I am convinced that there are a number of rules that are able to be used in multiple different fields to explain things and to aid in making the right choices. I don’t plan on going into all of them now because I haven’t tried to put together an exhaustive list; I have simply noticed them coming up again and again in life. The one I have noticed is particularly relevant to current events for the last year or so is the rule that strength is found in diversity.
If you are growing a crop, or indeed any kind of garden you may not realise it but the ability of your garden to thrive will be greatly increased by diversifying the plants that you wish to grow. If you have a solid block with only one type of plant in it you will find that as soon as a pest realises how tasty that plant is there will be nothing there to distract that pest. You have made a nice big clear patch of tasty food that is going to attract creatures who will swarm across that area and finish off the whole lot unless you employ all sorts of unpleasant methods to get rid of them.
If you instead have a patch that mixes up a load of different plants then your garden becomes stronger for it. Spurges will deter things that move through the soil, lavender deters many flying pests, nettles make an attractive meal for creatures that might otherwise go for your brassicas. Simply having any plants there can act as a hiding spot for your plants so that pests don’t even realise they are there. Beyond pests bare soil allows water to evaporate off into the air while plant cover can keep the water in so that your other plants can benefit. Even amongst those farmers who do grow a single crop on a piece of land to all exclusion of other plants it is well known that over a four year period diversification in the form of a rotation system keeps the soil healthier.
The rule pops up again in regard to pets. If you have a pure bred dog then you can take it to dog shows and it will look beautiful, etc, but any dog breeder knows that pure breeds have disadvantages that mongrels don’t have. Any faults in a breed are accentuated by being bred into a breed over successive generations. A common complaint in a lot of dogs I have known is weak hind legs, and shortened lifespan. Dogs that have a diverse range of DNA derive greater strength from it. That is a central principle of evolution.
Greater diversity in DNA leads to all sorts of advantages as we take the strengths of both of our parents and hopefully leave the weaknesses. That is why we don’t marry our brothers and sisters. It is not because they are so annoying, it is because their genes are too similar to ours. Without diversity we risk the danger of unpleasant results in our children.
The rule is also clear in investment. If you have invested all your money in housing then a drop in house prices is an utter disaster. If instead you have invested partly in housing, partly in bonds, partly in stocks, partly in antiques, and partly in private business adventures then a loss in any of those areas, while unfortunate is not going to irreparably damage your finances. That diversity is your strength; that is what keeps you afloat in the midst of disaster.
In the running of a business there are also similar advantages of diversity. When building a team for a project you want to have all skill sets represented in order to be able to get the best results. You need people who are good at leading, but if you had nothing but leaders your team would see a lot of conflicts, you also need people who are good at following. You need people who are good at coming up with ideas, but you also need people who are good at putting those ideas into actions. You need people who can get a lot of work done quickly, but you will also need people who are good at ensuring fine details get the attention they need. All these qualities are unlikely to exist in the same person so you need the diversity offered by many different people in order to form the strongest team.
If I racked my brains I could probably come up with many examples of diversity being a form of strength in many different situations. That would detract from the central message I want to get across. The problem today is that people do not realise how important the strength of diversity is. In America over the last few days we have had neo-nazis marching against the diversity that comes from different races sharing a common land. In Britain we are living through the extended process of Brexit because people think that being part of a community of like minded nations makes us weaker instead of stronger.
Personally I support remaining in the EU, but that is because I recognise that diversity gives strength rather than weakens us. There are certainly flaws in the system but those are things to be fixed. Thanks to the diversity of the EU nations it is unlikely that issues will remain unfixed; anything that favours one nation or group above the others will find opposition from the nations it doesn’t favour. If you want to see what comes from losing that diversity then the economic losses being seen in Britain at present are a good place to start looking.
I don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, but I have books on history, sociology, biology, etc, etc. I have too many books to be able to read them all to tell the truth. Those books allow me to see what has been and what currently is. From seeing how things have worked in the past it gives a reasonable impression of what is likely to happen in the future. Where we lose diversity we create gaps in our defences. We need to fill those gaps in order to strengthen ourselves; we can’t build a wall with only bricks, we need mortar as well.
Thankfully there are people fighting to create greater diversity. We have more women becoming politicians, or judges, we have young black women making strides in entering universities like Cambridge which were once homogenous groups of white males. However wherever there are people trying to increase diversity there is also opposition. People need to realise that increasing diversity doesn’t just benefit those new elements that we allow into our societies and groups; increasing diversity benefits all of us. Even when it appears to give individuals disadvantages they didn’t previously have, it also gives those individuals a stronger environment in which to live. It increases competition and makes their world a better place because of that strength.
