I’ve reached that time of life when making myself a cup of tea involves being attacked by cats demanding a feed, and forgetting to bring the drink back with me to the computer first time. The odd hour I spend blogging is a by-product of writing blocks that have two sides – escaping the pain of diabetes and looking for ideas for my books. I’m hoping to organise myself somewhat better over the next few months, do more walking and put myself more into the public fray, largely to make some money so I can retire properly with my partner. Blogging has been something of an extension of news and current affairs watching and reading and a considerable escape from the kind of turgid stuff I had to read and write as an academic. My 40 years or so of work and travel have not been a ball of fun and I’ve been left feeling little respect for what goes on in the world. I wanted to produce some kind of telling theory of what is going on that might change things a lot, and, if honest, I still cling to that with a cynic’s disposition and fear of English teachers on whether cynic needs that apostrophe.
I can write like a postmodern text engine and this dubious skill got me to loads of equally dubious academic, economic and other conferences around the world, all useless as far as I could see. A bit like ‘achievements’ in video games. I’ve bid for and got a lot of research and project money in my time. Most of that game isn’t ‘real’ in producing solutions to problems, or ideas that can change much. I’ve taught enough to know I’ve helped some people and that education needs dismantling, like much of our public services and the way we organise. If I have an academic discipline, it’s organisational theory, though don’t rush to undergraduate textbooks to find out what this might be. They are dreadful. There are ‘great theories’ from Plato to Marx and none of them ‘work’, other than in helping you pass university modules.
The idea should be about being able to research yourself, much easier with modern IT, do your own thinking and grow confident in the Enlightenment spirit. MrG says something like this on Banksidebabble. One benefit in blogging is in finding some good stuff that gives hope others want to find something sensible, can still have a laugh at our plight, and read between the lines like JuliaM on Ambush Predator. Julia keeps me away from newspapers, a good thing. In thought, you can imagine ‘Robot Heaven’, a time when robots like Data do all the ‘work’. The point here is not to drone on on technology, but open up thinking on such matters as ‘work ethic’. We currently have embedded notions about work being a moral requirement, though somehow exclude the rich from this and allow their money to do work for them. in ‘Robot Heaven’ the Calvinist work ethic (and presumably others) is just dated dross. Presumably, we won’t programme the robots to treat as like the ‘evil poor’?
Of course, one has to realise few people live in Robot Heaven today, and that their ‘robots’ are workers. This was much the plot in Plato’s dire political work, very much for a gold and silver elite and not the bronze, working people – ‘work’ scared the soul. I could argue that the Athenian Democracy was a microcosm of the problems of the rich democracies today. Robert Heller of Catch 22 does this in Picture This, a great book that seems to be about Rembrandt. Essentially, Athens was a dire place that shit on the rest of the world around it, waiting, at the end, for retribution that never quite came. The quite awful Spartans let them off. We may not be so lucky, but of course cannot see ourselves as the villains of the piece or just how much Western Democratic Capitalism, honed initially by the Dutch, resembles Enlightened Athens, even down to the importance of the navy. One can think, hopefully with humour, that a modern police inspector, lumbered with Bronze Command, might wonder about the scaring of her soul and Gold and Silver types worrying about the quality of chocolate-dipped strawberries and champagne on their open table!
I wish we had more sense of real history in our present and that education was less about propaganda (I would dismantle it to get more of it). This is currently as unlikely, perhaps more so, than a real Robot Heaven. Thinking for practice is constrained. Somewhere in Descartes’ letters, I remember him talking about his reasons for not publishing his work of physics (Le Monde, as I remember) on the grounds of what had been done to Galileo – and Galileo was an Italian, imagine what the Church would do to him, a Frenchman! Didn’t we hang a chimp or monkey as a French spy in Hartlepool? Today, we are constrained by having to make sense in economics. Every cop, civil servant or business person today knows they are making ‘resource decisions’ as cogs in a greater wheel made of invisible hands. We have little clue, frankly, whether these invisible hands are any more real than the blue rabbits of religion, or whether we could establish an economics as real as relativity or evolution. The idea of unshackling thought from the ‘terror’ of Western Capitalisms is to try to do something like this. Not much use to a cop on a cold night, wrestling one half of a violent domestic to the ground, though something that might, if we could find new understandings and practices, work in long-term prevention of the need. There is something of the Kantian Sublime in this. Thought can fly everywhere, but we are otherwise constrained by our biology and the speed of light.
I’m not rally writing about hating the police, hating the evil poor or the general hating, jealousy and so on that constrain our public argument through ignorance and fear. I’ve spent a lot of time in pubs, talking with victims, cops, robbers, street bureaucrats, academics and loads of people I have time for, even if I have little sympathy with their views or often with the ones I evince to seem to have some place in the conversations (often multiple monologues). Mostly, I come away with mixed feelings of respect, distaste, beliefs I’ve understood, could never understand and often little desire to know more of the ‘data’ and some despair I’m bothered to try to make sense of it. The despair comes in part from a feeling I should leave it all alone and make some money in order to be away from it. I’ve done this in a number of countries and settings from squalid bars to the private suites of oil rich sheiks and boardrooms. Time over again, I might have qualified in medicine and worked as a useful missionary. Instead, I was a missionary of management who went east. Neither is any solution in the eternal return of squalor.
So which of us hate the ‘evil poor’, hate ‘the police’, hate ‘Pakis’ and why? I find evidence of something like this almost everywhere and in almost everyone. Questions like this are important in trying to understand society at the level of our ‘theories in action’ as opposed to ‘espoused theories’. Plato ceases to be much interest to me when I realise he would have me working as a slave. Religions and their texts fade in interest as I know more about their real history and content. Believing there are straight ways of talking about what goes on in our society pale when some clown seems to believe I am a ‘police hater’, am ‘stalking Gadget’, and have other hatreds I know I do not. It’s concerning to find out that the Dutch picked up on ASBOs as the best means to cope with their antisocial behaviour almost at the point we had discovered they were complete claptrap. It would be even more worrying in some ways to discover they have made them work! Key issues in squalid behaviour, groupthink, stereotyping and ignorance need to be understood to enable new forms of public dialogue that won’t drown ideas in clown ignorance and closing of ranks.
Some of the behaviour I have found amongst the ‘evil poor’ makes even the excellent Nightjack look pale. Yet there is something more squalid even than the worst child-abuse for drugs tales I can tell. It’s the use of this sump behaviour by others to excuse our failings, and the replication of its ‘mechanisms’ in our wider, more ‘mannered’ society. The hating goes on behind ostensibly polite faces and has produced vicious, bullying bureaucracies and such behaviour in them. We have academic, psychological ways of describing and trying to improve much of this. Many of us regard organisational actions more or less as ‘projections flying about’ (Freudian origins) – of people projecting the worst of themselves onto others and so on. There is no sign this has mainstreamed into earlier education and our social consciousness, rather the opposite.
Much of the hating that is going on is a form of self-hatred that pours out in defensive behaviour and prevents much realistic feedback being heard. This is compounded by the lying use of statistics and a lack of focus into critical incidents in an open manner. It is a long time since Karl Popper wrote The Open Society and its Enemies, but we still work with much festering secrecy and pretence that we have independent investigations.
One academic review (Dutch 2008) of expansions in administrative law I found ended with: