We need to look more closely at intractable problems like arming the police

Many arguments in the public domain rely on what we think the consequences of change will be.  I’m broadly in favour of arming our police officers with tasers and handguns and improving response time in getting expert markspeople to scenes where necessary.  One can see potential problems – there are rogue cops and more obviously armed police could lead to more obviously armed criminals and so on.  It might disappoint some, but I’m not far from the position Gadget fairly regularly outlines on this particular topic.  I want to see a different form of regulating our police, but really want them to have the tools and back-up in the CJS to do the job.  Currently, I doubt this is the case either for police doing their job or for the public who need their help.

I’m not interested in policing per se but the wider problems of society.  Frankly, I don’t think social science and philosophy are much help in this.  The people doing this stuff are too often up themselves and stuck in their own interests and soaked up values.  Very few put their work into the broad public domain as , say, Steve Keen (economics) or Alain Connes (maths) who can be read for free.

If we start to think through the consequences of arming our police, I’m sure we would quickly come up with good and bad.  What interests me is how quickly impasse is reached even over such a simple matter.  What chance then of Keen’s (and others) ideas on radical social change in forgiving debt (a regular feature of our history – see David Graeber) and returning to banking focused on productive work and innovation in a real economy?

The problem is that human beings do very little thinking and are broadly content with habit. The irony of my teaching might be summed up as ‘brow-beating people into thinking for themselves’.  One or two of my own teachers worked this miracle on me in the past, and I’m very grateful.  However, the issue of flogging dead horses remains.

In the end, we can’t all decide whether special and general relativity are any good because we have already balked at much lower hurdles like basic algebra.  Universal education has obviously failed to turn us all (or even many) of us into scientists or creative thinking individuals.  One idea developing from modern brain science is that we make few rational decisions and rely on a kind of unconscious reasoning.

I think science is mostly straight and that matters like banking (as banksterism),politics and economics largely bent – like the Emperor’s New Clothes.  I have little problem with elite groups doing science, but am generally sickened by what other elite groups get up to. I can explain why.  The problem is not a matter of explanation – it’s that the way we enter into explanation on social matters is itself the problem we can’t overcome.

I’d like to see questions like whether to arm our police alongside deeper economic issues in mainstream discussion in order to find new decision-making processes based in practice and honesty.




Work Ethic

Bankside has just babbled a bit on work ethic.  Dave’s sort of right, but my critical eye is disturbed easily on stuff like this.  I always wonder how any system can be good when it actually produces dross, and further than this, why we never seem to face up properly to real criticism.  You could perhaps imagine Dave and I arguing about this as we shared a spade job, say, digging footings or the like.  We’d just do it and the work would be about 50-50 from either of us.  Expand this to 6 random people and you soon find the slacker instinct.  If you put 6 undergraduates together in a group, 2 to 4 of them will slack.  I’v e run piecework and bonus schemes and have some amazing tales of slacking and favouritism in such schemes.

Monkeys work for peanuts, but not once they see other monkeys getting grapes.  Human work is bound to be constrained in some degree by the vast unfairness of Rooney and bwanker wages.  Not just this, but more locally someone always seems to get the easier work.  And then the boss bollocks you because he doesn’t see you working your socks off, but does see the idle sod who carries paper up and down corridors in pretence of work.

I know Dave would know this and more – but at the root of work ethic is religion and that usually means ‘bad’.  Animals don’t work hard and this includes the ‘busy bee’ – bees really spend most of their time incumbent.

Most animals try to be efficient, almost in order to have ‘time off’.  I see no reason to have any faith in a system that doles out money in shed loads to the likes of Rooney or bwankers.  I’ll swindle that system at the drop of a hat – which is because I’m honest and have values.  Digging footings with a mate and I wouldn’t more than dream of slacking – and even more, if I saw him flagging, I’d probably try to put extra in to help out.

What the Rooney and bwanker money-grabbing tells us (as should just how much richer the rich have got since WW2 – or should that be in and after?) is that economics doesn’t work and we should change it.  This either means something global or new forms of local economic transfer (which now could easily be global) that leave Rooney and bwankers outside of what we do.  This would be in order to have meaningful ethics that don’t leave you looking like a gullible prat.

The vast majority of ‘work done‘ is meaningless and does not contribute to lives worth living.  People liver in grim crap all over (literally in India etc.) under all kinds of ethics (caste systems) – so why should we be so much different.  We are trapped in notions of what we think is right as surely as ‘rat people’ (India’s lowest caste) or the arses who see themselves as superior.  If we ‘make things fair’ (decent pay for a decent day’s work), what do we do next as humans strive for … and that’s why I’m interested.  What might we be if we weren’t wrapped up in current fantasies?

