to what I’m wondering about relevance, but you might have a better perspective on the term.

    Maybe you have a completely different way of looking at this dilemma that I’m wondering about. What’s your opinion?

    • Greetings Tony,

      You pose some challenging thoughts, which at just gone 8am are hard for me to process, but I’ll try!

      Does anyone care what anyone else thinks? I believe people can and do care, though of course, not everyone will care about everything, and I approach this blog with the attitude of ‘pleasing myself’ first. I do this largely for me, for posterity (assuming that a thousand years from now my machine-implanted consciousness is continuing to post), and to express myself. I try not to worry about whether I am relevant to others. I can’t control that. For a time I cared too much what certain parties thought of my posts, and tied myself in angry knots, so I exhaled, let my anger go, and now I blog for myself. If I entertain my friends along the way, great!

      You’re right to point out that there’s now a lot of conversation about a lot of topics, across a lot of mediums. We have the means to blast our opinions and ideas to others at full volume, all the time, and we are also being bombarded in return. Sometimes social media feels like a lot of people talking past each other, and the blogging realm feels like the same. We all want to have a voice, and we all want our voice to be taken seriously, and all of us naturally put up barriers when we hear something we don’t want to hear. I think we all want our opinions to be considered the most relevant, and it hurts us when they’re not. We want to influence others, yet not be influenced.

      The whole world of self-expression (indeed, the world in general) feels like a dumpster fire at the moment. We’re all shouting at each other, then wondering why no one takes us seriously. Maybe we all take ourselves too seriously? Maybe blogging can and should be a cathartic exercise to express one’s self, and forget the opinions of the haters and the doubters and the naysayers.

      What I’m generally getting at is that I have no idea how to answer your questions!

      • Ben,

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply to, after rereading it, is indeed a very sweeping set of questions. These are not meant to be a “loaded questions”, however, as I don’t know how I’d answer them myself either. If you don’t mind and when you have time, could you unpack at least part of your answer a bit?

        You said:

        “I approach this blog with the attitude of ‘pleasing myself’ first. I do this largely for me, for posterity (assuming that a thousand years from now my machine-implanted consciousness is continuing to post), and to express myself.”

        Please correct me if I have this wrong, but it sounds like you do this activity, which must take up a good deal of time and effort, for its self entertainment value, sort of like a hobby that pleases you and that you hope will please others. If I have it right, that’s fair, but I hope you can see how that answer begs even more questions for me. Why do we find this entertaining? Is it really the best use of our time when the world provides so many other opportunities to enjoy it, so many more productive (or guilty) pleasures? What’s the opportunity cost?

        The “posterity” part of your answer is even more intriguing as it perhaps gets to the heart of our motivations for doing so many things, this need to assuage an existential dread. Do we each have any relevance if we come in to the universe for only a millisecond and then we are gone with, all too quickly, very little trace of us remaining? Do you think that it is sort of like the way that some people manage this existential anxiety with a religion that gives them the promise of an afterlife, of everlasting permanence in what is a universe who’s rules seemingly tend toward a mix of sparklingly diverse creation, but also mind bending chaos and unending destruction and impermanence?

        If that is our psychological motivation to emote then, is this response to it more like just a nervous tic or does it actually fulfill some more productive of profound purpose?

        • Greetings once again Tony,

          Please correct me if I have this wrong, but it sounds like you do this activity, which must take up a good deal of time and effort, for its self entertainment value, sort of like a hobby that pleases you and that you hope will please others. If I have it right, that’s fair, but I hope you can see how that answer begs even more questions for me. Why do we find this entertaining? Is it really the best use of our time when the world provides so many other opportunities to enjoy it, so many more productive (or guilty) pleasures? What’s the opportunity cost?

          I think I get where you’re coming from. Is this a frivolous exercise, could there be other, more interesting, stimulating and fun activities out there for me/any would-be blogger? There certainly are, and I do indulge in some of them. Blogging does take up some time, but you’d be surprised how much time I manage to devote to other things (such as writing my stories, playing video games, film nights etc).

