To Strive, to Seek, to Find, and not to Yield (Tennyson)

I watched ‘Skyfall’ last night and the poetry of Tennyson read by M during the hearing touched me.

I think that Apple’s ‘Here’s to the crazy ones’ is very much related too.

All I can add to this is that I agree whole heatedly. If we will never stop trying to improve, if we will never stop questioning and asking ‘why’ things are as they are, we will grow in freedom and development, and reach unseen heights.

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The Slavery of our Generation

Photo Credit: @atoach (Flickr)

Does slavery exist in the modern world? I argue yes. Turn through the pages of history to when British and American wealth was built of the backs of slaves and ask: did they receive anything from their masters? Well they got a roof over the heads and enough food to barely get by. What about the family trying to make ends meet off a minimum wage job? What do they get? I think many will say ‘a roof over their heads and barely enough to get by’.

It may seem like a crass example, and I admit it doesn’t do justice for the appalling conditions with which innocent victims of the slave trade were treated, but the principle here is worth noting.

Considering the 1% that control 80% of the wealth, who rejoice in the use of machinery and the abundance of labourers that drive down the cost of overheads, things really could not have worked out better for big capitalism. Relatively thinking then I think there are many who are esteemed as slaves.

The financial sector is partly to blame for this. The city of London makes a vast contribution to our GDP, through speculative trading; betting on commodities. The costs of production, due to machines and an abundance of available labour force is only a fraction of what goes through the coffers of the bankers.

As a result, it is Mr and Mrs Serf who labour for the minimum permissible wage, for the success of a business, so the fat cat bankers can bet back and forth and live the lavish city life. This is a complete abuse of the workforce.

Even so, many will look and say that this is still not comparable to the conditions faced by some during previous centuries. To you I say that I agree. There is an incredible social mobility in this generation. I am a student, with a variety of Apple products, a car, and a few international stamps in my passport. Motor vehicles are available to the masses, people aren’t really starving, and large screen televisions and broadband internet are found in many homes. We certainly do not live under the task-masters whip.

I think the bulk of this slavery is psychological. It is relative. If the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer then we are moving closer to real slavery, not further away from it. But the real damage is done to the individual who has worked out that society considers them dispensable. The person who is told they don’t need an education, since they are only needed for manual work. The person who only works to be able to afford food, shelter and some short lived entertainment down the pub is the same person who empty’s your bins to keep your street habitable. It’s the person who puts the food on the shelves in your supermarket. It’s the person who answers the phone when your internet access fails, or the person who sewed the sleeves on to your shirt. Are they really worth that little?

Institutionally that is what we have said. We have conditioned some people in our society into a state of learned helplessness. And do you know what the bottom line of it is? As we are now, there is not enough jobs for everyone. If every person did have the zeal and passion to go out and try change their stars, there wouldn’t be enough work to go round. So do we still have slaves? Relatively speaking definitely. Symbolically without doubt. And for those who the economy values at but the smallest pittance, I’m sure they would agree too.

Choosing not to See

I watched a very thought provoking episode of ‘Breaking the Set’ on RT last night. Margaret Heffernan, the author of the recently published book ‘Wilful Blindness’ was interviewed and some very interesting points were covered, which, as a psychologist I find profoundly important.

“Feeding peoples’ established biases and prejudice’s” (9:55)

I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, we live in a climate today where for many, opinions are all too shallow. Heffernan described the press to use nothing more than polarised prejudices to rope people in to a very artificial form of debate. I support this statement and I believe that the angry mob who read the headlines either do not think beyond what political ideology is being chased, or they consider it in terms of ‘hunches’ and how it relates to themselves.

People Don’t Think

So many end up tranquilised by the emotive or political talk used by the biased media, however a second key argument that was made in this interview was that the free markets do not always ensure the best will reach the top. The assumption that natural selection will root out the crooks and the bad eggs just doesn’t work. Social psychology tells us why.

When hierarchy ensues, conformity magnifies. That that magnification of conformity takes place means really, the valuable critical thinking and expression of caution are lost. A study by New York University suggests up to 85% of senior executives in large businesses (see interview – 4:47) admit to have withheld expression of critical thought at least once.

