Pio Smith answers 13 questions in Booker's Dozen.


 
TPQ: What are you currently reading? 

PS: 
Breakdown Of Will, George Ainslie. 

From Plato’s time to the present, philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists and lay people have often pondered why people make self-defeating choices. The book explores the concept of willpower. Many addicts know that by abstaining from alcohol/drugs life will be better, but it can take years for abstinence to become the norm. Ainslie beautifully explains the role of temporary preferences and motivational conflict in decision making. It appears that we evolved to place great value on the immediate choices available to us and discount the value of longer but greater rewards because they are in the distant future. A successful strategy is to bring your future self closer to the present. For example, the cigarette smoker at 20 can imagine his future self at 50 and the negative consequences that cigarette smoking has had on his health. Ainslie argues that our responses to the threat of our own inconsistencies determine the basic fabric of human culture. 

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read? 

PS: The least enjoyable book was Sigmund Freud’s Two Case Histories: Little Hans and the Rat Man.  Freud is a great writer who uses beautiful English, however from a psychological point of view I couldn’t accept the explanations Freud put forward for the suffering of the two individuals. Having said that I have the benefit of hindsight. 

The best book I have read is The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker. We are all born with a set of genes into our unique environments. Pinker examines empiricism (Blank Slate), romanticism (the noble savage) and dualism (ghost in the machine) and their role in our understanding of what human nature is. He then compares the above to modern science of mind, brain, genes and evolution in a quest to answer questions such as: do all differences in intelligence come from the environment? - Can parents micromanage the personalities of their children? - Are humans born free of selfish tendencies? Ultimately, Pinker offers his understanding of what human nature is. He suggests that we humans are born with a genetic structure that directs us to seek power, to engage in war and peacemaking as well as practice altruism and much more. 

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

PS: Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien. I read the book about four times, totally captured my imagination. The book has everything, friendship, love, heroism, danger and success. My favourite characters are the hobbits, they know how to enjoy life. 

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

PS: 
Tolkien, because he created a bit of magic that gave me so much enjoyment.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

PS: 
Sand In The Wind by Robert Roth. I was fourteen when I read it and was very interested in the Vietnam War. The book describes the life of a Marine Rifle Squad during their thirteen months tour of duty. Most of the narrative describes incidents in the life of the squad members, trying to stay alive, the arbitrary nature of death, drug taking and even cannibalism. I believe it was one of the first novels about Vietnam and the author Robert Roth actually served with the Marines in that conflict. 


TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

PS: 
I don’t have any favourite authors. However, Dostoevsky and Doris Lessing are powerful writers who have influenced many over the years. Lessing had a big impact on women in particular, while I believe Dostoevsky understood and could articulate the human condition better than most.

TPQ: A Preference for fact or fiction?

PS: I prefer factual accounts rather than fiction. For example, while reading books like Pity The Nation, Robert Fisk, and If This Is a Man, Primo Levi, I experienced a visceral feeling which I never experienced with a work of fiction. 

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

PS: 
Alan Johnson, A Memoir Of A Childhood, This Boy. I was always interested in politics and current affairs and was active with Labour since the eighties. My grandfather canvassed for Roddy Connolly and we are working class to the bone. Whatever criticism one may have of Johnson he can never be condemned for not being of working class stock. Being a child of a single parent and born into poverty he articulates the struggles many working class families had just trying to survive. Also, he writes about the psychological effects of poverty when he says “I have never forgotten that emptiness and craving for food” which lingers for many people decades after they escape the poverty trap. In my political life I remind myself daily of of the struggles many people in our modern 21st C still have with poverty and Johnson’s book played a part in that. Ultimately, the book is a testament to two powerful women: his mother and his sister, who like many women before and after them, save countless children from neglect, poverty and the ‘Authorities’. 

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

PS: 
Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler. Enough said.

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

PS: Man’s Search For Meaning, Vicktor Frankl. What a book, it should be compulsory reading in school. Frankl writes about how each day life challenges us and man’s responsibility is to find a meaningful answer to life’s challenges. 


TPQ:
 Last book you gave as a present?

PS: 
Firebrand: The Life Of Dostoevsky, Henri Troyat. I gave it to a friend who has a much better appreciation of Literature than I. 

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

PS: 
This Boy, Alan Johnson. The one virtue that we all need in this life is hope, this book shows how hope is an active virtue and can change lives. 

TPQ: A "must read" you intend getting to before you die?

