Thursday, 30 July 2015

What's the point of a stronger economy?

I've seen some Lib Dems pointing out that if Jeremy Corbyn wins the Labour Party leadership contest, then Labour progressives (chuckles) may well jump ship for our Party. I've also seen the point raised that said progressives will not be Social Liberals, though they may well be Economic Liberals. I've also seen it mooted that Corbyn is in no way a Liberal, and that he lacks in the area of creating a Stronger Economy.

When Tim Farron was elected leader, I had the possibly naive view that the Party might be swinging back towards me, but perhaps there's further to go than I thought. It may well be true that Corbyn is not a Liberal by nature, that he doesn't approach the world from a mindset of "do what you like, if you don't hurt anybody else". The thing is though, being a Liberal seems for a lot of people to be about policy rather than mindset.

If Corbyn doesn't want to keep the economic status quo, and carry on regardless with austerity, I salute him. As a Liberal, I have come to the view that concentrations of wealth and power are inherently harmful to large swathes of society, and that the free market in its current form fails to address that issue. If Corbyn can't be a Liberal because he is anti-austerity, or is not focused on the economic arms race, then neither can I.

For me, the fairer society is infinitely more important than the stronger economy. For me the stronger economy is a myth. I don't exist to benefit the economy, and the economy doesn't exist to benefit me. The economy for me is as much a product of natural selection as is the size of the human brain. It's sufficient to ensure that large numbers of people survive to breed, but beyond that has absolutely no moral or practical efficacy.

For too long we've bought into a myth that natural selection and market economics create merit, be that merit in organisms, or merit in organisations. But just as knocking someone over the head and dragging them off to a cave served for procreation in the distant past, so did allowing small numbers of individuals to accrue enormous power and wealth serve when we were hunter gatherers, dragging ourselves towards industrialisation.

We made it. We can grow enough food to feed the entire world. We can produce enough green energy to power the world, if we have the will to do so. We can create a society where everyone can experience greatness, where there are no true barriers to experience as well as making a contribution to human wellbeing and knowledge. All we really need to do is free ourselves of the assumption that the status quo has any inherent merit.

So I say, forget the stronger economy. Let's educate people about the myths surrounding the supposed merit of the free market, and concentrate on building a fairer society. We have, no... we are, the resources, we are the tools, and we are the drivers of change. How we divide up the tasks, and the rewards, of improving the human experience should be as fair as our society, and as equal as all human beings are. 


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Windows 10: Day one, so far.... and too much reflection on my ongoing go slow

So it's day one working with Windows 10 on my main work laptop. I've used the preview on a very old desktop machine, but now it's time to get in some power use. Plus I'm doing so off the background of a new (under 6 months old) Toshiba laptop that has become incredibly unresponsive (despite 16GB RAM, having added and extra 8GB, and a 4th Gen i7 under the hood).

So, firstly, Windows 10 hasn't resolved my speed problems. The HDD (a mere 5400RPM SATA) is still bottle-necking my system with remarkable regularity. I still can't communicate properly with SMB on our development server, though that may not be entirely down to Windows, and running Netbeans, FireFox and Thunderbird at the same time results in fairly regular episodes of "Not responding". 

I've tried playing with power plans, disabling indexing, switching browsers (Chrome/FireFox), switching virus checkers (Avast/AVG), switching malware scanners (MalwareBytes/Spybot), and even running then switching personal firewalls (ZoneAlarm/PrivateFirewall). I've also disabled the evil that is the Mail App, and have scanned my drive to within an inch of its life.

My slow down seems to have begun when Flash Player was installed on Chrome a few weeks ago, and despite running a "Refresh" on the machine and switching all of the above software, as well as wiping Flash and removing all files (excluding Windows and App required ones) from said machine, I still can't get to the bottom of my slow downs. Other than establishing that it seems to be related to my hard drive, and adversely affects applications using the network (despite no evidence of excessive network usage), I'm at a loss.

