Saturday, 12 June 2021

Not likely to be ingenious



For instance, I would devise an ingenious fraud and would plan it in detail, taking every precaution that I could think of against failure or detection, considering, and elaborately providing for, every imaginable contingency.

R. Austin Freeman - The Mystery of 31 New Inn (1912)

Friday, 11 June 2021

Only Two Problems



Problem 1. The climate change narrative is riddled with lies, fraud and stupidity. Without wishing to claim an improbable degree of foresight here, this could lead to problems when trying to manipulate the real climate.

Problem 2. China.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

The circus goes on



I wonder what he means by harmful activities? Dodgy elections? Persecuting your main political opponent? Allowing men to pretend they are women so they can compete in female sports? Pretending we can control the climate?

A considerable amount of effort is being wasted trying to sell Joe Biden as legitimate and capable. The rest of the world may laugh but the circus goes on.

Stupidity has become valuable

Women were expected to have weak opinions; but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbours did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.

George Eliot - Middlemarch (1871-72)

Suppose we suggest that the great driver of human attitudes and allegiances is the search for security. Security is survival writ small but still survival, still a core part of what we are.

Sane people did what their neighbours did - they still do. There is security and satisfaction to be found here. What is Boris Johnson doing if it isn’t what his political neighbours do? What are those two lecterns either side of his if they are not his political neighbours? What is SAGE if it is not a political neighbourhood?

We don’t usually call them neighbours and neighbourhoods, but politically that is what they are. It leaves Boris and his government vulnerable to manipulation, but as we have seen, they don’t care. As for those who leave such as Dominic Cummings – others move into the neighbourhood so they are soon forgotten.

None of this is at all mysterious. What is mysterious is how certain people value a more dispassionate search for better information. Why is it that some people cannot simply adopt the consensus of their cultural neighbourhood – the mantras and clich├ęs which nobody else questions? What keeps them on the periphery? Why are they apparently happy to be there?

Presumably these oddballs see greater ultimate security not just in better information but also in the pursuit of better engineering, better science, deeper understanding and better quality in its widest sense. This pursuit of deeper understanding covers anything from Shakespeare scholarship to bridge building to pharmaceuticals to pithy insights but isn’t the pursuit of consensus.

Yet if influential people pursue consensus too rigorously they cut everyone else adrift from the sharp stimulus of basic survival. They cut us all adrift from the need to pursue deeper understanding. There are still those with a hunger for better information, but the rest of society is cutting itself off from them.

In other words, it seems to be possible for us to lose the survival stimulus partly shielding us when consensus goes wrong and stupidity lends a hand. Ironically in a connected world, we cannot shield ourselves from stupidity even when it clearly threatens our cultural survival. That would be a culture of actively trying to avoid stupidity  - the one we used to value rather highly.

This seems to be where the urgency lies. In the age of the internet, stupidity is becoming valuable clickbait. In other words, stupidity has become valuable.


Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Swept aside

I have lingered over these details because they formed a part — a most important and honourable part — of that ancient curriculum of house-keeping which, at least in Anglo-Saxon countries, was so soon to be swept aside by the “monstrous regiment” of the emancipated: young women taught by their elders to despise the kitchen and the linen room, and to substitute the acquiring of University degrees for the more complex art of civilized living. The movement began when I was young, and now that I am old, and have watched it and noted its results, I mourn more than ever the extinction of the household arts. Cold storage, deplorable as it is, has done far less harm to the home than the Higher Education.

Edith Wharton - A Backward Glance (1934)

I caught the tail end of what Wharton meant by the household arts in the fifties. Not the household drudgery as commonly portrayed, but a whole gamut of household arts from growing your own, bottling fruit, making pickles, devising recipes, making economies, collecting home remedies, organising meal times, mending clothes… The list goes on and on.

Of course the list is long because considerable depths of knowledge and experience are involved. Concerning families, education, food, clothing and everything connected with that ancient curriculum of house-keeping. Much of that knowledge and experience are now lost. We do lose knowledge as well gaining it and we do not replace what we have lost via fake country kitchens and back to the soil TV cookery programmes.

The issue seems to be one of drifting into futures which few would have chosen had they known how they would turn out. But we adapt and what we could have seen via foresight is no longer visible.

With hindsight we adopt a number ways to explain why we are where we are, but hindsight is endlessly misleading. Even memories are adjusted under the seductive pressure of a modern consensus or in pursuit of neat and tidy explanations.

As far as Wharton’s observation about house-keeping goes, we are usually presented with narratives about the emancipation of women, economic growth, smaller families, labour-saving domestic machines, birth control and so on. Narratives which may be sound enough but the this future, the one we find ourselves in now, wasn’t chosen. It emerged from an impossibly complex morass of pressures, interests, events and popular lifestyle fantasies.

Take net zero climate change targets for example. Nobody knows how to achieve them, what will happen if they are achieved or what the consequences of not achieving them may be. We are where we were with Wharton and the “monstrous regiment” of the emancipated: young women taught by their elders to despise the kitchen. In one key respect the issue is the same – drifting into a future which will probably turn out to be one that few would have chosen had they been blessed with adequate foresight.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

It's Not Because They Suck


This is about CNN, but is also a useful reminder of how the wider mainstream media use fear, anxiety and outrage to concoct their news stories. We know this but reminders are useful. We may analyse the stories but many are essentially the output of business models. Crap sells so they sell it.

Pistols at dawn presumably

Emmanuel Macron has been slapped across the face during a walkabout to greet voters in France today.

The assailant took the French President by the arm, appearing to stop him for a chat, before shouting: 'Down with Macronia' ('A Bas La Macronie') as he delivered the blow.

Bodyguards quickly seized upon the man and bundled him to the ground, as a member of Macron's security detail pulled the president to safety.

Surely M Macron does not intend to ignore such a challenge to his honour. Pistols or swords I'd say.