We need to shift world-views – but remember these are in individuals.  People aren’t happy as a result of winning lotteries, yet most of us dream we would be.  Marx wasn’t the first to notice that we end up alienated from our work and what’s more alienating than that pain in the back just as you realise Rooney gets more than you are all year for one misplaced pass?  Still (fact), we can get more satisfaction and happiness from joining a gardening club or such, than he ever will.

Big questions:

1. How much ‘work’ does the world need from each of us in order that we all eat, have water, shelter and whatever should replace ejukation?

2. How do we share this out?

3. What extra can be done?

4.How do we have a means of exchange that no one can cheat?

5. What else other than ‘work’ might come about?  What might disappear (try to imagine prostitution without poverty etc.)?

6. What ethics arise in such a system and against what ‘base’?

We aren’t doing much of the above, but there is some going on.  Mostly we are moving to war.  I suspect there will be a grab for middle eastern oil and African land and minerals.  We may almost be back to 1900 with US, EU, Japan and Russia at China’s door (WW1) and with the inflation that led to WW2.  The new wars will likely be genocides and colonisations.  Money wants them, whatever money is; and we are in wars.  In the last century the bullies eventually turned on each other, but not until after many meetings to carve up the rest of the world (Berlin 1861 was a classic).

I mention war because what happens to work ethic in it?  One might as well ask what is happening now to out pensions and savings and who is stealing them – because they are being stolen.  I only end up in a question, which is what is ‘work ethic’?  I know what it is when I’m turning over a spade with a mate.  I have less clue once I’m being paid because I need money to live, with Rooney and the work-shy on my back.

People have trouble with argument that challenges values – but this is what we need more of.  There are snags – and one of these is that human beings in general are unbelievably stupid and facts actually backfire in them, making them believe what they held before receiving the facts more strongly than before.  This is called the ‘backfire effect’.  Any ethic based in a networking of such dolts seems unlikely to be right or even for this to matter!

Crap Cops Learning Lessons


The link is to a Wail story found via Dickiebo.  The story is typical of ‘those Gadget won’t print’.  Cowardly cops not doing their job, and not being brought to book through police complaints.  The Ian Tomlinson saga grinds on, long after his death.  The crap cop in that ain’t in jail either.  These are not isolated incidents – they are incidents made isolated by the non-working complaints system.  Lessons are not learned from them as they go on and on, with vile cop-toadies puking out the insulting jargon like ‘learning lessons’ making matters worse.  Anyone genuinely trying to complain is subject to vilification as a ‘nutter’, ‘cop hater’ and the rest.  It’s time, yet again to bring down the whole shebang of complaints against the police.  This, as Graham Smith has pointed out, is part of a pathetic vicious cycle that ends up with a new version of the same old crap.  The latest same old crap is the IPCC.

Complaints systems are problematic.  To work, they need to be established along with firm understanding that the organisation concerned will be transparent to criticism.  This is almost impossible in Britain.  We shit on our whistleblowers almost as routinely as vile Middle Eastern regimes.  Trying to do anything here is subject to our own ‘wasta’ system.  Wasta is the name for the corruption in countries like Iran, Baharain, Saudi and so on.  We have our own.  An extensive sociology is available.  People are blogging, writing books, we have Dispatches, Panorama and some genuinely critical journalism, but it is all to no avail in our dismal country.  As a boy reading about the Gulags, I was distressed about the forced labour forced to eat ‘boiled grass rations’.  Now, I can see old people dying of malnutrition in our NHS and meals unfit for my dog slopped up.  There is always some vastly overpaid turd around saying everything is hunky-dory.   The critical material around may as well be Samizdat, the undercover ‘voice’ of ‘subversive material’ found in the former soviets.  I no longer feel it is too strong to say our ‘performance management’ is in the shit league along with ‘wasta’ and ‘Samizdat’.  Indeed, the bread in the shit sandwich is now the filling.  The lunatics are in charge of the asylum and have been for so long we can hardly make this out.

Although I have massive sympathy with notions that ‘selfishness’ is at the root of our problems (Banksidebabble writ large if you like), I also know that ‘virtue ethics’ is not the answer.  This form of thinking did not help Plato, his memory-invention Socrates or even the admirable John Locke get past slavery.  Indeed, one thing evident in much ‘clever thinking’ can be just how smug it turns out to be.  Plato imagines ‘Guardians’ rather like himself, Spinoza makes out a politics aimed at defending people rather like himself and some donkey-professor of  happiness tales his £70K for years, only to pronounce that being more happy leads to happiness.

