Author Archives: archibald stapleton

Importance of reflection

When reflection becomes incredibly important to your own survival and well-being, it suddenly gets a huge priority boost. I won’t claim that without it I would literally have died, but for the period that I worked on the pearl farm, I might have come close.

I’ll explain where I was, and what I was doing, before giving the rationale behind my reflective process on the events.

My final exam had concluded on November 6th, and I was ready for a break. My plan was to work for the next 8 months then move to Canada to begin university, but at least for the next week I was going to kick back and chill. That all turned to shit unfortunately, when my good friends father offered me a job. The terms were as follows;

  1. At least 8 weeks, maybe more
  2. Work on a pearl farm, doing manual labor of one variety or another
  3. The work place is an isolated farm in the furthest reaches of the Northern Territory, in a bay 3 hours from the nearest town by boat in Arnhemland, called Gove (Nhullunbuy).


Of course, this would mean living there, without good phone service, for a period which included my 18th birthday (the legal drinking age in Australia, so an important one), Christmas, new year, Hannuka, and Australia Day.

My decision was made 3 years prior to this however, when I decided UBC was going to be my university, so I said yes. Dave, my friend’s dad, went into another room, and – in his usual manner—immediately booked a flight without telling me.


Cut to 50 hours later and I’m sitting in a dongle, sweating profusely in the North Australian wet heat, wondering how on earth I got there, writing in a journal. This is where my self-reflection suddenly became so incredibly important. What I’ll do now, I think, is give a brief account of a few points of reflection which I still have with me, and which I immediately put to use out on the farm.

  1. Be a 0. Don’t try, when you aren’t sure of your own ability, to be a +1, because inevitably, you will be a -1. Here is what happened to lead me to this conclusion. I was on the boat as it was pulling out of the harbor to make the 3 hour journey from Gove to camp. It’s a big ship. The ropes holding it to the wharf were as thick as a man’s thigh, and probably 25 meters long. The call was made to pull them in, and a woman covered in tattoos was dragging one up onto the boat. I was standing around like a limp scarecrow, and desperately wanted to prove myself. With that in mind, I rushed over to Kerry pulling in the rope, and also got a grip on it and tried to pull. It immediately stopped reeling in, so I pulled harder. Kerry told me to “fuck off”, and I suddenly realized that I was pulling the rope at an angle that caused it to jam up against the side of the ship, preventing it from moving. From then on, I stood back until I knew I could have a positive, +1 influence on a situation- which can only come about through this process of self-reflection.
  2. Never, ever mess with animals. This one is less of a personally reflective concept, but I think Mengzi might approve. Animals, in the outback of Australia, want you to die. It’s like the combination of heat, misery, desert, and hunger makes them furious, and almost always out to murder you. Here are a few cases where that turned out to be incredibly true. When I first arrive I was told, “watch out for cigarette snakes. They’re everywhere. We call ‘em that coz if you get bit by one, you just wanna si’down, roll up a ciggy, and ‘ave a smoke, coz… well, it’s the last thing you’ll ever bloody do.” It turns out that the anti-venom only lasts for about 2 weeks, and it’s very expensive- so they just don’t keep it on camp. The venom from these snakes takes about 25 minutes to paralyze a grown man, and with a helicopter, you still wouldn’t make it to hospital in time. I couldn’t believe it when, a few weeks later, I walked out of my dongle to see a 6 foot 4 Estonian bloke staring at a 3ft snake right in the eyes. It looked like he was in a trance, and frankly- so was I- until someone else saw him and screamed “get the fuck away from it! That thing’ll kill ya!”. So I was taught, both through practice and self-reflection, to stay well clear of anything in the bush or water that moves.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Socratic Dialogue for Veganism

Narration of Archie: As I sat at my table, surrounded by friends, I saw Zach with a pork and beef sandwich. My plate was laden, as usual, with a salad, beans, and vegetables. Zach began to attack my habits;

Zach: Well, Archie, I see you again have failed to succumb to the most primary human sustenance.

Archie: I assume you are facetiously referring to some kind of flesh?

Zach: Flesh- you sophist- don’t persuade me with rhetoric, persuade me with logic.

Archie: Logic? Perhaps, Zach, you would regale me with your intellect and divulge exactly what logic leads you to consume flesh, then we shall see where logic comes to play. I am sure your mind is up to that task, but I don’t want to turn you off your meal if you think it not so…

Zach: Archie, nothing could possibly persuade me not to finish this delicious sandwich. As you wish. Meat is justifiable, not only for the extrinsic good of our health, but more importantly because we have a right–a principled justification– to eat meat.

