Why be a lord of time when you are already a Criminal?
A Sequence of essays investigating the crimes we commit, and what we might do about it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And finally -part

Does it make sense to use the eighteenth century language of democracy and government to define how we run the emergent and complex world of today.
his is after all a world where in the guise of internet, shiny things, information, uses, natty programs and the desires they open up, create endless new permutation and complexities in having and being a government.
We then change slowly and quickly, a change that responds to government and buidl it into its actions.
a change that bind up nations and makes them unable to act as units.
Where then can one find a modern role for government in this world?
Doe the old paredigm do?
Or are we really going to have to find something esle- and if so how?

Part 5

Mythic pain

The trouble is with our country - the real trouble is-
tat we appear to have country body image disorder.
We see our rather prosperous, forceful and aggressive land, with its relatively strong government and limited abuse o human rights, and rich cultural background, as a poor victim in the world - endless corrupt and badly run governed - and always threatened.
the reason is perhaps two old.
We have a culture of assuming the past was better, be it our childhood or the nations history. All decisions were of course easier in the past (well they are from the present anyway), and all values more certain (again from the present).. The past is then ours as the present is not, - and we mourn it.
Secondly this nostalgia is particuliary and orchestrate to sell new paper, and raise hell. It becomes then a campaigning issue - a campaing that makes us feel bad about our country and ourselves o sell newspapers - or make good copy.
a fact we then seem to daffy to realize...

The problem of governing part 4

The is a clear battle raging fast and furious about who should be in pain.
we al know that something has gone wrong.
it is clear - and has been clear for long time; we had growth when we expected recession back in the 2000's (we did wonder why I remember).
We know then a model cocked up -and caught our greed in an supportable crystal that then imploded.
We were all responsible for the banking crisis after all.
Pain is coming our direction.
So of course we all duck- while trying to persuade others to stand up and be hit.
It makes good politics in the play-ground war, and good politics now.
We try then to persuade martrys to step forward, while rest of us hide.
and if of course if no one comes forward we then start to pus and josstle each other - forcing on group or other (usually the poor who cannot avoid being forced) forward and into the pain.
what of course we really really need is a cult of economic martrys - any volunteers?

Friday, October 22, 2010


The anarchist and the State:

It is one of those irregular verb – one to depress Hegel, and defy reason, a verb that sets up an internal and unsynthesisable dialectic – one that goes I anarchy-You state; We state-They anarchy. I assert my rights an individual, my independence while you lot drag me down. But at the same time elsewhere, I am part of the gang, fighting the dread monster of anarchy: Human both Leviathan and Behemoth. The point being that there is a strange wavy line, a line that at all point and parts of society we think state ought to each, and we really ought to be allowed to be on our own. The trouble with this line is that it is so indistinct and volatile. There are places where by long tradition – the line is always fixed. We ‘agree’ then that the army, is always in the we a state part of the verb – while the free market by and large aspires to be in the ‘I’ anarchy that is at least its jargon). But very many element of modernity slip between lines, and slip between classes. Many other arguments (for instance the facile one currently waging in Britain about fairness, as if anything a government does is fair) are really argument about where one draws this line. That is, where one helps out or navigates the state, and where one allows freer organization (as is the big society). The line is moving then around fairly much at the movement.
In a sense there is a reason for that. One of the very big differences between the political parts is that the Right are more comfortable on the lines they draw. They know there then the we’s and I's state an anarchy are draw There might be at times parochial extension of the state to include some welfare; or again there might be an extension of anarchy to extent the free market and its innovation into some matters of the state (big societies). But by large the lines are clear. The same of course is really not true for the left – who rationally cannot even readily agree who their 'we's are (is it the unions, the working class, or the country) let alone have sensible places to draw the at.
This last point in a sense was the point that straddled ‘New Labour’ and destroyed it. There was in sense no-good place for the party to draw its lines. The party talked then endless about responsibility as well as rights, but found no effective way to incarnate those responsibility. A fact that had of course disastrous effects- as neither government, individuals or even banks were responsible where they incarnated their greed – with the result that the global financial system nearly collapsed. ’New Labour’ wanted to have its cake and firmly eat it. That is it wanted to both allow for anarchy, and game the rights to demand individuals were responsible, at the same time as imposing the state -an impossible dream. But the line is not like that - however fast flowing it is, it is in its incarnation always clear which side an individual is on. If one extends and then retracts, one looks either ,mad or disingenuous.
New labour failed then in that it failed to sensibly incarnate liens for the sate and lines for the anarchist, leading to dodgy dealing, lack of trust and a perceptions (which was not true) that the state was muscling in, in the form of health and safety into anarchies,. It was then these perceptions that killed off new labour and created the current coalition of the others What is ,more the crazy line – and where one draws it is shot through with ideas of fairness or unfairness. Or perhaps better it is only the line that makes this argument of fairness make sense – for of course in the essence of society not to be fair. That is it is n the essence f society for have hierarchies, explicit and implicit, and to lauds certain talents irrespective of their vale in a highly complex society) and deride other societies. Likewise the point of money is to create inequities. The entire debate then about a fair society is on one level infantile. Or at best is merely a reaction to the fact that we know society is unfair, and dream of something else (in an open ended vapid way at least).
However if one talks of fairness, one an effect creates places to draw our line -our line that incarnated the dialectic of fair and unfair. One can the rail against the state and its unfairness in taxing or regulating the initials – onsets people free to be themselves. One incarnates the line so that it, is the name of a greater society, wipes out the state (or justifies a wipe out one was committed to anyway). Or alternative one can use the same language of fairness or not to demand that the states rights are respected, and individuals, be they cod classes such as bankers or the poor should not take the piss; that is they should not take more from the system that was somehow their birth right. We the state then gain the rights one only to fairness but to name the anarchies that threaten us. We therefore, in the name of being so very fair (to ourselves at least) have the right to create otherwise meaning categories such as befit cheats and rail against them as if they were a threat.
The lines then matter- as it defines the exact level we incarnate not merely the sate, but the enemies of the state. What is more than that it is the distinction in this line, between I-the-anarchist and they the anarchist that defends states from certain acts. That is we do not loose sight of the fact that multiple anarchy is threatening and risks everything, while personal anarchy (within rules) is something to be lauded. In a sense this is after all the point of the category individual. The individual at any age, marks the paint at which a personal responsibility (that is an individual anarchist) starts to have the rights to assert themselves against the state. It marks then the point that the individual and their anarchy matters against all the power of convention and the state’s the individual, what is more it is clearly the peculiar responsibility of the state to foster this individual, and cede them there rights.
The state will then have to harbour from this ‘We’ ) those individuals who actually deride from their I. The reason for this of course is that the asserting of that I actually keeps the state itself safe. That is it prevents the anarchists acting as inchoate mob or fast moving unit – a unit that can so easily destroy the state. It is one of the hidden secrets of the ideology of capitalism, that it forces all power potential anarchist into the ‘I’ role, and so undermine or delimits their power to act.
