Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Universal Coincidence or Coincidental Universe

My question is: What is coincidence? I’m reminded of the old cliché, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” Our lives today are so busy, so distracted and with so much to do with so much information that the task of sifting through it all is too enormous, that it becomes too difficult to ‘see’ something of true value that seemingly appeared by “coincidence”. Unplanned and unbidden it just showed up one day at one particular time and is remarkable just because of that. But is it just chance, pure luck and nothing more?

So, what is coincidence really? Is it plainly the randomness of nature and the universe where we take what we get, and if we get anything at all we should count our blessings? Or, can we perceive, anticipate and perhaps even create coincidence? Perhaps we need only fine-tune our perceptions to ‘see’ the trees in the forest and pick out the one for us? Perhaps then the myriads of events; information, opportunity, insights, that occur around us all the time are coincidences waiting to happen and what sets certain ones apart from the others is the realization of, to cognize, and recognize, them as they come along and determine if they will be of use to you. It is utilitarian in outlook for oneself, but it is also of benefit to others for they in turn can draw from you what they may need. You and what you have done, or have to offer, may be their coincidence. The question of being at the right place, the right time and recognizing it as such is the hard part and we all seek it in some fashion – some fervently, some passively aware and others blithely stumble along.

The day to day drudgery of sifting through life for the opportune coincidence, which, if you are not diligent enough at all times, may never come about, can have a life of its own. For some the bombardment of potential ‘signals’ is too much. They seek shelter and isolation in their lives; their lives become their universe. Others, friends, family or acquaintances, see opportunities continuously slip by them; they try to inform them of it, but soon become discouraged by the refusal to acknowledge this information and so remain insolated and insular from the greater universe. For some people the search for the pivotal coincidence is frenetic to say the least. They look hard for these moments but they cannot see the forest for the trees. Their search, their life is dotted with disappointments and dismal failures. They have the knack for picking the coincidence, which all about them say is the wrong one and clutch it to their breast as if a life preserver.

Security and survival are actually quite simple – going beyond that is somewhat more difficult. Being satisfied with what you have materially is the door to awareness of a much greater universe of fulfillment. But that is a whole other ...

And now for something somewhat, but not really, different …..

Energy? What is energy – really? Is it kilocalories/m2? Or is it MC2? Desire? Willingness? Vitamins? Quantum Mechanics? Belief? Oh, so many questions – both mechanistic and mystical. Can the power of the mind influence the day-to-day flow of the physical universe?

(1) Can I determine in some way my future, my destiny? Can I orchestrate events and experiences to facilitate my destiny? Can I create my own coincidences? I think through my choices I can guide things to be more likely to occur, but I am not truly enamored with the idea that I could actually create my destiny. Perhaps that requires a better definition. Destiny is pre-written, pre-ordained by some higher power. A future is just that, the future. Very poor to use the word in its definition, but what I mean by that is the future is what it will be regardless of any notion of pre-destiny. The future just happens and as such one could perhaps shape how the future could unfold. Do this and that happens, do that and this happens. Good choices and bad, good decisions and bad, good luck and bad? Hmm. But still I like that idea of future much better than the idea of destiny. I like the idea of a future that I can influence largely because it gives me some control over my future. I can make it willy nilly, or I can make it very deterministic. BUT …
I can’t help thinking what if my shaping of the future IS in my destiny? Huh. That one will take more analysis later.

Can I create light? Its that most enigmatic thing, simultaneously both wave and particle. Mechanistically ‘pure’ energy is Einstein’s E=MC2, fantastically large numbers, far beyond my being able to imagine them. If, as the physicists say, everything exists at different levels of energy and therefore reality is a myriad of energy levels, from undetectable (lower energy) to detectable (the five senses and perhaps six) to undetectable (higher energy) again, we ‘live’ in a very narrow band indeed. Perhaps as scientists detect more and more formerly ‘undetectable’ energies, we can begin to ‘see’ these evermore-sensitive devices as extensions of our minds and senses, or better still, replace our senses with these devices as our minds learn to see beyond the presently perceptual physical Universe and begin to ‘see’ at a whole new energy level. What would we see? A new level of existence – is it a new level of sort of the same thing, just at a lower or higher energy setting? Being aware of this energy however is a bit of a plague. If I have it so must others. Do we converse with it? Can we get more? Can I give it to someone else? Can it be taken away against my will? Can I lose it through poor husbandry? Or by disaster?

BUT science is pessimistic. In its quest for the ultimate in determinism, the creation of the universe, it applies the notion of birth and ultimately death. So if there is a start to the universe there must be an end, which scientists have said will be the slowing down of the expansion of the universe and then its retraction back to the singular point. All will be destroyed in the process. So, why should humanity struggle to know? Why the struggle for better, or to be better, or good? Why think of the great things, why do the great things when the rationalists would have us lose it all in the end anyway?
So, to heck with the poor, sick and disadvantaged! Who cares about the environment, global warming or cooling (take your pick), the aged, the young, the dolphins and the whales?! I mean really, if its all gonna die anyway, what the hell am I worried about? And why do some people think they have the ‘God given right’ to make me feel like I should care?

Truly unpredictable, random, events and occurrences are rare - if they exist all. Events are predictable in as much as circumspection being incomplete renders choices as either best guesses, vibes, intuitions or stabs in the dark. This is where statistics enters the fray. There is no certainty, only best 'mathematical' approximation. There is no substitute for knowing. However, the degree of knowing required to take the seeming 'unpredictability' away from existence would seem supernatural. Ignoring the consequences is a whole different matter, as is letting go of the sense of foreboding or dread of having to endure the unknown every second of existence. This latter ignorance is the most prevalent and causes the most anxiety and fear.

Coincidence ...

Infinite possible realities simultaneously exist - one's we recognise consciously are what we term as coincidence. The realities co - incide. Serendipity, some call it. What we choose to recognise , or let in to our minds, becomes the 'new' reality. Orchestrating the appearance of coincidences is controlling one's own existence within the many possibilities, actively searching, recognising and choosing among them the course of one's future. Doing some action 'when the time is right' is an attempt at this. Patience is a virtue in these instances as is no hesitation and quick action when that time does come. The exhilaration of having 'guessed' right or doing what 'feels' right is second to none. But to actually explain this, or the sense of catastrophe when things go poorly, is very difficult as often the words cannot truly be found to express it. We just knew.

Regrets are the retrospective view of the past, knowing in the present, other choices that may have been taken in the past ( which were not known then ) to perhaps alter the present existence. One cannot know a regret until an action has been taken, but one can attempt to predict a possible regret as a possible outcome of a choice.

In this light 'unintended consequences' have new meaning within the process of choices of realities in which we find ourselves. Unintended consequences may appear 'unpredictable', but this is because of limited circumspection before a choice was made. True, we cannot know all the possibilities and consequences of our actions, but this is more a result of our lack of ability to do so than the notion that it cannot be known at all and so is naturally unpredictable.