I was therefore clinging to the vain hope that it was something to do with reserving and upgrading to Windows 10, or even something to do with having my user account spread across five machines (one running Windows 10 Technical Preview, four running Windows 8.1). It is still possible that the latter is the cause, so I intend to upgrade everything I have as soon as humanely possible, but I know I'm basically clutching at straws because I don't want the pain of going through a full reinstall from recovery media (possibly followed by having to re-upgrade).

Anyway, seeing as it is day one with Windows 10, what do I think of it? So far it has been pretty smooth. The process of upgrading took about two hours and once done my Apps worked as well as before, bar a couple of go slows (which may have nothing to do with Windows itself). The new icons look great and the layout and feel are a huge improvement in my view. The only bum note on the layout is that I miss being able to fill my screen with a list of all apps within two clicks but, as I used Windows Phone 7 (on an HTC Titan), I'll quickly get used to the all apps layout in Windows 10. 

My favourite innovation so far is the action centre, which makes me feel like Windows has finally started to get what makes Android and iOS so great. I really hope that Windows will use this as a full notifications centre for quickly scanning through things like social media and app updates, though I suspect a lot of those will come form the Start menu. I don't mind if the duplicate the notifications in both places to be honest, because sometimes I want to skim (action centre) and other times I want to peruse (Start menu). We'll see how it goes on that score.

Until I resolve the issues with my laptop (is it poor hard drive or poor security on my part, who knows) or get to install it on another machine, I won't be able to reflect on the speed of Windows 10, beyond the fact that everything is working at least as well as it did on Windows 8.1, but I think Microsoft may have pulled their proverbials off of the coals with Windows 10. I may still end up dual booting Linux on my work laptop to try to resolve the go slows, but it will be with less glee than I would have yesterday...



Friday, 17 July 2015

Consultants vs Wealth Creators - Stick vs Carrot

Ok, so the Government is telling us that they want a 7 day a week NHS, and they're not afraid to use force to get it. And, while they're at it, they're going to make striking all but impossible... a bit like finding an MP that fulfilled the conditions they're going to set on the unions to get elected, but we'll leave that one for another day.

With this show of force to get consultants to tow the proverbial line and give the people what they want (allegedly), we see in interesting difference of approach. Let's, for fun have a little comparison with the erstwhile mentioned wealth creators, those helpful millionaires and billionaires that make everything in our economy possible (whilst workers merely look pretty).

Wealth Creators can't be forced to pay more tax (or pay tax at all) because:

  • It will cost jobs and money as they will move their businesses abroad.
  • They will move to other countries in order to maintain their quality of life.
  • We'll lose the best talent to countries where they can make more money.
  • There isn't a huge pool of talent that can do what they do.
  • Lives will be ruined by a lack of jobs.
Seems fair enough, so let's move on...

Consultants can be forced to work weekends because:

  • It will create jobs and save money because everyone will take up new contracts working more hours.
  • They won't move into a different career or to another employer that lets them maintain their quality of life.
  • The best talent won't be enticed to other countries where pay and conditions may be better.
  • There is a huge pool of talented consultants just waiting to fill any gaps... we're knee deep in them.
  • Lives won't be ruined by a lack of consultants, or by overworked consultants making errors. 
But... wait a minute... that's the opposite of what we said for wealth creators. Is somebody in Government telling (or at least perpetuating) porkies? Heaven forfend!!!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Windows 10: A chance to change the scenery? UPDATED

I'm possibly a rare beast in the world of Tech. I find Windows 8.1 easier to use than Windows 7. I got to this point by taking an early upgrade on much of my plethora of tech. I have rarely used Windows 7 since and, for all its strengths, I now prefer to stick with Windows 8.1 as my default Windows installation.

I'm not saying I think it is better than Linux or OSX mind you. Though, again, I find it easier to use than both these excellent OSs. Some of this will be down to simple lack of practice with anything else, bar Ubuntu. Either way though, I hate to admit it, but Windows 10 has a hard act to follow in terms of ease of use.

