Saturday, May 19, 2012

Perception

Perceptions. People perceive things in very individual ways. Perceptions, how individuals view the world, are as idiosyncratic of each individual's life experience and outlook as could be expected, some are more critical than others, others more or less emotional and rational. It's these idiosyncrasies that make accounts so unreliable between multiple eyewitness accounts of the same event. Sometimes when video of the event is shown to the eyewitness who has an alternate account, they still adamantly maintain their version as the truth claiming the video as doctored in some way. What individuals see and don't see, what counts as important and unimportant, in effect choosing what and how individual people interpret these scenes, form very individual perceptions.

Memories are made from collections of life experiences. Each individual life experience is as different as individual temperament, whether introverted or extroverted, judgement, whether optimistic or pessimistic, mental capacity for detail, whether intricate or trivial, giving us all an individual point of view. I don't think there's much argument or controversy in these statements. It makes perfect sense and most, if not all, people have this first hand experiential knowledge and an awareness of the differences between each of us. This makes each of us who we are and people seem to confidently know that.

People also seem to know about the flight or fight impulse, herd mentality and mob rule characteristics groups of individuals encounter when large portions of individual perception seemingly become, or are made to appear to be, the same. Many people attempt to manipulate these characteristics of humanity and the resulting group loss of control of reflective thinking towards reactive become available to the manipulator's, and provocateur's, own purposes and control. The multitudinous and subtle differences between individuals are downplayed, or ignored, in favour of a few strong similarities which are harnessed, manipulated and alienated from the individual to where this accumulated power can activate its influence through some medium. Power through authority is exerted on the many by a few who are held in esteem, through a cult of personality or some emotional Divine attachment to truth. There are many historical examples of this kind of manipulative authority over the masses, so to speak, socially, politically and economically, not many turning out to the better.

So, if we all know individual perceptions are independent of all other perceptions, then why put much stock in this notion of perception, whether by an individual or group, guiding the way business, corporate or social, should be taken or seen? Perception is a good starting point to a discussion, but is a poor endpoint. A more unreliable source of information can not be imagined and used in making decisions or guiding corporate management than solely one's perception. The idea, let alone action based upon it, of "perception is everything", could be the definition of delusional. It's about idiosyncratic views of reality, in which every human individual has their own. Basing your actions on what someone else perceives seems a bit dicey. Shouldn't actions be based on the best facts possible, ideally from reality? From a data set of perceptions then, and not just one? From a group of people and not a single person in authority?

If a great number of perceptions are evaluated as similar, they should be far more accurate and have more voracity than that of any single individual. Why then do some individuals have more sway than whole groups? It is a curious phenomenon and somewhat frightening. As Tommy Smothers once said, "Truth is whatever you can make someone else believe."

Two kinds of perception: astute and stupid.

Astute perception, usually coupled with intuition, can lead to leaps of logic of the kind Newton and Einstein were able. But this perception has to be verified by others to become more than a theory or more any single person's point of view. It may take decades for this verification to come about and be made into a truth. Even then, another astute perception can move us even further, making the previous 'truth' wholly untrue and setting a completely new path for progress, or further refining what is deemed to be true, thus redefining our beliefs once more. This process requires multiple perceptions, through open and democratic means of communication, struggling to determine an acceptable path, but once determined is durable until the next great 'perception'. The process is time consuming and fraught with seemingly endless debate, but is an evolutionary process of improvement and progress.

Stupid perceptions are those created by persons in positions of authority and are not necessarily held to any kind of deliberate scrutiny by others. This is more a situation and manipulation of power than of rationality, a fad more than truth. These perceptions are usually devoid of any rationalism, come to the public from people who supposedly 'know' better, and people who question this position of authority come under the boot of its power through intimidation, marginalization and ostracism. There is, therefore, no sense of democracy as that would be seen as undermining the leaders vision. Less discerning people, yet eager followers of 'the way', are elevated to higher positions of power and authority, as those who are most discerning fall. The resulting undemocratic regime supported by minimal scrutiny is ultimately regressive in its all consuming effort to become universal through means of the abuse of power to demand conformity.

One of the means of justification used by the 'leaders by perception' to 'prove' their correctness is statistical raw data. If it is in any way measurable, they will measure it, skew it fit their model and make sure doubters are seen as naysayers, ne'er do wells, malcontents, and otherwise misfits to change. Of course, everyone knows statistics can be made to sing any number of songs and those versed well enough in their use can nearly defend anything they demand within the narrow proof of 'data'. Outliers and anything unmeasurable are left off the table as unimportant, hastily downplayed as inconsequential.

