277. Democracy – Comment on a Proposal

Obama1This short post adds to a recent dis­cus­sion in The World Post:

Berggruen, Nicholas and Nathan Gardels (8 April 2014) “Post-Party Democ­racy Can Restore the Rule of the Many Over Money”. The World Post, online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/post-party-democracy_b_5108263.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Kudos to the writ­ers for even think­ing about the democ­racy prob­lem. The Amer­i­can ver­sion of shielded plu­toc­racy con­cealed in a pop­ulist sleeve is def­i­nitely no longer a model that imag­i­na­tions like mine (and a few bil­lion oth­ers) out­side of the United States aspire to. The wed­ding cake pro­posal in this arti­cle is already famil­iar in parts. Think of the pro­gres­sion from town gov­ern­ments to national rep­re­sen­ta­tion and you have some inkling of the space for incom­pe­tence and manip­u­la­tion. Con­tinue read­ing

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276. The Mental God Bot

GodMaskAlmost every kind of god seems to be somebody’s favourite. Most of them make an easy tar­get for satire. Explana­tory evi­dence for a gent on a thun­der­cloud seems to be thin in the air after all. Yet a per­fectly rea­son­able account of one kind of god is avail­able from a care­ful obser­va­tion of the human mind. Firstly it is clear enough that con­scious­ness is a mere pin­prick of light illu­mi­nat­ing one frac­tion at a time of the myr­iad com­pu­ta­tions in our brains. Sec­ondly most philoso­phers agree that there is no sin­gle “I” or self. Our lives involve mul­ti­ple roles, and the frag­ment of con­scious­ness which becomes “I” in each of them can be quite dis­tinct. Thirdly, our behav­iours often involve role play­ing. We typ­i­cally have a super­or­di­nate self behind the mask edit­ing what is pre­sented to the world. Finally, given this frag­men­ta­tion of self, it may be a small step to con­struct a super­or­di­nate “bot”, a kind of men­tal agent, to provide a pri­vate inte­gra­tion and ratio­nal­iza­tion for our diverse iden­ti­ties. It might make sense to call this super­or­di­nate agent bot “god”, and make even more sense to iden­tify it with a socially adver­tised supreme being called “God”. That is, the pub­lic God offers a very reas­sur­ing iden­tity and val­i­da­tion for all the pri­vate gods of indi­vid­u­als. The indi­vid­u­als in their pri­vate sub­jec­tive worlds can rein­ter­pret the pub­lic God for pri­vate con­ve­nience with­out fear of rebuke. They may not even be con­scious hyp­ocrites, but from the evi­dence of his­tory they will defend to the death that socially shared pub­lic ver­sion of their God. 

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275. Live and Let Live

They may not be your kind of peo­ple. They may not even be my kind of peo­ple. Come to think of it, I’m prob­a­bly not your kind of per­son. What­ever. They, you, me – we’ve all been here since the (human) world began, or at least yobos like us. No reli­gion, ide­ol­ogy, cul­ture, reign of ter­ror, or adLiveandletlive-arkver­tis­ing agency has ever been able to change the whole daggy mix. So what do you want to do about it? Stand on a street cor­ner and preach to the con­verted? Retreat to your lim­ou­sine and sort them into your superior type and the other trash? Be a preda­tor to prey on the unwary and unwise? Screw any­thing that moves and get wasted while the party lasts? Hope for a safe life of sub­ur­ban gos­sip, the small world of office hello-friend­ships and fear of the tabloid mur­der rate? Well, it’s your call. Me? I’m glad that it takes all kinds of peo­ple to make the world go around. There would be no sto­ries with­out them. I don’t do bars, usu­ally, but I under­stood my father who used to say before stum­bling off to find a new dive, des­per­ate to escape his des­o­late home life, “gotta go check out the local wildlife”. 

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274. Come the Revolution

RevolutionYou talk too much about what you’ve seen and what you think. While the mafia are still in charge of the asy­lum they will find a law to bury you alive (McMil­lan-Scott, Edward MEP (n.d.) “Liu Xiaobo: biog­ra­phy”. Char­ter 08 for reform and democ­racy in China web­site, hosted by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, online @ http://www.charter08.eu/5.html or Esco­bar, Pepe (August 2, 2013) “Our man in Moscow”. Asia Times, online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-01–020813.html ).

