The spectre of Spring 2021

Foreboding lurks at the back of my mind, almost continuously. It’s not so much the plague, but how people are behaving. Society is being strained at its seams and frayed edges begin to appear.

As you may recall, my world context retains strong ties to Southern Africa and I am a child raised during the Cold War, when the spectre of the time was Communism driven by totalitarians. Then, as now, simple maxims were used to sway the masses. Freedom and equality for all!

Isn’t it ironic that these are the underpinnings of the woke movement, demanding representation and retribution for any cadre with some identifiable characteristic, practice or habit.

The process of promotion of the interests of minority groups has attacked current institutions, individuals and laws on the premise that their existence has been achieved to the disadvantage of minorities who were discriminated against in history.

At the same time, the prevalence of conspiracies and their adherents is challenging democracies’ability to govern and is widely being used as a political tool to fuel fire in followers. The old name for conspiracies was propaganda. Its purpose was to galvanise popular belief, without challenge.

An alarming feature of recent campaigns of identity movements like #metoo and Black Lives Matter is that mere allegations are accepted as facts. Now that’s okay when allegations are admitted, but when they are disputed, there has always been a process to ascertain the most accurate version of the truth.

Corroboration is essential. But nowadays, every accused person is deemed a liar unless they admit their guilt.

Capitalism has created a huge disparity in earnings with the super rich becoming the aristocracy of old.

Marketing and Kardocumentatries, scripted reality shows and social media exaggerate and glorify lifestyles impossible for all but the rich. Tension, envy and outrage brew amongst those who can never indulge in champagne cruises, drive Porsches, wear silk shirts and eat caviar.

Attributions for the London rioters’ behaviour in 2011 included social factors such as racial tension, class tension, economic decline, and the unemployment that decline had brought. Well that is also an accurate picture of what happened in South Africa and eSwatini. Put a lid on a boiling pot and eruptions are certain!

I am trying to say that world wide we are at a stage that reasonable judgment has been suspended and gut feeling is carrying the day. This means that democracy is dead, it cannot be sustained in the face of ever-increasing individual demands for unique treatment. Capitalism in its present form has also failed. The poor are increasing and want more.

The task is to find new inviolate principles by which all agree they can be governed.

Tragically, all we need to do is look at organised religion to see that so many prophets arise to lead that there is continuous alienation and conflict.

I hoped that the plague would give rise to strong, credible leadership but fear there are too many critics, not enough followers.

So, sadly it seems that fragmentation will continue until another global catastrophe arises to force us together, maybe a world war – any bets on how soon and who will oppose the Chicomms?

Memory is not what I thought it was

“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: you can go in there and change it, but so can other people”

So says Elizabeth Loftus an American cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory*. And she walks her talk with an impressive array of research.

She was consulted by Harvey Weinstein who asked her: ‘How can something that seems so consensual be turned into something so wrong?’

Memories are reconstructions; they are not literal representations of what actually happened … (memory) is highly malleable and open to suggestion.

She has also shown that false memories can be embedded by leading questions and psychotherapy.

In a 2013 TED talk entirled “How reliable is your memory” she reported that one project had identified some 300 people who were convicted of things they didn’t do, based on DNA analysis. Three quarters of the cases were due to faulty eyewitness memory.

The implications for eyewitness based testimony and the validity of repressed memories are huge. It means that single witness evidence should not be regarded as sufficient evidence of truth, unless there is other direct evidence to support it.

In the US, some states refuse to prosecute cases based on recovered memory testimony and some insurers decline cover to therapists on recoved memory malpractice suits.*

Testimony from Professor Lucas in the two headline inquiries in Australia into rapes by a Minister or in a Minister’s office may well be enlightening.

But sadly, the outcomes of those inquiries have already been decided, without the need to hear evidence.

In my view, the sooner we get rid of juries, eyewitness evidence and judges the better: we need to promote universal surveillance, compulsory truth serums and lie detection and use a computer to evaluate the evidence.

*Wikipedia – Elizabeth Loftus

The drowning of rational debate

(This is a shortened version of an article by Chris Kenny which I endorse. I am somewhat guilty of irresponsible utterances and hereby undertake to try to be better)

Twitter digitises and broadcasts the public debate equivalent of a teenage graffiti and vandalism rampage. And yet it shapes debate; our mainstream media and politicians look to the digital world for instant opinion polling and guidance about where to take their narratives and policies …

It is amplifying and weaponising the crudest and most inane elements of society and inviting them to dumb down our public square.

Our battered and impoverished public debate will not improve unless we learn to talk to each other. For a civil society to exist and political debate to be useful, people need to be able to hear ­alternative arguments, avail themselves of all relevant facts, and learn to deal politely with people who do not agree with them.

Far too many people waste their time shouting digital abuse at each other, or regurgitating views they agree with from accounts chosen by the faceless match­makers of the Facebook algorithms, instead of reading, discussing or learning.

The digital revolution was going to democratise the media, personalise democracy and mobilise the truth, but instead it has polarised and emaciated the media, dragged politics into the mire of anonymous bullying, and fostered deceptive memes, fake news and pile-ons.

At its core is a lack of accountability. The enticement of being able to post widely and often about anything — without submitting to editors, curators, lawyers or peers — encourages bravado and aggression, and it fosters an impetuousness that ­values gut feelings over facts, and devalues the time and effort required to get across the facts.

This freedom could liberate debate; but instead of letting a thousand flowers bloom, it shares the scrawls of a thousand dunny doors. People are unthinking enough about what they post without the added shield of anonymity — requiring people to post under their real names, with proof of identity, would not eradicate the problems but it would improve the situation.

The headline or the topic is enough for these people to slur or condemn; often egged on by hysterical opinion leaders such as Kevin Rudd …

…. thanks to social media; more conservatives are forced underground. … social media has weaponised the assault against anyone right of centre.

The woke love the following and adulation of social media …. until they cross a line, make the mistake of speaking sense or asking a salient question, then they experience the rule of the leftist lynch mob.

Public debate becomes coarser, more out of touch from the mainstream, and less tolerant of differing points of view. Soon the stage is vacated by all but the screaming green left, and those who will appease them.

Chris Kenny Weekend Australian 13 March 2021 

Rational debate drowning in the social media swamp

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/rational-debate-killed-in-the-sewer-of-social-media/news-story/bd066d99571f6d35b67d95ae1c494b4a

Rant

Arrant twaddle and waffle.

She had suicidal thoughts but was told it wouldn’t look good for her to seek help .…. oh poor baba, the wannabe princess nor her gallant prince couldn’t arrange it themselves? Mind you they didn’t even teach her the national anthemn – she had to learn it herself! How absoloutely shocking and racist!

Innuendo and subjective hypotheses, allusions that raise the racist spectre: “concerns and conversations about how dark” the baby would be. Somebody probably wisecracked that a black prince would vary the royal family array on the balcony. Horrors ! That’s even worse than the rapist aspersion currently popular in Australia.

It seems to have been all about what people didn’t do for the TV starlet and what she couldn’t get her snappy, sharpwitted prince to do. He has had to jump through a lot of hoops for his woman. I mean, she has had to tolerate critique about her bridesmaids dresses, how incredibly tragic!

Most of it seems to be about who was going to pay for security. They needed security because of all the loony death threats and horrible letters they had been getting. Selflessly, Her Grace said, if not for me or my baby Archie, just for my Prince… ohh what a squeeze to my heart!

No wonder Oprah is so successful, she knows how to milk scandal and innuendo for headlines. She must be gutted that she didn’t get who said “how dark will the baby be?”. That would have have been the cherry on this sad wedding cake.

Mind you she managed to get in racism, Diana, Daddy didn’t want to take my calls and lots of pregnant (oops!) innuendo and a coy revelation of the sex of the next baby to be. She didn’t get much if anything on Duchess M’s Daddy or Mummy or her previous husband or her apparently estranged siblings. They would make interesting follow-ups I am sure! Oh how exciting! This could go on for years, like “Married at First Sight”.

Enough of that Bollywood B-grade soapie!

The silly cow saga in Canberra just defies belief; if it wasn’t so sad, it would be a comedy. There seem to be quite a few lying cows there! And some real dogs….

An eager, bright young thing, full of wine, is persuaded by a smooth talking serial shagger, to take a ride home with him but a they first go to the Minister’s office. Security is easily negotiated (Heads should deservingly roll there), she passes out and access is gained, if you get my drift. She protests and he eventually desists and abandons her. Security discover her in disarray.

She reports later that she has been raped, then dithers and withdraws her allegations, despite advice to tell the cops. The cad appears to have been fired.

No further action ensues until a serial scandal generating journalist (are there any other types any more?), gets wind of the story a couple of years later. She plans a Cardinal Pell like journalstic bombshell, knowing the cancel culture and a desperate opposition party is fertile ground for vivid reponse and sensational headlines to follow.

And do they jump in, boots and all! Then even better, a sad story of a woman with a history of mental illness, who claims she was sodomised by the Attorney General who promised to marry her when he was 17.

Mud sticks in this day and age of focus on salacious ‘love’ stories .

I am saddened that supposedly intelligent people like the Leader of the Opposition and his desperate crew, seize advantage for media prominence by using such flimsy and shoddy stories to attack the credibility and bona fides of the Prime Minister.

As for the former Prime Minister… how desperately nasty can you get?

We live in a sad and sick society: not even a plague or a possible global war with China can shake our fascination with the sludge of life!

Sieg HEIL – The Trump Fanfare

I must point out that we are indebted to Trump for at least one huge lesson about humanity. He has shown us that most of us will follow anyone who strikes a chord that resonates  … and keeps repeating that message. Someone who shows that it’s NOT our fault – that they (clearly identifiable others) are the ones who have caused our pain.

It helps if they live amongst us and appear to be richer, stronger or more effective than us.

Inevitably, the media are liars and on their side (which is not to say some of them aren’t …)

Conspiracies explain everything … even though we are not quite sure what they are.

I say us because it includes friends and family members

Not long ago – in our parents and grandparents day, Hitler was believed, admired and followed blindly by millions of Germans and European nations even the Duke of York, once King of England!

It doesn’t seem to matter that the demagogue is not consistent, sounds deranged and makes outrageous claims. At that last “March to save America” rally, Trump looked and sounded deranged; frantic, repetitive, unrestrained. Just appearing at that rally smacked of civil mischief, but no-one stopped the President. He was unstoppable, despite increasing incoherence and blatant lying, ranting and raving … in between a few rounds of golf.

On the other side of the political spectrum lemming like behaviour is also prevalent. Democrats in Congress all took the knee recently – a blatantly populist obeisance to the political movement condemning Police, condoning the eradication of historical and cultural icons and accepting the blame for slavery.

One can only see this type of populist endorsement inflaming conservatives who are also suffering under the economic malaise of the midWest and Deep South US.

All of these people on both sides proclaim the virtue of their beliefs and decry the baselessness and immorality of the others cause.   

It is no good pointing out misconduct and precedents. We have to find ways to do things better.

Impeachment will not help – it will merely reinforce the conspiracy and turn a maniac into a martyr.

Biden has it right – extending the hand of friendship to all. Somehow he needs to find a way to distract the Right and Unite.

Somehow faith must be restored in the electoral system. Blockchain may be the answer. Certainly technology exists that could do this.

Maybe China policy will do it – revive manufacturing lost to Asia, promote fossil free fuel technology, make hemp production an agricultural priority, ban neckties ….

Oh Come On!! Its not often I get the chance to advise a new head of state!

The occasional cloud

I am my own doctor

(* click on the underlined texts for some vibes, ek sê)

I discerned the easy embrace, the clinging infiltration.

It was easy and almost soothing, maybe like drowning…?

Then I looked up and saw the blue sky and felt the fresh day.

And it slunk away, spurned like a jackal in the face of a lion.

It will return for a sniff once or twice; such is the beast.

But I have its measure and offer scant sustenance for its cloying ploys.

I rejoice that it was sooo easy – all I did is look up and breathe!

The cur crept in on the tail of some lazy thoughts:

what a drag it is getting old and the pursuit of happiness is just a bore.

Mick Jagger sang it in 1964, would you believe!

Anyway, mother’s little helpers have been discredited.

But it isn’t really a drag, because you don’t feel old, (unless you fall over).

You may be gray and slow and can’t run, but that’s just your body.

You are your own doctor, because you choose how you feel!

Some easy ways for good health:

Never forget blue sky

Sleep is the single most important thing your brain needs for optimal functioning.

Exercise – all regular physical activity increases blood circulation and levels of many different neurochemicals and hormones in the brain

Sunlight: It is known that sunlight can affect serotonin levels …and may also influence dopamine.

Massage – boosts serotonin levels by as much as 30% and increases dopamine, activates endorphins, improves sleep, and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.

Meditation –  can increase concentrations of dopamine in the brain’s cortex.

Deciding – The act of intentionally making any decision has been shown to cause positive changes in attention and increase dopamine rewarding activity..

Setting and achieving goals – When you achieve a goal, dopamine is released. Dopamine is not only released when you cross the finish line. You get dopamine boosts at each step along the way, which helps to keep you motivated.

Habits – Habits, both good and bad, become the routine in your brain through repetition and dopamine release. Unfortunately, bad habits are the ones that often give you lots of dopamine. However, when you perform a habit – even a good one – you get a dopamine reward and it gets further wired into your brain, giving you more motivation to do it next time.

Petting a dog – Studies show that simply petting a pooch increases dopamine and endorphins.

Yoga – Yoga has been shown to increase dopamine levels – plus it reduces stress, increases oxygen to your brain with deep, slow breathing, and ups soothing GABA. Yoga helps ease depression and stress in many ways.

https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/

snoopys secret

A leap year

2020 is a year that leapt into the future at a time when the future was rushing towards us. The pandemic caused everyone to take a leap into the unknown to avoid terrible consequences.

Bureaucracy has been disemboweled, opposition politics have waned, instant communications have proved their worth, snap decision-making and civic obedience have became the norm.

All of a sudden, many employers have discovered they don’t need offices and they can trust employees. Teachers have enabled remote learning in numbers. The hidden dangers of cheap, off shore manufacture have been uncovered.

What are the implications?

The cruise liner industry will need to re-tool: perhaps they could be used as prisons like the sheer hulks of old. The universal basic income has suddenly attained reality. The economic imperialism of China has been unmasked.

First world countries are going to have to learn how to manufacture without cheap labour, third world countries will have to learn to establish their own industries without First World money.

The possibility of direct communication and mandating of representatives could eradicate the roadblocks and pork barrels of party combinations

Hopefully, the opportunity is taken to accelerate the new clean, renewable energy options and eliminate fossil fuel machinery, promote secure digital transactions with blockchain and return our elderly to our homes.

The industrial revolution we are experiencing will flower out of the Covid recession. Many people will lose jobs and have to transition to new careers.

We have a golden opportunity to strengthen the fabric of our society.

Those people expectorated from their careers by the new technological advances can stay at home and look after their elders and keep a closer eye on their children, instead of placing them in homes and child care.

The death traps we have designed to contain our inconvenient elderly relatives should be abolished. Attention also needs to be paid on the effects on our children of child care from babyhood.

Forward looking government will happily pay in-home carers instead of fund old age homes and child care centres.

So we have a real chance to re-build our environment and our families – let’s not misstep the leap.

Do white lives matter?

Have you heard of Senekal in the Orange Free State?

A young farm manager in the district was beaten to death and his body was hoisted on a pole in his fields by his murderers, who were stock thieves.

“… he was tortured to death. All his bones were broken. He was cremated. He was not even buried”

Over a thousand local farmers, gathered outside the Magistrates Court where the alleged murderers were to appear after arrest. The intent was to register strong protest, but things got out of hand. A Police official was manhandled, shots were fired and a Police vehicle was toppled and torched. Ho hum …. just another of many similar incidents in the world today..?

One slightly different aspect was that the farmers were all white people and the alleged criminals, Police and other officials were nearly all black people.

Many white farmers have been murdered in South Africa leading to claims that it is a politically targeted genocide. This is a topic kept burning and aggravated by the white right wing.

For years white farmers have said that they are under siege, being killed on their properties – seemingly without much state intervention.

The government’s response has been that crime finds its way into everyone’s home (which is true). And that they are doing what they can to fight it ( but farmers keep getting murdered).

Statistics suggest that the majority of victims of crime are black. Black people are the majority and are disproportionately exposed to some of the factors that fuel crime – inequality, poverty and unemployment [1]. Unemployment is estimated to be over 42% (Bloomberg).

Most large farms in South Africa are owned by white farmers. They often have large homesteads and numerous employees. The homesteads are remote and the trappings of apparent wealth must be tempting to the destitute, desperate and criminal.

South Africa is a tale of two countries and it does not take much for problems to become tribalised. It is a sign of the tensions that are always simmering just beneath the surface.[2]

After all, apartheid was the crucible where identity politics activism gained legitimacy and momentum.

Is this gruesome murder not another George Floyd type moment? A minority group claiming prolonged targeting and victimisation by an oppressive majority.

Will we see the BLM and Antifa activists come out to join the next protest – maybe they will mimic Seattle and take over the city centre of Bloemfontein?

Somehow I doubt it – in the twisted rationale of the Identity politics creed, white is wrong and black is always the victim….

So real outrage notwithstanding, the fact that it is expressed solely by whites undermines the legitimacy of the protest and presents a threat to the delicate balance in race relations and government’s ability to balance conflicting demands.

Alarmingly, these protestors expressing their genuine outrage and fears are likely to be leveraged by those on both extremes of the political spectrum seeking confrontation, which will serve their political interests.