Just thinking out loud here ...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Really?

I received an email poem that lamented the notion that God has been taken out of school, government and, via the efforts of political correctness, of Christmas. Here it is ...

Hi Lord, its me.

We are getting older and things are getting bad here.
Gas prices are too high, no jobs, food and heating costs too high.
I know some have taken you out of our schools, government and even
Christmas, but Lord I'm asking you to come back
and re-bless Canada.
We really need you! 
There are more of us who want you than those who don't!
Thank You Lord,
I Love you.


The following is my two cents worth ... And I know God is maybe hearing me ... LOL!

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Now really ... Do you really think god has been taken out of our schools, government and Christmas???

I hear God Damn this and that all the time at school! Or bless you when someone sneezes! All the principles we hold dear in public school come from the Protestant religion!  Work ethic, achievement, good works, community, sharing, individualism, hard work etc etc. good Lutheran and Calvinist stuff, with the odd Catholic thing tossed in here and there, but they are mostly in the "separate" school system. We may be "public" but we are hardly secular! When our education system was created it was done on purpose that the catholic be named the separate Catholic system and the other called the public protestant (read dominant) system (this all thanks to central Canada wanting to exclude French immigration to western Canada). The word protestant was dropped, but never its intent and the pretense to be 'public' is silly! We still hold to the commandments as our basic code of conduct. That we don't stop and pray four times a day, or have craven images everywhere (protestants got rid of those) or have recognized priests preaching to youth (again a very Protestant thing where we don't need preachers, each can read and interpret the bible, so we educate teachers and make them teach/preach through the curriculum the virtues of godliness through the protestant virtues of working hard and making progress through capitalism) doesn't mean that we have forsaken the almighty! In fact, in school and out in society in general, Western Christian values have never been stronger than they are today! 

AND there's a big Christmas tree right outside my door in the student commons area! What Christmas has to do with god is beyond me for this is not the time of the birth of christ but rather a church means of usurping the pagan winter solstice ritual and bending it to gather converts. I know Christ would not approve of this Christmas thing, Easter neither for that matter. But these are left over rituals, traditions, however they were initially concocted that we have come to hold near and dear. This is true especially with their entrenchment to the economic market and the sale of sugar in confections and the notion of gift giving as a great Christian act of charity upon which the health of the general economy depends.

As far as god and government .... Well who would have ever thought as fundamentalist a Christian as Harper would ever rule our land!!?? Yup. More jail time, more prisons, more crime (even though with twice the population as when I went to high school in the early seventies there is today half the crime!!). Dickens would love this scenario. Ebenezer Scrooge, for sure! Are there no prisons, no orphanages!

Today we are less accepting, more intolerant, more hard line, more vengeful, less forgiving and more deterministic than I can remember. Who is to blame for that? To me if we were to truly come to God we'd get rid of those very things that religious people claim to want back! People should be more accepting, less rigid, more forgiving and more open to the possibilities of life.

Church and state must be definitively separated and no one who follows any religion or sect of a religion allowed to run for office, it only skews their thinking to the human constructed God rather than the actual higher power, the people they represent. And we should get rid of this celebration towards hedonistic capitalism called Christmas and the pagan images like the tree with the angle on top. So too with this Easter bunny, spring and the pagan notions of fertility and renewal tied to Christ's resurrection. Ridiculous! It's all ridiculous.

Is god responsible for the price of gas? I mean, because we don't all worship god gas prices go up?? Really? Unemployment and the general standard of living is god's fault? Really? God must be insulted by these infantile beliefs and disappointed that his creation can't yet to do better. The very people who call into question materialism and are doing better are called down as unchristian in their acceptance, forgiveness and positive view of life.

I think I'm with the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson on this, "I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know. No man can conform his faiths to the dictates of another. The life and essence of religion consists in the internal persuasion or belief of the mind." -- The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.

Okay. I'm done.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Truth and Certainty in 1974

I graduated High School in 1974 with some vague notion of what to expect in life, some 37 years later ... this is an essay about unfulfilled expectations.

Truth and Certainty in 1974

We strive for truth. We like truth. We talk about the truth of things often and at length. We prefer the comfort of certainty and we are decidedly uncomfortable with uncertainty. We do not appreciate being told an untruth. We have been taught to believe certainty is truth and uncertainty is untruth, a lie or a truth yet to be revealed which makes us uncertain in the moment. Who is ‘we’? We are those in the era of Modernity, which has been all about truth and certainty, the triumph of rationalism.

But we confuse truth for certainty.

It seems that we would prefer certainty, the idea that something ‘is’ all the time in every circumstance the same. The subject is predictable, quantifiable and reproducible if it is turned into an object. There is comfort in that. Of course, what I am speaking of here is what my generation of the nineteen-sixties and seventies learned in science and math class - the scientific method and inductive reasoning. It was all so very tight and comfortable: Avogadro’s number, Mandeleev’s periodic table, Pauling’s chemical bonding, Bohr’s electron shells, Einstein’s E=MC2, Linnaean species classification, Descartes’ coordinate system, Euclidean geometry, Galileo’s acceleration, Kepler’s elliptical orbits, Boyle’s law, Newton’s mathematics and physics, Faraday’s electromagnetism, Watson and Crick’s double helix, DNA and genetics were all so easily understood and accepted. It all made sense; it was logical, sequential and certainly made the natural universe, the physical world around us, understandable. The hardest thing we had to do was memorize the exact formula, phrase or definition so that we could reproduce them on demand any where at any time. They were our constants in life and were defined to us as scientific facts, axioms or truths in our world and for all time.

We learned through our science teachers, who never shared their doubts, a collective and universal philosophy that all things could be studied systematically and that answers could be found eventually to everything that was in our universe to understand. Mathematics teachers and their courses taught us the rigorous logic of numbers, orders of operation, how to take apparent randomness and make a logic out of it. This helped us to discover that there was no randomness. We thanked the great philosophical minds of the Enlightenment who objectified the natural philosophies, put them under our control and through slow and methodical manipulation created the beginnings of what we now know as science. This demystified much of the mystery of the human philosophies, too. Religion had many holes in it with the geocentric Aristotelian based notions of our physical world and so became distrusted as more and more of these holes were turned into scientific discoveries – new logical verifiable truths. Authority came under attack and has never entirely recovered to this day. No longer could mystics hold sway over us, moral authority was condemned and we were made free.

Or were we?

