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A lot of navel searching has been going on since the credit crunch hit.
What surprised the Old Man is that so many people were caught by surprise. It is relatively easy to see the weaknesses in the capital system as it exists currently, and crashes are an intrinsic part of the process of balancing markets.
So there are a lot of questions about whether there is a better way of doing things; of managing or handling economies, of States, of large political entities.
The assumption being that, whilst the present meme; free-market neo-liberal leaning capital economies, is poor, there is no historic alternative that even looks close to being attractive.
But the generally liberal, non-interventionist, egalitarian principles which are supposed to underlie a ‘good’ democracy need not be abandoned completely.
There is a way forward, of this I am sure, but before a new ideology is framed or built, there need to be solid foundations.
For the Old Man, who has searched navels for a very long time, the foundation of a political, social or economic system must be an ethical system. Without establishing what the state is for, what the purpose of the state is, and what moral basis exists as its primary justification, nothing will be built at all.
That ethical system could be founded on Phenomenology.
Perhaps this is an idea who’s time is coming.
I’ll write more on this later.
Gets in the way of being a dedicated blogger.
You’ll be pleased to know that in the past few weeks I have managed to work out a bit more on the meaning of life. I am now comfortable that I understand what sort of being a human is, or ‘the meaning of being’, if you like. I’ve been working on this for about twenty years now, but understanding isn’t amenable to rushing.
It is possible to derive from a clear definition of the meaning of being, a purpose to life itself, but there are still gaps in the connection process. When it comes to a moral being, the force of the definition is so strong that one is inclined to slide from the IS to the OUGHT, a potentially fatal flaw in reasoning being overlooked thereby.
Two more small points; first, I am reasonably convinced that I now ‘know’ how to be happy (how anyone can be happy, permanently (ish)). I have also worked out a methodology to help fast-track other interested people to an understand of the meaning of their being and the secret of happiness. If you are interested in learning this stuff, I suppose I might be inclined to take on a student or two, but given the intensity and complexity of humans, and the demands of work and life, I don’t know that I could spare the time, tbh.
Nothing to do with climate change, but I’ll come back to that at some point in the near future.
Surviving a threat has a way of focussing the mind. For the past few days, the question of priorities has been uppermost. What is important, what is not needed? What and who do I care enough about to invest time in, having been made aware that time is the defining resource limitation?
The heart attack has served to remind me of what might be considered my core philosophy, the essential, buck-stops-here points. Which, at the same time, serves to remind why I thought, a year or so back, that pursuing the questions posed by climate change, and switching occupations, were worthwhile.
Being enagaged in an enforced idleness at home, sat on a day bed contemplating the options of computer chess or daytime TV, I am reminded that, for me, the meaning of being, the purpose of existence, is tied intimately and inexorably to the well-being and happiness of others (you, if you like). A person’s life in and of itself, self-contained and complete (all false imaginings, I promise you), is a very little thing, of small significance. What makes a life big, what makes it full, what gives it meaning and value, is the manner and extent of its interactions with other people.
And here is the connection with climate change and the current state of discussions. Notwithstanding the few who insist otherwise, by and large we are aware that there is a sickness, a malaise, a problem with our world (our home). Whilst one or two will dispute the causes, of more concern is the disagreement over the solutions; how should we treat the patient?
I suspect that it is going to be difficult to decide the best treatments, though, unless we first establish the priorities for governments and industry. Beyond that, we need to establish the priorities for communities and social groups; beyond that, the priorities for families and micro-communities. Which also means establishing our own, individual priorities.
I have established, to my own satisfaction, my list of priorities for a happy and fulfilling life. It goes: People (here and now and present); people future; place/world (environment)[home] and all that it contains; the Future; the rest.
Here is an arrogant suggestion, then. Let’s try this as a template for good decision making about climate change, about adaptation and mitigation, about policy, ,investment and cost.
First priority goes to the problems which need dealing with now; Darfur, Timor, Zimbabwe, poverty, unnecessary death, AIDS, water, food…
Then there are the problems which need dealing with to secure the future for people; food, water, medicine, peace, justice, liberty…
The next priority are the problems which, if they have not already had to be addressed because of the above, relate to the environment, the world, etc; conservation, preservation, protection from exploitation, biodiversity… (though, not unsurprisingly, many of the problems of the first two sets of priorities also involve an attitude to the third set).
