DIARY: The slow road to freedom, Brian Cox’s wonders, Equality is beige, Knowledge workers, Poppycock Watch, Profundity of the Week
David Cameron’s big speech on Europe last week was intended to be blue in tooth and claw. It came out beige.
That’s not to say there were no good ideas in it, no splendid rhetoric, nor sterling aspirations, just that it projected everything so far into the future they all but disappeared in the mists of time.
Realistically, we’re looking at a treaty signing around 2019/20, in the last gasp of the next Parliament. It seems this will be the same document that creates a fiscal union from most of the rest of the EU, giving the Commission endless opportunities for mission creep into British interests.
The timescale can only mean one thing: forget it. It will be Harold Wilson all over again.
Particle physicist, Professor Brian Cox has produced another visual spectacular in his new TV series, Wonders of Life. This follows Wonders of the Solar System and Wonders of the Universe.
He’s beginning to run out of wonders, I fear. Perhaps his next series could be: Wonders of the Spiritual Universe?
I’m serious. He opens his first episode in a remote village in the Philipines at a festival where locals are celebrating the spirits of their ancestors who are thought to be living in the rocks around the houses.
Contemplating why so many people believe in a spiritual reality and survival after death, he remarks, “it feels right.”
It doesn’t last though. The day job kicks in and suddenly he’s claiming that life doesn’t need a mystical spark to get it going, just the First Law of Thermodynamics.
Laughable, you might think, but he does have a point. The law states that energy is neither created nor destroyed. In other words, energy is constant in the universe. Moreover, he equates energy with life itself. And it’s certainly true that energy animates living things, while death disperses it, leaving creatures inanimate and crumbling.
But that still doesn’t explain the crux of the matter. There is a point where physics gives way to metaphysics and the former loses its force. I would much prefer the terms, mystical or spiritual rather than metaphysics, which suggests a carry-over of methodology that does not happen.
Cox’s esteemed colleague, Stephen Hawking, put it best: “I understand how the universe works, but not why,” he wrote in one of his books. To equate energy with life still doesn’t explain what motivates energy, the “why” conundrum.
Somewhere in the back story, there is a force that creates intention. Intention is what animates life, especially higher forms like humans. We are not totally reactive creatures. No law of thermodynamics can explain the works of Shakespeare or the Upanishads.
The famed British astronomer, Fred Hoyle said that a hurricane blowing through a scrap yard for a million years will never create a jumbo jet. While his colleague, James Jeans asserted that the universe is “more like a great thought than a great machine.”
To be fair to Brian Cox, he does say in Wonders of Life that there is a strong chance “that the universe is alive”. Now we’re getting somewhere. The infinite monkey cage is not as deceased as we thought.
Coupled with his statement that the notion of a soul leaving a person at death feels right, that is a lot to wring out of a physicist in one hour of television.
What will the new unified Europe be like? I’ve let my imagination run riot in the following assessment:
A recent television item showed a house that had been left untouched since the early 1950s. Almost everything, from wallpaper to paintwork to furniture, was beige.
Beige is the colour of the future thanks to Brussels’ obsession with conformity — in the shape of the notion of equality — and control of every aspect of life.
I can see it now in my mind’s eye: mass immigration will mean there will be only one skin colour, beige, while rising populations will increase pollution so much that both sky and sea will be beige.
Eventually, there will emerge a new seat of world government in the vast conurbation of Brussels/Geneva, shortened to Breneva, which will set the pace on equality legislation around the globe.
To avoid class differences, nobody will be allowed to wear coloured clothing. All will don beige trouser suits, reducing individuality to a minimum.
Education will be identical for all, regardless of intelligence or aptitude. A new law abolishing war — to avoid winners and losers — will be hotly contested by women’s groups claiming that their new “right to fight” alongside men on the front line had been breached.
How soon “rights” become imperatives.
It will also become apparent that, to avoid such clashes in future, gender must be abolished. Castration will be voluntary at first, winning the participants a gold medal for services to the State. Then it will gradually be compulsory, with sexless children produced in Person Laboratories.
Mass medicalisation will eliminate all illnesses and psychological complaints except one: Boredom, the new plague.
A wide range of drugs will be prescribed to keep it under control: uppers and downers, cannabis, heroin, skunk, cocaine, all are available on prescription at no charge.