Science, we were told, explained our lives as certainly as the earth traveled around the sun, as we, too, lived and died like the sun. It was comforting, they said, for us to know that we were not ruled by fantastic tales in ancient books. And it was equally comforting to know that walking on water was impossible, that making water into wine was highly unlikely, laughable in fact, and that we could no longer be controlled by such ideas. With the loss of supernatural explanations for the unknowable we subsequently became masters of our own destiny and have need only of believing in the rationalism of science to get through the day. God had to be seen in a new light as a new dogma called scientific rationalism became the new path to salvation. The numbers of people attending churches plummeted as people walked away to the freedom of rationalism, a different old dogma.

Science and math classes made everything sound exciting and within our grasp of knowing. And it was easy to get a good mark in school for the correct process and the correct answer was all that was required. Discussions of whether ideas were right of wrong died away, deductive reasoning was abandoned. It didn’t matter. The scientific method and inductive reasoning now held sway. Fact now mattered. Memorization, the lowest order of thinking, was de rigueur and class was fun as we dissected live frogs and blew up stuff in the lab. By extension we believed that all things could be dissected, the parts studied and, therefore, the whole knowable. And we were told that it was ultimately democratic in that we could all know this, it was in all the published works to be found and so no one could have dominion over us unless we chose it to be so. There was solace in that and hauntingly similar to old time religion as science became THE WAY and canon to modern life. All one had to do was believe, and how could one not? Science was all about fact and a fact was a fact. After all you'd be called a lunatic at worst and a silly eccentric at best if you refused to believe in fact. We knew where science stood and you knew were we stood. Most reassuring to be so sure. This degree of certainty, this truth, however, did not extend to all subjects.

The human sciences were a conundrum. Because of the tag ‘sciences’ we thought they would be like all the other sciences, the natural sciences, we were also learning. You know, the fun stuff! In English Literature class (boo hiss) we sought certainty, the truth, as we were finding it in those other classes. Instead, to our great dismay, we were often asked our opinion of what we thought the author or the story was on about, or what it meant to us. We were perplexed. What did it matter what we thought? Isn’t there an expert about such things who would tell us the answer, the facts, we had to know? Stunned to the core and not knowing how to even begin to respond to such a question, we did as we did in science class. We flipped the pages of our books and to our consternation and horror only found endless pages of the same thing, words! In our science textbooks we found in each chapter a brief explanation of the topic, examples of the topic, facts and figures, pictures, diagrams and charts related to the topic and then a set of questions about the topic - a thousand clues to an answer. There were practice questions to make sure one got the right answer and the answers were in the back of the book. In fact there was a lot you could hang your hat on when you opened a science or math textbook, or when being asked a question by the math or science teacher. But this was decidedly not true in English Lit class.

No, those English Lit texts were texts of poetry: one poem after another after another, for a whole book, hundreds of pages and no questions and no answers to practice with. There were no charts or diagrams to illustrate what we had to know. In effect there was no truth and therefore no certainty. This was a most unsettling feeling. We’d have to read the poems one at a time, line by line, seemingly endlessly discussing them and surmising and guessing what they could possibly mean to us, or society. Well, didn’t the author have that? Didn’t he or she know what they were writing about and why? If what was wanted was to know what the poem meant why ask us? Ask the authors! ‘How would I know?’ was a common refrain from the students. The authors, the experts, the inventors and authorities in the other texts in the other classes seemed to know exactly what they were about and told us everything we needed to know, why not these books of poems?

Short story books: one story after another. Sometimes with a few questions at the end that actually tested whether we had read the thing or not, and again asking us for our opinion. Well, we began to think, if they have to ask us for our opinion it must mean that these people didn’t know themselves! This then means they are weak and these subjects are weak compared to the math and science classes. And if they were stories of fiction, then what did it mean at all? Fiction is deliberate untruth, is it not? Its just fiction, isn’t that right?  Could mean anything to anyone and so it was pointless.

Then there was the novel, a big fat book written by someone supposedly important of whom we did not know. The Grapes of Wrath what kind of a title was that? Who's this Steinbeck fellow and if his title was bad what good could the rest of the book possibly be? But worst of all were the plays. William who? Shakespeare? And he wrote when, and about what? With long forgotten strangely stilted English - thee, thou and methinks? Oh, and the ugly questions that followed; ‘What did you think he meant by that?’ ‘Do you think he was trying to make a social statement?’ ‘Why is Hamlet timeless?’ Or worst of all, ‘Do you think that this applies to today?’ “How would I know?” echoed repeatedly from the students.

Thoughtful, good, teachers asked questions like that and it wasn’t their fault. We eventually found out that each poem, story or play usually meant different things to different people. Really? And how did that work? That was most dissatisfying, particularly when in science or math class we either knew it or we didn’t and it was more a failure on our part of not studying well enough to answer the questions asked of us. But this being asked, in English class, what we ourselves thought was a tough proposition. “Hmm, I don’t know,” we’d reply to a question. And then slyly ask the teacher, “What do you think?” We clamored for the truth, for the teacher, an authority, to tell us the answer. We wanted to be definitive, certain and we didn’t want loose ends, or unknowns, or worse, fictions – these were tantamount to lies. There was no substance here, why should we bother to even try to learn this stuff. It was all so ‘unscientific’. Our marks suffered.

Some teachers fell for the ease of the scientific gambit, let us off the hook as it were, and objectified the work of literature as a thing, a definitive subject, and began to ask questions a scientist would ask, “How are the beginning, middle and end different?” “What is foreshadowing?” “How was the story constructed?” “Who is the protagonist and who the antagonist?” Parts were labeled, descriptive terms added and tight comprehension questions were asked in familiar multiple choice form that tested whether we could read and comprehend the words and could dissect the work. Everything became wonderfully quantifiable and accountable. Either you knew it or you didn't and it could be shown in a list of marks and a final grade. Teachers asked fewer and fewer questions about whether we understood the work or not, or whether we could relate the work to our own live or to the lives of others. Less and less were thoughts and ideas asked of us. Opinion, they said, was freely allowed to everyone and could not be graded, verified or accounted for, as it was personal and just a feeling, a sense that could not be quantified and so safely ignored in terms of assessment. We felt better, didn't talk about it much and our grades went up.

In Social Studies, that peculiar combination of geography, history, politics, economics and sociology, the same kind of scientific analysis was applied when we tried to understand what made human history what it was. Names, dates and places along with drill and skill made us memorize our Prime Ministers, the provinces and their capitols, as well as certain individuals who had been deemed important enough to make a note of and be celebrated. We studied the countries of the globe and new them as population totals, types of industries, GNP’s, social structure and political system, as well as major rivers, deserts and mountain ranges. We were not saddled with the moral or ethical questions of why people choose go to war, other than the clash of empire or megalomaniacal personalities. Calamitous events just happened and we had to know them as they either led to a nation’s creation or to its demise. That was reason enough to know them, I suppose. Key people, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin had to be known as well as Martin Luther, Gandhi and FDR as objects not subjects embedded in a world they had to interpret and deal with just like we did. We knew much of what happened, but very little of why. But that was all right, we knew how our systems worked, what we needed to do within them, and why it was as good as it was. After all, this was much ado about nothing, really.