The line matters therefore. Our society is amalgam of two different takes of the sate and two very distinct anarchy a fact that no doubt makes the’ liberal democracy’, which one is told is the high point’ of human develop so very unreplicatable able across the world. Each element of the verb is simple to make and yet highly destructive in itself. The I- anarchist is therefore at a different place simply criminality. Likewise the We-state is merely an oligarchy. What created the ‘freedom’ or at least that difference we feel in the West to be real (right or wrong) is the very freedom of this line. Tat is it is the fact that we can be in two heads a once, both I and We, and so both an anarchist and member of society. What is more we are free to move then line around a bit, and incarnate differently at different times. A fact that s one is trying either to copy the system from outside, or if one is having it imposed upon one, is exactly hard to replicate. For it is a reasonless and unspoken tension in the system we have.
Were exactly one draws the lines, and creates enemies is always in seen a matter of taste. But even here there is clearly strange romanticism that binds all such construct together. Take then the I anarchist – you sate declination. In a sense this is an assertion of the individual over the collective. And yet this individual is never any individual, it is always the rights of the free thinker, the wheeler-dealer, or the genius over the right of the pack. To assert them the rights to individual anarchy, is to allow oneself ore rights than one allow others. A normal little act of selfishness perhaps. And yet on dressed up in a romanticism and the idea that one is in this assertion is somehow different and special – as we of course we all are to ourselves at least). What is being this assertion is in effect the rights of the world each of us create for ourselves in our own minds (independent of thus in this world), over the rights attribute to the world we feel others create for themselves (the objective them). To assert then the individual of the I anarchist is to assert the rights of a world and not a person – against heights of some collective world structure (which is always attributed and never itself real). It is therefore to create an emotive world in the here and now (my world), a world of some kind of creation (even is that is merely the right to feel), and points it against a mythic general world, a world of order which one critiques. The rights of the free thinker is asserted against here mere chattering classes; or right of the entrepreneur to wheel and deal (and occasionally break the law) are asserted over the rights of the rest of society.
Likewise the opposite move, the We-state: They-anarchy, has behind the romanticism of an idea we all in something together- we are sharing thoughts dream and ideal. What is more this creative we-share is conceived as necessarily having a certain value in and for itself. if we agree- if we share our dream, and like to each other knowing that we do, then this is enough, that sharing makes it valid. This feeling is slightly complex, in that it is both an internal and eternal construction. The we-share is the felt, and yet ought to describe something real. If it does no, it is always open to delusion. Indeed a curtains species of madness binds the I and the we together. – for the I share is mad (and imagines their friends, and so creates their paranoia). What keeps the we-saying actually same is then the genuine appeal beyond itself nature.
This appeal then has two affects of its own. On the one hand it strengthen very greatly the power each of the we-feel, and the romanticism that accomplish this power. If we are together genuinely then we are powerful, and feel ourselves to be such (the fact that we remain tiny force in the world is then occluded I the exhilaration of doing together). And the same time, the very fact of having share keeps the We’s rather simple. We have to share what can be easily shared, and nothing more. The result is then that ideas such s patronise or rally calls about the lights of labours, or the duties of employers, become very easy we’s.- and complex perhaps richer, certainly ones are lost on the way.
The bigger problem, in last two points, is, of course, that the glamour of the romanticism, the feeling we are together, is enough to make the rather simplistic creation (and the They anarchist thy create – the others), feel very important for themselves. The anarchist, the non-shares beyond our simple union then become also rather too easy to define. What is more once of course such outsides age defined (in abstract terms) It becomes next to impossible to change those terms, without having to renegotiate exactly the We-share. Interestingly enough the growth in tolerance over that thirty years has shown this move is possible but not easy, and have a habit of creating new prejudice elsewhere. That is the forces that created the three-anarchy do not go away, and other they ill eventually tumble into being (ones that might in man resects resemble the ones one ought to have left behind; hence our modern racisms about Muslims and asylum seekers).
Our society is therefore full of a strange shifting assemblage of states good and bad and anarchists. A whirled of attributed negatives and only quasi defined and fast moving positives. And yet it is a mistake to see the negatives here as simpler fantasy. The You-State and the They –anarchy are very real in the minds that create. As real as chairs or hiccups. They have a power rooted in the divide they allow. They are then political realties, even if the actual ‘truth’ of the matter is more complex. Indeed the very simplifications involved here in a sense are the point and creator the realty. The world is very big and difficult, and the dialectics of anarchy and state are one way we impose simplification upon it. We then assume it is real, in order that we can live a life. The realty is then in us, and is a product of our romantic (and ill aimed power. a fact that gives it all the reality it needs.
Anarchy and the state are far from opposites therefore in our current political system. On the contrary they are both rather vital pitched within what and who we are. They allow us to define not only who we are, and what we share, both also who we oppose. The advantage of this dialectic lies in that that even at its most selfish, the anarchist it creates a world and two an individuate assume matter; likewise the We-share, creates in definition a form (albeit too simple) of sharing. The dialectic then breaks with individual minds and forces (in a sense) to open . It does so at the coast of creating enemies, assuredly, enemies the government then needs to manage and control more than that who these enemies are is itself highly volatile and complex each age has its own economies of anarchy and state, companies that are themselves in flux. It is the odd power of our current system that it encompasses all this flux. A factor that founds not freedom so much as internal peace. A peace that endless managed the conflicts in our society, and prevents more that ritualized violent, and yet at the cost perhaps of creating violence (in the They-anarchists) elsewhere….