Of course, any thinking person would immediately see the contradiction, that what the leader by perception is choosing as verifiable data is in itself a limited perception of what is acceptable as usable statistical data. Some, like Malcolm Gladwell and Bent Flyvbjerg, might even say that it is in fact the outliers and the unmeasurable that have a greater effect than what is measurable on any system. The absurdity of using perception as a means of leadership is abundant for all to see. This notion rarely works for any real length of time, and is divisive, corrosive and ultimately unrealistic as no-one truly believes in it and rather sees it as a very long stretch in overall credibility. People generally are not that stupid for too terribly long and eventually the fear of repercussion wears thin.

Off the Grid?

Off the grid. Is this even possible in this day and age? I seem to remember hippie types in the early 70's living commune style, paying no rent, no utilities and living off the land through their own ingenuity. Seemed pretty cool in those days. I doubt if any of them are still living that way today. To do anything today requires one to be connected into the system. To buy anything requires a sum of money. This money is presumably gainfully acquired through work. To get work one needs an address, phone number and the once secret social insurance number to be shared with the employer. So the connection is made between you, the employer and government. This connection is also made with a bank, as your pay cheque is probably instantly deposited on payday to your account. If you don't have an account, you have to get one, which again requires the name of the employer, your address, phone number, email address and social insurance number. Payroll doesn't like cash, unless you are a casual day labourer, and these days printing cheques to hand to employees seems outdated. Individual identification is through the social insurance number, a government driver's license and a credit card, where all three numbers are in data banks listing everything about you, particularly your credit and criminal history. If one wants to sell their own home grown produce at market, registration and a business license is required and there you are, part of the whole system again. All land has title, even squatters have to deal with that. There appears to be no way around it. So, to buy anything, to get a loan for anything, to get any service from anyone, to do anything, requires that you be plugged in. What can you do off the grid?

If you have no fixed address, no phone number, no credit card, no Facebook or Twitter account, no email address, no drivers license, no bank account and no social insurance number and no health care card from the government you are off the grid. You probably work on a day to day basis for under the table cash only, probably at minimum wage or less and so pay no taxes. Working for more would mean having to pay income tax and be back on the grid with government. Same is true for accommodation. To stay off the grid requires no fixed address that would need to pay for utilities, television or municipal taxes, which means living on the street and in the bushes, in other words, homeless. And how is homelessness viewed?

Homelessness is seen as an illness, you must be mentally ill, unstable or somehow unfit for society and in great need of some form of intervention to overcome it. It's not 'normal' to be homeless, not tied down to place, to be a drifter, a transient of no fixed address. Who are you? What can and do you contribute to society? What kind of a person can you be without these responsibilities? What are you avoiding and what are you afraid of? What is wrong with you if you are not part of the grid? Don't you want the benefits of Big Brother or Big Sister? There are books, TV shows and movies about this, the 1980's television series "Max Headroom" and a character in it named 'Blank Reg' come to mind, as well as Orwell's classic book, "1984".

We can't allow too many people to be off the grid, that would harm the system. More people may opt to be off the grid if it can be shown as a viable alternative way of living. Three hundred years of civilizing and socializing 'primitive' subsistence cultures into the fold of an ever more integrated world would be for nothing, so serious anachronism is not to be tolerated. A few hippies and a small percentage of homeless is okay, they are just sick in the head social deviants, the odd religious group, the Amish and Hutterites for example, are allowed as they do peripherally still operate within the system, but whole functioning societies are to be made into the fold. Indigenous groups the world over are seeing their cultures assimilated, acculturated, homogenised, even extinguished by the steady and heavy pull of modernity over time. A steady drain on already threadbare resources leaves these cultures vulnerable over the long term.

Society, which is government at all levels, law enforcement, business, banks, insurance, education and all other aspects of the modern human community, spends and withholds no small sum of its resources to ensure people be on the grid and stay there. No other viable lifestyles or social systems allowed.

Friday, May 18, 2012

More Social Insurance in Case of Libertarian Racketeering

Here in Canada, our Prime Minister Harper is a dyed in the wool libertarian. His views and policies, past and present, clearly show his leanings. Unfortunately he doesn't understand that he can not be the only one. If he gets to be one, then all citizens can be also, which means all citizens also can choose what they want. And so, if the majority of citizens choose to be collective in some of their desires for Canadian society he must listen and obey. Mister Harper wants equality, yet he wants to be first among equals, and there's the rub of libertarianism.