Now, after all these years, it has become clear to me that science was the easy part of my education, but it prepared for me next to nothing for the rest of my future. Much of the higher level math I never used, most of the scientific facts were likewise never used except as trivia in answers to board game questions. Even when I did my Industrial Engineering courses, science and math were there, but we're not the most important thing, communication was. The timeless stories of heroes with so human foibles like Achilles, Zeus and Heracles as well as the parables of Aesop were lost in favour of the harsh reality of modern great religious and political leaders and the rational reasons for their success and failure.

History, politics, economics, the poem, the play, the novel, and essay writing were the subjects I came to use everyday of my life. How to interact with people, people with different views and beliefs, their stories and how I reacted to them was the day to day activity of life. Where we all come from, what we believe, how we organize, what we interpret, our wants and desires all need to be addressed on a daily basis. All of these cannot be addressed by science as all defy logic and the drive for fact. Emotional responses, no matter how much the psychologists might disagree, are individual. Some more than others, to be sure, as group think does occur, but mass hysteria is the abandonment of the individual to the group, so it does start with the individual. Rationality of the sciences is lost. And, finally, opinion can indeed be evaluated! There is such a thing as a right or correct opinion as much as there is a wrong one, while most lie in the realm in between. Holding a poor or wrong opinion just because one can is a poor reason to do so.

In any case, my point is that science does not give us any hints what we can look forward to in our lives other than a very narrow band of certainty, which we claim as truth, that is completely surrounded by the unknowable future of human interpretation, action, interaction, wants, needs and desires often all in the thrall of that very human of traits and attribute - emotion. This has left us uncomprehendingly lost in our lives as the great expectations of fact have been supplanted by the reality of life that is far from logical, rational and scientific.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We Not Me

Have you heard that phrase at meetings where the leadership of administrations of one form or another try to shame or cajole their staff to follow questionable paths determined as necessary by the corporate agenda? This may work in the authoritarian political and corporate setting where the threat "either you are with us or you are against us" combined with 'we not me' can have serious implications or ramifications for the independent thinker. Social institutions, such as high academia within Universities, public education, universal health organisations, where there is no profit in creating widgets, where the overall social good is at heart of the work, corporate authoritarian methods are resisted by the people within as methods counterproductive to the social good. In social institutions 'we not me' sounds like another attempt by Harvard economic theorists to apply corporate management values to social institutions. These rarely if ever work, ultimately ending in guilt tripping and blamestorming. It is astonishing and often laughable how institutions espousing the corporate mantra of the business model of individualist competitive capitalism should use collective values in support of bald individualism. Who is 'we'? Who is 'me'? Is it the royal we and the lonely me? 

Both 'me' and 'we' have been selectively twisted in connotation to suit those who need some form of justification for their views and efforts. It is dubiously attributed to Queen Victoria to have initially used the phrase, "We are not amused." At present the original circumstance is not important, however the use of 'we' in this sense is meant to convey the intent that she spoke for a number of people in the voice of one, she, the Queen, being the embodiment of all in the 'l'etat c'est moi' form. This not to be trifled with individual, or small group of individuals, in today's world is powerful and of elite standing within some form of hierarchical organisation, political or economic, reflecting an authoritarian 'speaking for all' relationship. It is a long step away from the meaning of the collective 'we' as representing all people of equal stature in a society having decided on a common vision.

As a collective 'we' the term 'us' is better, for 'we' has become the elitist autocratic 'Royal we' and not the common inclusive 'us'. Everything about the 'Royal we' is exclusion, bullying, innuendo, perception and deception. It is autocratic, and no input is valued unless it is for the benefit of the 'we', the body corporate, the hierarchy of those whom 'we' should obey. In an Orwellian vein 'we' is often used as a means of cajoling those who believe in the democratic 'us' into thinking the 'process' is essentially democratic. Not doing, playing along or conforming to the 'we' is characterized as not being a part of the team (or organization), more of a hindrance than a help, as counterproductive, and therefore antithetical to the task at hand and in effect being seen as a criminal element. As an old Japanese proverb describes, "A nail that sticks up will be hammered down."

Simplistic yet measurable 'effort' and 'process' become paramount over unmeasurable character and ultimate free choice even while espousing the qualities of the latter and downplaying the former. Knowing the flaw in this the autocrats perform superficial attempts at promoting character and choice through simple checklists and surveys with items created by those who wish to recapitulate what they desire and avoid the true difficulty in assessing the nonconformist and highly variable nature of both.

The 'royal we' expends vast time and effort on the propaganda of belonging, loyalty, the prescient task at hand, collaboration not cooperation (collaboration connotes a superior to inferior relationship while cooperation requires equality and the 'royal we' can't have that) and the deleterious effects of not 'buying in' to the 'non-negotiables' of the 'grand plan' of which none but the hierarchy had input. This form of shaming propaganda is as old as humanity itself when brute force for compliance became seen as politically counterproductive to the maintenance of power and the attempts of authority at compliance. Shame is an effective, old as the hills and out of mind Adam and Eve wore clothes to hide their shame and embarrassment, means of negative emotional reinforcement of why noncompliance adversely affects the utilitarian pleasure through avoiding pain scenario within organizations large and small. Other more unoriginal and devious methods of getting what the 'royal we' wants becomes the order of the day. As the leading example of a then growing global trend, Thatcher's attempt to use the 'we' in the name of all people in Britain was thinly disguised as instead representing her elitist neo-conservative political party values, with her firmly at the helm, and the rest of 'us' firmly but happily trapped below in neo-classical capitalism indebted and owning property. 
Hearing the twisted mantra 'we not me' is as old as Machiavelli's notion of a 'prince' being both feared and loved and a recap of modern failed TINA (There Is No Alternative) of narrow minded Thatcherism that ultimately destroyed the old system and later, in turn, itself failed miserably in 2008. That says much about how well the 'royal we' works.
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Blamestorming, definition from Investopedia (makes sense there'd be such a thing)...
A fusion of the words “blame” and “brainstorming” which is used to describe a meeting where participants determine who is responsible for a particular problem or failure. Blamestorming is essentially the identification of a scapegoat; if the source of the problem was obvious, blamestorming would not be necessary.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Religion...Again

The traditional Arab Muslim world continues to struggle not because the people are determined to win democracy from the dictators, but of the argument between piety and conservatism against modernisation and liberalism within Islam itself. It would appear that in order for a Muslim state to be modern a strong dictator is required to maintain it. However, it also appears that for a Muslim state to be pious another strong dictatorship is required. In both cases liberty, freedom and democracy are long in the shadow of the dictatorial techniques needed to keep either regime in power. And it must be noted that this struggle exists mainly in the Arab branch of Islam. Different approaches to religion and politics in Asian states requires a completely different assessment and so this current discussion must be limited to the Arab states.

