How this ordinary aircraft will change my life

Photograph of Thai Airways International Boeing 747-400 at Sydney Airport

This Boeing 747-400, photographed at Sydney airport last Friday, belongs to Thai Airways International. If you happen to have decent eyesight, you can confirm this by the fact that it has “Thai” painted on the side. Ownership is not about paint, however.

If you paint “Thai” on my side, I do not then become the property of Thai Airways, not even if you’re employed by Thai Airways to do so. Paint is just paint, whereas ownership of property is an abstract concept. A concept which can be supported or asserted by paint or other physical signs, but still an abstract concept which can only be agreed upon by sentient beings.

But what about another concept: nationality?

Nationality is not about paint either. Paint “Thai” on my side if you like. If you use the right brush I might even enjoy it. But I won’t become even remotely Thai. However is nationality something which is just agreed upon? Or is there something essential — in the core meaning of the word, having to do with essence — which makes someone immutably Thai or Australian or Czech or Chinese?

And how does nationality relate to similar concepts, such as ethnicity or race or culture?

I usually don’t think about these categories. The variation within them outweighs the supposed differences. People of every nationality range from amiable to arsehole. However that aircraft — that specific aircraft — has brought it all into focus.

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Weekly Poll: Bono is…?


I’m chuffed! Inspired by the work of the Bonological Semiotics team, I coined my own Bonophone.

Bonorrhoea: A chronic disease which causes meaningless words to dribble from the mouth and, more usually, other orifices. Also known as “talking out one’s arse.”

As a result, Arch Bonologer Sabian Wilde has promoted me to the rank of Clayton Private. To celebrate, this week’s poll can only be… “Bono is…?” Go to the website to vote.

[poll id=”6″]

Bonus link: Netscape founder Marc Andreessen has a whole blog category about Bono.

Last week’s results: Clearly I’m the only one who’s getting moist over the return of Supernaut. Screw the lot of you.

Bonological Semiotics

Found on Facebook: a group dedicated to the study of Bonological Semiotics:

A cooperative (but edited) attempt to make sense of the modern world with a new lexicon of misunderstanding… a time where language has been degraded to the point of BONOPHONICS (words that sound as if they carry meaning, but really just take up valuable space).

Some examples:

Bonologue: One know-it-all telling everyone else in the world what to do. Submitted by Sabian Wilde.

Bonoculture: A phrase coined by political conservationists in the early 21st Century to describe their fear of living in a homogenized, politically correct world. Submitted by Sabian Wilde.

Bonophilia: For the love of Bono, usually the practice of self-loving. Submitted by Sabian Wilde.

Bonolith: A structure, usually the world’s largest television screen, placed at the most prominent and visible point of the bonstrosity, to display an image of Bono. Submitted by David Paris.

Bonoholic: A medical condition wherein the patient is addicted to being drunk on their own delusions of grandeur. Submitted by Rewi Lyall.

I think I have Bonophobia…