Sadly it is not the virtuous outrage and exercise of democratic protest that will be seen, but the similarities to white lynch mobs of the Deep South US in the last century and the armed anti BLM protestors more recently…

The South African Police have never been known for their skill and subtlety in controlling mass demonstrations as Sharpeville and Marikana amply demonstrate.

We must brace ourselves for tragedy.

If the next protest included black farmers and black employees it would not be discounted as a protest of a previously privileged class bewailing discomforts long suffered by most of the rest of the population.

It is past time that all South Africans realised that they are a community, not parts of a community, each with different views of history.

Instead of looking back in anger, look forward with resolve.

I’ll say it again! All lives matter!


[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54441374

[2] Ibid

The Social Dilemma

 Be afraid, be very afraid!

I suspect some of you think I am a bit of a drama queen or a wolf-crier. Maybe both – but I urge you to watch The Social Dilemma, it is currently on Netflix.

Especially if you have children.

This documentary presents the views of a number of people who were intricately involved in designing Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest and other mainstream social media.

Reviewers have said this film is the “single most lucid, succinct, and profoundly terrifying analysis of social media ever created”

“(it) carefully details the skyrocketing levels of depression among children and teenagers; the flat-earthers and white supremacists; the genocide in Myanmar; the Covid misinformation; [and] the imperilling of objective truth and social disintegration”.

Harvard University professor Shoshana Zuboff speaks quite clearly about the profit -making orientation of digital companies like Google and Amazon (which) represent a new form of capitalist accumulation that she calls “surveillance capitalism

 Surveillance Capitalism “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data [which] are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later.”

These new capitalist products “are traded in a new kind of marketplace – behavioural futures markets.

Through the lens of surveillance capitalism’s economic and social imperatives, she lists many issues that plague contemporary society including:

  • the assault on privacy and the so-called ‘privacy paradox’,
  • behavioral targeting
  • fake news
  • ubiquitous tracking
  • legislative and regulatory failure
  • algorithmic governance
  • social media addiction
  •  abrogation of human rights
  • democratic destabilization, and more are reinterpreted and explained

As I said: be afraid….

Cancel Culture Culture

The National Library of New Zealand recently decided to dispose of 600 000 books including prized first editions of English literature classics  to make way for the growing New Zealand, Maori and Pacific collection.1

This may be a budget thing: ’a not enough space’ type of argument but I smell cancel culture and the identity politics creed that has been woodworming academica and bureaucracy for some years now.

The rationale that has become fashionable since black lives now matter, is that policies, laws and icons that stem from the past must be eradicated. This is because the colonists, rulers, inventors and developers of the most successful technological societies in modern history were almost exclusively European males; now invalidated by the lack of indigenous participation.

It is propounded that the general oppression and inability of most people of colour from Africa and the Pacific to get rich, get educated and successfully contribute to society is directly attributable to and caused by these white despots.

Hence the re-writing of history and the toppling of statues, renaming of roads and places with European names.

So how should we paint our past for future reference?

I know, let’s name places and roads and raise statues to historically famous and clever African and Pacifica people of colour!

We will need to look at historical records of these peoples. Oh! So we can only go back about 180 years which is about when the colonial oppressors taught these peoples how to write. They are now able to tell us how we misspelt the names of people and places, isn’t that nice?

Well, I am sure we can rely on their oral history…

Are there any great inventions of these societies? Well, since the Pyramids there’s been …maybe the iklwa, boomerang, trench warfare, shrunken heads and an app for hair inventions?

How about great leaders? Nelson Mandela of course, Hone Heke, the great Maori warchief, Shaka Zulu (a tad despotic, perhaps?), Nasser, Gaddafi, Nkrumah, Mobutu, Mugabe, Idi Amin (these two are a bit like Shaka?) – mind you, it’s likely the colonial oppressors oppressed leaders, that’s possibly why there are so few.

Whatever?! Just take a knee people, and bow to the inevitable, because otherwise you’ll be labelled a racist, misogynist, gay bashing, petal plucking redneck. Don’t worry about most of history – it is no longer relevant.

Wikipedia says: The burning of books has a long history as a tool that has been wielded … to suppress dissenting or heretical views that are believed to pose a threat to the prevailing order…(and) can become a significant component of cultural genocide.

Iconoclasm is a very basic and powerful political tool which demonstrates radical defiance of the commonly held norms of society – it is a challenge to the middle of the road look awayers and I-say-nothingers.

Note to self: stop shooting yourself in the foot!

1The Guardian, 11 September 2020