When you think about it on a mathematical and a psychological level karma must exist. Psychologically we all maintain an approximate balance so that we cannot be too happy or too miserable in perpetuity. This can be seen in the difference between people who live in first world nations and those who live in third world nations. Those of us who are blessed to have computers and electric, houses to live in, etc have different things to feel bad about, we can have bad days, we can even feel suicidal. Those who live with none of these benefits, no house, no electric, no food, etc can have good days; they find their joy elsewhere. If someone who is in a 1st world country will kill themselves out of misery then they obviously feel worse than someone in a third world country who is not miserable enough to kill themselves. The result of this internal balance which draws our feelings and sensations back towards a central stable area will mean that anyone who takes advantage of others for their own gain will achieve nothing because their experience will always pull back towards that central average.
It is similar in action to the way a drug user will gradually feel less joy at using their drug and will always want more an more. There is never any way in which a person can have more than others on an internal experiential level on any lasting basis. In fact there is also no way that a person can maintain an average feeling of sensation unless they are mentally damaged in some way because their experience will always be fluctuating either side of the central average or else the highs will have no lows to contrast against in order to be able to recognise the difference in them.
This psychological tendency to always aim for balance works in tandem with the mathematical tendency for numbers to always balance out. If you roll a dice millions of times you will ultimately find that any particular number will have approximately the same chance as any other number coming up. Life may be more complex than a six sided die but the same principle will apply. Over time things will have a tendency to average out. You may have a number of good days but you will also have a number of bad days in how fate tends to treat you. One day you will find a penny and on another day you will lose a penny. If you work harder you will earn more but if you work less hard you will earn less.
Most of the time this principle is very easy to see in action. The outliers are the problem in this theory. Human experience could be represented on a bell curve where most experience will be in the centre of the bell curve and at the edges there will be a few who seem remarkably lucky or remarkably unlucky. I have already pointed out that these outliers will have their experience drawn to a central stable set of feelings so the appearance of good luck or bad luck is merely an appearance as it seems to those viewing their experience from outside. The homeless person has advantages in some manners and, believe it or not, the wealthy person also has disadvantages. For instance, when you can afford anything you want instantly, then where is the joy of anticipation? You move from one purchase to another experiencing a fraction of the joy any of those purchases would give one of us. Likewise, if you are cold and wet then the sheer pleasure you can feel from the occasions when you step into the warm and put on dry clothes are unimagineable to someone who has never had that experience. So once again we see the action of the psychological manifestation of karma combining with chance to always see that balance is achieved.
When it happens that someone seems to experience misery or joy for longer than seems natural then it is usually because they have imposed that upon themselves. Someone who has done something bad to another person will often feel guilty about it and that sensation of guilt will force them to judge themselves badly, while someone who has brought joy to others will go away with a warm feeling of having done the right thing. This has been proven in experiments where people were given money and told to go out and spend it. At the end of the day their feelings of happiness were compared to the beginning of the day and it was discovered that those who had helped others with the money felt far more happiness than those who had spent it on themselves. This is probably an evolutionary mechanism that is inbuilt by the mutual protection we gain from living in groups above the danger that individuals would have felt if living alone in the wild. This nature of cooperation and sharing would have greatly facilitated communal living and seen reciprocaton from others, which of course is a far more obvious manifestation of karma achieving balance between individuals.
The obvious exception to this would be sociopaths who feel little compulsion to help others due to their limited empathy. Hoever even sociopaths have been shown to have emotions, although on a greatly reduced level, so even they will be able to feel unhappiness or happiness in response to their actions. Additionally the greatly diminished state of their emotional level could be considered by those who have a typical experience of joy to be a punishment in itself. Plus the sociopath will often have had to have been through a horrific experience to damage their mind in that way so the loss of emotion is once again a way in which the psyche tries to achieve the central balance and withdraw from the extreme of the horror that they have already experienced.
In essence it ultimately becomes impossible for anyone to ever experience any joy over and above their fellow humans, no matter how much they take advantage of them, but similarly as karma dictates, noone is able to experience more misery than their fellow beings. Balance will always be achieved in the end.
However I am certain that everyone reading this will be uncertain about this conclusion. Everyone knows of somebody, or is somebody who has suffered a terrible life changing incident that has greatly reduced their overal happiness. There is certainly evidence that such circumstances can impact upon a person’s ability to feel happiness in their lives. Regardless of what conclusions you draw from this evidence there still may be a way for karma to redeem itself, but to do so the conversation must pass into areas that are somewhat more philosophical. In religion the problem is easily dealt with through reincarnation or the afterlife. There are certain harshnesses to the idea of hell and heaven but karma is more likely to be associated with reincarnation.
