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Friday, July 31, 2015

Passaford Lane


Here’s an environment. 

Passaford Lane leading from the Devon hamlet of Passaford to Mutters Moor named after Abraham Mutter, one of  smuggler Jack Rattenbury's accomplices. 

Passaford Lane is one of those sunken lanes or hollow ways often encountered in Devon. We have a few in Derbyshire too. It is a steady climb up to Mutters Moor. Rough and stony underfoot and quite gloomy in places with all the overhanging trees, but pleasant enough in summer. Jack and his band of smugglers may well have used it on their way to Otterton.

A rabbit hops into the path, spots us immediately and hops back. So I think of rabbits and Peter Rabbit one of Granddaughter’s favourite stories which I must know by heart.

The lane is strewn with flints of all shapes and sizes so now I'm reminded of Neolithic times. Flint tools and those ancient, mysterious folk who scratched a living in these hills, using those same flints to make their axes, arrowheads and scrapers. I wonder if I’ll find one?

It's sweaty work climbing, the sheltered ground still damp, the air humid. I think of water and if it is better to stop for a quick drink or wait until we reach the moor where a welcome breeze probably awaits. 

A wren flits through the bushes lining the lane. Was it a wren? Might have been a wren but gone now. May have been a robin after sandwich crumbs. Human = sandwich crumbs - is that how it goes in the robin’s brain?

The lane is an environment. It stimulates thoughts, sweat, muscles, digestion, memories, impressions, ideas, emotions and the imagination. Environments do that.

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Walden Three


Society attacks early, when the individual is helpless.
B F Skinner - Walden Two (1948)

B F Skinner’s novel Walden Two provides a fictional setting for what he saw as a potentially achievable utopia although he was not so sanguine as to think it ever would be achieved. The book sold millions of copies and certain features of the modern world suggests many influential people are probably familiar with its ideas.

From Wikipedia
Walden Two embraces the proposition that the behavior of organisms, including humans, is determined by environmental variables and that systematically altering environmental variables can generate a sociocultural system that very closely approximates utopia.

Skinner’s basic message is not complex – a non-competitive self-governing and pragmatic society could condition its inhabitants to be contented, possibly even happy. Keeping things that way in Walden Two is the job of the Board of Planners, members of which serve for ten years and appoint their successors. These are the behavioural engineers who oversee managers who manage the various departments. Apart from these roles they are merely ordinary citizens with no special status

Although such a utopia is unlikely to be achievable globally or even long term on a smaller scale, it is possible that Walden Two has spawned a number of ideas in the minds and general outlook of elite global bureaucrats. Let us call these ideas Walden Three.

Popular assent is always interesting because it is a litmus test for power and how power expects us to behave. If a significant number of people passively assent to certain aspects of daily life then there are usually others who benefit, almost always those who planned and engineered matters in the first place. 

To take one possible example as an aspect of Walden Three. Our fake UK democracy based on passive assent makes sense if we accept that it came about by systematically altering environmental variables. An essentially two-party adversarial system is a vitally important environmental variable and there is no doubt that it is manipulated as in the 2011 AV referendum. In Skinner's terms it was manipulated by behavioural engineers. They may not think of themselves as such, but that's what they are.

In which case there is nothing to be gained from plugging radical alternatives because those who plug them cannot do it by systematically altering environmental variables. Our Walden Three democracy ticks the behavioural boxes it is supposed to tick and doesn’t tick those it is designed to leave alone such as meaningful reform. China has something similar if less subtle.

Those who weave assent into our lives are Skinner’s planners and managers, the behavioural engineers who do not necessarily subscribe to what they promote. They may or they may not, but elite Walden Three planners and managers are likely to know what they are.

What we have at the moment is far less formal and structured than Walden Two, and far more complex with a vast array of caveats and exceptions, but the basic controlling structure seems to be fairly consistently applied. It may be fallible, complex and layered but in real life that was inevitable.

What else do we see in Walden Three – what is visible now apart from the failure of UK democracy? We see an educated middle class being replaced by a more adaptable citizen class, a general lowering of expectations towards a more sustainable global citizens' lifestyle. We see the traditional role of parents replaced by official controls and responsibilities. Ultimately, as in Walden Two, parents may have few childcare responsibilities for their own children, it depends on how the Walden Three planners see it.

We see the official view of a safe and healthy lifestyles slowly becoming compulsory. We see even minor forms of dissent controlled by endless disapproval and ostracism. We see well-financed mass narratives obviously engineered to fit exiting narratives and obviously designed to further a prime social objective of global equality for all citizens. Which is why the middle class of the developed world has to go because their lifestyle is not thought to be globally sustainable.