The unemployed are not a herd of ”paid slaves” for Harper’s government to hand over to his business cronies. Employment insurance, is not welfare, rather it is, as it suggests ”insurance”, paid for by every worker in case they, or someone else, loses their job. No-one chooses to be unemployed. The priority of employment insurance is to the security of workers and their work. Workers in their appropriate line of work, work more and better, thereby making more money for the employer and themselves, spending the money in the economy and paying taxes for the public good. That's a good idea isn't it?

Health insurance is the same thing, insurance, again, paid for by every worker to insure themselves and their families against illness. No-one chooses to be ill. The priority of Universal Health Care Insurance is to the health and welfare of the worker thereby alleviating the worry of sickness and it's negative impacts on the family. Healthy workers make money for their employers and themselves, spend it in the economy, that's good for business, and pay taxes for the public good. That's a good idea, too, isn't it?

Welfare, as well, is a form of insurance against the degenerative societal malaise an overly competitive society may feel towards the poorest of the poor, the least able of the able, and often the unable, to participate in the society. Aside from the idea that social welfare is the right and humane thing to do by putting money in the pockets of the people least able to compete, it assuages intense feelings of inequality and the idea that people at the top don't care about anyone other than themselves. Broad social welfare policies lead to a more stable and equitable society. That's a good idea, too, isn't it?

Harper assumes the working class has lost faith in these social insurance nets when actually we need them now more than ever. His hood-winking of the Canadian public in the name of his libertarian creed of "choice" through deregulation and privatization is an oft repeated disaster just waiting to happen. And this "choice" is hardly any choice at all. By "liberating" the Canadian worker from these mandatory social insurances Harper has left us to choose between not paying into any insurance at all, or becoming trapped by commercial insurance ventures.

The commercial insurance business, about which we see and hear enough particularly with our southern neighbors, is nothing short of a racket to make money rather than to truly insure the customer. The priority is heavily skewed towards profiteering, not looking after the customer when bad times come. If anything, insurance companies do everything in their power to avoid paying their customers when bad times come by employing deliberate loopholes in their contracts, (aka, the fine print) or reneging on payments based on excessive scrutiny of their customers. But, God help you if you don't have insurance. In many cases it is a law that one must have insurance, such as in taking out a mortgage or when driving a car. This has nothing to do with the protection of the individual policy holder, but rather protection against other insurance entities and loan companies for their loss. This is the definition of protection racketeering.

Actually, if employment insurance, health insurance and welfare are targets under the picky libertarian Harper regime, why not auto insurance also? Why must I pay into that? Same for mortgage insurance, I already pay a hefty premium for the mortgage, why should I pay a good chunk more in insurance? Why can't I choose not to? Are mandatory auto and mortgage insurance a good idea? Why? Who is being protected?

For that matter if it is all about choice, why can't I choose to forgo paying taxes, or to choose where my taxes go? If I had a choice, like I do in the stock market for ethical funds, I'd choose that my taxes would go to health care and unemployment rather than to incentives to cartellised business and the military, two old bottomless pits of highly speculative adventure, rarely in the public interest and often fraught with disaster. If Harper wants government out of business, then government should not fund, subsidize or have incentives for it either and should not legislate that I have to participate in it.


And if these once social insurances are now becoming voluntary, why do I pay increased taxes? And where is this money going? Am I now paying for a ridiculous military expenditure for inventory that can't possibly defend our country with such a pitifully small population from a determined enemy? Am I paying taxes so Harper can try to punch above his weight or, at least, throw his weight around in NATO as a street tough and thug for libertarian interests of capitalism and the so called freedom of choice in a global context? Often the choice left after a thug finishes roughing you up while running the protection racket is between the devil and the deep blue sea, that is, no choice at all.


The struggle is a reminder of the debate between Thomas Carlyle's 'great man theory' where a leader seizes opportunity and creates a new society and Herbert Spencer's idea that so called 'great men' are merely products of the social situation at the time. In either case the issue remains that an '├╝bermensch' is on the scene determining for all the present and future, in characteristically undemocratic and through often dark Machiavellian means.


Harper has forgotten that Canadian citizens chose to have employment insurance, chose to have Universal Health Care insurance and chose to give welfare to aid Canadian citizens who struggle in our society. What is detestable about the 'libertarianism' of the Harper regime is that it is hardly libertarian at all, as the fact is he picks and chooses what the public's choices are. Harper, being all knowing, decides what is in the 'public's interest', what we will be paying taxes for. Where have I heard this before? Ah, yes, the 1920's and 30's dictatorial capitalist regimes of Italy and Germany.