Come the rev­o­lu­tion they will kill you first. You are knowl­edge­able, tol­er­ant, polite, polit­i­cally aware. You are a rea­son­able alter­na­tive. Rea­son­able alter­na­tives are a mor­tal threat to rev­o­lu­tions (Barnard, Anne – Novem­ber 30, 2013 – “Syr­ian oppo­si­tion frays as dis­il­lu­sion and exhaus­tion take hold”. Bris­bane Times, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/syrian-opposition-frays-as-disillusion-and-exhaustion-take-hold-20131129-2yh36.html#ixzz2mAl8XnQt ) . 

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273. What Is Going On Here?

AlCaponeBecause they are mega-every­thing, states like China and the USA become test par­a­digms for what can go right and wrong in man­ag­ing humans. Con­sider these: 

1) The US has the world’s largest and most sophis­ti­cated assem­bly of spy­ing orga­ni­za­tions. They col­lect what is laugh­ably called “intel­li­gence” on all of us, legally and often ille­gally. How­ever this vast mass of intel­li­gence assets has repeat­edly been unable to antic­i­pate attacks upon its own integrity by its own per­son­nel (who are surely more spied upon than any­body else): in the first instance from infor­ma­tion leaks by thought­ful and con­sci­en­tious insid­ers (Man­ning, Snow­den, John Kiri­akou … there are oth­ers too), as well as from a long his­tory of sol­diers shoot­ing fel­low sol­diers; or on a much larger scale from the “war on drugs” – read fail­ure to eval­u­ate the real mean­ing of “intel­li­gence” from mas­sive sur­veil­lance – which has gen­er­ated an explo­sion of vio­lence and crim­i­nal­ity (shades of the 1920s-30s Pro­hi­bi­tion); and of course a from long list of wars with fail­ure sourced in end­less mis­in­for­ma­tion and self-decep­tion; and about to break: a tsunami of lost busi­ness for US cor­po­ra­tions which are now regarded as agents of US spy­ing and no longer trusted world­wide.

2) The US has the world’s most “sophis­ti­cated” health care sys­tem. Result: also the world’s most expen­sive health care sys­tem. Its out­comes have resulted in ris­ing mor­tal­ity, an increase in dis­eases, and ever-falling life expectancy for US cit­i­zens rel­a­tive to those in other coun­tries, and about 62% of bank­rupt­cies due to med­ical emer­gency (so this is “intel­li­gence”?).

3) The US has the world’s best uni­ver­si­ties. A few. It also has one of the world’s most frag­mented and least suc­cess­ful edu­ca­tion sys­tems amongst advanced nations, with grad­u­ates indebted for decades. It would be tire­some to list the fail­ures here, but basi­cally the mess is an ide­o­log­i­cally dri­ven, hys­ter­i­cal melt-down, best under­stood by the pop­ulist con­tempt for teach­ers.

Issues 4), 5), 6) … why go on? 

So Dag­wood Bum­stead, pre­pare a sim­ple solu­tion, an exec­u­tive sum­mary in 50 words or less for your lobot­o­mized neigh­bour­hood direc­tor… Well Mr Dithers, the prob­lem is partly that nobody really knows how to man­age any­thing as com­pli­cated as a large, tech­ni­cally advanced coun­try. Spin doesn’t cut it. Excep­tion­al­ism is another word for arro­gance. But there are other basic miss­ing ingre­di­ents too, such as out of fash­ion ideas like hon­esty (from which comes real trust), gen­uine respect for oth­ers (don’t spy on them), coop­er­a­tion (not coer­cion), and actu­ally want­ing to do your job well (CV fluff and salary level are not evi­dence). Oh, and lead­er­ship the rest of us can believe in… 

