Thursday, 1 December 2011

The sinister aspect

From Wikipedia
A feature of modern life is how difficult it is to encapsulate what is going wrong, why current social and political trends are so ominous. There are many good ways to describe individual issues of course, from the simple rant to the cool analysis, but somehow the sinister aspect isn’t so easily captured. What sinister aspect? The joined-up nature of it all – that’s what's so sinister.

For example, take the incomplete list of issues below. In themselves they are merely observations on which opinion will vary. Taken together and remembering that this is a short list, they indicate something more than a list of observations. Why? Because these are all serious but resolvable issues, yet they remain unresolved

Policy should be evidence-driven.
Evidence should not be policy-driven.
UK education could be more contractual.
UK healthcare could be more contractual.
Transparency should be a basic principle of government.
Simplicity should be a basic principle of government.
Lying should not be a basic principle of governments.
Democratic governments should act democratically.
International agreements subvert national democracies.
Vested-interests subvert democracies.
Covert lobbying subverts democracies.
Colluding political parties subvert democracies.
State television subverts democracies.
An over-complex tax regime subverts democracies.
UK parents are insufficiently responsible for their children.
The price of UK houses is manipulated by lenders.
Drug prohibition doesn’t work.
The dangers of passive smoking are wildly exaggerated.
Climate change is a purely political project.
And so on and so on.................................

Resolvable but unresolved - surely it tells us something doesn’t it? But you can’t capture this kind of thing in a way short enough to have impact, to be memorable. It isn’t sound-bite material suited to those with a short attention span.

Complexity raises many problems and one of the most serious is that you cannot accurately and effectively express the scope of our social and political problems unless your audience is already highly informed and receptive. But where does that get us – preaching to the informed and receptive?

You can’t just say something is sinister. You have to show it and you can’t show anything to those who haven’t put in the time and effort required – those who don’t really know what is going on. Complex sinister trends aren’t sound-bite material. 


Mark Wadsworth said...

"Drug prohibition doesn’t work"

Well yes, observation tells us that, as does logic.

But there's always some twat prepared to jump up and shout "Have you not seen the damage that drugs do to young people and the misery it causes their families? Do you want this to happen to everybody?" and then the debate grinds to a halt again.

The problem is that the quick lie usually beats the slow truth.

There are for example plenty of people who simply refuse to believe that only 6% of the UK by surface area is urban and that the rest is all forests and fields and lakes. You can show them statistics and maps and point out of aeroplane windows and it still does not register with them.

Now, who and why has spent decades brainwashing people into believing that the UK is almost entirely concreted over and there are only a few fields left..?

Sam Vega said...

Mark Wadsworth

The idea that the UK (especially the south-east) is entirely concreted over is more of a metaphor or hyperbole than statistical fact, but it captures something of people's unease that the statistics themselves are unable to.

Perhaps we should rather talk about the fact that being out of earshot of machinery is almost impossible in southern England; or the statistical likelihood of seeing particular stars at night due to glare; or the chance of not seeing new developments in what was once green space.

Overcrowding and despoliation can be expressed in many ways, and the "concreted over" is a useful shorthand for those who are more concerned with quality of life than numbers.

James Higham said...

Things are quite simple in the end - agenda plus incompetence.

rogerh said...

All too depressing. For a hint of Nirvana (clarity-wise) take a look at and follow your nose to any of the major court decisions. Clear, open, logical, evidence-based and quoting sources.

Why cannot we get this quality product in all other walks of public administration - we bl*&dy well pay enough!

A K Haart said...

MW - Headline-type beliefs may be due to the way news and opinion has been published for many decades. It's the view that is always at the front of the queue. People don't really expect to do their own research.

SV - "concreted over" could be an expression of concern, but could be a factor in causing it. I'm not sure we can tell the difference.

JH - yes, making things more complex without first sorting out our incompetence - not a good idea.

rogerh - and it's not as if we lack MPs with legal training is it?

Demetrius said...

The one certainty is that the more complex things become the greater the chance of it all going haywire.

A K Haart said...

D - that's the problem. We know it too, but lack the wit to simplify.