Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Whilst one is not supposed to speak ill of the dead, it is also traditional to review someone's life when it ends. I thought I'd write on what other commentators have said about the late Mrs Thatcher.

She was a conviction politician - a person with convictions. This contrasts her with the archetypal grey suits. Admittedly someone being clear about what they belive in and following it up can be attractive but the benefits of following one's convictions rather depends on the effect they have on other people.

For me Thatcher's massive blind spot - to be kind, lie if not - was her claim that people fending for themselves as individuals is best and somehow universally applicable. She herself had considerable ability, and apparently worked hard too. But there are people who work hard and yet don't enjoy great success, and vice versa. Thatcher was content to jibe at those who used buses as being unsuccessful, but the subtext of unsuccessful was 'not hard working. It is a monumental fallacy to equate lack of success with lack of effort, and one that politicians try to disguise by constantly drawing attention to the feckless.

If she was right that it was unsustainable to support industry through taxes when it couldn't stand on its own two feet, and she may have been at least to some extent, she was nevertheless wrong to maintain that those deprived of their livelihoods when the industries closed would thrive if only they lived out her credo of hard work.

Her battle with the unions exhibited the fallacy further still. It is demonstrably untrue that hard work by itself will bring a fair share of the planet's resources to the worker, and history shows over and over again that the poor were downtrodden. The only power they really had was the power to withdraw their labour (the opposite of working hard) a power that can only be effectively exercised collectively, hence unions. It may be argued that unions had acquired too much power, but this has to be set alongside the power exercised by the rich and powerful in their own interest.

She won three general elections convincingly. This makes her good at being a politician, but again it is only what she did for other people that can be to her real credit, or debit.

And success as defined by our monetary economic system is relative. Not everyone can be a financier. Some people have to borrow money for the financier to be successful. Businesses need customers. As successful bookie wil offer good enough odds to draw in enough money from unsuccessful punters to pay out those who win bets and to keep a profit for him/herself. Success requires failure.Competition requires that there be losers as well as winners.

Thatcher's apparent inability or refusal to understand that not everyone can be successful is what I will remember her for.

Working hard

On the day that Margaret Thatcher died, I happened to be in Dulwich with a couple of hours to kill. Looking at the large houses and drives, and fancy shops, I reflected upon the idea of rewards for hard work that Thatcher preached, not unlike politicians before or since, though she was probably best known for it.

When we were children, my father worked 5 1/2 days a week to support his family. No-one can say he didn't work hard, and he was by no means the only one. Did we live in a large house in Dulwich? No, in fact my parents sold their east London 2 bedroomed terraced  house with outside toilet to the council and rented it back.

It is clear from the number of people who work hard and have very little that life's rewards are not allocated simply on the basis of hard work.

One element of the allocation "calculation" may be innate ability. Those most talented can accrue the greatest reward. This innate talent is bot something they worked for, yet the system rewards them for having it. The system, though, does not seem to allow even subsistence level of reward as everyone's birthright, as we know from the starving millions, many of whom may have remarkable talents that will never benefit anyone if the person given the talents never has an opportunity to use them, or worse still simply dies.

Those who have the most resources at their disposal must be held most responsible for those that have the least. Hard work alone is unlikely to gain you the privelege we see in the rich and powerful.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Zeitgeist Day 2013 - Random notes

I find it hard to believe that 2013's was my 5th Zeitgeist Day - over 4 years of involvement. Below is an attenpt to capture some of the miscelaneous notes I made during the day's talks in London. I hope they are of some use, but having made them, I want to capture them somewhere electronic and throw and recycle the scrap paper they are on.

David Wood. London Futurists. dw2blog.com. Slideshare.net (share presentations on line), Golden-i headsets, Creative destruction of medicine, NBIC mega-convergence; Atoms, genes, bits, neurons; Negative singularity (S^ or was it ^S), singularity 1 on 1. Smart drugs. Shroomtech.

General Sematics. Toastmasters - organisation that teaches/fosters public speaking.

My Fair London - Sean Baine. Social Evaluative Threat.

Daren De Witt - Centre for Non Violent Communication - nvcresolutions.co.uk

Language of domination cultures. 'get to the core of what is alive in us'. Marshal Rosenburg's 10 areas of needs. Max-Neef: Himan Scale  Development. 9 needs/satisfiers. NVC in a nutshell - Feelings, Needs, Observations, Requests.

John Webster. Meet Your Straw Man. Nature of a cage. tpuc.org.  Legal Fiction. getoutofdebtfree.org. Bills of Exchange Act 1882.

Freeconomy. Mark Boyle. Moneyless Manifesto. Jeremy Rifkin's idea that empathy motivates us, not competition.

"Schools of Thought - young people in education and how to fix it". Jolitics. Openideo, vocaleyes, Change The Future, Imagination For People, Luke Flegg and Charlie Shread. Myles Dyer connection.

Grant Dive. Avaaz.org. Wecanbemore.org. Team Humanity.