A Warning from Mystery

February 2, 2011

Tunisia, Egypt, all you who are fighting for ‘democracy’ –

Please know exactly what you are fighting for.

You will of course be wrong, and power doesn’t like to admit when it’s wrong. Like despotism, democracy can be enlightened or benighted. However, I believe that in general democracy allows more debate and progress than despotism because there are so very few enlightened despots. The mediocrity and inefficiency of the crowd is preferable to a sadistic dominion.

An afterthought for British readers:

Is it not striking how little has been made of the nature of the recent tax changes? The rich are being taxed more to pay for the poor, yet because this doesn’t fit into the grand narrative of Tory ideology and policy it is not trumpeted. One might expect party members to be hushed on the subject of wealth-redistribution, but why might the press do likewise? Wouldn’t sections of the press make more of this were it a Labour government initiative?

Just a thought.

Of course, it’s just a disguised and unavoidable reversal anyway:

Spectator Article

They took too much away with one hand and now give some back with the other, making a show of generosity and ‘fairness’.

My point, and how this relates to the topic: representative democracy is largely a sideshow that disgusies an establishment network which gets on with business-as-usual regardless of the changing figureheads. The politicians and media moguls share more ideas and interests in common with each other than with the public. Britain is not taking care to maintain a decent minimum living-standard because of the ideological fervour and human compassion of its leaders and administrators; these social safeguards are in place for strategic reasons – to enable business as usual.

The social reformers who get a place within the establishment are subsumed into a wealth-machine, not a living, caring society. The living, caring society hasn’t happened yet in the modern world. But it still makes a difference, don’t despair – and no doubt there are wonderful possibilities waiting to be realised.

Airport Security Proven to be a Useless Theatrical Exercise

December 20, 2010

http://www.prisonplanet.com/tsa-too-busy-groping-perving-playing-god-to-notice-guns-and-bombs.html

I only wish to add: if the new ‘enhanced’ (and degrading) security-measures are not stopping guns and bombs from getting through, then there’s an obvious conclusion that you will not hear from your shitty mainstream media outlet:

The War on Terror is bunk; the world did not ‘change’ on 9/11; there is no ‘global terror network’, just the usual nutters and desperadoes who occasionally get lucky, same as always.

Pass it on.

Charity and Service Announcement

December 20, 2010

I was going to post today to say that I’ll be posting little or nothing for the next while as I’m beginning a novel, but I have an easy post to turn in today as I wrote a long comment on another blog which I thought was maybe worth preserving.

I previously posted on Toby Ord’s Giving What We Can foundation. They believe that everyone is morally obliged to make the maximal charitable use possible with their disposable income. The minimal pledge for members is 10% of annual income. Toby Ord is a philosophy professor and seems to have a utilitarian, humanist perspective on this. He’s hardcore about it. He gives up all his income beyond that which he needs to live the lifestyle of a student (about 21,000 pounds). He reflected that he was happy as a student, and studies indicate that no one really gets any happier by becoming richer than this – sometimes the reverse.

When I wrote about this guy before, I was mostly approving but I wanted to throw it open as well rather than come right out with my own opinion. I got a bit of a rise out of some commenters who were either for or against him; I myself was a bit ambivalent and undecided even if I approve of the earnestness of reaching a moral conclusion and following it through like that.

Anyway, commenting on a post about charity, I mentioned Ord and Giving What We Can, and in the process I thrashed out what I really think about it – here’s an edited version:

This guy took the logic of charity to its conclusion:

http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/

There’s a fallacy somewhere in this line of thinking.  Logically, a faraway or unknown person may benefit more from $5 than you, your skint friend or the person rattling a jar for cancer research.  So it makes a kind of dry, utilitarian sense to seek out and give to the cause with the maximal benefit per $.

Does this logic apply to a dog?  Should a fat dog seek out the hungriest dog in town to offer half its food to?  We have no such expectations of a dog because we acknowledge that a dog behaves like a dog.  A human behaves like a human.  It is not an entirely rational creature.  Trying to force it to be entirely rational is like trying to make nature grow in an orderly grid pattern when it naturally wants to be fractal.  Generosity naturally flows along the vectors of relationship; logic is an important but secondary consideration.  Organised charity thrives in an atomised society as the fraught affirmation of a half-impotent kindness.  Our ancient ancestors worshipped animals and now we stare at them in zoos – this is a similar degrading effect of civilisation on our natural awe and virtue.  No amount of organisation, propaganda or logical argument can restore true generosity to people any more than it can restore our awe of nature.

Relationships can be a part of organised charity.  The best charity however is neither organised nor sporadic: it is the charitable society, or as a Christian might put it, The Kingdom of God.  A society of selfless people who all look after their neighbours so that there is no far-off needy person who can be cured by a tenner.

But then, everyone still must ‘take up his cross’ and eventually die, no matter how nurturing society becomes.  And any utopia could collapse.  So the spirit comes first and is the only thing left when all the cherished conditions fall away.  We should aim towards social justice while acknowledging that it can never be perfect, easy or eternal.

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I’m a new convert to Interpol; was listening to them as I wrote this – they are supercool. Never been much of one for Indie music cos I associate it with people who listen to it primarily to seem intelligent and sophisticated. I think that’s a common type of mistake.

I don’t really want to talk about the novel I’m starting – that could jinx it – if it’s worth talking about it it’ll be on bookshelves eventually anyway.

Wikileaks is Damaged as much by Jaded Apathy as by Blind Fury

December 14, 2010

There are those who lionise Julian Assange and those who demonise him. They are wrong.