Now if that takes place in all our competition regulated businesses and services, that is, our schools, industries, hospitals, military outfits and above all, governments, it need be no surprise that corruption is rife and inequality is at large. This is because often enough we don’t think, and when we do think, we don’t express that thought.

And that might be the solution to many of today’s challenges: getting everybody to think a whole lot more. It is important for people to critique the rationale of opinions and policy in depth, disregarding left and right political swings. Considering each argument upon its merit across social, economic and above all moral dimensions. With improved rational thinking people could more effectively hold politicians to account, or bring about more responsible business practise. People could recognise that educational policy should be based on what we know about how the brain learns, instead of instead of conformity and league table climbing.

A genuinely free market would be better than the current corporatocracy, however if we properly used our heads (and I mean properly), we could achieve a whole lot better than allowing a phenomena to administer our society.

Trolley Busses; and how the Neo-feudal State may look

I listened with interest to Max Keiser’s prediction last week that with the continued privatisation and outsourcing to other countries, we could become a neo-feudal state (i.e. tenants in our own land). Hold that thought, because I’m now going to talk about trolley busses.

The Leeds Trolley Bus; Photo Credit: The Electric TBus Group

The Leeds Trolley Bus; Photo Credit: tbus.org.uk

I am excited about the new trolley bus idea being proposed for Leeds. I think it is a good move towards sustainable transport in the city. Yes it is quiet, but the most environmentally advantageous component of it is that electricity is more efficient than internal combustion engines, and removing batteries cuts another area of waste.

What I find particularly exciting is the idea of ‘trolley lorries’, and the idea of electrifying a lane of the motorway for intercity person and freight transport. If they build that then we can power much of our economy off solar, wind, hydroelectric or nuclear power. The energy is renewable, whether or not it’s cheap.

The Trolley Lorry Concept; Photo Credit: tbus.org.uk

The Trolley Lorry Concept; Photo Credit: tbus.org.uk

Now, back to neo-feudalism. Recently, the chancellor George Osborne agreed a deal with EDF (the french state owned electricity company), which involved chinese investment to produce nuclear power in Britain. The reason why we’re now calling upon other countries to do this is because we’ve run out of investors to do it ourselves (selling power is kind of a liability, hence why Osborne had to gaurentee a very high rate of return to EDF). But with nuclear, there is enough fuel to power the world, we’re not going to run out of power and find the lights go out, the supermarkets run empty and we all start starving. We’re just going to have to start doing business on the terms of the people who have enough money to invest in us and feed us.

It’s in other nations interests for us to have some spare income. If we can spend on travel, electronic equipment, housing and all other commodities, someone, somewhere can make some money. For that investment to yield we need transportation systems in place, infrastructure, and also electricity. The capitol would be held elseware, and by and large we would work and rent. There’s plenty of investors in some place, somewhere, that can put idle bodies to work.

So, developments like trolley busses, or trolley lorries need to happen, and will do regardless of if we pay for them or someone else does. If we loose ownership of our capitol goods (which is happening), people will still eat, drink, work, travel and socialise. Even people without a lot of wealth can do these things now, because the price is set so that they can do that. One man’s holiday is another man’s livelihood.

Being Erdkinder – in relation to politics

Some of the psychological based arguments on why it is that the voice of the people chooses the irrational political options, that edge us toward Max Keiser’s prediction of a neo-feudal state.

Chris James Barker

I’ve been observing the continuing changes that are taking place behind the scenes to the British economy. That being the sale of many of our public and private services to foreign investors. For example, our train operator Arriva now belongs to Deutsche Bahn and if anybody wonders what EDF energy stands for, it’s Electricite de France. India owns Jaguar Land Rover and goodness only knows where the royal mail will end up.

And then I found it really interesting this week when I heard Max Keiser describe the British enomic climbate as turning to a ‘Neo-feudal’ state. Where you have the wealthy capitol holders and all the proles pay rent for the privilege. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to reach that point, especially since with the advances in medication, technology and greater spread of ownership of capitol goods among the working man (a British man’s home…

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On My Terms Only

The EU FlagI’ve been examining these claims that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) (who are currently gathering favour in Britain amongst voters) don’t bother attending votes at the European Parliament.