          As to why I enjoy blogging… I don’t know really. I just do. I like to express myself. Throwing my thoughts out there is one such mechanism for doing so. Receiving ideas for posts from others/other blogs provides a bit of mental challenge, and all sorts of daily stuff happens that I find worth recording. Is it the absolute ‘best’ use of my time? I cannot say. I find it enjoyable, and if I find it enjoyable, what better way could I spend that time?

          As to the posterity question, all I can say here Tony, is that you like to delve deep! Is the blog possibly a step towards immortality of a sort? If Meerkat Musings is archived forever in some way shape or form, then it would form a decent part of my ‘story’, since I am recording my life’s events through it. Of course, I don’t reveal everything on my blog 🙂

          As to our relevance… all our names might one day fade to dust, with no one remembering us, yet even now, I can trace back my family tree hundreds of years, and feel closer to names and people from my family’s distant past. If we can find ways to remember our ancestors, who could not preserve their personal history the way we can today, we ourselves can be remembered in hundreds of years to come, which is sort of comforting. Of course, how we are remembered is up to us!

  3. I enjoyed your reply Ben.

    I don’t want you to think that I’m making a value judgment. Instead, I’m just exploring with you what seemingly has become our time’s world shaking phenomenon in human communications, apparently with deep psychological, political and economic implications. Whether it’s a normatively good or bad phenomenon is kind of above my pay grade.

    Perhaps the most profound thing that we can do with our individual consciousnesses, however, is to be cognizant of how we concentrate our awareness and attention. That cognizance may determine how we spend our attention, regardless of any moral or value judgments.

    Perhaps a personal example will help. When I was young, probably junior high, I used to bite my nails, pretty much unconsciously (a nervous tic). Before I could decide to stop, or even allow the possibility of stopping, I had to become aware of the impulse of biting my nails, in the moment before I did it. Only with that level of awareness and attention could I make a value judgement about that habit and, when I decided it was not a necessary or healthy impulse, try to break the default impulse loop at the second that it was triggered. I had a similar experience with quitting smoking in my early thirties.

    These are normatively bad habits, but not all impulses actually are necessarily “bad”. Some, such as the impulse to help someone in distress or to be an active citizen, would be consider good in most circles. However, until we make the exploration, the examination, of the impulse and its motivation, how can we know one way or the other? How can we actually lead an examined life? It’s in that spirit that my questions were intended.

    As for relevance, I really like your answer on that and feel much the same way. Even in the face of our impermanence, we each inherently look for ways to touch eternity (as you say, by leaving some small mark in the flow of time and space or by seeing ourselves in an ongoing continuum of ancestors and progeny). It’s all a kind of religion, don’t you think? And perhaps this need to assuage existential dread and to seem a part of eternity, even within our obvious impermanence, is as much a part of our nature as it is for a tiger to hunt and kill its dinner. The examination of that nature may not change it (any more than a tiger will willingly become an herbivore), but don’t you think that, like any positive or negative impulse we have, our awareness of it and where it comes from might change its manifestation and the direction of our focus in each moment?

    Love to hear you further thoughts on this, but I’ve enjoyed the exploration either way. I don’t think it was a waste of my time. I hope that you don’t think it was a waste of yours.

    • Firstly Tony, I want to let you know that I am enjoying our conversation, even if it’s delving into territory that goes well over my head!

      You’re not wrong to say that social media/the internet has changed communications in a profound way. You’re also not wrong to mention that the implications of that – positive and negative – may not be truly known just yet. I have my concerns about how much time my daughter spends on her phone (though often she is listening to music whilst drawing/painting, which I don’t mind). I have my concerns about my own screen time. On a wider level, the means to swiftly share information and ideas in the blink of an eye has no doubt revolutionised numerous fields, yet it has granted heavy exposure to all sorts of ideologies that compete – passionately and angrily – with one another, and I dare say the net has helped to polarise people. We all scream at the world, and struggle to be heard. Is it possible that we lose our individuality?

      You mentioned awareness and attention. I fear the current generation of youngsters – and older generations too – are losing their focus. Between the addiction of screen time (which I fear I am subject to), and the endless babble of numerous voices shouting for our attention, how do we pull back to find our own identity, and have our own voice? I for one have taken steps to strip away negative voices (there are a few people I used to regularly converse with, or should I say argue with, and that was doing me no favours, so I have cut them off), and that’s taken away a source of distraction, so that I may focus more on what I want and need. If I am too busy rowing with trolls online (in no small part because I enjoy it!), I’ll never finish my third book! (and yes, that last line is a shameless plug!)