I am not going to step into discussion of contiuity from one life to another but I will propose that in the event of reincarnation, if it does indeed exist, we are unable to retain memories from previous lives. If we did then there would be little point in reincarnating in a form to learn the lessons of the previous life as we would simply continue where we left off. Given the lack of memory actual physical continuity is not necessary as much as a mathematical continuity. Indeed the essence of spiritual issues is their detachment from the physical. The question should therefore centre around how much spiritual existence resembles physical existence. All that would be needed for the corresponding and contrasting life to come into existence following the end of our own would be the laws of averages. To put it simplistically, if at one point a person has behaved heinously and must therefore be taught the error of his ways then a corresponding life must come into existence in which those lessons can be learnt, perhaps the life of a devout monk or the life of a beggar. As there is no memory from one life to another there is a missing continuity between the death of the one and the birth of the next. Additionally there is no physical continuity. There is a ‘spiritual’ continuity but what exactly does that mean?
Essentially, do we have individual souls? The answer according to many religious and philosophical beliefs is that ultimately we are all one. We all have god within us and we are seeking for reunification, etc, etc, etc. Unsatisfying though it might seem, the only continuity necessary appears to be that the death of one with the birth of the other must both be connected by being related by both being part of the same existence. Given the perceived nature of an all powerful god it is not even necessary that the two lives should exist consecutively. The nature of us all being one, means, that in the formless nature of a fluid universe, we can in our ‘spiritual’ aspect be experiencing two contrasting lives separately and simultaneously. Such is the nature of being part of a unified spiritual embodiment that is purported to have omnipotence. To give it any limitation in that regard or to insist it follows the laws of physics misunderstands the nature of omnipotence and the power it has to be governed by physical laws, yet simultaneously not governed. Naturally this falls a little outside the previous arguments I have made but considering karma is a theory that has always been considered to fall in line with the more esoteric ways of thinking it would probably be inappropriate not to cover some of the less conventional and scientific manners in which the concept could be described.
Naturally, if we need to rely on this final hypothesis, that can be difficult to come to terms with if we do not already believe in some kind of spiritual world already. The impossibility of seeing beyond death or before birth renders any concerns academic. The logic falls into place upon certain assumptions, but even if those assumptions prove to be false it makes little difference. Similarly to a legal fiction this is a fiction that explains an idea and process, but does so in such a way that is not verifiable by material means. Unfortunately this means that we have to rely on faith alone to accept this final argument as it is a faith based argument. The positive side is that it makes no difference whether we believe it or not, so the action of faith is to simply take it for granted in the same way as Pascal might wager.
I am sure I can’t be the only one thinking this but there seems to be little said about it online. Jeremy Corbyn needs to pledge massive support for Britain’s intelligence agencies. There are constant accusations being laid against him that he is not taking Britain’s security seriously. The controversy behind his decision not to back trident has been overblown. We do not need trident and will never use trident but that is not to say that we don’t need protection.
We are fortunate to live on an archipelago/island in Britain which gives us a moderate amount of safety against many attacks from other nations but being known as the little satan due to our special relationship with the US is evidence that there are people out there who do not particularly care for us. There are essentially two ways of ensuring our safety. One is the gung ho approach that is currently being taken by stronger military powers and the other is to know enough that we can stop trouble before it starts.
In a modern liberal society there is a certain amount of distaste felt about the idea of killing people who upset us. Even in World War I there were conscientious objectors, a trend that has increased throughout the twentieth century and will probably continue to increase as long as our own people are not trodden down completely by those who are in power. For this reason it makes sense that we should be taking the second option of combatting opposition with intelligence. The hallmark of modern society is the way in which we apply our intelligence. In something as sensitive as national security it makes sense that we should apply intelligence to an even higher degree.
In addition to this rather obvious reasoning is the continued speculation that the internal intelligence services are observing the rise of the current labour leader with some trepidation. A pledge to support the intelligence services to a far higher degree than the current government would do a lot to ensure backing from within their hidden ranks.
Trident may work as a deterrent, but it might as well be a series of giant cardboard cutouts for all the likelihood of it ever being deployed, even by a gung ho prime minister. It is an expensive bluff. The intelligence services are no bluff. They are actually doing their work, unseen, in the background. There is a lot of worry about exactly what that work is but investment is not going to make that worse. Investment will enable them to use greater precision and discernment. It will increase our security and ensure that they can direct their efforts where they are really needed.
The money that is spent on Trident, if spent on MI6/GCHQ/MI5 would continue to act as a deterrent. Any foreign power that is not afraid of that much investment in intelligence needs to invest in a little more intelligence themselves. Additionally this deterrent will be operating not only as a deterrent, it will actually be doing its job as well.
Cardinal Richilieu was infamous for his network of information gatherers. That is what is needed by Corbyn. Given the number of objections by the more powerful sectors in society he needs as much help as he can get to defend against them. The dual benefit of actually supplementing Britain’s defence in a meaningful and cost effective manner is simply a bonus to the benefit that such an approach could give him. It is all very well having a great defensive power but it would be far better to have the knowledge that would enable us not to need it.