Education, female emancipation from male rule and high unemployment rates among these people, as well as the desire for a modern lifestyle, are the current factors in the rise of the Arabic Islamic Spring of 2011. The old regimes have not been flexible enough to accommodate technological change and the more liberal values needed to operate within them. Instant communication with its ability to organize and rally people together and access to multitudinous points of view are holes in the dictatorial boat that have become nearly impossible to plug. Indeed, these holes are growing to the point that a dictatorship cannot possibly maintain itself any longer in our modern world. Arabic dictatorial Titanics are going down one after another. A major re-think is needed for dictatorships to maintain themselves, but it is doubtful they will last. In the new regimes certain to come into being, lessons could be taken from the Neo-Cons of the so called democratic world on how to manipulate communication to suit the needs of the state. But it is already too late for classical military/political dictatorships that remain in the Arab Islamic world. And for the Arab states that remain as traditional monarchies their days are numbered as well and for the same reasons.

The Arab Muslim world is not really in a struggle with the modern, democratic, free and therefore corrupt west, it is instead locked in a struggle with itself. Islam is no more a unified religion than Christianity is, nor Judaism for that matter. And it is this battleground the rest of the world must endure.

Being able to 'agree to disagree' without retribution has yet to surface in the Islamic faith as it nominally has within Christianity. The linch pin in the Christian case was the formal separation of direct Church authority from State authority and a couple of hundred years of costly warfare to finally figure that out. Arab Islam is venturing forward on an old well used road. This road is dangerous and deadly as the signposts show and sadly it appears it remains the only road to the future for the Arab Muslim world.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

High stakes multiple choice testing: PISA, expectations and youth

A few years ago I was asked to answer questions regarding the success Alberta students have in these international PISA tests.  I said that it’s a simple answer. If NASA can take a Chimp out of his natural environment put him in flight simulators, accelerators and the like and get the poor creature to perform tasks like punching a lighted button at the right time for a banana pellet and then fire his poor soul into space, from 6Gs to weightlessness and back again, all the while getting our poor relative to replicate their training to perfection in an environment totally alien to them, I could, through excessive drill and skill training in the unnatural environment of successive high stakes multiple choice testing over 12 years train my human subjects (you know, students) to perform well at PISA tests! And that IS in fact what we do.

Now, high stakes multiple choice testing of youth in itself may not be bad as a science experiment, what is bad is that we categorise, stratify and determine policy towards our social institutions based on the results of such grotesque events. That we experiment on 'animals', before we venture forth ourselves is perhaps detestable enough for its callousness and cowardliness on our part, but tto experiment on our own young and then take the results and apply them to the social engineering of our educational systems and society is terrible indeed.


The question I have as an educator within this crackerjack system is where are the students in this? With such good results in international testing are more of our youth going to university than any other area/country or province? Are more succeeding in posts of advanced learning, executives in major corporate boards and leading in research to unburden the human condition? Are there more doctors, more lawyers, more engineers, more geneticists, physicists and mathematicians? Are the twenty-plus percent dropout students also included in these tests? Or are we finding that even with the super achieving high degree of education we throw at students they are still kids, are doing wonderful just to mollify us and then moving on to be whatever they would have been with or without our 'interference'? Are they better human beings, more accepting (not tolerant), more giving, more civically and socially conscious?  Are our students better decision makers, leaders in social justice and the arts?

Is scoring well on tests a true indicator of knowledge? of worthiness? of humanity? of courage? of fearlessness? Does the number they acquire tell us what kind of person they are? Could they be a sociopath, a terrorist, a murderer or Mother Teresa, or Gandhi?
 

I am disappointed that school administrations the world over are so short sighted towards their children. The industrial age is long gone and yet we continue to re-trench old exhausted ideas draped in new technologies that stifle inspiration and imagination in our youth. We have deterministic outcomes/ends (of the world we adults live in and want to maintain) that leave no room for adaptive and inspirational out of the box thinking and acting in the world the students could live in if they had the freedom to create it. Instead the world over, teachers teach to an exam, they have no choice. It’s no wonder our students do so well at exams but are so lost in their lives. And yet I am sure and hopeful that one day they will wrest control from their parents and create a better world which we, through lack of courage and fear of what we may lose, have always known we should have done ourselves. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Industrial Age economics and education Part four

Much of the Western world since the late 1970’s, now quickly being followed by the remainder of the world, has been committed to laissez-faire economics, what we arguably do best but are now sensing we’ve made a mistake. However, we are now so deeply entrenched in this system, and the privileged so powerful, we can’t get off the the predetermined rails in favour of an alternate, though possibly better future. Western education has been changed and designed, modelled with selected 'scientific' evidence, to achieve what leaders in society believe all society requires of its youth - to continue the world created by their elders. Schooling has nearly always been this way, a recapitulation of what was with little real core change ultimately for the benefit of those in political and corporate power. Education has been useful in maintaining order and predictability over time, with allowances for some technical change in how things are done as long as these changes benefit the established order of things and not radically alter it in any real way. The why’s of this established order change very little over time, are to be questioned even less, and are continued from the earliest days of human civilization to the present.

But recently, with scientific psychology, sociology and biology as justification, great strides have been taken in comprehensive education of all youth in society towards a far more structured and rigid regime. The old industrial teaching method of drill and skill followed by objective evaluation methods within both hard and soft sciences and other objectified subjects has been measured, quantified and evaluated. In spite of qualitative advances over the past half century of child centred education, it has been met with such trepidation at the lack of uniformity, predictability and so presumed usefulness to society, that a wholesale retrenchment to universal systemic industrial education has occurred. Some areas of qualitative work have been taken and quickly adapted into quantitative work in order to measure that which was once understood as not measurable. Much qualitative work has been in effect nullified as wishful thinking and that which could not be measured has been ignored; for example, subjective, perhaps even spiritual, moral and ethical character education. Education was then modelled after capitalist corporate business practice, in a restructuring of education akin to the the corporate restructuring of the post 1987 market crash, as the most proficient and efficient means of getting the best out of our students through the promotion of the objective morals and ethics surrounding capitalist values of process, procedure, efficiency, self-interest, individualism, collaboration (not cooperation), hard work, cost benefit analysis, personal profit, legal systems and predictability, all of which can be best learned through immersion in the economy of grades and credentialism.