As a nation, we currently stand at 79.8% participation, or 26th out of 28. And according to votewatch.eu, that average is pulled down by a number of UKIPpers. The top score is Croatia, a recent addition to the union achieving 94.82%. The top participating long standing member of the EU was Austria, scoring 91.25%.

Other significant scores were economic powerhouse Germany (87.21%), and the bordering bankruptcy states (Portugal: 87.63%; Spain: 84.1%; France: 83.68; Greece: 83.45% and Ireland: 82.59%). I will also point out the only real success story of socialism, Sweeden (86.32%), and the recently bank looted Cyprus (81.87%). They’re all benefiting from the EU, and they’re all more active than we are.

As I look at this I want to ask: how often do we decide we have to do things only on our own terms? Why is it that when we see the European Union managing things poorly that we insist that a clear exit is the only way to go. How many jobs have been lost because neither union nor employer would compromise? And how often do we say this over day to day matters too?

I believe it is a dangerous pride when we as members of society start to say ‘it’s my way or the highway’. It might sound good in a charismatic speech, but in a world where there is 101 ways to skin a cat, and 101 different people, it’s an arrogant stand.

A united Europe is actually a good thing. I personally relished the opportunity to travel this summer in my own car across five member states, crossing borders at 130kph. Free trade, world wide economic bartering power and the sharing of wealth to make opportunities to others less fortunate are noble goals.

Sure, in its current state, the said union is in a big mess. But is the solution to write it off as a bad job? Or is it to be pragmatic and fix it? If the UKIPpers wish to be dog’s in the manger, expressing their protest through converting the people’s voice into an all or nothing ultimatum, then what they are really doing is turning the European crisis into a self fulfilling prophecy.

The Assumptions on which our System Rests

Here’s something to try get your head over. There’s three assumptions that the best part of the developed world depends on for its current progression.

First of all, cheap energy. I heard Max Keiser argue this week that capitalism depends on cheap energy (Keiser Report, E490). That is almost a profound statement, and is certainly true. In replacing human labour with machinery held in the hands of the rich few, those machines are useless without energy to power them. Cheap energy is the only viable alternative to skilled man power.

Next up: constant inflation. Today’s society is fiscally powered by a giant borrowing machine. It has no way of paying itself back, other than to devalue the debt through low interest rates and printing money (quantitative easing), which produces inflation. As long as investors are profiting out of this, it could go on forever, but part of that profit depends on the given countries’ currency’s ability to deliver goods, wherein constant inflation becomes linked to cheap energy. If a country and its currency cannot produce goods, then no level of inflation can sustain a nations needs. Your currency becomes worthless, and you end up with no buying power and potentially a hyper-inflationary crisis.

The final assumption is a common enemy. We’ve always had one. Everybody’s always had one. It seems that our current military hobby (the middle east) is about to expire, and the UN are gunning to take on Assad for the next decade. We’ve made ourselves some enemies closer to home as well. Part of society is carefully considering where to place their votes during the next election with regards to Eastern European open-door immigration. Having these enemies causes us to put great trust in our bourgeoisie government, which they love because it keeps them safe and minted for years to come.

They tell us we’re in the worst recession since the great depression of the 1930’s. Yet it’s all statistical. I don’t see people starving, cars still ride the roads, and there’s even positive newsflashes here and there about growth. So why aren’t all the doomsday theories coming to pass?

Earthquakes caused by fracking? Photo credit: martinluff via flickr

It’s because these three assumptions are still being met. World governments are desperately sucking out what energy they can get, hence the stir over fracking. Interest rates are at all time lows, and many financial experts warn that inflation is far higher than government figures (I mean, look at the price of potato’s!) And yeah, Syria.

But the cost’s of fracking now show in Texas, and the energy won’t last forever anyway. As capitalism dies under its own weight, clever inflationary tricks will become nothing. And notably, this week in Britain, the motion to begin air strikes on Syria were defeated in the house of commons, signalling that we’re no longer convinced by any passing tale as justification for a war.

The concept of capitalism is fundamentally flawed, and its dependencies cannot last.