Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Not an issue

The Ipsos MORI July 2015 Issues Index is mildly interesting.

Ipsos MORI's Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 989 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. The questions are spontaneous - i.e. respondents are not prompted with any answers.

Immigration seems to be high on the worry list but climate change isn't even mentioned. No mention in the data table either. Perhaps Pollution/environment is supposed to cover it these days, but where's the catastrophe? Moved over to immigration as far as one can see, Where next though?

H/T politicalbetting.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Seldom the first

When a man is appointed to a place, it is natural that he should accept the income allotted to that place without much inquiry. It is seldom that he will be the first to find out that his services are overpaid.
Anthony Trollope - Autobiography (1883)

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

A view of the Lyme Regis promenade from the bus stop shelter - taken around noon today. The sea was quite inviting but we didn't venture in.

According to climate scientists the weather should improve if we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As our Chinese chums have been doing their best in this respect, I'm not so sure the climate boffins are on the right track. Unfortunately official figures suggest 97% of them are bonkers, but surely they'll get something right eventually? 

Come on chaps -  pull your socks up!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A version

We're on holiday and today we spent a few idle hours strolling through the sunshine which isn't as fiercely tropical as promised twenty years ago but never mind. An elderly couple walked ahead of us and we'll be elderly soon enough but never mind that either.

Anyhow, the lady half of said couple who seemed sprightly enough, momentarily stepped off the kerb behind a car which was just completing a parking manoeuvre. As she was now on the road the car was reversing very slowly towards her. She saw it and promptly skipped back onto the pavement although the car was just about to stop anyway and an accident seemed unlikely.

Through the open car window she indignantly informed the driver that she'd been behind his car before bustling on, giving him no chance to reply. Her husband briefly repeated the accusation as he tagged along behind.

Even though the lady had stepped into the road behind a moving if slowly moving car, her version of events had been satisfactorily adjusted in her favour inside a second or two. She barely slowed as she lobbed an entirely unjust accusation through that open window. Maybe she spent some time in politics.

Wednesday, 22 July 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.