Martin Shkreli has been in the news of late due to the interesting tactic of buying a biotech company and raising a drug price by approximately 5000%. Pills which had started at $13.50 and had only risen about 5 dollars suddenly find themselves at $750 per pill. While it is certain that there will be people out there who are prepared to pay that sort of figure in order to stay alive there will be a vast majority who simply cannot afford it. If my life depended on pills that cost $750 each then I would be saying my goodbyes. The likelihood that many potential customers would simply die is not good for the bottom line of any company. First rule of business, as any insurance company will tell you, is maintain the life of your customers.
So with the likelihood that many people simply could not pay one has to wonder how profitable it could possibly be to raise prices so high, especially when it also leads to you becoming one of the most hated men in the world. It may be that the figures do balance out and that Shkreli would really be able to lose a huge number of customers if enough people can afford to pay his exorbitant prices. It may be that there are more nefarious purposes behind his actions. A look into Shkreli’s past certainly suggests that nefarious purposes are not a thing that would slip his attention.
Shkreli’s success began when he was only 17. He suggested a particularly savvy deal in biotech which turned out to be so savvy that it led to an investigation for insider trading. Although the investigation did not find anything the continuance of suspicious circumstances accumulates a sensation of caution in relation to Shkrelin’s character. He was later discovered using multiple twitter accounts to give the appearance that his investments were better value than they actually might have been. For instance Fusion.net report a tweet worded “Damn Bruh, if Cohen is buying then your boy is buying too, nahmean.”
Fusion describe this as a seeming violation of securities law as well as of good taste. They make no mention of any action being taken though.
The rest of the article makes interesting reading as it mentions Shkreli being accused by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington of making inaccurate and misleading statements about the effectiveness of drugs in order to improve his position in regard to short investments.
Additional suspicious behaviour includes a very recent case in which he was sued for 65 million dollars by one of his own companies for allegedly using their funds to pay back customer losses in another company that he had recently opened. A tactic that has a flavour of Charles Ponzi all over it.
All told there are a lot of suspicious circumstances in Shkreli’s past which certainly seem to suggest that his approach is not the most ethical, but then can you really expect ethical behaviour from someone who is prepared to hike the price of a vital life saving medicine by 5000%. There is a line between purely unethical behaviour and behaviour that can draw criminal sanctions. So far Shkreli seems to have been quite free of criminal sanction but the question has to be considered, is this because he is an innocent who has never committed a crime, or is it pure luck?
The price rise he brought about seemed to have an immediate effect on the nasdaq biotech prices which dropped 4.41% on Monday. If you were the sort of person who was in the business of short selling then you could easily see the value in being able to effect this sort of change. It may be far fetched for someone with the limited set of thinking skills Shkreli demonstrates to anticipate the likelihood of major changes being announced in response to his actions but Clinton’s tweet was not completely unforeseable. Since then Shkreli has said that he will lower the price to one that is more affordable. There are times in Shkreli’s past where he has made similar price rises to drugs; it would be interesting to see how the nasdaq was affected the last time he made a price rise of a couple of thousand percent. Previously the rise was one that was only from about $1.50 to about $30. That is an increase that could be imagined as being payable. The current increase would make a year’s treatment for toxoplasmosis rise to over half a million dollars. The benefits of selling things cheaply are obviously not easy to understand in the world of Martin Shkreli.
Certainly with the list of interesting incidents above you could imagine anyone who was deliberately trying to influence stock prices would be getting gradually bolder and bolder. There is no doubt in my mind or the mind of most people that Shkreli’s ethics are more than questionable. Could this be the time that legal action eventually succeeds against him. It is difficult to say as I am not yet aware of legal action being proposed on the grounds of market manipulation. The information available about Shkreli on the internet shows that he is often the centre of controversies and legal actions for various courses of action that have surprisingly received little legal scrutiny.
There are people out there who wish to try and pursue Shkreli on any charges whatsoever, attempted genocide is one suggestion that I have heard. It seems that the evidence for a charge on market manipulation grounds would be favourable to anyone who is pursuing Shkreli. It is true that he probably has access to some incredibly talented lawyers but in the instance of biotech stock dropping by 4.41% across the nasdaq he has had an effect on a lot of other very powerful people. Where it may be that a blind eye is turned towards a lot of white collar crime the chances of that eye being turned full on in maximum scrutiny must be far higher where there are high powered victims of your actions. It is often in reaction to the greatest rogues that major improvements to legislation and legal infrastructure are made. If it hadn’t been for world war II there may have been no Human Rights Act or EU. Perhaps Shkreli deep down inside felt that the world of copyright and patent trolls was so egregious that he needed to force the hand of politics to introduce legislation to deal with it. Perhaps, but probably not.
