Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dork of the Year



An early front-runner for the coveted title Dork of the Year 2014 is Naomi Klein. Always a contender of course, but her recent performance shows she has both staying power and a sprint finish.

Naomi recently contrived to herd her meagre collection of neurons around the idea that failure to take climate ranters seriously is racist.

If we refuse to speak frankly about the intersection of race and climate change, we can be sure that racism will continue to inform how the governments of industrialized countries respond to this existential crisis.

This has to be a classic even within advanced dorking circles. Hardened professional dorks are left spluttering and gasping in her wake.

If a more adventurous dork makes it past Naomi before 2014 comes to an end I’ll be amazed, but there is still time. Russell Brand may give it a go, although I have the feeling that Brand’s stamina isn’t quite up to Naomi's relentlessly professional dorking.

h/t to Jo Nova

Head in the clouds

From savagechickens.com

He was never present at the moment of an occurrence, but always appeared to come from a reverie to the realisation of what passed about him.
Émile Zola - Le rêve

Yes - I'm like that. Always one of the last to notice what is going on around me. Always surprised to be told at work that A and B are having an affair even though it appears to have been common knowledge for months. Never quite up to date with the arrangements.

"I've already told you..."

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bread and circuses

source unknown

Imagine you are a fly on the wall listening to an informal chat among a few UN and EU bureaucrats. Over a quiet cup of coffee their conversation turns to education and what the world must do for its citizens.

“Obviously we need billions of highly educated people to solve numerous problems for humanity at large –“

“No we don’t.”

“Pardon.”

“We need peasants with only a basic education and without the wit to make trouble.”

“Too cynical - surely.”

“No - it's how things are. We have enough tech and we have enough science so we don’t need billions of educated people. A few million at most – say one percent of the global population. The rest are destined to be peasants so we may as well train them accordingly.”

“Well for one thing they won’t accept it.”

“They have no choice. We must educate the masses to be bystanders, which is what they are anyway. Bread and circuses – tried and tested and the only way it can be done. Should take a couple of generations max.”

“Too cynical.”

“Not really. What the hell will they do when the robots come, these billions of educated people? Watch movies all day? Do you paint your neighbour's house while he paints yours?”

“All the same –“

“We are not all the same though are we - you and I? We are not numbered among those billions. In reality the buck stops here so we have to do what is best for everyone, like it or not. I can’t say I like it particularly but I’m not prepared to duck my responsibilities.”

“I still say it won’t work.”

“Yes it will. There are only two basic policies any government can follow – war or bread and circuses. All governments must pursue one or the other so naturally enough a global government is stuck with bread and circuses. It’s our only option.”

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The real leviathan

source

This is a graph of global consumer spending produced in 2012 by ATKearney. As you see, the figure for 2010 was $28 trillion which is projected to rise to $40 trillion by 2020.

I’ve no idea if these figures are realistic or not, but what impresses me about them is the gargantuan size of global consumer spending. Not so long ago, the danger of rampant consumerism was a significant topic among the chattering classes. Now it seems to have died down a little, or maybe it has been replaced by other worries.

Yet a moment of reflection is all we require to see what a monster consumerism is. How is anyone supposed to resist or control it? Perhaps we don’t need to resist or control it, which if true is just as well because it looks far too big to my eyes. The hunter gatherer is now merely a gatherer and destined to remain so until something gives.

The yen for a consumer lifestyle is at least partly responsible for sucking women out the home, sweeping kids off the open fields and onto the TV couch, filling their bedrooms with unused toys, jamming our roads with cars, pouring wine down our gullets, sucking us into restaurants, fast food outlets, cruise ships, airliners, holiday destinations, clothes we don’t need and every time-destroying wheeze we can be suckered into buying.

Well it’s better than war of course, but what about that leviathan, that multi-trillion dollar consumption monster? Are we ever likely to oppose its apparently insatiable demands. Maybe there is a clue in that word insatiable. Perhaps we are becoming satiated.

Nope.

All the ghastly tawdriness of Christmas has trundled round again and my cynical old eyes see no sign of any change - just the opposite if anything. Strewth it's horrible - at least Tesco was today.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Are Clegg's strings broken?

source

The other day I chanced on a TV interview where Andrew Marr was "grilling" Nick Clegg about the economy. I didn't take much notice of the interview content because professional liars are not one of my enthusiasms, but I'm sure I saw a hint of defeat in Clegg's demeanour.