Given the importance of our consumer society and the trillions it spends each year and given the global reach of the modern world, Walden Three seems inevitable. It may even be achievable and it isn’t easy to see how things could be otherwise if we are to have a complex but comparatively stable global society. We do not need a global society of course, but that’s not on the agenda.

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Cameron's Freudian slip?

"I'll always have to take my parliament with me..."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33584548


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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In Place Of Strife

JD responds to the previous post on Labour's abandonment of principle:

Wrong question. You should be asking simply "Why vote?"

Changing from Tweedledum to Tweedledee is not going to solve anything. For the past 30 years (at least) all political viewpoints have merged into a perpetuation of and the 'management' of a culture which is moribund.

Something which is explained here with great clarity by Alan Watts-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMDu3JdQ8Ow

I have been reading again "A Guide for the Perplexed" by Fritz Schumacher and towards the end of the book he writes- "the modern experiment to live without religion has failed"

...here is the passage from the book

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=yy_qPNMDIFYC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=the+modern+experiment+to+live+without+religion+has+failed&source=bl&ots=xP5iLtU3Wy&sig=ualsz-G4JTa8yx_DJshTeWWoLZ8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAWoVChMI7dXQkOfpxgIVQhEsCh0EsAL7#v=onepage&q=the%20modern%20experiment%20to%20live%20without%20religion%20has%20failed&f=false

Here is a sample of Schumacher's thinking-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDtF9-owes4

...this is not part of the comment but is just a few random thoughts which may or may not lead to something or other :)

I wasn't going to comment because the answer to your question would lead into a very long and complicated discussion about the nature of our 'democratic society' and the reasons for how and why we arrive at this situation.

I could point you in the direction of the 'Perennial Philosophy' as Schumacher points in his book to several authors on that subject but I am not entirely convinced by the arguments put forward by the likes of Schuon or Lings; they have a clear understanding of history but offer no direction for the future. I am inclined to go along with John Michell's view that the coming collapse is inevitable after which the whole cycle will start all over again.

I am not gloomy, by the way. Far from it, life is wonderful!

Rather than quoting John Michell to understand why I think life is wonderful, I would suggest buying this book instead-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Confessions-Radical-Traditionalist-John-Michell/dp/0971204446

Reform of the voting system? Again, Jimmy Goldsmith had an answer to that suggesting that MPs should be chosen at random from the Electoral Roll in the same way that juries are chosen. It cannot be any worse than the present set up and might even be better. In my experience the average voter is considerably more intelligent than the average MP (Cameron recently demonstrated that fact on the Letterman Show) and more so than the average Whitehall Mandarin and nowhere near as devious.

Addendum (22 July):

Three recent stories which illustrate the statement by Alan Watts that our modern society is dedicated, albeit inadvertently, to its own destruction.

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1496885

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/07/21/uk-airlines-drones-lufthansa-idUKKCN0PV1EE20150721

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3169724/Hackers-control-Jeep-Cherokee-crash-ditch-gaining-access-entertainment-amid-concerns-cars-vulnerable.html

One should also take note of this; 'Naqoyqatsi' is the third of a trilogy of films by Godfrey Reggio (with music by Philip Glass)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl1RcfvEsiA

Naqoyqatsi is a Hopi word which translates as "life as war" In the film's closing credits, Naqoyqatsi is also translated as "civilized violence" and "a life of killing each other."

It cannot be denied that in its near 240 year history the USA has been more or less permanently at war with somebody or other (even with itself at one point).

A few years ago the Arabs and specifically the Iranians called the USA 'the great satan' Were they right?

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why vote Labour?

Was it Attlee who, when asked why on Earth middle class people should vote Labour, replied "Because it's the right thing to do"?

Clearly that's not Liz Kendall's take. The Mail on Sunday reports she "accused Ed Miliband of spending too much time focusing on the poor and not enough on the middle class" (bullet-pointed in the print edition as "Ed worried about the poor too much."

Perhaps the MoS is playing a subtle game, portraying Kendall as a sellout queen to drive Labour supporters into Jeremy Corbyn's camp, so that he becomes leader and stays in Opposition ad infinitum, like Michael Foot.

But once you have compromised your principles for the sake of power, you're sunk anyway.

I've never voted Labour (so far), at first because all I heard from their side was chippiness and vengeful destructive urges, later because I thought that Tony Blair was dangerously mad, and latterly because for reasons I can't understand Labour remained signed up to the other two major parties' commitment to the EU project.

But what is "the right thing to do" now?

When I watched Mhairi Black's maiden speech she seemed to have the right idea. Her story of a jobless man being hammered by bureaucratic bullies at the labour exchange was not merely touching but a touchstone for what both Lab and Con have done to the working class over the last 40 years.