The next priority is to resolve the potential longer-term problems; sea levels, water supply, agriculture, resource exploitation…
And, finally, we can invest time, effort and money into to dealing with the other shit.
This set of priorities should be usable to guide us to making first decisions about where effort is needed and how important it should be compared to other issues.
More on that, later.
Well, not so much a hiccup, actually, more a small heart attack.
Happened a week last Saturday Night (probably the fourth of a short series),
Operation on Thursday put in two stents.
Now home and recuperating, but obviously, not overly active, for a while.
Honest, it had nothing to do with the paper…
This will probably give me a bit of time to trawl around the blogosphere and irritate a few folks.
Apologies to all those who were expecting to hear from me. Now you know why.
Some interesting may conceivably follow in the days to come.
It’s not even as if I’m actually really that old, you know….
Perhaps a part of our attitude to climate change is dependent on our attitude to the future. The science of climate change is, after all, at times a kind of futurology; an attempt to at least ascribe a probability to things yet to be. This is what the IPCC was created for, in a sense; to seek an understanding of the causal connections between present and future ‘events’ and thereby provide a ‘picture’ of what tomorrow might bring, under a given range of varied circumstances.
Even before the issue of how well it does this is addressed, there must be a primary matter, of our attitudes to such a project in the first place. We have a long history of seeking guidance from augury, and a long history of acting in the present in an anticipation of a set of circumstances in the future which are not guaranteed, but seem likely. Is the project of climate science any different? After all, the argument about mitigation is in the end an argument both about whether we can act now to transform the future, and whether we should act.
But many people feel reluctant to allow the possibility that the future is at all ‘knowable’, or that people, as individuals or collectively, can influence future events, either because they are fatalists (often without realising it), or because they believe that the weight/inertia of the global chain of determinism is so great that it is effectively inexorable, which in turn promotes a resignation.
This is a difficult problem because our attitudes to determinism, free will, existence, fate, destiny, human potency or societal inevitability, are often formed at a very deep level, and are intimately tied in to our sense of who we are and what our place is in the world. In particular, these issues force us to address a central neurosis/challenge in our sense of identity, the question of control or power over our own lives and the impositions on this from outside.
A large scale scientific activity which brings into the open our uncertainties about personal determinism, about freedom, about the satisfaction or thwarting of deep drives like desires, needs, guilt and shame, is therefore a threat. It is not just a threat in that what is anticipated is potentially dangerous, the very activity itself is threatening; the possibility of its existence may force upon us the requirement to decide whether we can see the world and our influence in it in a new, different way.
And this may be why some people resist. A response to ‘this will happen’, or ‘given x, y will probably happen’ is often going to be negative, simply because it contains within its construction a series of implications about how the world functions and, in particular, the role we play in shaping the future, which are potentially unpleasant to us.
If this is right, I suspect that it, too, is based on a series of misunderstandings and misapprehensions about both what climate projections involve and what they logically imply about the relationship between the present and the future, and the role of humans in it. It is also probably often based on a very simplified, unformed sense of how the world works, rather than a serious attempt to rationalise such a complex matter.
But perhaps this might explain why communication so often breaks down, why it is so difficult to get action from people. The very process of climate science when it is engaged in projection, in futurology, strikes at deeply embedded neuroses and unarticulated fears which force upon the person a ‘fight or flight’ response; denial to preserve the sense of self-determination in the world, or resistance to fortify the sense of personal potency, of agency, in a world which otherwise might just possibly be too big and too out of control to handle. In other words, for some people, coming to terms with the idea of climate science may require first a coming to terms with their own existential being. Its a lot to ask of an everyday person-in-the-street.
I was going to write about whether it makes sense to think in terms of ‘prediction’, when so much of our histories are about how the unpredicted came about, or are, alternatively, about hindsight and the juggernaut that is historical inevitability (its probably an illusion).
We are engaged in a task the like of which has never been attempted before, to rewrite the future before it comes to pass, with a greater price to pay for failure than has ever been at stake before; the persistence of a world, an environment, which is still beautiful, rich, varied and valuable to our descendants. And this will require all our best attributes; courage, determination, refusal to give up, fighting against difficult odds, resolving our weaknesses and making of them strength. If we want to turn down the volume knob on the tomorrow machine, we will have to be heroes. A bit.