The docile body-politic

One of the problems with the way we argue is summed up in this post –

Most people really don’t want to engage with the world and the consequence for argument is that full facts hardly ever become the issue.  All rhetoric needs to do is engage a numb-skull mentality of people rendered docile.  The zerohedge post complains that US government has been taken over by a few evil people.  I agree and suspect the historical truth is worse.

The excuse for not being able to provide decent education and modern living conditions for all people is essentially that this is a dirty old world and we have to put up with gross inequalities or else end up in the doom of ash-grey uniformity and dictatorship.

Nearly all argument, in my view, is crippled by this kind of foreboding – from questions on arming police officers to whether we should teach real history in schools.  The conundrum is that if we are to settle matters and direction through argument we need a populace that is skilled in argument and, of course, don’t have one – unless we place faith in some unconscious processing.  Plato’s answer (in theory) was to plough vast resources into his Guardians (including husbandry) in education and life-style to create  an elite that would not be corrupted (though he admitted this was inevitable in comments on human nature).

My own view is that education is a failure other than in technical areas, child-minding and soldiering.  The neglected element from Plato is his communism of the free table – the taking away of the temptation of power accumulated through personal wealth.  I see almost no discussion of this that does not start with some Mumbo Jumbo on the role of vast personal fortune in motivating “our best people”.  This turns anything said on the issue to total bollox.  Thieves have similar motivation.  I would say people motivated by money in this sense are unlikely to be trusted in other human endeavours.  Our societies have been gerrymandered to bring about fealty to wealth and the desire to grab it.  I do not believe this is human nature at all.

Key terms in what passes as argument in the general public domain are wrong.  Work is one of them – most people avoid the real thing here, as surely as pompous Greeks believed it scarred the soul and barely even bother to justify slavery for all their show of intellect.  Much of what is discussed is as hopeless as speaking of ‘life-force’ rather than in the language of genetics or using Descartes’ (hapless) physics rather than the lines developed from Galileo, Newton and Einstein.  We talk in ideologies and myths, not about reality.

This reality is dire.  Think about what goes on in the world in 30 minutes.  A child dies unnecessarily in each four seconds, an Indian farmer commits suicide and a whole load else.  We like to keep our comfort by calling anyone revealing this doomsayers and by denials anything we do is responsible.  How welcome it is to have high-level theories telling us such matters are just the unfortunate consequences of ‘free trade’ (now there’s another term that is never true) and things would be much worse if we organised from the eradication of such problems up.

I spent a decade of my life trying to teach British industry to plan. Even in this kind of work heads are buried in the sand.  Many of our industries simply could not compete with the massive structural change to mass production and away from skilled,almost artisan work in many of our industries (shipbuilding was the classic).  Work has primarily been redefined by it being taken away as a means of making a living in my adult life.  We have coped better than rural India, but that’s about  it.

We can grow stuff, build stuff and provide a basic standard of living for all better than the existing one in the UK with no world trade.  Most of us wouldn’t miss the trinkets.  So what is all this international finance about, really?  The really gloomy answer is war.


A Sea-change from science

We have finally found a habitable planet ‘out there’.  At the moment, this is a bit like noises about a great land out to the west.  Yet I regard it as the possibility of a sea-change.  This planet is only 20 years away at light speed, or 300,000 in today’s spaceflight speeds.  This brings it within the bounds of possibility, without having to hope for ‘relativity flight’.  300,000 is a number we can do business with, without hoping we can bring that physics that makes distance an illusion reality in day-to-day terms.

I find the idea that a species could propagate to other planets through technological advance intriguing – we are otherwise merely awaiting a catastrophic end, or left with god stories.  The possibility of life knowing what its purpose is comes into the focus of Reason.  This rather makes us babies in evolution, a bit like the societies found pre-warp in Star Soap.

I suspect the technological challenges of overcoming ‘space friction’ and the like may well turn out less bothersome than finding a decent way of going about things other than our current religion of economics, the religion of the rich and powerful.  Previous explorers were largely funded on promises of booty, direct and indirect.

Start by dividing 300,000 by ten and you can see the problem is not intractable.  Columbus’ voyage was about 35 days out.  He didn’t use steam, but the putative technology wasn’t far off.  Biology was much of the problem back then – stocking up on food and water was difficult.

I feel rather religious about this!

Modern Speeding

No, I’m not worried about on the spot points and fines.  That we be as effective as initiatives in reducing police paperwork without radical process changes across the CJS.

The speed of light has always bemused me.  One can imagine travelling on a beam of light like Einstein, and we can stop the stuff near absolute zero in a Bose-Einstein condensate, a matter wave issuing ‘on the other side’.  Chemists are now looking into the world of ‘speed’ with massively fast ‘photography’.  We are all getting somewhat familiar with what slow-motion replays can reveal.

Much in modern life cannot be done without massive investment in technology.  Can you remember ever voting in relation to this?

A couple of articles, one in the Grauniad, the other in the London Review of Books (above), give some indicators why we should be concerned with ‘modern speed’.  We have already seen a dire instance of someone put on trial for using a reference to Robin Hood Airport as metaphor for his passion for a young woman.  One would only want to applaud the authorities in using technology to track and track down criminals.  The problem is they are ‘listening’ to all of us in order to do this, and idiot interpretations as in the Robin Hood case.  The LRB article describes the massive speed of financial transactions.

An old question arises in considering this ‘modern speed’ – that of who owns and uses the technology and the extent to which we should live in such a surveillance society, or one potentially (and really) making power and money-making so lob-sided.  Thirty-odd years ago, as a cop working for God’s Prophet, I was part of a raid on the top shelf at WH Smith.  Now, pretty much any pornography is available on the Internet.  We didn’t vote for this.  I doubt we’d have voted for the kind of wealth ‘generated by bwanks either.  In terms of democratic control, much may as well be happening at the speed of light.  We can’t touch it.

Notionally, competition should save us – but competitions like FIFA, run from a country where bribery is not an offence may pale against the Bilderburger group and international financing.  Legerdemain can appear faster than the speed of light …