      I like your real-world example. It must have taken effort to be aware you were about to indulge in a force of habit, much less then stop yourself from following through. After a time, my online arguing was almost instinctive, and I had to make an effort to peel myself away from that behaviour. I still occasionally fail, especially on Twitter. Getting into a force of habit that’s positive seems so much harder to me (like exercise, I keep telling myself to work out, and I never do).

      I don’t know if I can say I view our philosophical search for immortality as a religion, though I know where you’re coming from. It seems to be an innate desire among all of us to want to be remembered, or to have our names chiselled into the fabric of human accomplishment. Alas, I doubt I will be remembered in the same vein as Neil Armstrong or Stephen King, but I can try 🙂

      We rally against death, and oblivion, because we’re the only species truly capable of understanding our mortality. I guess that scares us, so we dream up various means to fight it. We howl at the void, defiant to the very end in many cases, even though we realise it’s a futile gesture. Does that make humans silly? Perhaps. Will we change? Probably not!

      • Yes Ben. I’ve had the same experience with the internet and have had much the same reaction. It’s far too easy to become one of the trolls that you disdain.

        “Never wrestle with a pig because you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it.” – George Bernard Shaw

        I’ve found myself backing away from opining on the internet, not because I don’t enjoy it but because I enjoy it too much. I don’t like that person that it makes me – vain, demagogic, needlessly argumentative, hateful.

        Perhaps nothing ever changes just as technology constantly transforms everything in seemingly profoundly ways. We react in unintended, negative ways with the new communication technology, but it is still our old own human nature that does the reacting. Instead of the new knowledge providing new wisdom, new insight, it just puts the human animal in a strange sort of isolation and invisibility, a new kind of lonely cage with the elusion of real human interaction, and then pokes him mercilessly, making us more vicious instead of more connected, more empathetic, more kind, as the web’s early promoters thought the new internet medias would do. But that’s just looking at the dark side of the Web. As you say, it has positive sides as well.

        Perhaps only writers, like you, can imagine all the possibilities, positive and negative, and hold up a mirror to us to show us what we are becoming, make us step back, become more introspective.

        Personally, I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of the democratization of discourse that the new tech allows. Most of my opinions on most things just aren’t that valuable (as much as I flatter myself to think that they are). And I hate to be cynical, but I wonder if we give way too much value to opinions of the mob that I am a part of when I’m here. Everyone criticizes elitist opinions these days, but how often is the angry mob actually right in comparison to actual altruistic experts.

        What do you think Ben? Is more didactic discourse by more people, particularly people who have not risen to much of a level of self examination and study to truly have some elusive wisdom and some expertise (and perhaps never will) really positive progress? (Think French Revolution verses the American one). Should we be more philosopher king lead? More elitist lead? Or do artists (fiction writers, poets, film makers, musicians) actually make better thought leaders because they lead the better angels of the human “heart” to progress rather than just the not-so-rational-as-we-think part of human mind? Maybe a combination of both?

        • I love that expression about the pigs Tony, I may have to remind myself of that on a daily basis!

          I think you’re right: human nature remains largely the same, across the centuries and across technological and cultural epochs. Since time immemorial human beings have been fighting for various reasons; the internet is but a new battleground, where words are weapons, in the manner that town meetings and forums might have been in the past.

          It’s also easy (as I think you alluded to) to dehumanise someone if we cannot see them. The person we debate with is a username, and we don’t see the human being behind that username. On the other hand, I have met some unique and wonderful people via the web, and I met my wife via the web, so I may always have a soft spot for this tech 🙂

          I appreciate the kind words regarding my imagination, though ultimately my imagination takes me off to strange sci-fi places and weird fantasy realms! I do like your point about the mob vs the experts. During the covid pandemic, I saw so many people ranting about this and that, claiming their five minute Google search or two-minute YouTube video granted their views as much merit as a qualified doctor. I observe this with stuff like flat earth theories and other conspiracies. The internet is a great tool for information, but it also allows conspiracists to reinforce their often misleading ideas by finding like-minded-yet-equally-ignorant conspiracists.