Syria is an issue that demands new ways of dealing with conflict. The majority of the public concede that more refugees must be accepted, a point with which the prime minister appears to also agree now. The problem with refugees is that many consider them to have a similar effect on their destination nation as economic migrants would, so much so that the distinction between migrant and refugee has been one of the points of contention during the last few weeks.
Any government which has a major issue to deal with must seek to find the strengths in the situation rather than simply run scared from the problems. David Cameron infamously said that the solution to the crisis was not simply to accept more refugees. In this he is correct; the solution must go further than this. Opportunities must be sought to help those refugees in regaining their lives and their self respect.
It has been suggested to me that training refugees in how to fight and wage a war might be a solution, so that they can return to their nation and reclaim it for themselves. Whilst it is certain that many of them are currently unprepared for the conflict around them it is also certain that many of them are plainly not going to fit into the mold of a soldier. If this nation were overcome by war how many of the people you know would plainly not be up to the task of fighting in the traditional position of a soldier.
Likewise, military action and airstrikes are considered to be a necessary path for foreign governments. Military action is one of the courses that people oppose on idealistic grounds. For many it is simply out of the question, like suggesting a cull of squirrels to a group of vegans, it is not going to be taken well. While I do not offer opinions on potential military action I accept that it might be the chosen method of those in power and at present it might not be the time to resist that decision.
My opinion on the path to resolving the situation lies in knowledge. Perhaps it is my past as an educator that compels me to consider knowledge to be the most important way forward, just as I would assume by brother, the military strategist, to support military action. Different people from different walks of life will have different ideas which must be respected on the strength of their experience and specialist knowledge. And there lies that world ‘knowledge’ again.
The people who are currently being forced out of their country bring with them a great deal of knowledge and they also need a great deal of knowledge. They should be trained, but the training should not be in basic fighting skills. In a nod to the military perhaps they should at least be trained in strategy and logistics, but mainly they need training in problem solving, team building, diplomacy, and other arts of gentle control. Britain or any other nation should not be considered a final destination for any refugee. These other nations should be considered places where they can regroup and discover methods and ways in which they might regain their homeland.
The communication that is allowed by the use of the internet will enable a political state to exist without geographic boundaries. It is possible for people living in Berlin or London to communicate with people living in small villages in Devon. Refugees must be aided in organising themselves as a cohesive group while also allowing them to integrate into any host societies. The inevitable result of segregating them would ultimately be resentment on the part of hosting native populations.
While integrating with host nations, the refugees would be able to create cohesive groups to try and find solutions to their own problems without the need to rely on others to take action. Offering them training in bureaucratic and diplomatic arts would give them more peaceful weapons to win back their homes. In exchange they can offer knowledge of their own. People who live in nations outside the conflict need to hear about what is happening, why it happened and what led up to it happening. The arabic language they speak is something that more of use should grow accustomed with considering the way world politics is currently shaping itself.
This exchange of information would strengthen not only them but us as well. While I am sure that military maneuvers may be inevitable just as David Cameron asserted the solution was not simply to accept more refugees, I assert the solution is also not simply to rely on further escalation of conflict.
Since writing this I have had my attention drawn to this additional content: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14710-britains-syrian-diaspora-unites-to-build-peace-in-their-homeland . It is uncanny how closely it connects with what I have written and is probably more worthy of being read due to the information and facts contained within.
Polyglot is a word that is new to most people’s vocabularies. It describes someone who learns multiple languages. It seems kind of ironic in that learning foreign languages you become something for which you must learn a new word in English. The word was probably popularised more by Benny Lewis who has turned an inability to learn foreign languages into an ability to pick them up at a seemingly unnatural pace, claiming three months is adequate for fluency. He has now even published a book by the title ‘fluent in three months’ or ‘Fliessend in Drei Monaten’, which I presume he translated himself.
As more and more jobs are taken up by robots and finding employment becomes harder language ability becomes ever more important. There are many jobs that people believed could never be automated which are increasing danger of being handed over to machines, if they have not already been. It can be difficult to say which jobs are unlikely to be given to machines in the future. Skills and abilities that are considered to be things only humans can do are quickly being developed to a higher and higher extent in computers. Looking at how man made items are still appreciated over mass produced products it seems there is likely to always be options for craftsmen but language and translation looks like its value is disappearing. Google translate, real time voice translation and cameras that translate signs are all putting extra nails in the coffin of employability.
Language learning is in far less danger than it appears though. Direct personal interaction is one of those skills where humans are definitely recognised as an essential part of the process. Conversation is an art and a translator in an important business deal or a political exchange has a more important role to play than it first seems. A translator is able to subtly affect the meaning of phrases and terms by things as simple as tone of voice. Whether all translators realise this is uncertain. To be able to speak directly without any intervening need for a translator (human or otherwise) is a mark of respect that can win points in a deal with people from other nations. It is additionally a skill that reaps benefits in the distant future as it has been shown that an ability with multiple languages can protect against the brain disorders that become increasingly inevitable as you grow older.