Now I've got that out the way though, I do have a few questions about Windows 10 that I think everyone should be asking. That's especially true of early upgraders looking to get a free copy out of Microsoft, who have remained somewhat tight lipped on the process. I like upgrades, but iOS and Android have gotten me used to getting a good deal.

So, my questions are:

1) Is Microsoft only handing out one free copy per email address registered with them, is it one per person, or is it one per valid Windows key? I have multiple copies of Windows, and they tend to cycle through from machine to machine. If they're only offering the single free copy option, that means paying for seven additional copies in my case. That could very well slow down my upgrade process, especially as my habit of reinstalling means a couple of my keys aren't working.

A) It's one upgrade per installed device folks.

2) If Microsoft is offering key based upgrades, will they be allowing people to register their Windows keys rather than using the within OS process? As I alluded to above, I have eight perfectly legal Windows keys. Two are Windows 8 OEM keys linked to the originating machine, but six of them are not. I'd find it much easier to simply register my Windows keys and receive the corresponding number of Windows 10 keys in return.

A) It's one upgrade per installed device folks.

3) Will Microsoft be offering the option to buy DVD backups like they did for Windows 8? Strange though it may be, I bought a backup for every copy of Windows 8 I could get my hands on. When I tried to reinstall Windows 7 on an older laptop last night, I came to realise just how useful such backups can be. I have a backup of the 32 bit version, but not the 64 bit. I therefore have a key that I can't use unless Microsoft reinstate Windows 7 downloads.

A) Yes, alongside the ability to create recovery media.

4) Is a copy of Windows 7 that was replaced by Windows 8 still eligible for a free upgrade? I'm an early adopter by nature, and only one of the machines related to my Windows 7 keys wasn't rocking Windows 8 from day one. Should I therefore assume that two of my OS keys aren't eligible for an upgrade? I may not have the tech to use them currently, but I collect PC like other people collect stamps, so I will want to use those keys at some point.

A) No. The keys for such copies aren't valid anyway.

5) Do Microsoft have a plan for competing with iOS and Android on upgrades, whilst still keeping PC users happy? PCs may be dying a slow death among most consumers, but they still have a place. With Android and iOS offering free upgrades on qualifying tech, and fully open source OSs beginning to edge into mobile, Windows 10 risks disappointing everyone by charging where it should be free, and refusing upgrades to older tech that can eminently handle it.

A) We'll see.

Ok, so these probably aren't my only questions about Windows 10. I work in web design, so I'll be interested to see what it has to offer for coders and graphic designers. Efficiency and responsiveness will be the watch words here. Also, I want it to have finally find a way to deal with 5400rpm drives and how much they bottleneck things like startup when you have lots of apps to load, especially cloud sharing ones. But I'll be pondering the five questions above before and during the upgrade process, and so should everyone.

Monday, 11 May 2015

I told you so: Or how to dust yourself off and not look conceited.

It shouldn't feel so good to be a Lib Dem at the moment. The electorate has just given us an almighty kicking, almost every bit of good we did in the Coalition is about to be undone, and it's probably going to take at least a generation for us to recover (assuming we do so at all).

Yet I do feel good. Not because I don't feel obliged to defend the complete and utter disaster that was our "reining in" of the Tories. Not because Nick Clegg, who in all honesty had achieved a level of toxicity that Tony Blair would envy, has resigned. Not even because we can no longer be blamed for there being a Tory Government, though some may well disagree with that sentiment.

I feel good being a Lib Dem because, instead of a continuing deluge of the punch drunk and bitter, I'm surrounded by positive vibes. Instead of bemoaning the events of May 7th, not to mention the Coalition, and clinging desperately to the "I told you so" reality of a Tory Government with the brakes off, the Party and it's activists have come out fighting. That's exactly what we all need, and it makes me feel great.

That isn't to say that we should try to ignore our mistakes, like Labour have for the past five years. If our MPs can't bring themselves to say that the Coalition hurt far more people than it helped then we're still doomed I'm afraid. This is true despite the Party managing to bring Mental Health into the limelight, to improve the life chances of lower income kids, to take those on very low incomes out of tax, and to free everyone to marry for love. 