Friday, October 15, 2010

The all out Rhythm war : The battle ground

Bonfires of Democracy.

I have mentioned before in these essays and in others, the real trouble with our political society is that we live in at least hree democracies not one – and possibly always have. We inhabit then at once political, knowledge and capitalist democracies. Each of which forms of governance has their own very clearly constructions, and rules. What is the interesting about these differing democracies, is that they all at least partially mistrust one another, while actually needing to really upon each other. There are then very standard rules of alliance where two democracies attempt to gang up on the third to pull it this way or that. Shifting alliance, moving battles, intricate intrigues are then the norms in the relations between these different freedoms. And yet in recent times, the picture has been made a great deal more complex by the emergence at various different levels of new demi-republics. That is impure mixed forms, mixed constitutions that attempt to define new ways these three differing states coalesce. It is then as if the rules for the relationships between these different states are being taken out, slowly of the states control, and becomes something in their own right (in the same way the credit agencies, having ruined our economy how appear to rule it). So much so that to understand our three different republics, and their traditional battle grounds is not now enough. One also needs to grasp at the fast moving and far more free form and wild republics and free states that are now attempting to cease control of the traditional three democracies that make our state, moves that I will begin to chart some of the essays in this series. In this essay I will recap on the traditional democracies themselves, and the way each distinct democracy endless attempts to reform the others in their own nature.