Think of how much more enjoyable it is to watch a foreign movie without having to read subtitles and without having to listen to bad dubbed on sound. Not to mention the beauty of hearing interesting new words; a term I heard that I particularly liked the other day was Brannen Skadet in Norwegian, even though it means fire damaged it feels so nice coming off the tongue. If you appreciate the beauty of old literature and poetry then just imagine how it must feel to read old literature and poetry in Dutch, a language that has some fantastic 18th century words.
If anything the wealth of computer translation software is most likely to increase our natural capacity to speak other languages. The fact that you are reading this in English probably means you are likely to know fewer languages than the people of most nations of the world simply because they often have to learn English on top of their native language. This puts an advantage in their direction as they prove that in addition to anything you can do they can also speak their own language natively. Sites like duolingo and memrise seem to be appearing all the time; apps on the smartphones offer multiple ways to learn multiple languages. It becomes easier all the time to learn new languages. If you don’t want to make an extra effort then it is still easy to simply turn on subtitles in DVDs to expose yourself to different languages.
As far as my usual blogs go this one is a bit self indulgent, but if it can encourage a single person to enrich their life with a new language then I am glad to have written it. It can be very important to dismiss language skills now that it is so easy to get good translations but there are so many reasons aside from the desire to obtain a translation that mean language learning will remain of importance to us far into the future, if not forever.
Jeremy Corbyn seems to have done something that nobody has managed for many decades. He is making politics seem interesting. Last year when we had Russell Brand telling us not to bother voting because it was a waste of time and our voices made little impact on the actions of the political clone army that run things, a lot of people listened. Or at least they felt their own suspicions were being backed up by a nominal comedian/celebrity. Throughout my whole life politics has been dull; when it threatens to get interesting there is a political reaction that injects so much new dullness that I couldn’t describe it to you without you leaving this page to go and do something more interesting instead. Fortunately I wouldn’t tell you anyway as when it happened I think I might have fallen asleep or urgently gone to watch some paint drying.
Of course they say that the darkness is at its thickest just before dawn; of course this is complete rubbish, it is actually darkest in the middle of the night, but the analogy may apply in politics. Just about when politics was at its indisputably highest levels of dullness, corruption, disenfranchisement, and many other negative things Jeremy Corbyn just seems to have popped up out of nowhere. At one point there was a labour leadership contest full of contenders and then suddenly the selfsame leadership contest also had Jeremy Corbyn, who nobody seemed to have invited and he was busy doing things that nobody liked who was in the party. If it was an ordinary party like those you go to on Saturday night then Corbyn would essentially have turned up at about 10:30 with a couple of six packs and a crate of wine; he would have taken Justin Bieber off the stereo and tossed the CD out of the window before putting on a mix he made himself of Led Zeppelin, The Blue Oyster Cult, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and other similarly non Bieber fare. Unfortunately it would appear he turned up to a party being held by a pair of accountants to celebrate their new conservatory designs, and they are planning to get up early in the morning.
Jeremy Corbyn is the most popular choice with voting labour members because he is undoubtedly the only hope that labour has for being taken seriously as a party for the people in the future, and the only chance that labour has of offering a viable alternative who would be worth voting into parliament. He is also the most popular choice with the tories because he will obviously prevent labour being taken seriously in any way whatsoever and will destroy any chance they have of ever being a viable alternative to the conservative party and getting into power. He is also the least favoured choice of the labour voter on account of these same reasons, but he is also the least favoured choice of the typical tory on account of he may actually make the world a nice place to live for people who don’t have so much money that they could upgrade a slurry pit into a nice place to live if they really wanted to.
Of course it is difficult to see the future so anyone who is working towards a definite strategy only really has about a 50% chance of being successful. Condorcet used to reckon that a large enough group of people were capable of making decisions between them that would usually be correct. Condorcet didn’t have access to the knowledge of modern psychology that points out that most people will follow the opinions of any idiot who speaks loudly and confidently enough. It is therefore difficult to accurately choose which outcome will occur if Corbyn gets in. Personally I cling to the beautiful irony of all the tories trying to influence things to help him get in only to discover that the result is a Labour government that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Miliband came closer than many people think during the last election. It has been expertly hushed up that his government actually got more votes that Blair did last time he was voted into power. It seems that all the achievements of labour have been kept quiet recently. I can only imagine that David Cameron’s background in marketing has allowed him to keep all the good ad men to himself.