Of course the guy is bound to land on his feet whatever happens to the Lib Dems. An EU sinecure is probably lined up somewhere in the background, but I think he knows the game is up as Lib Dem leader and I think he knows he has failed.

Perhaps he doesn't care and he'll move on without a backward glance and all I saw was a momentary hint of fatigue, lack of interest or simply lack of inspiration. After all, if he knows the game is over then his mind will be elsewhere.

Yet ambitious people such as Clegg need to believe they have succeeded, at least in their own terms. Clegg didn't strike me as someone who had that belief running full bore. He may have it now, because the mood may have evaporated, but I don't think he had it during that interview.

Such people have the hide of a rhinoceros and ludicrously rich supplies of self-belief so it isn't easy to read these things from their behaviour. Too often we have to ignore their potential human qualities because that is the only safe assumption. Too often the public persona of a modern politician doesn't have any significant human qualities anyway.

So maybe Clegg gave a slight hint of his private persona or maybe it was an act or maybe lack of genuine interest in the debate. One of many absurdities of politics is that we cannot really tell the difference.

Our leaders don't even do PR-puppet particularly well.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Zeus is bored

Zeus - not quite armless
source
Zeus is bored. His gaze wanders far beyond the Olympian clouds, forever confronted by teeming masses of humanity. “So many of the little twerps,” he muses, “in spite of everything; the wars, the pestilence. What is a caring god supposed to do about it all?” He sighs and takes a lethargic sip of nectar.

Suddenly Zeus has an idea. He calls an assembly of the gods.

“Is everyone here?” he asks when the lesser gods are finally gathered together after much jostling for a favoured position. “Right – here it is. I have an idea, a real peach this time.”

“Oh yes,” comes a voice from the back but nobody owns up to it.

“Yes - a real peach. I intend to confer on humanity a noble cause.” Zeus pauses to assess the reaction.

“Not another one,” comes a muted chorus from the celestial throng. “We’ve been doing noble sodding causes forever. Religion and war, war and religion... radical philately... plagues and pestilence... ”

“Silence,” commands Zeus, his great voice echoing and re-echoing through the clouds. “This time it isn’t a war and it isn’t pestilence so shut up and listen. Not that there is anything wrong with war but this time it will be different. Although pestilence is close to what I have in mind,” he adds as an afterthought.

“Oh yes different... we’re always doing different I don’t think... radical philately? ...it’s about time we looked at ignoble causes for a bloody change... I think he needs a holiday... don’t we all... get away from these blasted clouds.”

“This time,” says Zeus. Stern of visage and stately of demeanour he demands their attention. “This time the noble cause will be catastrophic global warming.”

“Global warming... at least he still does stern and stately... droughts I suppose... and flood, don’t forget floods... I think you mean inundations, that’s the term we use round here... oh well I’m only trying to be less dated... speak for yourself... we’ve never done philately...”

“Silence,” commands Zeus again. “I have decided on an original twist to my noble cause. Humans will be told about catastrophic global warming by computers.”

Silence reigns for a long moment before a wave of approving sniggers bursts forth. “Strewth that’s good... computers indeed... ha ha ha... some fun at last... I really must watch them bow the knee before their computers... don’t forget you had the best cloud last time... that wasn’t a proper noble cause though was it...”

“And...” Zeus continues, his powerful voice quelling the sniggers. “And we shall stop the global warming as soon as they are convinced they are about to fry unless they turn off the central heating and freeze to death.”

“Oh you delightful old swine... he’s not been like that for ages has he? ...have to admire the old sod... all by himself too... I'm impressed...”

“Plus – and here is the best bit.” Zeus pauses again, evidently pleased with the reception of his latest idea. “The best bit is...”

He pauses again, gazing out over a sea of gratifyingly expectant faces. “...the leader of the noble cause, the political figure who bestrides the globe foretelling fiery doom and disaster will be...

wait for it...

Al Gore!”

The celestial applause is rapturous.

Friday, 12 December 2014

2015

source


For the sake of something which no one loves, strife never arises, there is no pain if it perishes, no envy if it is possessed by someone else, nor fear, nor hatred, and, to put it all briefly, no commotions of the mind at all.

Baruch Spinoza - Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (1677)