First among the three are the rich plurality of democracies that accompany academic disciplines. Democracies where what in a sense knowledge and the ability to argue a case according to certain rules (that is to have and to scare certain thoughts) is king. It is the theories, explanations, ideas, that rather gather up individuals – and not the other way around. The trouble of course is with such democracies is that there is a fairly heavy price to contribute. One needs to be able to speak the language, own the jargon, and understand the rules of thought generation, to enter such little kingdom. The enormous advantage is that once one can, then the democracy becomes truly democracy in that it becomes all about thinking, arguing, and agreeing.
This high entry price traditionally has made these democracy be viewed with mistrust by political democracies, which value their freedom. A mistrust that cuts deeper than mere paranoia as if is always possible for these republics, to create ideas which destabilizes democracies or at least raise impossible questions for them. Democracies will then look one askance as science fiddles with the boundaries of life and death, and where babies come from, or will manufacture bombs to blow up the world. all of which is fine in its way. But then of course science washes its hands of the affair and expects or at least appeals to democracy to sort out the ethics and morals of production process. Thought does not then undermine democracy so much as make it a great deal more difficult. Or better perhaps, it operates upon political democracy’ to transform it into a reflections of it own complex plurality. It has then a tendency to ask political democracies very difficult questions, and create within it parties of opposing thoughts, and endless differed spheres, different ways the question will be asked. All of which is fine in its way. and the yet political democracy is something apart, something in its own right, and resents this transformation.
At the same time, it is one of the features of such republics is their appetite for money reflects their appetite for knowledge. It is quite literally bottomless as the more they are given the more then can use. Money is then called upon to reflect the medium of thought itself – it is to be bottomless. The real problem here is not that money cannot do this but that it can. Or at least it can appear to One can always print more money- and as one trusts in technological change and the possibility of endless wealth it opens up on, one will be tempted to do so The trouble of course is that if the confidence in this change dries up, then the entire edifice is likely to crash around our feet.
The second great democracy is the traditional political democracy. This poor old thing, was initially conjured forth at the end of the nineteenth century, in the name of a supposed politics of the eighteenth century, its echoing a notion of supposed ancient politics and even human nature. It arose then as the supreme political buttress for the rise of nation states. It was the proof incarnate that we really were all in this together. The nation that votes together should fight together (and be free together. And yet the system always a little ad hoc - in a sense it had to be. At the heart of it after all lay a complex double think. On the one hand every democracy claimed to be the great (and possibly only real) forcing house for freedom. Its great claim was it was where this were disused and decidedly everybody. Or at least by those properly interested to make such decisions. And yet at the same time was of course the place that defend when and when its citizens were free. What freedoms then had, and what they defied not, when they can discuss and when not. It was the group of individuals coming together to delimit freedom, in the name of another kind of freedom.
This leads then to a situation where free speech was of prime importance. Free speech, that is the ably to endlessly argue a case, to make an argument (even if it was going to be ignored or was rubbish) was the freedom that justified or allowed the curtailing of freedom elsewhere. We could the argument went all make our case, and so ought to accept the eventual outcome, in the knowledge tat e had lost the debate fair and square. Free speech then became the defining freedom, the touchstone which allowed suppression elsewhere. A move that exploited the fact that the world we speak is not the world we live or think. We are then frequently theoretically at least more likely to mouth extreme solutions or assume that individuals can be limited or persecuted in someway (asylum speakers or the poor to the bankers); and yet of course do actually like it when we are faced with the consequences of these action. Democracy therefore become all about managing and encouraging free speech n certain as - certain debates helping certain parties (and allowing certain policies). The role of the democracy as form of government was ironically then subsumed under the necessity to manage its shibboleth – endless free speech. A move than became all the more pronounced as the scope of what a nation can do in a highly complex world in which such nations, as units of sovereign power, makes little sense, became restricted. All a political class really can do is define what is debated about. A debate that is then accompanied by a number of abstract policies that arise out of such debates, and may or may not have the effect promised.
The deification of free speech had then the effect of forcing a democracy to expand. It was legally rather difficult to restrict who could speak. The neat little cliques of the nineteenth century gave way to the mass democracies of today. And yet this then of course creates the problem that if everyone can speak, then how does not tell who is qualified to do so? If all opinion matter then, how beyond mob and prejudice can one decide? This was then the traditional role of the Quango. The Quango or at least hose hat made any sense operate as an intermediate - A problem which science then makes all the harder to grasp.
