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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.
Here goes another peculiar analogy. I notice that Uncle Eli has been thinking along related lines.
The doctor (and anyone else I speak to) tells me, unequivocally, that since my MI (heart attack), I absolutely have to quit smoking. No surprises there, then.
Why? Putting aside the derivative opinions of those who aren’t really qualified to know (most of the people who say this apart from the experts), what is the scientific basis of the nedical advice I am receiving? And what will the consequences of ignoring it be?
First, let’s look at the explanation I have been given. By continuing to smoke, I would increase the risk of further heart attacks, probably double it. How does the doctor know this? The cardiologists have a large information base, demonstrating a statistical relationship, historically, between smoking and heart attacks; the evidence is very strong that smokers are more at risk than non-smokers. This statistical probability is generated from real data, and expresses the likelihood/risk of future damage/injury on well-understood physical and theoretical principles.
I can be confident, though, that I don’t have to heed their advice; I could take up smoking again if I wish after all, it’s a free world (cough). For whilst I am told that I would be at an increased risk, it is, after all, only a statistical risk; there is no certainty that I would have another attack, nor can they specify a timescale, either for another prospective attack, or for my future mortality (which will come, its just a matter of when…).
So while I can reasonably assume that I would be at increased risk if I did smoke, I can also (apparently) rationally choose to ignore this advice, since it is speculative and not able to commit to a certainty that I will have a heart attack in the future.
What do you think? Should I take up smoking again? Am I trying to find an excuse to continue doing something which I enjoy and is a habit, even though I know that it is going to be bad for me eventually?
Likewise, I can (apparently) rationally choose to ignore the experts who have used real world data and have calculated the risks using statistical probability, to tell me that the climate is warming, that sea level will rise this century, that patterns of weather on which agriculture and food supply rely are likely to change. After all, their analysis is also ‘speculative’, and there are no certainties about the future of the climate/environment.
Here is the chance for you to give me some advice, then; should I adapt (smoke, but stop if I don’t feel well?), mitigate (stop and avoid the increased risk altogether?), or ameliorate (buy some chewing gum/patches, eat boiled sweets, whatever?). Perhaps I can just ignore it, and it will all go away eventually… ater all, we all have to die some time.
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.
Two streams of thought arise from the announcement from the BAS that yet another chunk of the Peninsula’s long-term ice shelf is on the verge of splitting off permanently.
The first is to wonder why there are still people who can honestly (inasmuch as they believe it, even though it’s misguided) claim that GW is not really happening. In this category go all the people who spend endless hours attempting to undermine the temperature record in one way or another.
If all that’s left in my gooey grasp is a lolly-stick, there doesn’t seem to be much point in wondering whether the lolly has melted temporarily or on a more long-term basis. There doesn’t seem to be much point discussing whether or not lolly-melting temperatures have been synthetically arrived at by a cabal of lolly-scientists in search of hoards of lolly, or whether the official body responsible for lolly checking is staffed by political radicals with dubious sexual tendencies and atheistic views.
Not much point, because the lolly has gone. No lolly. Bye-bye, cold stuff.
The other stream is the one about what, in the face of the scale and enormity of the problem of climate change, we should or shouldn’t be bothered to do as individuals or consumers (in contrast to institutions and industry). It is easy to understand why some people feel that action on climate change is somewhat pointless, and that token behaviour is simply hypocritical, or perhaps simply self-deluding. It is also easy to see that such an attitude stems, ultimately, from the conception of the world as constituted of many individuals (including ourselves), none of which has substantive power, as opposed to being made up of loosely cohesive groups of people with common desires, aims and beliefs.
You don’t have to join a club to be a part; by doing you are being a part. You don’t have to wear woollen clothing or eat vegetables; there are very few things you might feel compelled to do, unless perhaps it is such things as consuming with thought, travelling with the cost in mind, ending the inclination to waste or replace. You don’t have to sign up to anything, or pay anything. First off, you need to work out whether you belong to a society or are distinct from it. Are you a part, or apart? If you can come to terms with your relative place in the world, then you can start to see the value in your own actions.