PS: 
Stalin The Court Of The Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore. Any monster who is cunning, ruthless and who can marshal the power of the plebs can rise to power.


⏩  Cllr Pio Smith is currently employed as a Community Employment Supervisor with the Red Door Project in Drogheda Co, Louth. Pio is a college graduate and politician with the Irish Labour Party serving on Louth County Council. Advocating for social justice and equality are issues that Pio is passionate about, in particular preventing the marginalisation from society of people suffering from addiction . A central theme of Pio’s political work is advocating for investment in disadvantaged and marginalised communities in Drogheda and he helped influence the government decision to appoint Vivian Guerin to report on the ongoing gang feud in the county Louth town.

Booker's Dozen @ Pio Smith

Pio Smith answers 13 questions in Booker's Dozen.


 
TPQ: What are you currently reading? 

PS: 
Breakdown Of Will, George Ainslie. 

From Plato’s time to the present, philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists and lay people have often pondered why people make self-defeating choices. The book explores the concept of willpower. Many addicts know that by abstaining from alcohol/drugs life will be better, but it can take years for abstinence to become the norm. Ainslie beautifully explains the role of temporary preferences and motivational conflict in decision making. It appears that we evolved to place great value on the immediate choices available to us and discount the value of longer but greater rewards because they are in the distant future. A successful strategy is to bring your future self closer to the present. For example, the cigarette smoker at 20 can imagine his future self at 50 and the negative consequences that cigarette smoking has had on his health. Ainslie argues that our responses to the threat of our own inconsistencies determine the basic fabric of human culture. 

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read? 

PS: The least enjoyable book was Sigmund Freud’s Two Case Histories: Little Hans and the Rat Man.  Freud is a great writer who uses beautiful English, however from a psychological point of view I couldn’t accept the explanations Freud put forward for the suffering of the two individuals. Having said that I have the benefit of hindsight. 

The best book I have read is The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker. We are all born with a set of genes into our unique environments. Pinker examines empiricism (Blank Slate), romanticism (the noble savage) and dualism (ghost in the machine) and their role in our understanding of what human nature is. He then compares the above to modern science of mind, brain, genes and evolution in a quest to answer questions such as: do all differences in intelligence come from the environment? - Can parents micromanage the personalities of their children? - Are humans born free of selfish tendencies? Ultimately, Pinker offers his understanding of what human nature is. He suggests that we humans are born with a genetic structure that directs us to seek power, to engage in war and peacemaking as well as practice altruism and much more. 

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

PS: Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien. I read the book about four times, totally captured my imagination. The book has everything, friendship, love, heroism, danger and success. My favourite characters are the hobbits, they know how to enjoy life. 

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

PS: 
Tolkien, because he created a bit of magic that gave me so much enjoyment.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

PS: 
Sand In The Wind by Robert Roth. I was fourteen when I read it and was very interested in the Vietnam War. The book describes the life of a Marine Rifle Squad during their thirteen months tour of duty. Most of the narrative describes incidents in the life of the squad members, trying to stay alive, the arbitrary nature of death, drug taking and even cannibalism. I believe it was one of the first novels about Vietnam and the author Robert Roth actually served with the Marines in that conflict. 


TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

PS: 
I don’t have any favourite authors. However, Dostoevsky and Doris Lessing are powerful writers who have influenced many over the years. Lessing had a big impact on women in particular, while I believe Dostoevsky understood and could articulate the human condition better than most.

TPQ: A Preference for fact or fiction?

PS: I prefer factual accounts rather than fiction. For example, while reading books like Pity The Nation, Robert Fisk, and If This Is a Man, Primo Levi, I experienced a visceral feeling which I never experienced with a work of fiction. 

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

PS: 
Alan Johnson, A Memoir Of A Childhood, This Boy. I was always interested in politics and current affairs and was active with Labour since the eighties. My grandfather canvassed for Roddy Connolly and we are working class to the bone. Whatever criticism one may have of Johnson he can never be condemned for not being of working class stock. Being a child of a single parent and born into poverty he articulates the struggles many working class families had just trying to survive. Also, he writes about the psychological effects of poverty when he says “I have never forgotten that emptiness and craving for food” which lingers for many people decades after they escape the poverty trap. In my political life I remind myself daily of of the struggles many people in our modern 21st C still have with poverty and Johnson’s book played a part in that. Ultimately, the book is a testament to two powerful women: his mother and his sister, who like many women before and after them, save countless children from neglect, poverty and the ‘Authorities’. 