Governments answer was to create the Quango. That is to create a body that was responsible not only for making expert decisions (and so protect knowledge from rampant ignorance but also to orchestrate debate The quango was then meant to encourage and then monitor public debate, and loop it make into knowledge and then act accordingly. The task then of democracy was outsourced to protect knowledge from the mop. Or to put it the there ways around, little kingdoms of democratic accountability, and the need to discuss with politicians, were created within the kingdoms of science. Science were then forced into a political orbit, and made (though having o mage a budget and make decisions) to confront the kid of problems politicians had to work with. It might not have made good government, but it made a suitable come uppance. To destroy then in that infamous bonfire is therefore to open up knowledge to the full glare of the mob – an interesting move to put it mildly.
At the same time it is clear that political democracies have a similar love-hate relationship going on with the economy. Ultimately it is of course a mantra of politics that the economy drives political futures. Or perhaps to be more truthful, the economy defines what kind of future we belief we are entitled to, and so defines what a politician can do, and claim the credit for. More importantly government needs people to have confidence in the political system was that it operates at all it must then restrict debate about whether money has value. No politicians likes then to confront business. And yet there are real conflict lines in that every business operates by attempting to manage information of it own account and in its way. Every large business at any rate seeks then to limit information (and so restrict what a government can do to it). Governments answer to this riddle is traditionally to praise smaller and medium size business, which are held up as the paradigm for moral purity (they are they business equivalent of free speech – the little guy),and then come to some of agreement, hugga mugga with large cooperation’s (bout tax etc) . This bargain has clearly survived its apparent demise in the recent economic turmoil, and is back to haunt us all.
Finally there is the complex world of business. Business has a treble democracy of its own. There is the part owning democracy of the shareholder, there is the consumer led democracy of people buying the product, and between them runs the current of finance. Business operates by then imposing elaborate hierarchies between these spheres – defining which matters when and how much.- and for how long. The flexibly then of the business model is than there is not single domain force. At times of wealth the shareholders will no doubt by all important. And yet at times of scarcity, they become a cash cow to finance the pursuit of business (that is new markets etc). Likewise finance at once haunts then entire body, and is therefore what needs to always be allowed for and considered, and yet also, is what is provided (by customer and owner), and what then merely follows these other desires. However there are certain blind spots integral in such a model, most notably the workers. In a world of financing they fit in merely as a cost of production limiting factor, and more a substantial reality in their own right. A fact of course that has own dynamics (and possible solutions).
Business classic looks upon the world as if it was a business. We are treated then to endless business gurus telling government wants what, and talking about Britain plc- as a poltical and business democracy were one and the same. Worse that that in this model business of course sees itself as prime share holder, I is after all what finances the whole show. It will there rather naturally assume that it has certain rights in respect to the entire show, and recent their limitation. A fact that political parties, which their constant need for finance can scarcely ever resist.
Likewise business tends to assume that knowledge ought to operate in the same kind of spaces (discreet companies) that business occupies. It ought then to be about generating finance (and ought to be financed as if it were a business). Moreover there is a tendency for business to assume that all learning ought to conform to the laws of copy write. Knowledge is then thought to open up on endless new business opportunities and be judged accordingly.
Each of these three states have very much their own laws and rules, and yet each to others, need to others. More than that they endlessly look to recruit one or other of the other democracies, in their efforts o comprehend the third state. Political democracy looks to finance to fund education, while business appeals to copywriter to protect it from free speech…there are then numerous shifting alliances, and shot gun weddings. And yet through all these conjunctions their remains the single, rather uncomfortable truth. These democracies imply operate on their own rhythm, and these rhythms are no simply and straightforward compatible with one another. They will rather create problematic conjunctions, and even spin off organizations – of which the Quango was only the first form or species. New organizations that actually serve to direct and focus the struggle (think here the business and politics around climate change, or the political and conceptual problems linked to large media organizations, ) The rhythm war becomes then a very reach turf war which constantly simmers and ripples through our society. What is more this conflict is clearly at once intensifying and broadening. It is becoming then a domain struggle of our times, and one this series will need to continually return to.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scene 3 - Abstract Wars:

Case 3- The Abstract war.

Perhaps it is because society is so complex that it does not make any sense even to make sense of it? Or perhaps, is the ‘savages’ revenge on Durkheim. Be that as it may, one of the oldest ‘truths’ in sociology and anthropology haunts us daily, albeit with a novel twist of its own. This truth ran that Gods are merely expressions of social facts. They codify something about a society, reveal a truth and allow it to be articulated. They are then abstract engines that allow one to loop up unlinked points, and bind then into a single figure a figure that means something. A description or definition that can be applied to almost all our ‘known; facts’ about society. Asylum seekers or the deserving poor, are great abstract devices, concepts, which float above society, and which we pay lip service to meta-truth. They are not then the stuff of flesh and blood, so much as a way of saying something about society.
However at this point the problem with complexity kicks in. our society (as Durkheim would have point out at this point) is simply too complex for simple social facts to operate in (perhaps all societies really are), our great abstractions are never then simple truths made plan so much as massive highly abstract construction, upon which individuals are invited to project their own truths. They are then definition awaiting their meaning perhaps at other times they are coagulations of very many factors and facets, some actual, but many virtual. Thee fantasy element of these construction very often resolving around easily, lazy, and very self justifying truths. We imagine others, unlike us, and so capture our relations (and condemnation) of that other crew. All of which is dandy in its way. And yet of course it is the case that increasingly, in a democracy it is these abstractions that are the stuff of politics. One weaves or captures abstract quasi-divinities to capture. The rule being that those who can stitch together a ‘narrative’ or create a single abstract engine capable of straddling many different lives, and much experience, but also of moving that experience forwards, win power. The caution for power has become then a matter of creating engines for beating and transforming time.
These engines are curious, for at every point they deal with abstractions and not real truths. So that the very raw materials of these machines are themselves abstract. Take the great myth that somewhere in some council there are (EU) officials plotting the demise of Christmas or else of else of quaint rural customers, in a ‘Health and safety gone mad- athon. No matter that this narrative is simply not true. The reason why there are real health and safety concerns with many rural events is that too many people now turn up. We ( I mean the public) have ruined them. The problem is then that many a health and safety bod faces, is how to manage large numbers of people in very same rural communities: A real problem. Or, to give another example, restrictions on customs such as conkers are often enough mere urban legend or quite frankly lies. They never were true, or not in the way they are reported. But of course known of that stops a tale growing go into a legend, a legend that no doubt articulates a deeper truth. This truth has been the very clear drive over the last few years to create a reflective public. That is a public who do not merely feel things, but who are also open to how that feelings effects others. This reflexivity comes then has cost. It makes the act of feeling tricky. It makes one feel one is always regulated, And bingo, one is caught in a world of health and safety gone mad. All of which is no doubt good fine fun - the trouble is that governments then want to join it, and start to daftly talk about stopping a world that was never ever true in the first place.
The trouble is that almost all government policy is in danger of founding itself upon much myth. Take the current massive debate about cuts versus taxes and spending. Behind this is a truth that does not really speak its name. Over the past ten years or so the west has been inhabiting a complex (and global) lie. It kind of assumed that it was somehow entering into the final stages of capitalism. The stage in which we here lives in a kind of utopia, where the fact they we never really made very much, and that most (but not all) of us were doing not very productive jobs (which might be my own urban legend though), did not matter - for we were by nature wealthy. We then spun stores about being at the cushy end of history an end that was then no doubt supported by the fact that other nations, who were aware that we were living the life of Riley for relatively little effort, and so whose very envy bolstered our delusion -and it made us feel like we had got somewhere. What was rather about this life or Riley was that we endless inhabited not ingratitude so much as irrational. We simply then assume the luxury and worried about anything that questioned it. The trouble of course is that worry about oil and world resources has blasted apart this myth of the drones. We have discovered to our horror that we were not the end of history after all, but merely it stooges. Or perhaps it Eloi, The trouble is then how does one move beyond this end.
This is of course where new Abstract engines need to take over. The politicians associated with the old ones (the one that promises endless growth for not real effort) have been forced the stage. It is now the task politician to build engines to navigate just this collapse the conservatives are then attempting (and being helped in their attempt) to build one engine, which blames the entire situation on the Labour party (well that had claimed the credit for the previous growth). They endlessly and ad nauseam then refer to the golden legacy they left New Labour and the mess they then have inherited. All difficult decisions (on say defence) becomes another fault. Well maybe. The point is of course as all good abstract engine builders they are attempting to ensure that as much blame is locked in the past at possible. What goes wrong then for a while, they will claim is not their responsibility. This then opens out a future line where if anything goes right they can claim it as part in their narrative Their engine had defined and riveted down a past, and sealed what is ‘bad; which that past, in order to allow it to twist facts into a future. Which is then necessarily favourable for them and their struggles. They are then as good politicians building a future with an open ended possible present. Anything good they are ensuring is theirs by right, and anything bad is someone else’s’ fault. What else is the big Society but such a gambit. In effect this Coalition names not a narrative - so much as the machine from which endless narratives to delight the media can spawn?
The labour parties counter machine is a far simpler gambit. They gamble that the future is too dark for this move and too complex. That is if their ids another downturn, they will be able to break the myth that this was their fault, and pin the blame elsewhere. The problem with this strategy is that us very dependent upon events. If things do not turn out as labour dreams it will be very hard to rock back from this poison. In this sense at least the labour party is moving itself to the left. That is it is positioning itself into the leftwing comfort zone of simply assuming hat capitalism undermines its own reality. The trouble is then not that capitalism does not, so much as it never does in straight forward and predicted manner.