I don’t feel that this is my argument to take part in. Many of my friends will no doubt be horrified by this. Most people I know are very vocal in their support for Corbyn. I could easily be swayed towards him, in fact I think I have already been swayed towards him. Previously I would have said that the strategic vote was more important for gaining power than the idealistic vote but when I think of how many people feel disenfranchised by modern politics it is probable that strategy and idealism are walking hand in hand at the moment. I feel for the old conservative labour view that all these new labour members are really being quite unfair in coming into their club and noisily messing things up; I kind of think it is not my place to do so, but to all those who are currently shaking things up for the future of the labour party I salute you and wish you well. I hope the choices you make work out for all of us.
I heard Noam Chomsky make a comparison between football and politics the other day. He said that while few people understood what was going on in politics the ability ordinary people had to talk about football in depth showed that people weren’t avoiding politics because they didn’t have the ability to understand. Noam pointed out that the intricacies that could develop in the relation of all the players in all the teams over the course of a year created a network of data that left him completely lost, yet ordinary blokes down the pub knew it all inside out.
The reason that all this brain power is directed into things like sport is that in sport there is so much flexibility of outcome. An individual may not be able to affect anything personally but it somehow feels like the world in which it takes place does not reject the input of the individual. Ordinary people may not be directors, coaches, or players, but they can still be part of the debate. They may change nothing as individuals but collectively it certainly appears that the debate can have an effect on the overall game. The difference in politics is that it feels so futile. The individual has no effect, but the individual often doesn’t even have the illusion of an effect. Even those within the system don’t appear to have an effect. Britain’s party leaders seem to regularly talk about making changes but in reality they can’t even change the ‘Punch and Judy’ format of the way in which people address each other in the house of commons. If leaders are unable to simply change the rules around how people speak to each other to something more respectful then how on Earth are they going to be able to make any substantive changes.
Politics are currently working on the wrong model. In football the way things work is fairly obvious. Teams fight it out until only the best one is left and they win the cup, or generally actions along those lines. Each time a team goes to play football it is doing its job. The competing is the job and each team gets rewarded for doing things their way to the best of their ability.
In politics the different teams involved do not do their jobs until after they have won the competition. Up until that point they essentially pretend to do their job and then if everyone thinks that their ‘fantasy football’ style politics would be effective then maybe they will get voted in and be able to do it for real. There is no way to objectively test if their methods work though. In football the way to objectively test if a team’s methods work is to see if they won the game. It is obvious. In politics there is no objectivity like this. The team who is trying to win has to try to work out what sort of things the public would like and then pretend that is what they would do. The result means that they, lie about their principles; they mimic the group who has already won because their tactics must have worked, even though they are meant to be opposed, i.e. opposite.
Our political parties cannot be chosen for objective reasons. They can only be chosen because of personal biases or because the current party in power has screwed things up so badly that we have no other choice beside trying to walk across the channel. My Grandmother refused to vote liberal because she said they couldn’t be trusted, although if they had ever been given the chance to learn from that mistake it could only have been when she was a very small child. Certainly I don’t think Lloyd George would have been likely to make the same mistakes again in the 1980s, having long since shuffled off the mortal coil. There was no objective reason to think that they would be remotely similar to the last liberal government.
This is my complaint. No wonder sports are easier to relate to than politics. Most of politics is just one small group of people, fewer than a thousand in a country of sixty million, doing their own thing, more or less unswayed by those who want change. Luckily I have a solution.
As I have pointed out, every week when football teams compete they do so by doing their job. The solution for political parties wholly failing to achieve anything comparable in their own operation is for political parties to start competing before they get into power. Local MPs should be solving their constituent’s problems in their capacity as MP whether they succeed in gaining a parliamentary seat or not. If a candidate fails and wishes to step down then they should be immediately replaced by someone prepared to do their job immediately. A replacement shouldn’t be chosen only for the purpose of running for election. A candidate should be chosen immediately to try and solve local issues and rally people together even if their is no hope of them gaining power for another five years.
The political parties should be operating at a national scale to make large changes to the way things are done. They should consider themselves to be like large multipurpose charities. There should be no focus on one particular field, they should be charities that deal with the day to day running of the country. They should be able to prove their worth as potential leaders to run our country by their ability to raise money and then use that money to improve the lives of the people rather than saving it for advertising and canvassing. If we could see parties achieve success when they are not in power then we are far more likely to put them in power where they get the opportunity to make even bigger changes. We should not have to vote for people based on assurances which will probably never attain fruition.
Currently one of the most hated columnists/celebrities/presenters/human beings in the UK Katie Hopkins does have some fans though they are probably fairly demented. She has far more enemies. She regularly receives death threats and is parodied by alternative press, and most people think she deserves pretty much every response she has so far received. Not only that but she doesn’t care what people think of her. In combination with no tolerance whatsoever for those who she criticises, she has a remarkably high tolerance for any negative reactions.
