Nov 092012

It was announced today that George Osborne has taken the decision to invest in public space research.  Whilst I uncharitably wondered at first whether this was to do with the space between his ears, I then concluded that Britain’s most prolific serial entrepreneur, Richard Branson, might have had some long-term beady eye placed on such a development.  You get suspicious like that these days: corporate Communism makes you so.  Whilst it’s bad to use public funds to support the ill and needy survive as best they can, the corporate Communists agree as one that such funds can be shovelled hand over fist into public-sector ventures of a readily privatisable nature.

But maybe I’m seeing shadows where there really are none.

You know me – a conspiratorial sort to the very end.

Something, now, in relation to the Twitter rumour-mill.  As I wrote this morning and a couple of days ago now, the thought of paedophilia strikes at the very heart of our souls and beings.  And where there has been abuse, whether allegedly sexual or manifestly political, there will be a desire to strike back.  It would seem that such a desire has already been consumed, if these declarations are anything to go by (more on this matter here).  There is nothing worse than a mob getting lynch-hungry – even as there is nothing more common than an establishment hurriedly re-establishing itself.

To be honest, I’ve never understood why accusations of sexual abuse are considered so inevitably defamatory where accusations of political abuse are par for the course.  That a government – or, indeed, any politician – can be accused of deliberately destroying whole communities and not take legal action against its accusers seems a ridiculous and foolish state of affairs.  It just shows how much we misunderstand sex and sanction the exercise of the establishment’s power.

Anyhow.  The English and sex clearly do not happily mix in public.

And so I come to the subject of digital literacy, as raised by the BBC yesterday:

Some 16 million people in the UK lack basic online skills, a survey suggests.

The report, conducted by consultancy firm Booz & Company, defines basic skills as using a search engine, sending and receiving emails, completing online applications and accessing information online.

To be honest, I think it must become apparent to anyone who thinks about this subject just a little that to conceptualise digital literacy as knowing where to poke a few words into a search engine is like designing a primary school IT curriculum around using Microsoft Office.



As we were.

The truth of the matter – especially in the light of the flurry of sexual abuse rumours alluded to above – is that the kind of literacy we need a lot more in this country involves the evaluation of web information as it flows and surges, like a virtual Hurricane Sandy, back and forth in that space we all share between our sometimes inattentive ears.

And I don’t just mean the public.  I also mean the police, journalists, politicians and society wonks in general.  As the BBC report unsurprisingly sustains (the bold is mine):

Annika Small, chief executive of the Nominet Trust, a charity set up to find ways of using the internet for social good, welcomed the plan.

“It is shocking that 16 million people don’t have basic skills and there is a lot of work going on to encourage people to use the internet,” she said.

But, she added, the skills identified by the report “seem to set the bar quite low”.

“Once people have found something relevant to them online and have discovered the power of the internet, their skills become quite sophisticated,” she said.

Digital literacy should be seen as a lot more than just pressing software buttons.

If we are to make of social media a tool of social gain – instead of allowing it to deteriorate into antisocial pain – we must surely propose training not only our children but also our economically productive and democratically involved adults and elders to participate more fully in a literacy which might one day serve to benefit us all.

For if, in the future, we can guarantee that everyone participates in ensuring society develops in as kindly a way as possible, perhaps the alleged and recognised cruelties of the past forty years can be avoided with reasonable certainty.

Only then will our society recover some semblance of sincerity and truth.

Out of literacy, learning has always come.  And learning is the key to clearing away the evil cobwebs of unhappy ignorance.

These days, you see, it’s not just knowledge which engenders power.

It’s knowing how to do two things: assess the true value of what you long ago already suspected – and understand how best to communicate those suspicions.

Timing is everything.

And that’s what latterday literacy should be all about.

Nov 092012

This, from Jon Stewart, post-US elections, is very funny – and makes me sad.  Its total enjoyment of the chagrin of evil others really does not bode well for the future of consensus politics.  This is, in fact, politics made war – and, perhaps, as a species, it is all we are capable of.

Contrast it with reactions such as these – “No time for collaboration” – and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Meanwhile, back in Britain, Mr David Cameron has mentioned the words “paedophilia”, “witch-hunts” and “gays” in the same conversation.

This has, of course, provoked reactions of all sorts.

I am, myself, actually inclined to believe Mr Cameron did act out of the very best of intentions.  I do feel, however, that – like so many of the rest of us human beings out here – he unconsciously revealed his deepest prejudices.  Just as as the American left as represented by Jon Stewart so visibly despises the hardline American right for all their lies, obfuscation and manipulatory politics, so Mr Cameron probably despises the British left for all their nit-picking and prejudice-catching instincts.  Yes.  He was probably accurate when he said that gays would come worst off in any such witch-hunt.  How could it be any other way?  We’ve already seen how the disabled, sick and poor are equally at risk of suffering the full weight and heavy-handed politics of the worst government we’ve had in the last forty years.

Gays are no different.  A visible and organised group of people who rightly defend their rights to make a life at what used to be the margin of traditional establishment assumptions about what was right and wrong in human discourse.

Mr Cameron prejudiced?  Absolutely.  After all, aren’t we all?  Did he mean to connect paedophilia, witch-hunts and gays in the same sentence?  Yes and no.  He didn’t mean it to come out as he said it – but under that PR mane of suave communication, and perhaps very very deep down, it’s what he surely believes.

Perhaps despite himself.

For example, I’m sure he and his wife wouldn’t choose for their children a nursery school run and staffed entirely by gays.

Now would you?  And if you wouldn’t, why not?


In all this, we’re losing something very precious.  The glorious English right to eccentricity is disappearing over our cultural horizons.  Jimmy Savile and his ilk have done far more to destroy the essence of English freedoms than any New Labour-driven obsession with using the state to prevent child and teenage abuse and deprivation.

The impact that all the above will have on our society will shake its reality to its profoundest foundations.

All because those in power had far too much power.

All because our newspapers decided that money and influence were more important than truth.

All because every one of us is prejudiced beyond belief.

All because – in the end – no one ever knows how to properly avoid compromising their principles.

And in this, this terrible sequence of matters, we’re definitely all in it together.