Both these moves are then attempting to create an engine that spins out the endless narratives (that is easily explanations) that the media constantly demand. A demand that of course (as other crimes have looked at) warps our system. Politicians are very aware that it is more important to spin narratives to the media, and effectively do their job for them, then it a bigger part of their job, than is the attempt to solve any social problems. Actually though this move in a sense is fair enough. The real trouble with our society is that it is become very complex (perhaps it always was) that it does not make much sense. There is peculating society a fairly abstract and clearly unjust system of rewards and punishments. Some individuals are then made wealthy and other poor. Some and penalised and others are not, Unfairness is simply the norm. This by itself is much of a much-ness. We are simply used that fact and yet we also claim that we want to lie in society that is to some degree fair. The answer to this impasse is to build yet another generation of abstract social machines. These machines come in two types. Firstly we create great meta-machines, which stigmatises poverty and then the invent a reasons why it is just that this group is poor (why they deserve it) or else treats poverty itself as a social disease to be treated (and not merely an effect of the system). That is we create a machine to make poverty into something. The second ruse to build quite different machines to create little acts of abstract fairness. Our strategy then is to build a machine which acts to create meta-fairness which run counter to rhyme or reason or the norms of society: such machines then demand that ‘all parents then should be given the same benefit’; or we all ought to have equal access to healthcare’. We then fight unfairness with stigmata or sacred cows. The trouble then if of course that these two machine in a sense runs counter to each other (or at least inform each other progress). The idea the of the undeserving poor becomes very easily spliced to the idea of people who are attempting to get more that their fair share of the benefits that run counter to unfairness itself. They are then condemned by both machines, and as such can be vilified. A vilification that ignores of course the basic fact that most peoples’ lives are more complex that the mere abstract construction of media and politician allows. The minute then that one starts to conjure with these abstracts, one necessarily creates new very deep unfairnesses.
The last or so has seen a three threefold attack upon fairness; machines in the name of ‘undeserving poor’ machines. The first simplest was of course the ending of universal childcare. This of course was a dog tag policy designed to ensure the Tories were seen to be unfair to all. It was then done in the interest of another abstract machine. It was designed to be unfair (and so allow other deeper unfairness to feel more nature). What was so interesting was that it is clear the Tories did not hold their nerve. They will then subtly rewards the ‘supports who they now threaten – or at leas the abstract idea of parenting these individuals cherish. What of course will remind though is the fundamental breach in the counter-unfairness move that is child benefits. Its very power lay in its being universal. We were all together, all in something. To cut it is then to cut off one group of society from the rest. On the face of it this is the wealthiest in society; yet as we all are endlessly encouraged to identify with this group, with the wealthy, is will gradually be the case that those who cannot so identify, namely the poor will be cut adrift. .
The second main front than was opened recently was then attack once again on housing benefit, which has been shapely reduced – creating endless new poverty and problems. – and in effect making the dividing line between those who own there own home outright and the rest, even more deep, for it is now something the state feels no obligation on mitigating.
Finally it is clear on of the deepest of our abstract machines of fairness, namely pensions, has been under attack this week. Pensions matter because they allow individuals who have no right to wealth in this society of ours, and yet who sees others wealthy to dream of that golden tie of leisure to come. They might never be rich (and they not be) but at least they will have time off. Hence the problem of pension of reform to reforms pensions is to risk conjuring with peoples’ hopes and despairs. For it removes the right we all have at the end (or towards the end) of our lives to live as if we too were of the leisured classes. This is of course a right that has of course in a world of increased property prices become all the more pronounced in relation to the rest of society. Giving the right to be lazy to long livers was then a deep answer to the problem of talking fairness while actually making inequity dilemma of society. People will allow for poverty now in the name of wealth to come. Remove that hope and one is in trouble, all the more so as it is likely enough (in spite of the current rhetoric) that the wealthy will escape full effects of these changes. It will then be the dreams of people who cannot make it any other way that are likely to be trodden on in the process.
These moves, which reject the abstract machines of fairness, do so in the name of modern avatars of two of the very traditional abstract machines of capitalism. Firstly there is that myth we all have about the wealth of society. We all over estimate the amount we as a society is earning ,and so stand up for the right of the wealthy we feel we might join over the rights of the poor. That is we all live in a world where in some dream or other we are all wealthy,. Politics becomes then very easily about that dream, and anyone who wants to actually deal with the real world has to run counter to that fantasy first (and so puncture our dream) - politicians long ago of course discovered one cannot get elected that way. Secondly the effect of the banking crisis and our failure to think of anything other than banking has in effect made us all bankers now. We are all being encouraged then to think like traditional bankers (well we own the banks) and harry those who we us money, and are not part of this our recovery. We then worry at those with overdrafts and the rest. Nationalizing the banks has then created not socialist utopia so much as a society of abstract bankers. The effect then of these two machines will be to rip through an awful lot of the traditional machines for fairness, they we sacrificed in the name f producing something. And the real problem we in the left have, is that these are two machines the left have historically been very bad at countering (the lefts only real answer is climate change ,and that machine is currently clearly undergoing ‘repairs’, as it was suspected of being too leftwing). A fact that will in all likelihood haunt the left for years to come – as all it can do is dream with Marx, that the “Dead will bury their own Dead’ and the left will learn (and not merely yearn) for a new poetry from the future. A hope the first expressed 160 years ago or so, and one the left is no closer meeting.