Thursday, October 28, 2010

part 3:

It is very clear we voters over value our votes - and the power they ought to bring.
There is nothing really wrong with that.
We have been told after all that we matter, that we govern our country - this is a democracy.
All of which is very well. but there are an awful lots of us doing a lots of very different things without agreeing much. or rather the one thing we can agree on is blaming leaders if things go wrong.
no wonder then politicians take individual voters vote cheaply. it does not matter much - for votes (like money) matter only onmass. One needs then to talk to mass (and a relative mass at that - all i need is more than you - in certain places).
We are caught then in the agony of a system that others are valuingn their votes, just as they are devalued in th esystem - probably in part in reaction to this fact.

Why government is impossible - part 2

The trouble is our laws have slipped from case law to issue law.

the trouble is that it is very easy to define issues.
They are created by moral crusades, by they ones that arise in long term problems or else short reaction to particularly gruesome crimes, or else whipped up moral panics.
Something must be done echoes constantly in all these struggles.

we just not be ignored.
The campaigners revel in their power, in their struggle, in their feeling of comraderie - which is fine - nothing like a good protest.
The trouble is that we then end up with laws that were made in reaction to unique circumstance and are not workable in other times or places.
The entire point then of law is lost in the welter of dangerous dogs, and closed sable doors.
th Current government by witch hunt (almost all tory policies appear to start life in the Daily mail 'bogus group)' - makes for popular decisions, but laws that not only unjst but also founded on fiction and lies. Problems the are endless made up and simplified as we all get increasingly distressed.
The trouble is then we need to live the the extremely complex effects of these simplification - and the laws they make......

Why government is impossible -part 1

1) Tricky capping jobs:
the country is absolutely full of impossible decisions.
Impossibilites come in so many many forms and shapes - there are moral social, an economic impossible decisions. Decisions that either cannot be called (but have to be made), or else ones that that can only be called after they have been made.
That is decisions that everyone will know the answer from the very magic land of hindsight and judge one by.
more than that these decisons have to be poured into a political system where ones fate is judged every so often from a combined set of mythic lands- hindsith, hope and comfort.
It is no wonder then that government actually cannot make these calls. Know one could.
All they can do is decide the parameters in which the debate and the ineventiable errors occur. That is they can define whether the problem is an excutive or free market one (or one to ignore and lambast). The point is genuine - for these decisions will define not merely the initial choice but the reaction to it, and the almost ineventable (and some level) disgruntlement that follows that choice.
The point of quango (or the free market) is then that they are an open end fall guy.
But the point them also is that they define the opposition to them - othering together otherwise disperate masses in strange alliances. For. for democracy to function the most important thing is always to manage the opposition and keep otl visible, and complex. it must then always form, if not a rival party, at least an organization that political parties can court (and not destory themselves).
Impossible choices then get capped with frameworks that define political life. a fact that really not made the decisions any easier or anymore likely to to good, but does allow for

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Case 4: The power of the future.

4 : Legislating for the Future.