          How we as a society are to be, shall we say ‘directed’ is a good and difficult question. The elitists in the sense of say, the rich and privileged are often woefully out of touch with the realities on the ground for the working classes (think of the Tories in the UK, and the likes of Boris Johnson, whose inherited wealth enabled him to have a private school education, which in turn enabled him to believe he is worth more than others by virtue of birth). Our political leaders are often out of touch with public thinking, and I dare say this applies to the right and the left, though in the UK it applies more to the right. They may fancy themselves as just below royalty, and consider themselves wise, yet they display no wisdom, for they have rarely, if ever, done real work in the real world.

          Sorry, I fear I’m digressing! I may have also missed the point you were making, apologies!

          I don’t know if artists can be better leaders. I suppose it depends on how they might lead. In terms of leading society and social constructs, maybe there are some ideas worth pursuing, but as true leaders, I don’t know if I for one would have the practical skills, or the resolve, to be a good leader. Maybe I have the empathy side of things locked in, but could I make the hard choices? I have no idea. I think the best leaders can be ruthless when required, as long as they understand the cost of their actions (no matter the benefit of them too).

          I have no idea if that actually answers anything, or if I am waffling!

          • Ben,

            Thank you for letting me wonder out loud on your blog a bit. I like your attitude. You seem to have come by it more naturally than others, but this is perhaps a common misunderstanding about the hard work it takes to get and keep a positive attitude. That cake is never completely baked, is it?

            Just to correct a couple of misconceptions, for what it’s worth. What I meant about artists leading the way did not necessarily mean literally holding leadership positions in governments (although I think it could be helpful if our leaders understand the world a little more as artists do). To use some metaphorical language, I think artists such as yourself must hear the music of the universe in their own hearts, and then try to interpret that music for the rest of us so that we can see ourselves in each rise and fall of the never ending symphony, challenging us to be filled with anticipation of each emergent note and filling us with new surprises as the old familiar patterns transform into new crescendos and unexpected tranquilities. Leadership calls for a different skill set.

            I was a leader in the military for half my adult life. I slowly learned over the years that the essence of leadership isn’t necessary in having higher intelligence, greater tactical knowledge, or more charisma, although all those attributes certainly help. The essence of leadership is integrity, along with all the virtues that that word entails. And that integrity can be developed, but it has to be heart felt to your core – a leader has to truly care. Corny as it may sound, if a leader has integrity (loyalty to his men and his superiors, a basic honesty, a commitment to mission, a willingness to sacrifice first and last, etc.) her people will follow her up and through the gates of Hell. If her followers realize she does not, or that she’s faking it, then they will only cynically pretend to follow – inevitably we all will just reflect the cynicism that we see exemplified in their leadership. Does that make sense?

            When I talked about the philosopher king (sort of as Plato invented in “The Republic”), that is the kind of leadership that I was eluding to. It’s an “elite” leadership, yes, but not in the sense of “elite” that you thought that I meant.

            As you suggest, perhaps one of the problems with leadership in all fields these days is that they don’t have this sense of communion with their followers because they’ve never lived with them, loved them. As a priest of mine once told me, “a good shepherd has to smell like his sheep”.

          • Thank you Tony, for a fascinating discussion! Yes, I gather I did rather miss the point RE artists in charge. I can imagine Stephen King being a good leader, but can you imagine the creepiness he might weave into society?!

            You are right about integrity. The best managers I’ve worked for led by example, literally and figuratively (they taught me that I should be willing to do all the tasks I ask of my team, and to never raise my voice in anger, advice I try to live by).

            Tony, I would like to make you an offer. I run a second site, https://coalitionofthebrave.wordpress.com/, which is all about social and political issues. It could be that you disagree with some or most of the positions I argue for there, which is fair enough. However, I am always looking for contributors, and the risk of sounding like I’m sucking up a bit, you strike me as a thoughtful and intelligent individual, who could make brilliant contributions. The choice is naturally all yours.

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