Modern education has equality of opportunity, the basic tenant of western political and economic thought since Kant and Locke, and it is up to each individual’s choice and ability to achieve as much as desired through competition in order to become the best one can be. There is no sense of equality of outcome, in fact it is actively discouraged. Planning for a future, which is nothing if not unpredictable, through a predetermined series of learned parameters is seen as something as the highest order of thinking, a bit of an oxymoron really. Creativity and intuition, hope and faith are crushed during the school years in favour of a predictable future, a blinding fear of real change and no faith in what is possible. What that does is predetermine one to maintain and recapitulate what is predictable, that is to perpetuate the present day on into the future, in favour of a potentially completely different and fearful future, at least for those in power today. This ‘different’ future may be advantageous to new characters on the scene and render the old obsolete, ergo the need to maintain what is in perpetual control of those presently in power by perpetuating the present into the future and squelch any notion of a better future other than what we have now. This, in spite of much groundbreaking research into how people really do work and create cooperatively through difference, brain research and it's ability to help us learn and shared living experience to help society to be kinder and gentler to it's citizens.

So, in the baffelgab disguise of leading edge education, where, ever more dazzling technology, potential useful employment access, individual needs and personalization as well as individualistic entrepreneurialism, objective data driven instrumentalism, efficiency and predictability are at the forefront; creativity, intuition, cooperation, and difference within the human shared lived experience are notably forgotten. What kind of future are our children allowed to imagine and create?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Industrial Age economics and education... Part Three

Liberal humanism is seemingly in decline as children, through year after year of increasingly instrumental, procedurally rigorous and formalized education towards some predetermined outcome become at best numb to their own social context and at worst play a game until they complete the passage. Worst because how awful is it that our children waste their most imaginative and exploratory years while they are being bored and sterilized of creativity in industrial classrooms. They are mollifying us, the adults, by their paying attention and performing well in class, the students have long given up fighting 'city hall'. They are biding their time waiting for graduation and freedom before they move forward unencumbered by the past, their parents and other adults creatively making a new future for themselves.

Politicians, education administrators and any adult interested in youth say they want imagination, exploration and creativity in our classrooms but these lofty ideals are squelched by formal examinations, academic rigour in even the most nonacademic classes which prevent teachers and students from truly and honestly venturing into the unknown territories of creativity. Accountable results, achieved through rigorous attention to procedure and instruments, that reflect desired outcomes curtails creativity in all but the most simple uses of creativity to attain a predetermined outcome. Recapitulation of the past is all that is possible with predetermined outcomes. Imagination, exploration and creativity do not have predetermined outcomes and must be free and unfettered to progress.

We can expect a citizenry less critical, less engaged, less healthy, less creative and more unlikely to vote as we expect more obedience, attention to procedure and competitiveness among our students in school in what we adults figure is a more competitive world. These attributes may be good for us today but are covering our future in a thick secure blanket that will inevitably smother us. These children are harmed and our society is harmed by such static and undemocratic ethics. But these youth are learning and biding their time.

Youth are waiting for the moment when they can collectively work to change the world. They are the largest most educated group known. Baby boomers had to learn as they grew and created their society. Youth today have grown up in this diverse and ever technologically changing world. Youth today are globally connected, both politically and economically are more liberal and compassionate and humanistic than ever before. They have seen how ravaged the world is and are instantly made aware of it. They understand difference, are more attuned to acceptance than tolerance and see the world as a whole rather than disparate parts as the current generation in power do. Many of the institutions built by the boomers are seen as extraneous, useless to the modern young person. Savvy political leaders today are using the new methods of communication and social media to galvanize youth to action. But many leaders are using new methods to maintain old ways. This will fail in time. A new world is approaching.

Learning is not simply achieving high test scores or final grades, or blind obedience, or guided inquiry. A good, active and engaged citizen is not necessarily a satisfied client as the neo-con, neo-lib system imagines one to be. My only hope is that as the students become more worldly, more connected, more mobile and more understanding of the hypocrisy youth are being taught, that they envision democracy exists somewhere out there, move towards it on their own and not worry about the edifice created and maintained by the previous generations whose single goal today is to maintain it at all costs. What has been created so hopefully out of World War 2 is no longer democratic, creative or hopeful. The single greatest hope for liberal humanism, for it is far from dead, is our youth.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Brave new world?

Interesting times...

Tunisian , Egyptian and now Yemani rebellions of the common individual against traditional power and it's traditional opposition. Demographics, employment rates, education and digital connectedness has predicted this. Obama's use of social media in the last election has begun the process in the west. It remains to be seen how this will spread and continue globally.

New attention to civil liberties, long curtailed in the name of security against the ghostly enemy terrorism, is gaining in importance once again. The actions of left and right politics is so blurred as to be one in the same for all intents and purposes. The left argues against the right until they come to power and then assume the policies of the right. Similarly the right rails against the policies of the left until they come to power whereupon they adopt left policies as their own. Strategic positioning (the tail wagging the dog)and political posturing plain and simple. Small wonder the electorate is so jaundiced. A sure sign of bankrupt social collective policy being influenced by wonton individual special interest policy.

During the seventies left leaning social governments were seen as big, expensive and overly involved in big brother control of society. Right leaning philosophers advocated smaller government and more individual control of one's life - more individual freedom both economically and politically. Today the roles have reversed, most conservative governents are burgeoning big brother enterprises dipping deep into deficit to maintain tight security through civil and military means, paying special attention to economic interests and buying votes all the while decreasing individual freedom.

Post baby boom youth are feeling their opportunity coming as the old traditional pre digital-age wanes and struggles to maintain their world. Who maintains or wins the control of information will determine the new path to the future.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Industrial Age economics and education Part two - the effects on children

Classical Liberal economic values and neo-conservatism political values, heavily entrenched in efficiency, measurable progress, predictable outcomes, are seen as the exemplary model and engine for attaining high standards of educational performance with the values of competition, hard work and obedience to procedure and measurement, the hallmarks of entrepreneurialism of the old industrial age. The 'invisible hand' though rarely mentioned is central to the notion that individual choice and decision making will produce the best results for all of society.

How niaeve this line of thinking this is. Not every individual choice is a positive one, not every individual choice is beneficial. In fact, seeing as how most individual choices are suited only for the individual making it, precious few individual choices will be beneficial to even a few other individuals let alone society as a whole. Even individual choices taken from the viewpoint of their positive effects on others are few and far between. This folly has been demonstrated again and again within the failures and crashes of the business cycle. Complete embeddedness in the old model leads to failure and a moment in time where all are caught wondering what went wrong.

