Aug 092014
 
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Some thoughts I just brainstormed via Twitter:

#Globalisation promised progress from the well-off to the poor. TBH, it increasingly delivers pockets of poverty to the formerly well-off.

#Globalisation’s making us poorer: s’times literally, as water loses its status as human right; s’times, just a simple poverty of spirit.

The more our leaders (we too) get used to remote-controlled fixes, the less #globalisation leads to a coming-together of minds/their ideas.

Maybe the Interwebs have driven this tendency: being able to access it all from one’s own workstation leads to stationary attitudes to work.

For a particular tech-based mindset, the web is simply the beginning. But what if eventually it turns out to be distortion? A blip? A fork?

What if our future doesn’t equal remote-controlled fixing? What if a different disruption – instant travel, say – makes this web irrelevant?

Instant travel would make face-to-face skills & expectations as important as they ever were; but more importantly, democratically available.

The best of the web – instant access – without the worst: that distancing of physical everyone from everyone, which makes us so suspicious.

Those thoughts cheer me up, in an Asimov way. Imagine a world, where anyone could visit anywhere – in a second. #disruptiveinnovationforsure

Mind you, thinking less airily, more grounded in reality, the following issues do arise.  As per 3D printing, the ability to digitally whisk stuff across currently sovereign frontiers does kind of explain the rush and haste governments across the world, whatever their political colours, are all exhibiting: the borders of the future will not be sealed at all, if not sealed virtually.  Now whilst it’s true that instantaneous travel from anywhere to anywhere, and (more importantly) from anyone to anyone, could serve to liberate democratic citizens – and societies like our own, clearly struggling at the moment to be democratic – in a way no human being would ever have experienced before, as well as lead us back to the good old times when people thrashed out their problems through dialogue and at round tables of equal communication (or at least, when in Arthurian mode, so we’d allow ourselves to believe), in all probability the “dangers” of a humanity getting to know a humanity would not be underestimated by those running the serious risk of losing their privilege.  The darndest thing about democracy, of course, being that people don’t always vote the way you would like them to.  Just imagine, then, the problem of a society totally unmediated by content industries; totally informed by real, cheap, instantaneous opportunities to witness situations on the ground in first person.

Whenever anyone wanted.

Wherever anyone cared.

They’d have to invent a whole host of new reasons to make instantaneous travel a danger worthy of a surveillance state.

Ah well.  I’m sure they could, and would.

Until then, and whilst the new “computer companies” still had time to do their disruptive worst best, we could perhaps recover some semblance of the freedoms we once enjoyed on the Internet – and, more specifically, the worldwide web.

If, I suppose, those freedoms ever really existed.

Anyhow.  As I suggested in my final tweet above, I do feel kind of cheerful at the moment – thinking as I am of the Internet and what may lie beyond.  The wonder and excitement, for me, of that adolescent time when I read huge amounts of sci-fi books and short stories – admittedly a time when I was most impressionable about what I perceived, and when I was quite the least critical of the life unfolding around me – does right now make me smile as I believe that maybe the future can be rescued through technology after all.

The right sort of technology, of course.

The kind that makes democracy, not breaks it.


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Feb 282013
 
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It’s an old topic but both Norman and Chris feel obliged to revisit it.  Clearly, there must be something which keeps it up in the forefront of our minds.  It does in mine too – most days of my lapsed Catholic existence.  So why might this be?  Norman quotes from John Lloyd, writing in New Statesman (the bold is mine – and I particularly draw your attention to the use of the word “armoury”):

[…] the responsibility to protect remains a powerful moral imperative. It must remain part of the armoury of those states with the power and the will to stop tyranny where it is possible to do so and where intervention is likely to work – as it did in Sierra Leone, in Kosovo and ultimately in Bosnia. It may work in Mali. More thought needs to be given to how it might work in Syria. For the left, the responsibility to protect should be part of aprogressive view of global problems. That the principle has become synonymous with a kind of refurbished imperialism is a sign of decadence.

Meanwhile, Chris suggests the following:

One message of Lincoln is that even decent men must sometimes use unpleasant means to achieve worthy ends. […]

Now there have been plenty of arguments over what the British Coalition government has been doing to its people over the past three years or so.  Most explanations on the left of the political spectrum seem to centre on stories of conspiring neo-conservatives looking to replace sensible British socialism with the corporate capitalist landscapes they already shape in the US to fill their ever-deepening pockets.  In fact, I wrote yesterday about two examples of where this might already be happening – first of all, in Greece; second of all, here in the UK.

On the right, meanwhile, the publicly acknowledged discourses seem to focus on seeing life in terms of the deserving and the undeserving.  We get language such as “scroungers” and “shirkers”, contrasted violently with those who “strive” for what they have.  Hard-working families versus disabled couch potatoes who cause local councils any number of financial problems at the expense of the “economically viable” in society.

Not such a massive gap between such attitudes and New Labour’s aspirational socialism, to be honest.  Something we, perhaps, do not readily recognise enough – nor often enough either, it would seem.

Yet it seems to me that without wishing to demonise any human being a priori – that is to say, solely on the basis of their politics – we need to examine if there isn’t a far more profound and fundamental fault-line causing all this awful disenchantment; all this societal dysfunctionality; ultimately, all this cruel mismatch between what we start out exhibiting, as birth gives way to initial innocence, and how we end up in the hours before death.

Can we honestly say that any human being ends up doing more good than bad?  If progress – real progress fairly conceived – is the measure of how efficient, competent and inclusive our democracies and wider civilisations are supposed to be, how on earth can we define this “doing good by doing bad” as any kind of convincing progress?

And here, exactly here, it seems we finally find our fundamental fault-line: whilst we on the left sincerely believe in a supportive human existence, you on the right sincerely believe in a warlike human existence.  Whilst we construct strange caverns of political duplicity to get past you all kinds of Machiavellian intentions – witness New Labour’s famous socialism by stealth, for example, in the honestly held and understood (even where failed) intention to create a tapestry of humanity – you perceive precisely our best efforts as terrible weaknesses bound to lead us all to damnation.  For you, the world is a violent place of conflict.  To deny this reality is to play manipulative games of self-deception.

On doing good by doing bad?  That is – perhaps – what the right has done since time immemorial.  Not out of a desire to do evil at all.  Simply out of a nonchalant acceptance of the animal within us.

“Transformative reconciliation” was a phrase which came my way via Twitter this early afternoon.

We certainly need more of that right now.

But, perhaps, in the violence the right is inflicting on us now – out of this firmly-held belief that since violence is inevitable whatever one does, better a doing-good style of violence than an entirely doing-bad one – “transformative reconciliation” isn’t even for those of us on the left to perform.

No.  The Tories are not Nazis.  At least, not yet.

But the battle enjoined may have a similar sense and insensibility.  It might be the case that we on the left have to consider John Lloyd’s terminology very carefully.  When he says the responsibility to protect “must remain part of the armoury of those states with the power and the will to stop tyranny”, perhaps – equally – we must apply it to our internal conflicts back home.

A war of a kind then?  Even if only figuratively couched?

Time to do good by doing bad?

I hardly suggest this lightly.  Democracy is a precious figure which, once lost, is truly hard to regain.

I just know that – somewhere along the road we are blindly treading – this Britain of mine, this homeland of mine, this nation of mine, will begin to look just a little like the earthquake-ridden anterooms, which, located all those years ago along all those Balkan fault-lines, destroyed millions of lives, as well as their corresponding tranquillities, that we felt post-war Europe had awarded us.

As a Spanish general recently observed (page in Spanish): “The fatherland is more important than democracy.”

So is that the terrible place we are slowly being driven towards by the righteous Tories?  (Or, indeed, by our stealth-riven selves?)

And if so, how on earth should we properly react?

By doing bad ourselves too?

Is that really the only way?


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Aug 102011
 
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Here’s an interesting piece on building communities from opensource.com:

Neighborland is a new ideation crowdsourcing startup that gives citizens a “fun and easy way for residents to suggest new businesses and services that they want in their neighborhood.”

You can find the website for this startup here.  As their intro screen indicates:

We love New Orleans. We want Neighborland to be a fun and effective way to make our city a better place. Please take a look around, get to know your neighbors, and let us know what you want in your neighborhood. We will help make some of your ideas a reality this summer – stay tuned for upcoming workshops, pop-up stores, events, and how-to guides. On July 15th, we selected one of the best ideas and are working to make it happen. Our next winner will be chosen on September 15th.

With just a tiny twist in the tail, this concept could be refashioned to rebuild communities, damaged and hurt by the riots we’re currently experiencing in Britain.

I do hope someone up there is watching initiatives like this – even as I fear they are probably not.  As I see the politicians posture, I wonder how many of them will prefer to deal with the implications of the recent disturbances by a hollow and empty referral to the past – instead of demonstrating a brave and forward-looking intelligence capable of grasping the opportunities of the future.

Neighborland is an example of a future we could have right now.

And we should embrace it as soon as is practicable – as if, in fact, our very lives depended on it.
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Further reading: also from opensource.com this week, a short piece on the value of disruptive technologies in education.  It does occur to me that if, in a wider context, we were only able to see disruption as something positive, so many issues in society might take on a completely different hue.

Worth keeping in mind, as we progress in our understanding of this societal breakdown.


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