It seems that her detestable personality may have a physical basis and that it could shortly be affected by a physical procedure to be carried out by open brain surgery to cure her of epilepsy. Hopkins claims to have attacks that affect her on an almost nightly basis. This is extreme given that most epileptics would expect attacks perhaps twice per week. The abnormal qualities in her personality are similarly extreme.
Bert Park describes one of the mechanisms of epilepsy as involving “An inability to assign appropriate emotional significance to external stimuli.” This certainly sounds like Hopkins, and describes her explanation of her behaviour. In the same chapter on saints and fanatics Park also has similar suggestions to make as a partial hypothesis to explain the actions and behaviour of a number of figures through history who fall on both sides of the line of good and evil but are all linked together by the exaggerated emotional response to external stimuli. Joan of Arc being one example and Adolf Hitler another.
“I not only proposed that the Fuehrer suffered from gallbladder disease and Parkinson’s syndrome but also suggested that his personality disorder might have been explained on the basis of temporal lobe epilepsy”
Interestingly when watching video of Katie Hopkins she does show herself to have similar mannerisms and exaggerated movements to those which Adolf Hitler uses in his speeches on film.
After the conclusion of her current television series Hopkins is to make a choice about whether or not to go ahead with the surgery to cure her epilepsy. She has spoken of a fear that she may die during the surgery or lose the use of one or more limbs. She also mentions the possibility that she may come around to find that she has a Welsh accent or has become a communist. While these comments may be tongue in cheek there is a very real chance that her personality may be radically changed after the surgery. It is wise that she waits till after the current television series as she may not have the same outspoken views afterwards. Although it is also possible that her attitudes may have become such an ingrained part of her brain that they will remain even after the instability has been corrected.
In general where surgery is successful it is likely that personality disorders will see some improvement, the improvement being greater, the earlier it is caught. Hopkins is therefore taking a risk by waiting for work commitments to be ended, but then as she has made a career out of having an abrasive personality that is probably a considered choice. At any rate improvement will likely be gradual and in different areas of personality. The irritability and anger that power Katie’s rants is likely to decrease, as is the spontaneity that often gets her into trouble, especially some time after the operation when things have started to repair themselves. Looking at past results it seems that it is the more severe symptoms that are likely to be most profoundly affected. At Katie Hopkin’s age it will be difficult to have as major an impact as would be possible with a younger subject but over time the new way in which the brain works will start to have an effect on the existing architecture. The gradual changes that appear in the first couple of years after the operation will continue to a degree in the future.
When Phineas Gage’s head was penetrated with an iron bar his entire life changed. He had lost substantially more of his brain than is likely to be removed in an operation for epilepsy. People said this is not Gage anymore.
It may be that whoever comes out of that operating theatre will not be Katie Hopkins as we know her. Her personality may grow to be so different that she will be deeply ashamed of the Katie Hopkins persona. Then again it is also possible that she may become even more Katie Hopkins than she is now. Whatever happens it seems a bit too coincidental at this point that she has a brain disorder and she also has an obviously malfunctioning personality residing within that brain. If a new improved Katie Hopkins emerges from the operating theatre then we may be able to look back on her time as a columnist and see that what entertained and outraged people was an effect of her disorder.
The reason she is on television might be very much like the way in which people laughed at fools, madmen and dwarves in history. In one episode of Blackadder the queen reminisces about the funny people with bells who made her laugh as a child. When her nurses suggests “Jesters?” it is revealed that the queen was actually thinking of lepers. One of the earliest examples of compensation for injury in the service of the crown was given to a man who fell from his horse, not because it was intended as compensation but because it amused the king so much. The manner in which disability and injury was treated in past centuries seems abhorrent to modern civilisation, in a similar light to the way in which Hopkins herself often speaks on television. It may be that in our blindness to their being an actual cause for her behaviour we are guilty of having a similar attitude to the afflicted of today simply because we are unable to recognise their affliction. She may have a disorder that renders her entertaining and is therefore the modern equivalent of a court jester. Because mental issues are so much less visible they are far easier to deride. Mockery of physical disabilities is no longer acceptable, I guess until mental disorders and personality disorders can be more easily identified people will continue to be used in this way because the state of their mind is easy to mock and makes an audience drawing spectacle.
I am not a fan of Katie Hopkins myself and do not think she should be allowed to say the things she says on television. Her opinions step beyond the boundaries of defensible free speech because they are abnormal. She does not represent any valid opinions on the subjects she discusses. I do look forward to seeing if the surgery will create positive changes for her. I can only wish her the best in that regard because in wishing her the best we may also be free of the negative persona that she has inflicted on us since her time on the Apprentice. She fears she may die on the operating table but it is just as likely that if she does then a far better Katie Hopkins will live in her stead.
Bert E. Park, Ailing, Aging, Addicted: Studies of Compromised Leadership , University Press of Kentucky.