And the subjects upon whom all these practices are applied are the students. Students have individual needs in terms of learning strategies, social conditions, mental conditions, personal likes and dislikes, apptitudes and desires as well as the fact they are children coming to grips with the expectations of the society of adults, and require accommodations (to assuage guilt of an actually unfair equality of opportunity) in order to achieve the ends meant for them by others. Most of these individual, personal and highly volatile characteristics are generally put aside in favour of a seemingly equal opportunity start and experience in collective public education. But in this process of only achieving the specified outcomes required of children, the humanity of the individual, the consideration of the individual student as a living breathing being, is lost to the attainment of the ends. The student becomes an object, the widget, and parents willingly acquire a familiar role as the client. This dehumanization of the student to an object, with grades, with defined expectations and outcomes, leaves behind an individual decidedly struggling for a healthy, reflective, compassionate way to move forward in a multifaceted adult life. Rarely do the best guesses of adults for the future come to pass, and so the outcomes required of children are most often a simple recapitulation of the past, what is known, and that is what is expected and examined ...the past.

Children today in organized industrial education are the most highly formally examined of anywhere known. The rampant use of the 'economy of grades' as a carrot for excellence in performance (from the Board room down to the individual student) in standardized tests, while predicting good performance, says nothing of the actual learning health of the student. Loss of childhood and meaningful socialization, that is informal cooperative distributed learning outside of the classroom environment via extended family or other members of the community, in the larger context is lost to extended formal learning in a classroom, where competitiveness is exemplified, are extant issues. Doing well in school does not necessarily mean doing well in life, having high grades does not mean one is a useful and engaging member of society or on the job! While the curriculum and the demand for cooperation and collaboration between the students is taught, this is completely undermined by the competitive race for individual grades and entrance into post secondary institutions. Cooperation, sharing of differences and alternate views are lost to raw competitiveness. To actually make students free to learn is seen as too disorganized, too unpredictable, too unmeasurable, too unaccountable. It is easier to mold them to last years model than to let them free to envision and create a new world.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

And another thing .... Feb 10

It seems in many systems, both political and economic, especially those built on the concept of 'accountability', simple competence in the tasks performed by the individual are seen as good enough and all that is required to do the job. Over stimulation towards the need for oppressive accountability sets itself against the other concept of our age 'efficiency' and the expert is downgraded in importance and relevance making improvement through progress and innovation highly unlikely. What is at first seemingly about improvement and its control, the 'cult' of accountability will eventually ruin the often laudable goals of many organisations both private and public.

Expertise or the development of the individual toward expertise is seen as a threat to those in positions of power who presumably are experts, play the role of expert but often are not. True experts see the problems and issues of those in power who are not experts and may point them out.  Making your boss, or superior, feel inferior is a recipe for conflict.

The seeming cult of 'accountability' rather than motivating individuals towards development of skills to expert, enforce ongoing mediocrity of mere competence. There exists a very real fear of informal retribution from those in positions of power who feel threatened by the development of expertise among their 'underlings' or 'inferiors'. If and when someone does develop expertise they are often, but not always, seen as a threat, made to feel uncomfortable, seen as unhappy and in need of a change ultimately leading to transfer and or promotion out to a 'happier place'.

In a system based on accountability, like the quota system of the old USSR, efficiency and risky innovative progress were sacrificed as attention became heavily placed on the common denominator, usually the lowest. Risk taking by experts is seen as untenable, wasteful and pointless in achieving the 'goal'. These risks are assessed (risk assessment, yup they even have a phrase for it), cost benefit analysis is applied by those in positions of power and responsibility and who are then accountable to yet another layer of management. Nobody wants to take a risk and look bad, everyone settles for mediocrity.

Risk for improvement is seen as a liability, staying the course of what is known, measurable and knowable is preferred. Efficiency is eroded and improvement in overall operations is heavily curtailed, perhaps even made to decline as more attention to the minutia of accountability through a growing burden of procedures and a burgeoning preponderance of instruments of measurement (usually simple checklists) takes precedence over real progress. The mundane and mediocre are preferred over the level of expertise and excellence despite the desires of the greater organization.

If accountability becomes a primary in goal attainment, the goal will never be met neither by coercion or genuine desire. Drastic measures to seek improvements will be demanded with efficiency, expertise and progress compromised and downgraded with no hope of achieving them. Fudging and downright lying by management about improvement, progress or meeting, and perhaps exceeding, output targets will become commonplace as the house of cards get bigger and bigger. Blame for lack of attention to accountability, decline in overall performance and stagnation in methods and procedures is put upon the workers as the managers scramble to see what is wrong with their program.

Overemphasis on accountability stagnates any system in its outlook towards growth, opportunity and improvement. Letting experts do what they are expert at, accepting risk as a part of progress and trusting your people to do what it is they are hired, or selected, to do without undue surveillance are hallmarks of good and even great organisations.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feb 9 Executed sled dogs at Whistler, BC

I have been asked my opinion about this quite often these past few days. It is sad and horrible, to be sure, but some perspective is required here. 70 to 100 dogs is a lot of animals. Killing them as 'humanely' as possible with gun and knife and rock is brutal at best. Creatures don't die easy, not nearly as easy as Disney or other programs would have you believe. The will to live is strong and the kill shot different for each and every individual. That the person who fulfilled this gruesome task has emotional issues nearly a year later demonstrates at least some remorse and his personal torture fits his crime against nature, but what about the cowardly CEO who issued the order? maybe a slap on the wrist or a loss of a few dollars. There is the real criminal in all this.

But some perspective outside of this huge concern for these dogs is needed. First the dogs would have been very difficult to sell. They are working dogs, not couch potatoes. Second no good veterinarian worth their salt would put down healthy animals. Third the dog lot had 300 dogs I understand. A lot of mouths to feed and without much work difficult to control and maintain. Something had to be done. This is not new thinking. It happens in any domestic herd humans control. How many animals are killed for burgers and our tables? How many horses for foreign tables? Goats for feasts? What is humane about their execution? Our dinner table today is so far removed from what actually happens before we carve the roast.

Hard decisions were made concerning this dog sled operation. Awful decisions that if not attended to would have led to starvation and other issues when cost benefit sums would be addressed. Perhaps then after months of suffering with disease, both mental and physical, the vets would have come in and done the dirty work. What bothers me the most, is that the one responsible, the owner of the operation should have done it himself, one by one and face to face. But this is generally not the nature of CEO's. They make these oh so hard decisions, but farm out the actual action of their decision to someone else. They should do their own dirty work like giving pink slips to thousands of workers one by one and face to face, or telling retired investors that they have lost their life savings one by one and face to face. Business leaders have it far too easy in my book.