My partner is just introducing our new puppy to the cats.  There are arguments we should not keep the animals given global warming and human squalor elsewhere.  I expect a treatise from the cats soon!  We have our foibles.  We need simple answers to our human problems, yet the first stage of this, if we are not content with shooting all those of promoted rank across our society, will be unraveling the complex myths and idiocy of current society.  I will start buying the Grauniad again – though any reading will be secondary top its use in pup-potty training.

Logic veering towards a science of society

Most people can’t do logic, or even its dumbed down version, critical thinking.  A lot of this ‘most’, when I tell them this, think I mean I can, and am therefore smart and think they are dumb.  This only goes to demonstrate most people can’t do logic!  I’m in the ‘most’ on logic, though not bad on critical thinking on the odd occasions I’m bothered to engage my brain’s clutch.  I’m no good at video games now, compared with my grandson, though still much better at fixing the machines he plays on.  I’ve never thought whatever I could do with frequency distributions and varieties of Gaussian copula is any more impressive than carpentry, or vastly better than me at snooker. Many, of course, think their ability to keep their bodies reasonably trim and wear middle class clothes, makes them better than carpenters, or scruffy, fat oiks like me – watch any Newsnight.

Two very English philosophers tried to burn themselves out doing logic about 100 years ago.  Russell and Whitehead’s volumes are more or less unreadable to the rest of us.  I found some kind of quest for basic building blocks I felt doomed to failure, though I can’t work out why I felt that.  I know I was looking because I find human relationships unrewarding and trivial, perhaps meaningless and often revolting.  This is anarchist in a sense, wondering if there is something ‘real’ we could experience if ‘society’ could be swept away.  Romeo and Juliet is not a love story for me, but the converse – a ghastly soap opera about adolescent traps.  I like the idea of ensuring our young get childhood, but detest the persistent demand to be trapped in it and the libidinous economy needed to perpetuate childhood.

The logic of R & W leads to certain farce.  Essentially, they have not done enough over three volumes to get essential definitions right.  They bring a meaning of the term ‘implies’ to algebra that lacks context.  Think of a great night out, wonderful sex, you happy on a plane out and her left with an unwanted pregnancy.  Define ‘happiness’ in this.  Not easy without ‘context’.  One way out in logic is to go modal.  Modal logic can be viewed broadly as the logic of different sorts of modalities, or modes of truth: alethic (“necessarily”), epistemic (“it is known that”), deontic (“it ought to be the case that”), or temporal (“it has been the case that”) among others.  In a sense, in logic, one should (another mode) wonder who has been left holding the baby.  Godel produced a famous statement of this we are still unsure of in terms of what he meant to actually express and whether various versions we come up with are right.  Essentially, we can’t come up with even a simple arithmetic system that doesn’t have internal inconsistencies or the baby we have left someone else holding.

I wanted to find something that would let us work out complex human interactions logically with a pencil and paper.  Sad puppy!  I had probably been conned by stories of the Holy Grail.  If I was still doing chemistry, I’d probably be locked into obsession with making super-solids, which become liquid at low temperatures but retain the solid lattice.  A Russian lad who knocks down a few beers from time to time got a Nobel for peeling pencil-lead down to one atom thick graphene with Selotape recently.  You may not be impressed, yet graphene at super-low temperatures may help knock down Relativity – which will be a magnificent use of pencils.  It’s about different thinking on gravity and maybe that Lorentz transformations are just what we ‘see’ now and were not forever.  Theory of everything stuff – Horizon might get to it if it stops regurgitating old dross from the 70s.

I don’t teach logic – I’m no good at it.  I just know enough to know this.  What I have become sure of is that another field, that of evidence, is something we need to be a bigger part of our education.  Something shields most of us from evidence, as surely as we are shielded from the bent evidence given by bent cops, prosecution and forensic scientists to dull, jobsworth judges, defence briefs and gullible juries in cases like Nico Bento.  Newsnight were good on this, but as usual there has been no follow up.  There is good philosophy, social science, excellent potential in real science and such practical fuck-ups for us to get better at evidence-based reasoning and its logic and what stops us basing society more on evidence and logic.  For now, I’d just say why would anyone want to stop this?  I expect Galileo knew when they showed him the instruments of torture – what are the modern day equivalents of these?  Science is held (too strongly) by some as a history of mistakes – our worthies have certainly found ways to cover theirs up, which may be why we have no science of society.