For we're encouraged to look down on "the undeserving
poor" without considering what brought them to this degraded state. Billionaire Jimmy Goldsmith saw it clearly, and warned us about it back in 1994 at the time of the GATT talks. Since then, similar transnational initiatives have worked to smash down all obstacles to the lightning-fast movement of capital around the globe, so playing off the workers of the world against each other.

UK Labour's national organisation played its part. A touchstone example is what happened in Longbridge, Birmingham in 2000: a realistic plan was passed up in favour of a false dream, just to keep the optimistic party mood going into the General Election, all because Blair had to "make assurance double sure". Now I teach children who suffer from family breakdown, alcohol and weed, crime and domestic abuse. No, actually they suffer from Labour's then lack of principle.

Does the middle class think itself immune? The white-collar jobs are now just as vulnerable to information technology, the World Wide Web and cheap foreign competition. Lawyers and accountants are beginning to find this out, and so (see the daily telly ads) are estate agents.

And here we are, still blaming the snowflakes for winter, because the newspapers tell us to.

Perhaps, when Labour finally gains a systematic understanding of the causes of our difficulties and adopts key points of UKIP's manifesto, I'll break my duck and vote for them. Perhaps also, when they agree to back a reform of the voting system as they failed to do in 2011, my vote and yours will count.

Here's to the signposts, and down with the windmills.


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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The ghost of Billy Bunter



As a youngster I read all of the Billy Bunter books, yet decades later I wonder why. Why did they appeal to a lad brought up on a Derby council estate who knew nothing of private boarding schools or the etiquette of wealth?

Perhaps the social gulf was easily bridged by ignoring it, but Bunter was not even a character one could admire or with whom one could identify. According to those inky swots at Wikipedia -

Bunter's defining characteristic is his greediness and dramatically overweight appearance. His character is, in many respects, a highly obnoxious anti-hero. As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited.

His compatriots at Grefriars School weren’t much better either as far as I recall. The beastly place was crawling with snobs and fearsome beaks such as Mr Quelch. So what was the attraction all those years ago?

Looking back I think the books were straightforward stories with a beginning, middle and end. They were available from the local library and easily spotted in the shelves because of their yellow dust jackets. Bunter was good enough rather than appealing, with the added benefit of being a series so a chap knew what to expect.

Perhaps Billy Bunter brings out the mechanical aspect of reading. Beneath the literary flim flam books are usually something to do, entertainments as Graham Greene called his own output. Something to pass the time on a rainy day or when there isn’t anything else. Holiday reading without being on holiday.

There is a mechanical aspect to all forms of entertainment. It doesn’t have to be uplifting or even entertaining - available and easily digested will do. Eventually we learn to discriminate, to select according to our mood and passing inclinations, to learn, to muse, to delve, laugh, think, agree or disagree, to be angry, indignant or resigned.

Or we don’t.

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

A big noise in tennis



One of many unattractive trends in professional sport is the rise of grunting in tennis, although it isn't new and with some of the women players it is more of a loud shriek than a grunt. From the BBC we have.

Is grunting louder than a lawn mower a natural part of tennis or is it unsporting behaviour?

Should it be accepted as being part of the game or should rules be introduced to outlaw players from exhaling so loudly when they hit the ball that noise levels exceed 100 decibels?

Grunting became topical again at Wimbledon when Belarusian Victoria Azarenka was forced to defend her on-court noises following a quarter-final loss to Serena Williams - and another 'shrieker', Maria Sharapova, is in semi-final action against Williams on Thursday.

I watched part of the Azarenka / Williams match and from my perspective Azarenka's incessant shrieking made the game unwatchable, but I'm not a fan and fans are wired up differently.

Although grunts and shrieks are supposed to help players hit the ball harder, gamesmanship seems at least as likely. These people are professionals and sporting ideals are not high on the to-do list.

When each player has a retinue of agents, fitness specialists, coaches, diet advisers, psychologists and managers, top tennis has become a business, not a game for individuals. Winning is the name of the game and any legitimate advantage is bound to be used if it actually works.

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Blast from the past



Yes it's Hippolyte Taine again, but he blasts the political classes with such gentlemanly venom that I can't resist another quote.

Most of them are mere politicians, charlatans, and intriguers, third-class lawyers and doctors, literary failures, semi-educated stump-speakers, bar-room, club, or clique orators, and vulgar climbers. 

Left behind in private careers, in which one is closely watched and accepted for what he is worth, they launch out on a public career because, in this business, popular suffrage at once ignorant, indifferent, is a badly informed, prejudiced and passionate judge and prefers a moralist of easy conscience, instead of demanding unsullied integrity and proven competency. 

Nothing more is demanded from candidates but witty speech-making, assertiveness and showing off in public, gross flattery, a display of enthusiasm and promises to place the power about to be conferred on them by the people in the hands of those who will serve its antipathies and prejudices.

Hippolyte Taine - The Modern Regime (1893)

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