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272. God, defined

God-cloudGod : def­i­n­i­tion: A form of socially shared delu­sion imply­ing a sen­tient, omni­scient, omnipo­tent, non-human force which is nev­er­the­less con­cerned with human actions. Often used sub­con­sciously by indi­vid­u­als to avoid ego respon­si­bil­ity for cer­tain thoughts and actions. Used socially by power seek­ers as a proxy to val­i­date and enforce con­trol over the thoughts and behav­iours of oth­ers. Often a con­ve­nient metaphor or fig­ure of speech to indi­cate a total­ity or unseen force, and used as such even by those uncom­mit­ted to any reli­gion. As a soci­o­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non the com­plex God sym­bol has much in com­mon with other sym­bols of abso­lutist ide­ol­ogy (e.g. in mod­ern times, Com­mu­nism, Cap­i­tal­ism .. etc). Ide­o­log­i­cal sym­bol­ism, includ­ing the God delu­sion, is often defended vio­lently since it becomes entwined closely with feel­ings of per­sonal iden­tity and group iden­tity, as well as reflect­ing much shared cul­tural behav­iour. In many juris­dic­tions God/Ideological sym­bol­ism is con­structed into for­mal pro­vi­sions of com­mu­nity law and used to divide good (those who com­ply with the entailed beliefs and behav­iours) from bad (those who do no com­ply with the entailed beliefs and behav­iours). In all national and cul­tural juris­dic­tions large num­bers of prag­matic indi­vid­u­als have always remained silent in pri­vate rejec­tion of widely accepted God/Ideological belief and insti­tu­tional frame­works since for social and pro­fes­sional rea­sons a pub­lic chal­lenge would usu­ally yield lit­tle per­sonal advan­tage, but ensure sig­nif­i­cant per­sonal dis­ad­van­tages.

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271. Security & the Neo-feudalists – One Dimensional Chess

FeudalCastleA few cen­turies ago Europe was dot­ted with castle fortresses, sur­rounded by sup­pos­edly impreg­nable stone walls and moats of water. Bar­ri­caded in these castles were lords and ladies, suck­ing the life out of the peas­ant farms around them, and blow­ing the sur­plus on weapons, wars and glut­tony. They were war-lords, or in mod­ern par­lance, mafia god­fa­thers. Their cur­rent incar­na­tions are a bit more com­pli­cated. They go by the names of pres­i­dents, prime min­is­ters, cor­po­rate chief­tains etc, but their fan­tasies and fears are still essen­tially feu­dal. “Secu­rity” is their obses­sion. Day and night they fear for their own arses, while whole pop­u­la­tions are conned into pay­ing the bills for their deprav­ity. And as in the Mid­dle Ages, these neo-feu­dal­ists gold-plat­ing their scor­pion nests in Wash­ing­ton, Bei­jing, Moscow etc have induced new breeds of out­laws. For every action in nature, there is an equal and oppo­site reac­tion.

For the sto­ry­tellers amongst us, the present dis­or­ders hum­bling those who would be gods is a rich har­vest of irony. A while back, we had hopes for Barack Obama, but he turns out to be another sock pup­pet, with his min­ders, the gen­er­als and the money-lenders, tus­sling inside his sock. The great­est cheat-game in his­tory, new toys to steal the pri­vate lives and secrets of every­one on the planet (Prism, NSA XKeyscore etc), has been busted wide open by a gent called Edward Snow­den, dis­missed as a lowly techie. It turns out that Snow­den was a sys­tems design ana­lyst, tasked with find­ing weak­nesses in the whole mon­ster machine. He had keys to every door in the castle, and hor­ror of hor­rors, gen­uine intel­li­gence. Unlike the lawyers and MBas who pre­tend to “man­age” our civ­i­liza­tion, he actu­ally under­stands both the pol­i­tics and the tech­nol­ogy. He skipped ahead of them to Hong Kong, from whence the Wash­ing­ton lords, con­sumed by their own arro­gance, drove him to Moscow and forced him to stay there. They forced a man like Snow­den, awash with all their secu­rity secrets, into the arms of a spy­mas­ter like Vladimir Putin. Now there was bril­liance, duh? With half a brain between them, they could have let Snow­den slip off to South Amer­ica and picked him up eas­ily. Instead Obama and his mil­i­tary min­ders have proved con­clu­sively that they lack the com­pe­tence, integrity and cal­i­bre to man­age or inter­pret the tor­rents of infor­ma­tion about all of us which they have stolen. There is a the­ory going around that some­body in this game is play­ing eleven-dimen­sional chess, Matrix style. If so, Snow­den and Putin have out­classed the Wash­ing­ton scor­pi­ons on every move.

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