In the end it wasn't enough. IDS has made inordinate numbers of people suffer for no other reason than an accident of birth or of personal circumstance. The NHS has had yet another pointless shakeup at the expense of staff and patients alike. Students are doomed to a life of enormous debt, that is only mitigated somewhat by being time and income limited. The housing market is still in a complete unholy mess that benefits no-one bar the super rich. And all of this on a backdrop of deficit reduction targets missed completely.

In terms of liberal principles, we achieved some success in Government, overturning some of the War on Terror related erosion of freedoms perpetuated by Labour for starters. But to do so at the expense of so many is a shame we will have to bear with honesty and humility if we are to truly rebuild. The current bounce in membership needs to continue, and it will only do so if we show we've accepted and learnt the lessons of Coalition. Most importantly we need to show that we understand the importance of trust and competence.

But that particular task will be in the hands of our new leader and our much smaller contingent of MPs. What the rest of us need to do is dust ourselves off, fight the temptation to say "I told you so", get in touch with our new members, get them involved and active, and give them a reason to stay that way. And looking at social media, and my local party for that matter, I know I'm totally preaching to the converted.

So, it does feel great to be a Lib Dem today. I know we messed up big time, and paid the price for it, but we're not wallowing in or bemoaning our situation, and that's a really great start.

Monday, 27 April 2015

The hypocrisy of the great "betrayal"

Reading the Lib Dems hashtag on Twitter is a great way to self-medicate for euphoria at the moment. The false claims of the Conservatives, the hypocritical moralising from Labour, the narrow-minded xenophobia of UKIP, and the smug superiority of the Greens and the SNP (I know, we were just as bad before 2010) are enough to turn anyone's stomach.

None of these actually bother me though. In fact they often lead to interesting discussions, a useful test of my beliefs as often as not. It's the consistent crowing over the great "betrayal" and the coming "just desserts" that stick in the proverbial craw. It transcends party membership, and demonstrates a wanton ignorance that beggars belief.

Since at least my birth, in 1979, every single Government has failed to deliver its full manifesto. Every manifesto by a Government party has contained at least one pledge that they have deliberately broken. Every Government party has fallen over itself to claim the centre (right) ground in British politics. But, in all this time only one coalition has occurred.

Yet, for all of this, the big story of #GE2015 isn't coalitions as a means to stop the big two parties from continuing to say one thing and do another. The story isn't the delivery of genuinely progressive policies because the Tories weren't left completely to their own devices. The story instead is how much fun it will be to watch Lib Dems lose.

Part of the problem is that this is only the second General Election since the advent of Twitter of course. It's a fantastic social network, but it totally lends itself to bullying, harassment and schadenfreude. On this particular occasion, it's a case of schadenfreude coupled with unholy levels of righteous indignation, and very little logic.

The very reason that a coalition was formed in 2010 is the same reason that, on the face of it, the Lib Dems deserve to be "destroyed" in 2015. Since at least 1979 every Government has ignored its promises to the electorate in favour of, often dubious, expediency. The coalition was, in a way, the first manifesto led Government in at least 30 years.

The very act of negotiating an agreement between two parties required a starting point, that starting point being the manifestos of those same parties. Neither party could hope to deliver all of its manifesto, but the scrutiny of negotiating an agreement meant that both had to at least make the effort. The big mistake was not pinning more down to begin with.

In less than two weeks I expect to be in a party that has received another battering at the hands of the electorate, but that hopefully will still have a role in forming the Government. Despite my distaste for them, since the removal of Clause 4 and their erosion of freedom in response to 9/11, I hope that Labour will be the party we get to negotiate with.

Most of all though, I hope that every party that is involved in forming the next Government will be doing so having fought for every pledge in their manifesto. I hope that the British public will recognise that this is the case, and I hope that in 2020 the manifestos, the parties, and the voting public will be that much more honest and progressive as a result.

