Are you sure you should be doing that?

Wednesday, December 17, 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.”

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Tuesday, December 16, 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 Now it seems to have died down a little, or maybe it has been replaced by other worries.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.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jamie Dimon, the man who put the turd in your turducken

"Wall Street’s biggest banks squeezed out a victory this week when the House narrowly approved a spending bill with provisions that would weaken a section of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations," says The Washington Post.

Then it tries to sweeten the bitter pill by saying, "But the win came at a high cost for the banks -- in spending down their political capital and inflaming public opinion."

As though the demigods playing carelessly with your money give a damn what you think. What bothers them is the possibility of having their train set taken away by the impact of falling oil prices on the unbelievably inflated derivatives market, as Ellen Brown explains.

Derivatives are the fourth horseman in Michael Panzner's apocalyptic vision of a destroyed world economy. Sat behind him, like the lethally oversized crowd in "Widecombe Fair", are the financial establishment and all those they have bought and bullied, and by George they want cushions and helmets for everybody who matters.

Democracy is a sick joke. On both sides of the Atlantic, a professional class of political gamesters have worked out how to get what they want for themselves while appearing to be answerable to you. In the case of last week's "CRomnibus", it was the blackmail of not approving the US Government's budget bill unless it had a deadly rider strapped into the saddle: banks that gamble with your deposits insisted on having the latter insured so that the bets could be bigger and more reckless. My bet wins, I win; my bet loses, you pay.

Matt Taibbi is close to despair at the complicity of the Democrats: "... they're not a real party. They're a marketing phenomenon, a big chunk of oligarchical Blob cleverly sold to voters as the more reasonable and less nakedly corrupt wing of a two-headed political establishment."

Are they wrong, these cynical psychopaths who are masters of our universe; or are we wrong, for expecting any other result?

There is an episode in Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" where a foreign student in Paris is directed to the toilet but in his ignorance uses the bidet instead. Miller extrapolates this (p.158) into a vision of a heavenly feast in which you are brought a silver platter, which has on it only two stinking "number twos".

Do you imagine that the silver platter-owners can't guess your opinion? It's part of the treat for them.


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Friday, December 12, 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)

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smelting

source

Is there a connection between Tony Blair's climate change charity, the world's largest aluminium smelter and a Russian oligarch?

Give up?

Try Paul Homewood's post

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I don't know

Hans Holbein the Younger: "The Ambassadors" (1533)

There they are, wealthy, powerful, knowing who's who and what's what. And there it is, the distorted skull cutting across the illusion of three-dimensionality.

A few weeks ago, the always-original thinker Scott Adams tried his hand at explaining the universe, and explaining away any notion of a divine creator. Yet as I wrote to him, maybe some questions may have a truth-value and yet not be scientific. For if (if) someone created the universe, which we now understand to be a continuum of space-time, then the categories of space and time may not apply to the creator. Even if the universe has always existed (and this is to apply the concept of time in a way that may not be legitimate, since it seems to see the universe as framed in time, rather than time being part of the structure), there is still the question, why is there something rather than nothing? And for those who explain the universe as the product of collisions between unobservable meta-universes, the same question can be asked again. As Wittgenstein said, whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

Think of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who abandoned his huge work of systematic theology after an experience that left him saying, "All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me."

Or of the SF writer Philip K Dick - and the revelation that led him (among other things) to save his infant son's life. See Robert Crumb's artstrip here.

I just don't know, and maybe those who think they do also don't know.



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Ourobouros and the melt-up

(Source)

We appear to be entering a very dangerous phase. The system is using deceit to cover the fact that it is creating its own investment. Like flying by pulling on your bootstraps, it can't work, so it won't.

Frances Coppola has been discussing Juncker's plan, and a commenter explains how a dodgy trader's scheme will get the money in and straight out again - with doubtless nice fees and bonuses for the illusionist.

This is "melt-up" territory. If you get it exactly right, you will make a fortune, and if you don't, you'll lose your shirt. I've never claimed or wanted to be that sort of adventurous trader, and goodness knows what happens to the ordinary person during and at the end of this Wild Ride.


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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Attenuated regret

H H Munro (Saki)
source

Reggie listened with the attenuated regret that one bestows on an earthquake disaster in Bolivia or a crop failure in Eastern Turkestan, events which seem so distant that one can almost persuade oneself they haven’t happened.
H H Munro (Saki) - The Toys of Peace and Other Papers (1919)

Every now and then one comes across a gem of a phrase which perfectly encapsulates an aspect of social behaviour. To my mind, one such is attenuated regret as Saki used it. 

Did he invent this delicious phrase? I don't know, but a Google search for "attenuated regret" only gives around 218 results which is appalling for something so delightfully precise.

TV news readers have special facial expressions for attenuated regret, used when reporting disaster or tragic misfortune.

I wonder if they practice in front of the mirror, adjusting their features to achieve the correct degree of attenuation while at the same time preserving a clear semblance of regret? 

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