Then there is the perspective that I wish we would give the same attention and concern to the 16-20,000 children who unneccessarily die every day in this world. We have plenty of food and medicine to prevent this. We waste, throw away, discard and let rot more food and medicines than it would take to solve this problem. And we don't. Not even a little bit. It does not make profit to give it all away, better to waste, throw away or burn it than save people's lives with it. Some day an accounting will come, not by some supernatural being, but rather by the oppressed against their oppressors.The world is messed up. When has it ever not been so?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Industrial age economics and education

First, the dark side ...
Proceduralism - requires individuals to comply with the outcome of a dimly democratic procedure (we all agree to do it when we join the body corporate), even if that outcome is substantively undemocratic.
Instrumentalism - is the view that a concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective reality.
Efficiency - the objectified study of work/labour to eliminate wasteful practice as begun by Frederick Winslow Taylor 
Nation – factors of belonging by birth or choice to a group with socio-cultural constants and similarities that promote a sense of belonging recognizable to those within and to those without as distinct from one another.
Formal nationalism – citizenship via political recognition of belonging to a politically decreed set of socio-cultural constants usually exemplified by a constitution of incorporation, be it the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 or the corporate mantra of the mission statement.  
Social institution - complex social forms that reproduce themselves and are deemed important to the life and structure of society from manners and norms to government. They are socially constituted and reconstituted as essential and are adaptive over the long term requiring participation of individuals within the society.
Corporate institution - a legal abstraction and the objectification of a form of social institution where certain rights are granted by governing authorities for a business to be given certain rights such as legal personality, right to own property, taxation.
Subject - interpretive dialectic towards reaching an understanding, may not necessarily remain static over time and is qualitative in nature, it is what we talk about.
Object - scientific understanding (rationalism) requires an objective perspective (turning subjects into objects- things) to knowing what it is we know (materialism) and is quantitative in nature.
To begin: An organisation creates its end goals, be it a superior product, universal appeal or final profitability. In their own right, these ends are laudable, after all who wants to stay the course alone and not reach to achieve? However, in order to achieve the desired outcomes, the ends, layered institutionalised procedures, methods and practices must to be devised to get from A to Z. From the ground up to the top of the organization all levels are expected to have goals in place to achieve the larger ends. What begins as a flexible answer to creating and making something perceived as needed by the society becomes inflexible as proceduralism locks process into the rigours of efficiency, measurement and accountability.
The business model, with its history traced back to ancient Roman political and economic organization and then consequentially adopted by the Catholic church of the Middle Ages, adding theology into the mix, is seen as the most practical, pragmatic means to accomplish these ends. Command and control of the organisation falls downward from the unapproachable top, tier by tier, to the ‘workers/citizens/followers’ at the bottom. The process of operation at every tier then becomes decidedly undemocratic under the control of motivated and ambitious managers from the top down, selected and continually evaluated by some formalized process, who desire to show their stuff and move up the ladder of command. 
The single purpose of these managers is to encourage greater performance of those under their responsibility in the accomplishment of the shorter term goals aimed towards the final ends of the corporatusInstruments of measurement are required to ascertain and then predict improvement. Strict procedures are then required to attain and maintain the improvement and to ‘show’ it to superior managers, who will then demonstrate their prowess by collecting their ‘data’ and show it further and further up the chain of command. Within the procedures are rewards, usually by prestigious gain through either monetary increase or corporate advancement, and punishment by demotion and in severe cases banishment. 
Cold dispassionate, perhaps even psychopathic, levels of oversight are required of managers in order to implement perceived needed changes without the emotional baggage of the effects on the personal lives of those below them over whom the manager has control (see works of Dr. Robert D. Hare).  The emotional toll is not of concern within the larger goals of the corporation and a sympathetic manager cannot be expected to make effective rational decisions if their judgment is 'clouded' by the concerns of individual people and the effects that business decisions may have beyond the 'office' or 'plant' (Hammer, The Restructuring Revolution, 1995)
The Church had done well in the past through adopting this ancient model as do modern corporations today. Some dictatorial governments have tried to do the same thing, the fortress economy and politics of Nazi Germany and the Syndicalist economy and government of Fascist Italy as well as the 'communist' governments of the old Soviet Union, with little success because they limited individual choice.

Modern neo-liberal economics embodies choice while maintaining all the other aspects of the ancient model of command and control of the corporation. Indeed, individual choice has now become the mechanism through which control of the masses is maintained. One can choose to belong or not, if one has failed it was their decision to not succeed or if a bad decision was made, it was a bad decision on the part of the individual. In all cases the social circumstances are left from the rational what is scenario. Blame for poor choices is laid at the feet of the individual not the organisation. Adam Smith’s 'invisible hand', though rarely mentioned in polite company, is central to the notion that individual choice and decision making will produce the best results for all of society. Social control is maintained then, through political neo-conservative means of fear and praying on the needs of humans towards the herd mentality of belonging through what I call neo-nationalism. A hyper-active form of patriotism, neo-nationalism requires a zealous attachment to one’s nation, fierce competitiveness for all things perceived and important and necessary and a healthy fear of the ‘other’ (George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism, 1945). To maintain further control of the working populace, both lower and middle classes, keep them poor and in debt respectively (see the works of Tony Benn, former British Labour MP).

Formal nationality (citizenship within the body corporate) becomes the order of the day and to attain these same ends/outcomes, individual difference is 'lost' (probably on purpose) as the ends are required of everyone. It is a form of assimilation. Assimilation into the nation of economics, the non-denominational if not atheistic, apolitical, amoral, profit oriented equality of opportunity, but not outcome, machine. Multiple belonging to multiple nationalities (of home, religion, race, ethnicity, language) becomes lost, desensitized and demoralized in the unifying ends of classical liberal economics. Notions of other cultures where social ideas of sharing, egalitarianism and spiritual faith, morality and ethics are severely undermined or lost to assimilation by the greater classically liberal entity as seen as the economy with its profit motive.
All of the notions mentioned above and many others not mentioned are seen as the core of our economically globalizing world today. As Margaret Thatcher said ‘There is no alternative” (TINA), but the global downturn of 2008 through 2010 and slow recovery, the widening income gap between the rich and the poor as well as a significant portion of the world’s population in the 20-35 year old range, well educated for the most part, unemployed and without prospects for the future, has awoken.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A new beginning

A new beginning. A colleague suggested that I needed a venue for my writing and my thoughts, some way to get it all out and to further distill them. I intend to write often on a variety of topics. I hope doing this, with the responses and guidance of readers, will enlighten me further. Perhaps this may enlighten others as well.


Democracy and freedom are inherently and constantly in danger for there is always someone who wishes to take all or portions away. There are the obvious avowed enemies needing no explanation as to their clear and present danger. And then there are the less than obvious legitimately appointed people from within who, citing security as an obvious good, would curtail freedoms by instituting measures of control in the name of the maintenance of democracy to achieve that good. A slippery slope indeed. Both forms of danger to democracy and freedom are equally bad and require no less vigilance and courage on the part of the people young and old to maintain hard won rights and freedoms. Well meaning people lose sight of the overall significance of democratic notions and lacking the courage to fight fear itself fall victim to the reaction to it, and the inevitable fall from democracy, by enabling fear and the tension associated in attempting to aleve it.