Archie: I’m not sure I understand you- a right? Where does this right originate?

Zach: it originates in power. It originates in our being a more developed, intelligent, and capable species than any of the animals we now consume.

Archie: I see. So power constitutes a right to decide on those weaker than us?

Zach: That is my claim. Also, I will add, that human beings are fundamentally more important than animals because of their intellect and ability to self-actualize. That is, we know we exist, and suffer greatly in death, in a way far more significant way to animals.

Archie: Zach, I’ll respond to your first argument, before moving on to this addendum… may I ask, importantly, what exactly makes murder wrong?

Zach: Well, it is illegal

Archie: And why is it made to be illegal?

Zach: Because it causes suffering to that person, as they are the ones who lose a potentially fulfilling future life. Also, people around the murdered person suffer greatly.

Archie: So you don’t think this applies to animals, correct?

Zach: OF COURSE NOT! Animals can be killed, especially when it’s done without pain, because the other animals certainly don’t feel any sadness, and the animal itself isn’t self-aware enough to know what it is losing in death.

Archie: So, if a being doesn’t suffer in death, it isn’t aware fully of its own existence, and no-body cares about it, then to kill it painlessly is ethical?

Zach: That seems to be my principle, yes.

Archie: Is it ever ok to kill a human being?

Zach: NO!

Archie: Imagine, for a moment, a heavily disabled individual. Describe for me, if you will, a person who suffered brain damage.

Zach: Well, a person who suffered great brain damage might have no rational thought, might not even be conscious, and might even be in a vegetative state

Archie: And now, Zach, would you describe for me a baby, of perfect health, 2 days after it is born?

Zach: Sure- a baby still sees upside down, it isn’t consciously self-aware, and it can’t speak. It has a few instinctual desires and is probably quite fearful of the world around it.

Archie: Now, imagine those two examples- would it be wrong to kill them?

Zach: How could it not be? They are human beings. It is murder.

Archie: Surely though, I would be justified in killing them if I did it with a painless injection, or walked up behind them and shot them in the head without any fore-warning. Have they suffered in this death?

Zach: No, it still seems wholly immoral, I can’t see where you are taking this argument, but… well no, they haven’t suffered.

Archie: And what if we imagine that this babies mother has just died while giving birth, and the father is not to be found. Furthermore, the disabled person has no family or relatives, and is living in a government disabled home, with no visitors. Does anyone suffer if I kill them?

Zach: No, if no-one has an emotional connection to them, then sure- no-one suffers when they die. Except that you take away the potential for the baby to enjoy life!

Archie: Very well noticed Zach, that potential is removed. Would you not agree that in killing a healthy animal, they too have a life removed which could have been, for that animal, rather fulfilling?

Zach: Yes, I do agree.

Archie: So here we are, with two examples of humans that really, by your principle, can be killed! Don’t you agree that neither the child nor the disabled person understood what they lost, felt pain, and no-one cared for them and thus didn’t suffer either?

Zach: well it seems I must agree. But I still think animals are fundamentally weaker than us, and we have a right to dominate them!

Archie: An argument like this is certainly interesting. I will have to probe it to discover any fault…

Zach: Probe away.

Archie: Well, Zach, you agree that you are stronger than me?

Zach: Undeniably so.

Archie: And you could defeat me in a fight, and probably in intellectual debate as well.

Zach: Undoubtedyl!

Archie: I agree. So, kill me.

Zach: Sorry? Archie did I hear you correctly?

Archie: Yes, you have, by your logic, the justifiable right to kill me, because you are more powerful than me, correct?

Zach: I can’t kill you Archie, power of not- we are equals.

Archie: Why are we equals?

Zach: Because we both suffer, and are at least similar enough in intellect.

Archie: What is relevant intellect and suffering then? Is it the ability to fear death that makes us equals, or something more fundamental?

Zach: it is nothing more fundamental, we are equal because we both suffer in similar ways.

Archie: Do you know animals mourn their dead? And that they recognize, (pigs, at least), 30 individuals around them?

Zach: No…

Archie: And did you know that in the line up to be slaughtered, cows start mounting one another in a desperate attempt to get a moment of pleasure before their inescapable doom?

Zach: No, I suppose not

Archie: So, would you not agree that animals suffer too!

Zach: Well yes, I suppose so.