There is a third group of people who say ‘meh’ about him and his Wikileaks enterprise. They pretend to be the reasonable temperate ones but they are also wrong. There is nothing ‘meh’ about what they have done. The stolen footage of an Apache gunner chuckling as he blasted Iraqi journalists into smithereens was not ‘meh’ – I was unsurprised but horrified nevertheless. Many out there are in denial; they still, against all reason, insist on regarding Western forces as ‘the good guys’ – Wikileaks is one of many tiny chisels chipping away at that craven delusion.

Money as Debt II

December 4, 2010

After pasting in all those embedded videos of ‘Money as Debt’ I read up on the author and learned that he responded to some criticism of the film by making an improved sequel. Seems to be a little longer – it’s in eight 10-minute parts instead of five – so I will just paste the first part; the next part should appear for you to click on each time when you reach the end.

Money as Debt, Credit as Enslavement

December 4, 2010

I’ve seen a few of these vids on the basic evil and/or insanity of the monetary system; this one, I think, is the clearest and most persuasive so I have it here in its entirety:

I think the graphics are very effective.

We Reeeeally Care About Your Health – nudge-nudge, wink-wink…

November 30, 2010

The Coalition government have decided that the way to make British citizens healthy is by making small tweaks that will manipulate behaviour in a way that they don’t even notice or experience as coercion or ‘nannying’. An example is that they could make low-alcohol beer displayed more prominently and tax it less in order to lower the average units of alcohol consumed. It’s an idea based on the popular book called Nudge. I understand the people behind the book are now policy consultants for the government.

My take on this is that it’s favoured because it’s a) cheap and b) superficially in line with the free-market dogma of the Conservative Party. In reality this is hypocritical: manipulating people beneath the threshold of awareness is not different in moral substance from overtly policing and controlling people. In fact, given the choice I would rather know who the policeman/nanny is and exactly what he wants from me. And many people will feel that way, and read about the various ‘nudges’, and thereby deconstruct, resist, game, and generally defeat and subvert the nudges.

In other news, the latest screed of Wikileaks have shown the behind-the-scenes wrangling over the fate of Gary McKinnon. He is a British citizen with Asperger’s syndrome who hacked into the Pentagon’s computer system. He apparently did it to find evidence of free energy suppression (limitless energy from free sources) and a cover-up of UFO activity. There are many people who passionately believe such things and these are usually thought of as harmless cranks; his only distinguishing features are his hacking skill and naive audacity.

The Americans want him extradited and convicted under terrorism legislation. I think someone should buy them a dictionary.

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

I don’t see how McKinnon has terrified Americans for a cause. His actions, though technically skilled, were pathetically naive and it is hard not to see the American vociferousness as either stupid pique or an attempt to speciously claim another high-profile scalp in the ‘war on terror’. I think they want to show that they have ‘zero tolerance’.

Not a Sound Hypothesis

November 29, 2010

He blethers on a bit for the first couple of minutes, then shows the ‘proof’ he refers to. I was underwhelmed. I thought that time-travellers from the future would have wireless headsets at the very least…

How Can We Fix the Economy?

November 26, 2010

Someone was asking if there’s a bottom-up solution. Maybe this comes from despair at the idea of political change; let’s have a grassroots economic movement instead.

These things have a limited (in time and scope) effectiveness and eventually die off. The micro-loan projects that let women in India start businesses, for example – they do a certain amount of good, in a certain context, for a while. Then things change; they always do. Or worse, the good intentions bring about unintended consequences. Worst of all, maybe we can’t ever track the consequences in this chaotic world. Anyone who works on a project like that has to be pretty singleminded. That involves tunnel-vision. For every inspiring story of change there are stories of meddling that backfired.

Here is my answer to this question of a ‘bottom-up’ economic solution:

Economies are huge, complex, dynamic, fractal.  They probably have less unifying order than, say, a plant.  A plant will recede for intermittent periods.  The recession always serves a function: for example, the plant may be preparing to divide or flower. The attempt to prevent recessions is futile.

The basis of a plant is sane.  Its ‘goal’ can be summed up elegantly: ‘to grow and multiply’.  The basis of an economy is insane, arbitrary.  Its goal cannot be summed up elegantly, and the goalposts shift by degrees with changing political ideas.  The economy is not a lean, mean machine because it is a product of utopian dreaming, technocratic contrivance, and wrangling between different groups and individuals.  By contrast, a plant (a natural one, not a bred one), being mindless, is the purpose-built tool of its ‘selfish genes’.

Right now the economy requires a never-ending explosion in human desire.  Why should the stupidity and unsustainability of this even need to be pointed out?  Because we are encouraged at every turn to look away from a simple truth and believe that we can swallow the spider to catch the fly, so to speak.  In giving up on all hope of order and goodness within, we turn to the ludicrous hope that corrupted, chaotic beings can somehow create order and goodness without.  There is no technocratic solution.  At best we will become the locusts of the universe.

If the economy existed in a context of love between people then there’d be no division between ‘public’ and ‘private’ enterprise, and growth would be orderly and useful instead of cancerous.  You wouldn’t have these monstrous ideas like, ‘a war will kick-start the economy’.

All intellectuals generally do is tinker around the edges while avoiding the heart of the matter.  If a highbrow novel subtly alludes to the need for love and compassion, great, because you can feel that for a while then forget it in daily life, but when it comes to pragmatic discussion suddenly all that is just hippy talk.  In the 60s Westerners tried to combine political change with human change but they got mixed up with some really wacky New Age ideas that ruined and discredited the project.

Funny Dog Story Link

November 24, 2010

Too good not to share.

Link

 

 


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