As the human population becomes ever more incapable of serious work, an increasingly robotic workforce is developed to take over. Humans will be the drones of the new world order.
However, in one little lonely outpost of the world designated, Rebel Colony 47b, once known as Great Britain, a freedom movement has survived.
Its population maintains all the old traditions of marriage, family and freedom of conscience. Children are born naturally and educated according to their talents and inclinations.
The colour beige is strictly forbidden.
A few years ago, Business Week journalist, Stephen Baker, had a thought-provoking piece over at Blogspotting. Its title is a telling Knowledge workers: We’re on our own, and it means what it says.
Face it, knowledge workers, if we’re not already freelancing, we’re heading in that direction. I’m typing this on a company-owned laptop, but Gartner predicts that within three years, one in 10 companies will be forcing employees to provide their own laptops. I’m surprised the number isn’t higher.
He painted a grim picture : “Increasingly, we’ll be on our own.” Grim for some, at least. Personally, I’ve always been “on my own”. All authors are. But I can see it would be tough for the gregarious types who are addicted to office politics and the water-cooler mafia.
He continued: “Why is this happening? Companies have the data and the intelligence now to cut the jobs they need done into tiny slices, each one going to the person best equipped to handle it anywhere on the globe. It’s a virtual assembly line.”
This is my long-held theory that each critical decision should be taken at the point of maximum competence, regardless of job title. I call it “superdemocracy”.
Now comes the juicy part of Baker’s idea. For those who write online more in hope than expectation, this is a Business Week endorsement:
So what do we do? For starters, we blog. That way we build our individual brands, our knowledge, and our network of connections. These are going to be ever more vital assets in the years ahead. If we do a good enough job building them, companies may decide to bid for our services fulltime, even throwing in insurance and a 401K.
Soon, in the “ecosystem that’s unfolding, one teeming with knowledge entrepreneurs, I’m betting that most of us, by choice or circumstance, are going to be running our own show.”
This is happening now. Many of my friends are peeling away from the corporate system, and those who are not, would like to. Interestingly, as Stephen says, blogging is the centrepiece of that effort. It puts you out there and up there, in the neon lights of a business Broadway that’s tapping its way into the 21st century, as the hoofers of old tap-danced into the 20th.
All mergers and acquisitions are based on the idea that economies of scale will drive down costs across the board and produce synergies between organizations. This assumption is so ingrained in our thinking that few people stop to ask why most takeovers fail.
In any group activity there’s a hierarchy of decision-making. Each person in the structure (we won’t say “node”) gets a bagload of responsibilities based on various assumptions, and the empire-building of their predecessors. Like cream in a milk bottle, decisions have a strong tendency to rise up the hierarchy, stopping only when the number of assumptions needed to take them exceeds common sense.
Notice the word “exceeds”. This isn’t a rational process, it’s pushed purely by ego and vanity.
The result is that most decisions in any organisation (business or governmental) produce a one-size-fits-all outcome which gives a false sense of synergy, while destroying efficiency and particularity.
“Particularity” may sound odd here but, in reality, it’s the crux of the well-being of any complex infrastructure. It means decisions are made with few assumptions and with a “size”, or scale, that fits the need of every case.
Modern Western countries are one-size-fits-all societies. It’s our weakest link and the point where our enemies concentrate their attacks. They know most decisions, whether laws, regulations, red tape, whatever, are unpopular and largely unworkable, because they lack particularity.
Thus we need armies of lawyers to sort things out, over long periods of time. We also have to throw huge amounts of national and business capital at problems just to keep them afloat.
Politburo orders are always wrong. EU “directives” are never right for most people. Decisions taken on 10 Downing Street’s sofa have been proved disastrous time and again. White House decisions are hardly spangled with success. Microsoft, and even lucky Google, make crass moves all the time which go totally pear-shaped.
If every decision were taken at the point of maximum competence, or very near to it, there would be few assumptions to make, and the outcome would be as close to perfect as it’s possible to reach.
So here’s The Syntagma Principle: Particularity means never having to make assumptions. If you’re making assumptions, the decision shouldn’t be taken at your pay grade.
Profundity of the Week
The more shared past there is in a relationship, the more present you need to be; otherwise, you will be forced to relive the past again and again.
Eckhart Tolle, in Oneness With All Life
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Coming up: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com.