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

PS: 
Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler. Enough said.

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

PS: Man’s Search For Meaning, Vicktor Frankl. What a book, it should be compulsory reading in school. Frankl writes about how each day life challenges us and man’s responsibility is to find a meaningful answer to life’s challenges. 


TPQ:
 Last book you gave as a present?

PS: 
Firebrand: The Life Of Dostoevsky, Henri Troyat. I gave it to a friend who has a much better appreciation of Literature than I. 

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

PS: 
This Boy, Alan Johnson. The one virtue that we all need in this life is hope, this book shows how hope is an active virtue and can change lives. 

TPQ: A "must read" you intend getting to before you die?

PS: 
Stalin The Court Of The Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore. Any monster who is cunning, ruthless and who can marshal the power of the plebs can rise to power.


⏩  Cllr Pio Smith is currently employed as a Community Employment Supervisor with the Red Door Project in Drogheda Co, Louth. Pio is a college graduate and politician with the Irish Labour Party serving on Louth County Council. Advocating for social justice and equality are issues that Pio is passionate about, in particular preventing the marginalisation from society of people suffering from addiction . A central theme of Pio’s political work is advocating for investment in disadvantaged and marginalised communities in Drogheda and he helped influence the government decision to appoint Vivian Guerin to report on the ongoing gang feud in the county Louth town.

11 comments:

  1. Sean Mallory comments

    Must look out for that Firebrand......Lord of the Rings....what an imagination to write such a novel....were you aware that Tolkien is supposed to have based Mordor on the Burren in County Clare? He was an external examiner for Galway universtiy and on his days off would go walking...Connemara and the Burren were two of his favourite areas to ramble....there is a cave on the Burren called Goilimh's cave, forgive the spelling....I never found it myself but it is there...somewhere!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sean - I could easily get into horror but not fantasy - was never interested in picking up Lord Of The Rings.

      Delete
  2. Pio - thank you for doing this. I am endlessly curious about what people read.
    I am still trying to finish The Better Angels Of Our Nature by Pinker. Only because of its length and the need to read other things. I often listen to him on podcast while walking the dog along the Boyne.
    Sand And The Wind I recall on the bookshelves in the Blocks but I never picked it up for some reason. Am going to do so now.
    Again, Naked Lunch and Burroughs feature here. Yet, it has not hit the sweet spot thus far. Curiosity might still get the better of me and I will give it a try some day.
    “I have never forgotten that emptiness and craving for food” - that line alone will lead me to Johnson.
    There is a lot more here Pio worthy of comment including Dostoyevsky and Frankl.
    Great addition to the Booker's slot.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Before I read Sand In The Wind I have to start Matterhorn. Been promising to read that for a long time. I like Marlantes' writing. It has been on the shelf here a few years

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sean Mallory comments

    Just watched last night Prime video This is not a Movie.... A film /documentary tribute to Robert Fisk....like his writings, so personal and informative... Very sad he is gone... I will miss his honesty....

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sean

    There have been allegations that Fisk worked in the Middle East for 40 years without a working knowledge of Arabic and spent the last few years of his career embedded with Assad's forces in Syria.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sean

    https://thecritic.co.uk/issues/december-2020/fabricator-fraudster/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. by way of coincidence myself and Alfie G were discussing this very thing today as I sauntered along the Boyne with my dog. AS we spoke for two hours on the phone it sure wasn't the only thing we covered!

      Delete
    2. There is also this - https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2020-11-30/journalists-smear-robert-fisk/

      Delete
  7. Sean Mallory comments

    Barry,

    Watch the documentary....he has both conversations in Arabic and French throughout but has an interpreter follow him while on assignment as you may very well know and which She who must be Obeyed and her school found out much to their embarrassment, Arabic is not one unique language, it has many variations and when a Syrian Arabic family joined her school the father couldn't read the 'official' translated document in Arabic as he pointed out it wasn't his Arabic and so they had to seek out a translation that he could read...now back to the documentary, Fisk does explain why he reports the Syrian war from the regimes point of view....he didn't want to be beheaded by the Jihadis!!!!!! but he also goes on to explain other aspects of his journalism that he was attacked for...watch it and it may help you to take off the Zionist blinkers......irrespective of your view which you are entitled to, people like Fisk can't all be liars where Israel is concerned....

    ReplyDelete