To live in a torrent of technological change is to challenge so many existing systems of power. Economic system, state, broadcasting companies, all feel they ought to have something to say- have some redress to the world of technology. It ought to be made somehow to reflect their very real power; More than that their power ought to be augmented by it is some way. After all, the appeal goes – they are the natural powers of the land. And yet of course powers are not simply asserted, they u need to be earned and generated constantly and all the more so in a shifting world of technology. And the problem these traditional powers have is always how to assert themselves. The problem is of course that their ‘real’ powers look rather out place in the new media. Broadcasting companies find it then had to assert their rights of selection and ownership. The economic system finds it hard to conjure the difference between the economic and the real world in money. The recent crash was in part because they thought the technology was going to drive the system – and obliviate the power of real money – real land - a mistake that very nearly took the entire finical system with it. Finally states are caught up endless trying to regulate a constantly changing world, and design systems for a moving target. Whatever a states does then appears to be wrong (as the world will have moved on before it gets the chance to act).
Moreover this failure is a very real one. It matters. It is after all part of the myth of a state and their assertions of power than they are adequate to every challenge. It is the role of states then to be able to assert a certain form of power over their citizens and the wider world. And failure so to do matters therefore, for it risks putting into some kind of question the entire rational of states in the first place. States then would rather get heavy – rather be oppressive than let the matter slide. But it is not that simple. For the trouble with new technologies is that one has to legislate for what has not yet happened. The trouble of course being that if one waits for the crimes and then legislates, one will have to play endless and pointless catch up. What the lawyers in parliament then end up doing is creating portmanteau criminalities. General laws, that it is hoped, will be applied to the worlds as it changes and evolves. Laws are then passed that grow into their oppression, and grow slowly.
At which point two further factors kick in. new technology is of course not simply about computers. It is rather then fact that if one increases the numbers and kinds of links between people, the one increases what small group of individuals can do or plan. Individuals are in constant and regular contact with one another- and so both enforce one another’s feelings and plan. What is more they have the know-how and the technology, on tap to find out how to do something about that oppression. A world where disgruntled teenagers can be refracted into genuine terrorists is a terrifying one indeed. Secondly it goes without saying that any general law, always gets miss used and warped in a myriad of ways. Parliament passes the legislation just in case, and then it gets taken up by criminal lawyer and made into something. It becomes a monster – animate and changing in its own rights, and there is very little anyone can do about the fact. The same general laws then one needs to restrict to enforce the power of the state of new technology, are laws which when applied in the real world increase rather alarming what a state can do, and who it can monitor. Nor of course are these two facts unrelated. The problem of technology for a state is that in part, it creates endless new echo chambers for the prejudices for citizens. Grumbles can then be echoes into real grievances in such chambers – making so much of the population a potential threat. And the state, feeling its responsibilities very heavily, acts the only way it knows how. It monitors us all, and justifies itself for so doing.
The threat to the state here is a real one. Nation states are not a natural state of affairs. They were created in the welter of a certain set of historical events, and will only remain a political reality as long as they can master those events. Their very reality is then put in question by technology. It is no wonder then they passes paranoid legislation. That is it is no wonder those individuals who have poured their beliefs and channelled their dreams into the powers and the sovereignty of the nation (politicians and Bureaucrats) can only look askance as their power melts ways. It is then only natural they resist, and resist they do a resistance that has clearly warped (and is warping) so much of our recent poltical history.
There appears a kind of rule, where a state attempts to imposes a fourfold axis of powers, general and specific upon technology. This axis then asserts general and specific rules at the level of both the individual, but also the ‘citizen’ (that is the person caught up in the state). These rules are designed on the one hand to police, but also to explain and so control the emergent technologies. That is behind these four rules are the twin heads of the need to control what is there and the desire to have some input on what is developed.
The most critical of these factors in recent times had been the emergence of terror. The terror wars need realistically to be divided into four rather distinct elements (which the get very confused). First there are the real outrages that have occurred (for whatever reason). The outrages certainly have links to one another, and to a wider sequence of injustice – how could they not in a connected world- But actually are home-grown, and independent and self contained: A far more worrying thought. Secondly there is a sequence of wars which again are loosely linked together, but that link is not obvious or simple. The very fact we are fighting might be enough. Thirdly (and most critically in the context to the rest of this essay), there is the fact that the state endless is up against in these wars its lack power, and its failure to keep us safe. It is therefore up against how modernity is limiting its powers, and is so constantly. It response then in these terror wards is always the same – to greatly expand what it is aloud to do to its potentially rebellious citizens (this might be pretty well - all of us). It then looks to expand its powers to monitor, to arrest, and its right over our bodies (torture). Finally looping all these together is a threadbare myth of terrorism and global threat