If not, the outcome of both 2010 and 2015 will have been for naught.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

I don't want accountability, I want results!

BBC Breakfast were talking about the NHS this morning. It was fascinating to hear the talk of the lack of protection for whistle-blowers and the need for "accountability". Well I don't give two figs about accountability, I want results.

In fact, I hate the whole concept of accountability. For me accountability is the root cause of the problems in almost every industry, even banking. For me accountability is synonymous with blame, and blame is only useful to victims.

"Whoa, that's a bit uncaring" I hear you cry. And on the face of it, yes it is. After all, the victims of a lack of accountability in the NHS are patients, and the victims of a lack of accountability in banking are... pretty much everyone. 

The problem is, the victims of accountability exist too, in huge numbers. They are patients, they are everyone, and they exist because no-one in their right mind wants to be blamed. In a system of accountability though, someone has to be blamed.

Don't get me wrong, accountability doesn't preclude blaming the system, but the process of getting to that stage almost invariably goes via individual blame, and usually the process of individual blame is levied against people with power.

People with power, also happen to be people with a lot to lose. That's because, if you are found to be accountable, there almost always has to be a punishment. That punishment usually impinges upon your quality of life, and that of your family.

The reason for this is often cited as natural justice. The victim has a right to some form of redress, some salve for the suffering inflicted upon them by the accountable. It's a compelling argument, but one that actually causes more harm than good.

The fear of redress, of blame, of personal suffering as a result, is what makes accountability such an anathema to those with power. At least those who are likely to be held accountable that is. And those people will naturally seek to avoid its harsh glare.

In doing so, the people seeking to avoid accountability create ever more victims. The fear of justice creates ever greater crimes, as it were. Especially in a system where many can see its flaws, but only a few are likely to have to pay for highlighting them.

This is particularly true where the accountable are called upon to strike a balance between competing objectives. In the public sector these competing objectives almost invariably involve targets, quality, and delivering value for money.

So, I don't really want to see accountability in the NHS, I want to see results. If someone is getting the balance wrong between targets, quality, and value for money, I want them to fix it. I don't need them to be punished, and I don't want them to fear redress.

The victims of their mistakes may disagree with me, but the victims of them hiding those mistakes to avoid accountability should totally agree.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Why am I so poor?

Ok, so I'm not that poor. In fact I'd say I'm doing ok despite about £10k of unsecured debt I can't pay off. The question though is a more general one, especially given the suggestion that the so-called 1% will have more wealth than the rest of us in a year. 

I've always had a pretty relaxed idea about how wealthy I'd like to be. I dream of owning a little cottage in the middle of nowhere. A kind of rustic affair that is self-sufficient and, apart from an awesome internet connection and being warm & clean, is pretty basic.

As dreams go it's quite boring. It should, on the face of it, be pretty darn easy to achieve too. Of course in this particular scenario the only work I have to do involves the garden and maybe making the odd website if I want to. In fact, it's not that dissimilar to my brother's life.

The thing is though, I have some debt. I also have kids and a partner. I like to own various toys as well, which need paying for. I need to get around, which requires funds. I enjoy watching US shows, which aren't that cheap. In other words, money makes my lifestyle.

The thing is though, it isn't money that makes my lifestyle. It's actually decisions that do so. A lot of these decisions were made centuries ago, when societies were first being set up based upon a system of exchange involving coinage and bits of paper.

Unfortunately that particular system of exchange has led us to where we are now. Global inequality is falling according to some, yet figures have been published by Oxfam suggesting that 1% of people will own more than the other 99% of people by next year.

The system we live in, the global economy, requires our labour to exist. We contribute to the whole, so that wealth can be created. We pay our taxes, so that we can be supported when we need it, and so that others can be supported besides ourselves when they need it.

We may resent supporting others to the extent that we do. We may wish we had more. It may seem unfair that we work 40, 50, 60 or 100 hours a week at jobs we hate just to let someone else contribute less. But if we want the great house, or the cool toys, we do it.

