Saturday, 19 May 2018

The new monarchists

A few thought prompted by today's events -

A major headache with political systems is giving a name to them. Language wilts under a barrage of evasion, euphemism, misinformation, malice and simple laziness. Communist, Marxist, Nazi, fascist, socialist, liberal, neoliberal, neoconservative, conservative, libertarian, SJW – political language does not clarify. Maybe we should work on the basis that this lack of clarity is no accident and political language is not intended to clarify anything. Yet a huge number of futile political arguments revolve around the issue of names.

The naming issue is so fraught that many names are freely used as wildly inaccurate or virtually meaningless terms of abuse. More neutral terms such as left, right and centre don’t work either - there is only one clear political monster and that is the centre, its elites and their hunger for control. They are akin to a black hole sucking everything in, a hole from which nothing ever escapes, not even light.

As we are stuck with elites and as they tend to congregate around a figurehead why not recycle the term ‘monarchy’ for the political black hole, that force of gravity at the centre of all stable political trends? Why not see where it takes us? There are excellent reasons why one shouldn’t do this, but political systems evolve so there is no reason why an ancient system such as monarchy should not have evolved too. Why would it disappear from the political psyche as the old hereditary version fades away or becomes sidelined as it has in the UK?

Maybe monarchy did not go anywhere; maybe it merely evolved by shaking off some of the pomp and pageantry and by sucking the life out of democracy. The obvious danger in going down this route is that one will be ignored as a maverick or simply misunderstood, but for anyone who questions mainstream trends, these are the least of their worries.

In that case we could use the term ‘monarchy’ as a kind of flag for those centralising political trends which are clearly aimed at a rigorous narrowing of a citizens’ responsibility and freedom to rely on a personal morality. That was always a problem for monarchies – competing moralities. Obviously this is no answer to the endless resources of political evasion, but if we view modern politics through a monarchist filter then maybe a few things will become clearer.

For example, monarchy is ancient and tends to be based on a hierarchy of narrow and more or less compulsory identities such as nation, race, party, religion and social class. These identities offer security and a sense of belonging under the supreme head surrounded by a supreme elite and a bureaucracy to keep the taxes coming in.

All political systems use identity for such cohesive purposes, they always have. The identities vary and the degree of compulsion varies and therein lies another clue to our own times – compulsory political identities.

Virtue-signalling does not only signal virtue, it signals identity. Of the two, identity is the more important. Look at me, I have an approved identity, I am not a threat to the regime, I am safe, I have no personal identity

To take a problematic example - identity-signalling allows people who are white, male, middle class, heterosexual, prosperous or Christian to repudiate what are not favoured political identities. That is to say a political repudiation rather than an actual repudiation. It allows such people to adopt another, more politically secure identity and in this respect is far more flexible than was ever allowed by traditional monarchy. This may be monarchy evolving, shedding the religious constraints and the nationalism but keeping the political core – the authoritarian politics of identity.

One can be conspicuously anti-racist, dress down, be aggressively tolerant and conspicuously non-religious for example. Throw in some recycling and we’re almost there, inherited identity expunged and fake identity secured.

It isn’t traditional monarchy, but modern identity politics could be seen as an evolved adaptation of older monarchist hierarchies. As if monarchy never went away but still lurks in the collective psyche, feeding on our innate need for a secure political identity.

Not to be taken too seriously, any of this, but as political correctness tightens its grip, as the irrational becomes politically rational, then political language needs to evolve if we are to describe what is happening without the destructive curse of ambiguity. The black hole needs a name.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

If what you remember is mediocre

From 2:09

“You can’t think at all clearly or well without memory and it matters a great deal what you remember. And if what you remember is mediocre stuff you’re not going to be able to think very well.”

From 8:19

“One cannot be happy about the thirty five million copies of Harry Potter... I think that’s not reading, there’s nothing there to be read. They’re just an endless string of clich├ęs. I cannot think that that does anyone any good.”

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Computer v computer

I don't have a Facebook account but within its interesting Community Standards Enforcement Preliminary Report, Facebook tells us

We estimate that fake accounts represented approximately 3% to 4% of monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook during Q1 2018 and Q4 2017. We share this number in the Facebook quarterly financial results. This estimate may vary each quarter based on spikes or dips in automated fake account creation.

These numbers are largely affected by external factors, such as cyberattacks that increase fake accounts on Facebook. Bad actors try to create fake accounts in large volumes automatically using scripts or bots, with the intent of spreading spam or conducting illicit activities such as scams. The numbers can also be affected by internal factors, including the effectiveness of our detection technology.

In Q1 2018, we disabled 583 million fake accounts, down from 694 million in Q4 2017.

583 million fake accounts in Q1 2018 - I make that somewhere near 75 being created every second of every day. Presumably this is mostly Facebook software versus the bots. The bots create fake accounts and Facebook software blocks or zaps them, a constant battle conducted at enormous speed. Computer versus computer. Seems insanely wasteful.

Monday, 14 May 2018

On the box – the royal wedding

We’ll be taking the grandkids to their local leisure centre on Saturday. It’s what we usually do because this is when Granddaughter has her swimming lesson and we like to sip coffee and watch her energetic progress. So far so good.

However - in my innocence it had not occurred to me that there may be fewer people than usual at the leisure centre because many will be watching the royal wedding on TV. I assumed it would be a minor attraction at most but Mrs H thinks not and she tends to see into these matters more clearly than I do.

In which case parking will be noticeably easier so I’m in favour of royal weddings. We should have one every Saturday.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Should we be more bigoted?

Bigotry gets a bad press doesn’t it? Yet how are we supposed to know if one culture or one matrix of social norms is superior to another if we don’t compare and contrast and attempt to come up with a few answers? To do so is often condemned as bigotry however rational any analysis may be. Surely we must defend what is felt to be good in our culture while being prepared to compare it with other possibilities.

For example it is fairly obvious that Islamic immigration into the UK ought to be debated in the public arena. If there are social and cultural difficulties then these should be tackled openly. Not only that, but the potential for unsatisfactory integration has been obvious for decades and that too should be on the political table.

However, a well-known problem arises in that many social trends such as this are not open for unfettered mainstream debate and to point this out is the label oneself as a bigot. Many people accused of bigotry are actually opposing bigotry. They may be bigoted in one sense, but opposing bigotry in another sense.

Oh well. Decades ago a popular put-down was to accuse someone of making a value-judgement, a weird accusation which seemed to deny an essential fact of social life. Of course this was merely a fashionable put-down made from another value-judgement, a slightly more refined way of saying ‘shut yer gob’.

It is amazing how double-sided these things so obviously are, even though supposedly intelligent people will stick rigidly and even sanctimoniously to one side only. Even though their fundamental argument stripped to its bones is little more than ‘shut yer gob yer bigot’.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Lily on fascism

From the Guardian we have Lily Allen on fascism.

And in this age, where people feel that they can’t trust the media, they don’t trust politicians… people always trust artists because they connect to them. That’s what art is. So I think that there is a role [for artists], and I think that people should be empowered by that role, and not be so scared. Because if everybody came together to fight these forces, then maybe we could stop this fascist regime we’re living under.

That would be the fascist regime which allows her to abuse it and allows voters to change governments they don't like - that fascist regime. Maybe a dictionary would dispel some of her confusion but I don't think so.