Archie: Surely we agree now, that murder is wrong when the thing which died suffered, or its family suffered, or we remove the potential to take away life.

Zach: yes, and I suppose animals suffer the harms of murder in a way relatively similar to humans… perhaps veganism is legitimate! Thankyou!







Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Oedipus Rex does not deserve our pity

In his Poetics, Aristotle explains that the ideal tragedy requires a conclusion that evokes a cathartic response. Aristotle argues that in the face of a successful tragedy, an audience
“who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place. This is the impression we should receive from hearing the story of the Oedipus”
For this to be true, Sophocles would require an audience to feel extreme pity at the tragic downfall of the titular character. Oedipus’ character exemplifies a heroic king during the opening scenes, a necessity if an audience is to find him worthy of pity after his tragic downfall. He seems to be imbued with intelligence beyond that of regular Thebans, and is respected universally amongst his subjects. In the opening stage directions, part of this is made clear,
“A delegation of Thebans… carry suppliant boughs… From inside the palace, limping, OEDIPUS comes through the palace doors and stands at the top of the steps…He is dressed in gold and wears a golden crown.”
The use of costuming and proxemics puts Oedipus not only at the center of the stage, but also immediately reveals him to be of supreme importance and authority. Not only does he have power, but Oedipus reveals in his opening dialogue with the Priest that he empathetic and caring for his people, asking the man at his feet,
“Why are you kneeling? Are you afraid, old man? What can I give you? How can I Help? Ask. Ask me anything. Anything at all. My Heart would be a stone if I felt no pity or these poor shattered people of mine.”
Oedipus is built up in his regal authority and intuitive reasoning, developing him- Aristotle would claim- as the ideal tragic hero.

The argument that Oedipus exemplifies tragic heroism does not reflect the true nature of Oedipus’ character. Oedipus is less a ‘tragic hero’, and more a deeply flawed individual, overpowered by hubris and anger, undeserving of pity or respect. To prove this, it must be made clear that Oedipus’ character is dominated by vice.

Oedipus Tyrannous does not have enough redeeming character traits to be pitied. This is revealed through his hubris (excessive pride), unchecked anger, and irrationality. During his opening monologue, he exclaims “everybody everywhere knows who I am: Oedipus, King.” This is necessarily a problematic claim. Either it is factually accurate, and is thus superfluous (footnote 1), or is untrue, and thus Oedipus is overstating his worth- but in either sense it is egotistical and arrogant. This hubristic statement foreshadows Oedipus’ hamartia, and his continued self-aggrandisement becomes quickly tiresome. An audience can’t feel pity for a character with such grandiose opinions of his own abilities. Oedipus also repeatedly succumbs to a hot temper. In his analeptic description of killing Laius, he concedes that he failed to manage his fury;
“the old man himself wanted to thrust me out of the road by force. I became angry and struck the coachman who was pushing me…as I passed he [the old man] struck me from his carriage, full on the head with his two pointed goad…And then I killed them all.”
To have such limited respect for human life is an indictment on Oedipus’ character. To have murdered over such a small offence is entirely unreasonable, and reveals how ill-tempered he truly is. Oedipus continues to reveal his vices in his consistent unfounded blaming of various innocent characters. Having been told that he murdered Laius by Tiresias, he accuses Creon of an attempted coup;
“Creon, the soul of trust, my loyal friend from the start steals against me… so hungry to overthrow me he sets this wizard on me, this scheming quack, this fortune-teller peddling lies, eyes peeled for his own profit–seer blind in his craft!”(footnote 2)
This furious response is not only illogical, as argued by Creon (footnote 3), but also impious. Tiresias is a respected seer; never condemned by the chorus (footnote 4), and is purported to channel the words of the Gods through bird-lore. For Oedipus to claim that he is ‘blind in his craft’ is cruel, but more importantly for a 5th Century Greek audience, irreverent. Given his myriad character flaws and offensive behaviours, Oedipus is not a tragic hero and does not evoke any pity.

(1) Superfluous because, if it is true, then to exclaim it is not necessary
(2) This quote isn’t from our text, just a version I found online… I will buy the actual translation and substitute in the relevant quote
(3) Creon’s logic is as follows (written from his perspective); I am the brother of the queen, and thus have power, wealth, and authority. I don’t have to make hard decisions like Oedipus, as king, and thus I have all the benefits of being king without the stress and worry. To excite a coup against the King would be illogical.
(4) The moral guide in Greek theatre

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized