comparisons are bad science, but ignoring even bad science can be worse

It’s not good to compare out of anger, but to compare with coldness is vengeful in the extreme.

A balance, as always in life, far outruns the sprints of pent-up fury.

Yet the fury of the young and old, who find themselves unable to reach their potential, who find themselves called blunt tools by famous newspaper liberals, does demand of us all that they – that we – are offered a better shake of the dice.

In fact, they simply deserve a shake of dice which are not loaded against them from the start.

If we learn to see ourselves as blunt tools, intellectually and emotionally too maybe – if that is the idea we accept about ourselves, more so because interested parties tell us so with commanding authority – then what chance do we have of changing the baselines?  What chance do we have as society, culture, business, art, education and medicine to fashion the hierarchies of all our relationships in a way that befits our century?

I am sometimes aggressively against the waste of humanity that modern work has imposed on how we are.  I shout and vent when I should discuss and debate.

But allegedly careful debate is often conducted by those who would share the blunt tool thesis: there are the clever by nature (often themselves), the industrious by temperament – and then there are the rest of us who deserve only a life of unremitting toil.

And many of us now … well … not even that.

I complain vigorously about the wasteful culture of the city I have lived in for the majority of my life. I see virtues in other places and make negative comparisons about the city in question.

And there are people who say: “Make a difference locally” – whatever that locally may be like.  And I would argue – where this locally ranges from wilfully mediocre to petty smalltown mafia – that this is exactly the same as telling an abused spouse they should hold out for better times.  And when politics and its practitioners demand we get involved because if we don’t then it will involve us on its own terms, we are creating inequalities of power that replicate awfully.

Such inequalities exist in many areas: between good friends only love and compassion drive what we do; between doctors & nurses and their patients, however, the prime responsibility ends up being  that which the institutions dictate, and this ultimately is the state.  Compassion is a huge black hole of an absence here, too: massive training programmes would be necessary to tip the balance in favour of a more whole-person approach to wellbeing and recovery.

Meanwhile, a husband who demands his wife does his bidding because a piece of paper says she must is just as unjust as the previous examples – and just as widespread.

Therefore, when we say a desultory childhood and young adulthood wasted in a space of middling creativity and ideas generation should be fought and battled with by those with finite lives (this is my case, by the way), when so many wonderful environments far more beneficial to mental and creative wellbeing already exist, we surely have no right to go ahead and demand this of any young person: we have no right at all to demand they stay at home to fight cruelly loaded dice.

And if not to be asked of young people, then not of older generations either.

Above all, we must respect the decisions and choices of sovereign individuals: local is not necessarily good; those who pursue global are not always pursuing the pernicious. 

Each to be judged on their own multiple merits.  And just as rightly, in terms of their own negatives.

And then let a judicious combination emerge, which serves to enrich us all.

The combination already has an optimistic name: glocalism.

So true: comparisons are often a poor science.  But far poorer still is to allow human beings to live their lives, in the belief handed down by those with grand and bountiful – but not benevolent – privilege, that some greater power made such human tools fit only to be cogs in deathly machine.

Let our boundaries exist, of course, to allow beautiful identities to coexist generously and with compassion, but equally let these boundaries not enclose us away from each other: for I plead that all boundaries be osmotic in nature.  Above all, free and unbidden passage of ideas, peoples, cultures, unconventionalities and the refreshing quirkinesses of the truly free.

And let our litmus test be as follows: if we can respond to anyone’s curious ways of seeing and doing and believing and making and doing – where such ways respect above all the ways of others – with a hug of humanity and a welcome and an emotional and intellectual embrace, we have done the job our 21st civilisation demands of us.  And where the unconventional stops being seen as such, where the wildest of dreams becomes second nature – logical and kindly, in fact – then we have done our job too.

And where we can express our love of difference in such manners, we will know that each and every one of us is slowly rising from the prejudices of upbringing and adult hurt and abuse to those young minds who should’ve enjoyed better.  Even as we appreciate that these culpable adults perhaps themselves, in their own times, had no opportunity either to rid themselves of the very same pain they went and – in turn – inflicted.

so was austerity designed to stop or promote unconditional basic incomes?

More of these stories appear by the minute.  This from Finland, for example, has been rumbling away for a while:

The growing demand for a solution to austerity economics seems unstoppable – and in many parts of the world, unconditional basic incomes (UBI) are gaining ground.

In the eyes and on the tongues of the chattering classes, at least.

I’ve already argued elsewhere that UBI – and its guaranteed income streams, both for essentials as well as items of a more luxurious nature – could mean the end of traditional business models, in particular for the content industry:

Once #UBI comes in, tech, food, leisure and car corps will of course benefit from such predictable spending. But in every big change in society, someone always will lose out. And in this particular case it will surely be the content industry as it currently stands. Who’ll need paid-up journalists – or even a resource-hungry ad-plagued website – when volunteers, using cheap or zero-cost social media, tablets, smartphones and PCs they inevitably have for other purposes, can supplement their guaranteed income from the state with other activities of such a pleasurable and community-focussed nature?

And so seeing how, in this way, UBI would suit significant parts of the techie sides of big-business capitalism down to the ground, I automatically assumed that austerity’s promoters and sponsors were working in cahoots with the aforementioned big business.

But now I’m not so sure.

Let’s analyse what the Tory-led government here in the UK was doing since 2010.  That is to say, demonising the poor, in particular those dependent on state benefits, to such an extent that they have ultimately been blamed for the supposedly parlous state of the wider economy.

Yes.  Many have explained the strategy away as a distracting action to divert attention from the truly culpable individuals and orgs, mainly involved in the murky ins and outs of the financial services sector.  But it’s an awfully complex movement of smoke and mirrors, simply to hide from the public what they already know, fully know, to be the truth: rich people like rich people, and want to remain rich in the future.

Why go to all that trouble, knowing the British are always going to tend to put up with a helluva lot more than that?  Revolution and riots – with very few exceptions – are simply not what the long-suffering inhabitants of these islands get up to.

I think those who plan these things, or at the very least think carefully beforehand, are aware that the right wing of any politics – never mind that of the British body politic – would lose all reason to exist, absolutely entirely, if unconditional basic incomes became par for the course.

It’s not the redistribution of money that would destroy the right wing either.  No.  It’s simply the opportunity to turn one group of people against the other that would become fairly impossible.

But it’s not only the right wing which would lose out with the introduction of UBI.

Imagine a society where workers no longer needed to unionise.

Imagine a society where work was a weekend break.

Imagine a society where leisure was the 9 to 5.

Imagine a society where the sacred bond between jam tomorrow and striving today was broken forever more.

It’s not just the right which is looking to promote – and needs to perpetuate – austerity.  It’s also a certain group on the left which can’t believe in a civilisation where we actually spend most of our time carrying out civilised acts of gentlenesses, kindnesses, love, humour and discussion.

Where leisure and pleasure rule over dialectic and critique.

Where people can do what actually makes them happy … and not what makes them tiresomely weary.

In truth, if UBI came in, the political classes would lose huge rafts of control over us.  For one thing, the economic decisions which always augur “tough medicine” would no longer need to be boorishly wheeled out.  The rich would remain rich of course, but who’d care if we received the humane minimum which we’d need to live and let live?  And all kinds of new systems of time banks, maybe even barter, the virtual exchange of services and products for sure, would sprout up in hyperlocal communities, as little people decided to remain little in the full knowledge that happiness was far more important than the accumulation of unnecessary wealth.

Meanwhile, aspiration would be seen to be the empty and hollow concept it’s probably always been all along.  Instead of being a political tool to fashion a vacuous lottery of material futures, designed principally to keep ordinary people under the lock and key of consumerism, we could see our way through to reforging its nature so that financial measures were no longer the definers of our lives.

Austerity as a kickstarter for getting UBI in place more quickly?  Maybe, a tad cruelly in the event, for some it has been so after all.

Maybe they thought, in the beginning anyway, that more good would eventually come out of the process than bad.

But more and more, I’m beginning to think that at least with respect to its purely political promoters – not necessarily transnational businesspeople either but, rather, those very vested national interests whose positions in society depend entirely on keeping otherwise rounded people in preordained and squarely painful boxes – much of austerity has been aimed at constructing a firewall around predictable changes to a society whose nature could be turned utterly upside down … especially if work was no longer to be a political tool of control, nor human dignity’s denial a way of keeping the workers fearful and down.

why is the state so afraid of self-contained people?

The state and the people

I tweeted these ideas a few minutes ago:

Today’s post

Now in this post, for a change maybe, I’m not going to be slagging off the Tories, neo-liberals various or the huge consumerist corporations for doing their biz as they must.  Not much anyhow.

That’s not the initial purpose of today’s trains of thought in any way.

Instead, I’d like to briefly point out the following: if it’s rightly the job of a democratically-elected state to fashion, forge and re-engineer societies they represent, where is the sense and sensibility we surely have a right to continue to expect, whatever the political colouring of our government, of a state which, on the one hand, does everything to convince us we should walk our own paths of independence – and yet, on the other hand, is extremely wary of the kind of self-contained and private people many of us would like to remain?

The issue of privacy

Privacy has become the clarion call of those who would split society into two quite simplistic extremes: people allegedly in favour of terrorism’s apologias on the one side, and people against all intents to change society outwith a parliamentary radius on the other.  In truth, it’s probably more likely we’re talking about privacy specialists and interested parties who are interested in ensuring minimal interventions by the state versus people who’d prefer parliamentary democracy to be up to the job of doing everything.

In either case, if you want your privacy, want to be those self-contained, independent bodies the state has allegedly been striving to convert us into (as per its multiple exhortations on scroungers, benefit dependency etc), it seems you are committing the even worse crime of wanting to be truly independent.

In this sense, it would seem clear the independence Tories want us to acquire is intellectually half-baked: it really, actually, favours an independence of government from the people, not an independence of people from the government.

There’s a difference.

And it’s big.

And it’s morally indefensible.

Corporations vs benefit corporations

Whilst government, all governments, not just Tory governments, are in the pockets of corporations whose moral obligation remains uniquely to their shareholders, we cannot argue fairly that it is right for government to say the above: we must push the argument much further and more coherently than this.  We must change not the concentrations of wealth but, instead, the focusses which they accustomed to operating through:

In the United States, a benefit corporation or B-corporation is a type of for-profit corporate entity, legislated in 28 U.S. states, that includes positive impact on society and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals. B corps differ from traditional corporations in purpose, accountability, and transparency, but not in taxation.

The purpose of a benefit corporation includes creating general public benefit, which is defined as a material positive impact on society and the environment. A benefit corporation’s directors and officers operate the business with the same authority as in a traditional corporation but are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on society and the environment.

Wikipedia goes on to tell us:

In a traditional corporation, shareholders judge the company’s financial performance; with a B-corporation, shareholders judge performance based on how a corporation’s goals benefit society and the environment. Shareholders determine whether the corporation has made a material positive impact.


Transparency provisions require benefit corporations to publish annual benefit reports of their social and environmental performance using a comprehensive, credible, independent, and transparent third-party standard. In some states, the corporation must also submit the reports to the Secretary of State, although the Secretary of State has no governance over the report’s content. Shareholders have a private right of action, called a benefit enforcement proceeding, to enforce the company’s mission when the business has failed to pursue or create general public benefit. Disputes about the material positive impact are decided by the courts.

The importance of humanity and its independence

If we truly believe in independence as humanity’s defining concept, and we truly wish for society to continue to use the corporation as its main organisational tool, we not only must introduce more democracy into the corporation but, also, make it plain that people who choose to be more alone are choosing a contemplative life of love and affection; are choosing, by their actions, to avoid a life of networked disagreements.

In another sense are choosing to recover the figure of constructive isolation.

Not beings to be feared by an evermore paranoid state.  Just people coherent with the body politic’s memes as they currently stand: look after yourself, don’t be a burden, live your life in quiet self-assertion wherever possible.

Something far worse to be finishing off with

Or is there something else operating here?

Surely we won’t simply be saying:

  1. Be independent of us – even as society can play no part in your life
  2. Accept we can still control you – even as you can control us less and less
  3. Be evermore independent of – more importantly isolated from –  all those around you
  4. In the absence of real affection, be evermore dependent on consumerism to fill the void
  5. More manifestly, fill your empty lives with unsustainable gadgetry
  6. Struggle towards an old age where your investments pay for the costs of ill-health
  7. Die, and through dying, pass on your accumulated wealth way outwith your family, to those very corporations and institutions whose societal benefit is zero

No.  Of course not.

It can’t be that.

It shouldn’t be, anyhow.

A conclusion of sorts …

So what’s the alternative anyone?  Two lines of attack proposed today.  One, intellectually sound.  The second, intellectually fraudulent.  Which shall we follow?