But there is a big lie in all this. The system we work for only exists because we allow it to. The 1% have what they have because we let them keep it. Our focus on the everyday lets them focus on their everyday, accruing more and more wealth as we quibble over crumbs.

Well I don't want a big slice of the pie. I want a roof over my head and a few toys to relax with of an evening. Is that too much to ask? Not in my view it isn't. If money disappeared tomorrow, I reckon there would be enough resources and enough work to go round.

Maybe that's the solution, we scrap it all and start over. We put everything in a great big pile and everyone gets an equal share. Then we all keep working and keep sharing it all and see where we go from there. It's an interesting idea. For now though, I'm working for the 1%.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

I'm offended... what's new?

One aspect of the current debate around freedom of speech is totally offensive to me. For me, the debate lacks nuance and it lacks for any attempt at empathy or understanding. It feels like an all or nothing affair, where interpreting the statements of others to fit a perceived offense has become the norm, eclipsing any form of informed debate.

Stuff offends me. I'm a human being. I have beliefs and values like anyone else. They matter to me. When somebody says something that challenges these things it can make me feel pretty darn angry and hurt, as well as make me think. If I'm challenged in the right, or wrong, way it can actually cause me mental anguish and harm. That's not a good thing.

I support freedom of speech. It's a really important value in society. It gives everyone the opportunity to be heard and it helps prevent tyranny of the majority as well as tyranny of the prevailing elite. It gives oversight to the prevailing opinions of the day, challenging orthodoxy and subjecting even the most obvious seeming truisms to much deserved scrutiny.

I am allowed to have these views. They are my right. As much as it is the right of anyone else to have their own views, irrespective of what they are. I am stating that these are my views. I don't have anyone else's views, and I certainly have bugger all right to tell someone else what their views are, no matter that doing so may confirm my prejudices. 

So I say to everyone involved in debating freedom of speech, tell me your views if you feel the need to, ask me what my views are should you wish to, challenge my views as I state them if you like, denigrate my views and ridicule me if you must, but please don't tell me what my views are. Please also show the same courtesy to everyone else.

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Power of Psychology

I completed a Psychology degree almost 14 years ago now. I really enjoyed some of it, and could have happily ignored a lot of it. It taught me some things about myself, and left me woefully unprepared for some other things. I got a 2:2, which is to say I coasted through with the minimum of effort.

I am really grateful for my studies of Psychology however. It's a gratitude based upon one very simple thing though. It's a concept taught to me by accident that I often fail to apply, but that I've come to believe is the most fundamental concept of the human condition. The concept is "always be inconclusive".

It's probably not a concept actually, more a guiding principle. In fact I hesitate to suggest it should be the guiding principle taught to everyone as soon as they learn language. Why? Because I believe almost every issue in society could be solved by the clever use of inconclusive language and thought processes.

The principle itself was part of the technique for writing essays. In writing a Psychology essay, the writer is expected to only ever refer to themselves in the third person (ideally not at all), and is also expected to refer to their conclusions in a manner that cannot be interpreted as definitive.

To say "the evidence proves" is essentially unforgivable in a Psychology essay. To say "the evidence appears to suggest" is the expected form. It is also, from the point of view of a personal belief system (and its application), a great way to avoid the trap of dogma. How can one ever be completely right if the evidence only suggests a thing?

For me this is the true power of Psychology. It is also where it trumps Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and all of the organised religions (as I understand/interpret them at least). They may all be looking for, or claim to have found, universal truisms, but Psychology specifically doesn't allow one to assume success in such a search.  

If you can never assume success in finding universal truisms, you can never stop questioning, and you can never close you mind to new ideas and viewpoints. You are also inherently encouraged to see the multiple interpretations available to you in every situation. In this way you can never be fooled by the emotive conclusion.

Of course I'm sure many scientists would say the same of their chosen field on the grounds of objectivity. Objectivity though isn't a guarantee against coming to false truisms because, in my view, objectivity is simply a denial of the truth of subjectivity. That is to say that Psychology is, potentially, unique in accepting the universal truism of subjectivity.

