Why are we scared

Screaming Lord Such once had a policy to sell Britain to the Arabs, divvy-up the loot and let us all emigrate as fairly rich people.  There is a sensible argument that we could all live much better on very little work.  What makes us so scared of this?

Don’t get me wrong here.  The chance of getting me ‘out of bed’ for most jobs that are on offer is minimal.  It’s not that I like money, more that I don’t like what is on offer to ‘earn a living’ – yet I’m the one who slashes my neighbour’s ‘lawn’ and does the odd soup run.  I didn’t ‘free-ride’ in group work at university as most do (believe me, you really discover this when you teach).  I’d turn out to do anything significant for myself and others to cover the mortgage and bills. I don’t shy from ‘scut work’ either, believing we should share this kind of burden.

Why are we scared of a world in which all get some guaranteed basics?  There are lots who will trot out this is some ‘commie drivel’, but I never see any reasoned argument against it.  I’m not on about making people idle, rather the opposite.  I’ve worked most of my life in ‘neurocracies’  where nearly all the work is wasted and pathological.  Very little choice is available to me from this world, other than ones I don’t want, including the option to ‘earn’ a load of money and live as a parasite on it.

I’m not talking about some ‘perfect system’ either.  My work as a management consultant (don’t hang me!) has largely been about how to stop anyone in the system from really fucking things up – the Japanese call this ‘poga oke’ (fool-proofing).  There would be all kinds of constraint – not least on procreation, something currently out of control and building up massive, current problems.

Many of us think the current system is hapless, but also that discussing it is a waste of time because it’s so hard to change anything.  ‘Fixing the world’ is at most a corner of the pub pastime.  We even enjoy our politics being so risible and have an industry of comedians doing just that.

My experienced students go far beyond the bleats one can find on industry-sector blogs like Gadget – in free confidence – but nearly all appreciate this space because it’s therapy and they know I know to do research based on honesty at work would be to write a mortgage suicide note.  I hope they get to know why I bin textbooks (yet encourage reading, watching and reflection) and crap about love-trust orientation in organisation development.  Interestingly, over the years, it’s got harder and harder to engage students through practical projects at work (too costly) and ‘death by Powerpoint’ teaching has swamped learning (because almost any fool can ‘teach’ this way and it’s cheap).

Utter piss, like ‘excellence’, clear nonsense ‘defeated’ by research so quickly it was out as such books hit press, is churned out in quality become kwality, by nerks who never worked on the tools or anywhere near a factory or service where people had a choice on what to purchase.

It is strangely easier to argue in science, despite the language-games and practice needed for understanding – which most can’t achieve.  I see no way of bring this science into general public dialogue, other than to make money like Dawkins et al – however much I agree that society must give up on lunatic creationism and the rest.  Science goes on in a world in which explanations can be decisive and in enthusiasm for argument, speculation and experiment.

This was not always so.  There was brutal repression.  ‘My argument’ is this is still the case for anyone interested in a decent, sustainable world community.  This argument is more complex than Einstein’s (though I’m not), yet unlike Relativity, accessible to nearly all of us – more than this, it’s touching our social soul and we are scared, very scared.

Science is replete with values.  There is no value-free argument or practice.  One can tell a story of Einstein, sitting between the great work and equations of Maxwell (our puppy is Max and has just undone a fiendishly clever Japanese toy claimed to keep him occupied for hours in seconds) and contradictory results from experiments done by others.  Instead of taking one side or the other, he finds deep assumptions on both sides and that they are compatible.

I have no problem per se with religious belief.  I have as form of it and so do some animals.  I’m an animal.  My science does not exclude it.  I’m not about to believe in ancient scrolls though, or extol abstinence or non-condom use when better alternatives to real issues are available.  I couldn’t do the paedophile cover-up either, or take my country into a stupid war and turn Catholic.

When I walk into a lab or read a scientific paper now, I find much of what I soaked up overturned, or that my understandings were second-rate.  I also discover quite a lot that was available to me in school and university classes was dross and that I ‘didn’t get’ much that was good and there if I’d been better taught or more capable.  Much that I did get was taught to me by friends.  There was too much child-minding and lecture, not enough deliberation.  This keeps coming up as a ‘new’ teaching method.

Given that we are now approaching the time when practical means to escape the Earth and live elsewhere can at least be thought of as a core research project, why are we in such a social mess?  My explanation only starts in consideration of fear – the fear of making the arguments at all.  In principle there is no reason why we cannot apply Einstein’s deconstruction for a ‘social kinematics’ enough of us can understand to bring real change.  If Gadget worries that telling the real truth would lead to the sack, is this the behaviour of a free adult in a free society?  He gets what happens to whistle-blowers, but does this explain more about ‘argument kinematics’ than we are realising?

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2 thoughts on “Why are we scared

  1. A great piece, Neil! Imagine a society in which people were guaranteed basic living standards for a minimum of useful work and in which “businesses” would have to compete to attract people to do the unpleasant things, like collecting rubbish, doing night duty in hospitals, cleaning toilets. Cleaning ladies and a&e workers earning more than lawyers and consultants.

    Our world and the people in it are being screwed by power elites – new aristocracies as predatory and parasitic as the robber barons of old.

  2. It’is the play of fear in argument that interests me – I guess you and I feel people as good as you or I get into politics, yet the achievements are minimal. I know we have ‘Yes Minister’ arguments, but they shift nothing. Habermas, Rawls and others have said stuff that sounds right (but I suspect isn’t). The issue is practice and what is and isn’t in that.

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