The conflict itself that is the main symptom of this was has in had its own twofold effect. Firstly it defines the sense in which the state has arrived in the world of technology, We turn around and the state is their, policing away, asserting is rights in he name of nation security- a rights we are all want to agree with (how can we not). Secondly in the best Foucault traditions, there is something happening here. Unrest is being given a name and a career. Al Queada might not be a shadowy spectre like organization, but if people belief it is, they will invent it in their disgruntlement accordingly . They will look to it, and its organizers, to develop their anger. From which will develop little terrorist carriers terrorist do certain things- go certain place- and so become discoverable. The potential open ended threat of a population is then directed in a certain reaction. Those who are going to be a problem become findable. Invading Iraq and Afghanistan might have then increased the likelihood of home grown terrorists, but more critically it meant that terrorism understood itself in terms of a certain struggle, and behaved accordingly. It became then findable. The Terror wars then always not only the state to conjure new places to be, but also creates a new individual, the career terrorist, to monitor and control.
The terror that underpins the war is real enough. The state is terrified- for it is up against the limit of its power. This same terror of the other – of people, beyond the nations order, who we no longer can segregate as we did, of course translated into a population as something rather different. It becomes that old quasi-racist quasi-real and always queasy fear of migration. That is the population starts (not totally unreasonably) to assume it is about to be taken over by the other and that it way of live is being undermined. The trouble of course is that the fear in a sense is right. A global world does undermine our way of life, by making the world too complex to support it. That is we lose the rights to certain jobs, or to easy wealth or to use of history to strut around the world stage. All of that is gone- and with it so much of how we have understood ourselves for at least sixty years. Our way of living is, in a sense undermined. And yet of course we can do nothing about that fact. What is more we would not simply stop it, even if we could. We would not turn back the clock and unmake cheap products or improved information exchanges. All we can do then is blame someone else, and then go looking for the offender. Migrants and asylum seekers, who are in their own way also victims of the same process, and then simply there- a visible symptom o the problem and viable culprit for the paranoia we feel (and media stoke to make a profit).
The result is then of course a population that warped in its own way by new technology. It feels its jobs fly way to other parts, and new folk arrive. It naturally then blames the new folk (who are foreigners after all) for taking the jobs those other foreigners took. It then naturally looks to then state to DO something about it. A request that is utterly unreasoning, and yet natural. A request that moreover the sat feels it needs o look as if it was doing – if no other reasons that to prove it still have purpose and validity. Looking after the border, and protecting the borders, are after all the kind of things, the territory that states need to exist in. The result is then a shadow world, where we mind one thing, blame another and the state is caught needing to act.
However technology clearly challenges not merely states but individuals. Here there is a clear and concerted attempt but the powers that be, to make us worry about our electronic individuality. The facts here are complex. Fraud does exist and is certainly real, and nasty. There is always then a chance that one will be ripped of by individuals elsewhere. One needs then in the form of passwords and encryptions enforce some kind of identity (that is have same means to demonstrating it is really you- be it fragments of personal history, or elaborate names). And yet this risk is very to exaggerate. All the more so by a state that even more than we do, wants was to have fixed identities as we do in the actual world. For of course once we do have such identities then the entire apparatus of the state can be bought to bare upon the individual. Once we are riveted down, and made simple again, the state knows what, and trace who is doing what, and will get to recreate its power in the virtual world, and it fixed citizens. The state needs us all to behave ourselves, so it can regulate properly.
In effect there it is clear we are one of those moments history here. We have a choice. To accept an identity it to accept the state’s regulation over a medium that has been free up to now. One then gets the protection of the state, by agreeing to its protectionist terms, and paying ultimately its protection money. We allow it then to once again the biggest bully on the block, and to the one we need to pay and obey. Or we could not we could accept the risk, and revel in the freedom (or more realistically find other ways to protect ourselves). The state then wants us to be afraid here. It needs our fear to give itself purpose. A story that will run and develop.
Finally, on the personal, but now on a more general level, states are clearly rethinking their role. If organization is happening for free on the internet, then it is clear a state can change some of what it can do. or at last it might be able to. For it is true that the internet can allow us to-do something states do. (if we can be bothered). The trouble is of course that it is not clear exactly that it can do everything. or perhaps better, it can only do everything if we can all be persuaded to behave on line as we do in the real world. We need then to be that online big society. Capable of getting on with it ourselves, of organization ourselves, while the state or the powers that be look on with reflected glory. At least with this ‘idea’ –If it merits the term, does get the fact that the states role is changed . The trouble is it merely then off loads that role on a bewildered population that probably does not want to do it. The result is then rather to predict., and may well of course lead is to re-inventing the state in gratefully relief.
This essay started with a real problem. How does a state deal with the fact that is power is no longer fixed or certain? Can it legislate for that fact. Can it expand into the void, and force us to realize its power? - a method which has been tried and failed. All it produced was a society state that had to ignore exactly the civil liberties that had been is crowning glory. The mirror alternative is now being tried state suddenly draw back, and we are left to get on with it – or at least to feel the void that opens on our world without state help. The trouble with method is that in all like hood, it will remind us why we have states in the first place, namely that they allow us all to be part of the same basic narrative. It new then withdraws them not only will the effect be very different in differing parts of the country but how we understand that difference will be different, leading to social unease (if not unrest). In short no solution. The problem is after all not whether we do or not do without states but rather how to do we change them, to make to allow them to be relevant in a new world, a change that might be profound (it might mean we sacrifice nations), is necessary, and yet we not as yet minded to do.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Freedom alliance