The astute will perhaps accuse me of boxing myself into hypocrisy. How can one state that it's a bad idea to assume success in finding universal truisms, and then state that subjectivity is a universal truism? That though is the wonder of being inconclusive. I believe that everything is subjective, but I don't believe I have, or ever will, prove it consclusively.

Thus through the guiding principle of being inconclusive I can come to a conclusion safe in the knowledge that it is my conclusion alone and is open to both challenge and change. In this way I can always revise my conclusions based upon whatever evidence, arguments and moral imperatives most grab me. Most importantly I can do so knowing I'm probably wrong.

So the power of Psychology is in fact... knowing that no matter how right I think I am, I'm still wrong.



Thursday, 8 January 2015

Clegg Vs Omar - A couple of thoughts

I've just read about the exchange between Nick Clegg on LBC and a caller named Omar.

It's an emotional time, and people are seeking to explain the seemingly inexplicable, with words such as evil. The individual that called into the show appeared to be taking the "straw that broke the camel's back" approach, while Nick seemed to be very much pointing to individual responsibility, alongside the right to be offended.

I happen to agree with Nick's stance on this, but in a qualified way. We can no further understand the motivations of any other individual than we can at times understand our own. Nick assumed that Omar was seeking to justify the actions of those involved, which may well have been his intent, but also may not have been.

I've not heard the entire show, so I'm not going to comment either way on that score. I do believe however that in seeking individual responsibility we must also seek understanding. No matter how unjustified the motivation for these killings was, if we don't seek to understand them at some level, we cannot prevent recurrences.

For me the tendency to use the word evil is dangerous, as is the tendency to assign blame. Blame is the lazy way to deal with crime, punishment, and security in general. It is a process that justifies prison as a punishment, yet ignores the importance of rehabilitation, as well as prevention. It sees poverty as a personal circumstance rather than a societal failure, for example.

So, whilst I agree with Nick about the right to offend, and about the fact that murder is never justified, I don't see any point in blame. If anything I see the need for a potentially much colder, and even darker, analysis. Now is a time to ask, what is society willing to do to ensure this type of act becomes completely unpalatable, no matter the potential reasoning behind it?

Such an approach to thinking about this can go two ways though. One is authoritarian, surveillance based and involves the restriction of freedom to the point that fear serves to prevent a recurrence. Another route, perhaps harder on those with the most to lose, is to put some serious effort into reforming humanity as a whole, to the point that our very humanity prevents recurrence. 

I personally hope for the latter, but I am sure plenty will be happy with the former. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Lying in a pool of blood... (metaphorically speaking)

As part of an invite by LDV Editors for comments from people not prone to commenting on their excellent blog posts, I wrote today that:

"The problem I have is that, despite some pretty significant manifesto wins in Government, the economy doesn’t feel the slightest bit stronger and society doesn’t feel in any small way fairer than in 2010 (to me). If I’m saying that as a Party member, how do we convince the public that a) I’m wrong about where we’re at now and b) we’re capable of delivering even small progress in that direction through a future coalition?

I get that things like the Pupil Premium will achieve a huge amount in the long run, as will moves on removing the stigma around mental health and improving social care, but I can’t convince myself that the balance of cuts in the public sector, as against increases in taxation of the wealthy, since 2010 has been anything but completely unfair. If I can’t convince myself of that, how do I convince anyone else to vote for us this year?"

This comment (I have a habit or re-reading my own comments on things for some bizarre reason) got me to thinking about a suitable analogy for the Coalition. Specifically one claim, which has always stuck in my proverbial craw, that we've successfully prevented the potential evils of a Conservative majority. 

So I offer up for your delectation:

"When Mike Tyson is punching you in the head, it's difficult to feel grateful that he's been forced to do so wearing a boxing glove on his weaker hand (with the other hand tied behind his back as well), as you are pummeled into the ground by an infinitely stronger opponent." 

And that, my friends is my summation of the Coalition - make of it what you will...