Case 3: The free alliance.

It is a strange fact about our Democracy that it has not thrown off the shackles of its eighteenth century and pompous roots. I mean as a method not have too many internal wars, and not have too much torture, and occasionally to shed one government and get another, or Democracy is fine. And one suppose it is always better to have vaguely open method for entering the ruling classes that is not military. One is still governed by small cliques, but no one really dies getting into power. Likewise it has always been democracies proudest boast that it at least allowed free speech. Or perhaps better it allowed one to say anything but would usually (unless it made commercial sense) ignore the result. There has been a recent caveat hereof course. We do not ignore the result if you are a Muslim and what you say is what we call the extremist side at which point we tend to persecute the name of what might be then.
All of which are fine pragmatic reason for supporting democracy. The trouble is that it justifies itself not on these but on an absolutist claim to be the one best (or least worst) system. In the name of this claim we wage wars (endlessly). More than that we assume that we have right to fight all other ‘non- democracies (whether we choose to do it or no), on the grounds they are somehow not valid. More than that we like o claim that when we have fought and defeated their regimes, a democracy will simply and naturally flourish (a faith in this thought/hope is on of the more beautiful things in creation).

The reason for this faith is of course simple. It lies in recent(is) experiences. Firstly in the experience of the twentieth century, that saw democracy, with is ally in commercial capitalist see off all rivals. The looping together of political and desire freedoms then saw off any other model. And yet there as no reason why these two have to be linked together. A fact China noted and learnt from. All that can be said about the hooping together of capitalism and democracy is that it happened the once; and that it is clear (as Marx – who is the real theorisation the liberals are unconsciously drawing upon here), pointed out that all capitalism need a fairly complex social order. This is because they need an order which is capable of responding to the very dynamic society, full of torrents and change, and complexities of unfairness (who has and does not have the money). Capitalism wealth breeds complex societies, which are very difficult to govern.
More than that one might actually suggest capitalism undermines any government system, by making the society so complex every system looks either hopeless inept, or powerless or merely corrupt. And in this progression to political dissolution (and conceptual if not actual anarchy) democracy is the last system to be undermined. It is the one that it is easiest at times to defend. The reason here is that it is here it actually does do (to a fairly limited degree) what it says that it does. That is it allows other voices into capitalism. Voices that pull one away from a complete capitalism that would let the poor starve. A move that can then in the name of nation sovereignty and global organization impose some kind of limit upon the market. The problem of course is that as capitalism has grown this limit, even in the face of massive economic melt down had become very hard to impose. This is the time that state should triumph over the failed market. And yet it does not Indeed the bankers in the form of the credit agencies and a worry about the deficit seem to have triumphed. They caused the crisis and not then benefit form it. Traditionally then democracy was the last place certain non capitalist values would lied. It provided a rhetoric for the non-market part of society Its sole role was then to allow this rhetoric to articulate itself in a very complex capitalism shifting world.
However it is very easy to over estimate democracy. It was always associated with another great legacy from our history – namely nationalism. Nationalism (France and even more Russia) provides the other great refuge from capitalism (this time with a rightwing tendency). It then allows nations o minimise their democracy and maximize the power of their nation state to do things. A model that clearly is very much alive in Russia . The difference perhaps (ns it is only suggestion) between these two model is that the nationalism root is the one nations end to follow (or ought to follow) if they have large amounts of mineral resources an little else. Russia then makes sense as a nation; Scots nationalism was made by Oil, and the separatism of the Niger Delta people was inspired by oil. Mineral wealth tends to bred local or regional chiefs, and nationalism is the ideology that spins that chieftanhood out into a moral philosophy (it is better that the Democratic Republic of Congo model).
Democracy (but also Nationalist) triumph then lies in their ability to survive the sheer complexity and shifting identity of capitalism. They do to a degree hide something from capitalism. And yet they do not really understand their role in this manner. On the contrary they take as the rhythm the far higher destiny o somehow being the end of human history. Critical of course in this move is the idea of freedom. Freedom with a capitalism matters because it is the alchemy that allows something to happen, for both democracy and nationalism. Both of these system represent two slightly different attempts (Enlightenment and Romantic) to jump upon the name freedom, and to attempt to breed a single idea looping capitalism to a political system. That is the point of democratic freedom is that it breeds a connection between certain political rights which are often rather limited in their scope and power and commercial rights ,which crosses the globe; The individual and its company are both free, and free in the same sense. We both can speak our minds and say what we think. The fact that the firm is a global multinational with vast resources and I well just me, does not matter, for we are all fee now, and should be listened. In effect freedom justifies the global monopolies of free speech by the said large powerful companies.
There is however a caveat here, For freedom clearly provides and escape clause. In that there is nothing stopping large scale organizations based upon the idea of freedom springing up in nations to rival large companies. There is nothing stopping it, well save finance? As a rule such large organization need money to organize, and so need some kind of commercial support. A fact the internet may change .If this is so, then it is plausible that this freedom will become more valid. And yet given the sheer welter of information that the same technology that creates the internet also creates, this change is only possible at a cost. The cost is that actual freed debate ( which is was the eighteenth century actually eulogies) is lost under the welter of information. The only way then to get an opinion across is to howl loudest and longest and simplest. Even if then information allows one to magnify voices, the voice that magnifies is not the impassioned reasoner that the model thought as its basic citizen, so much as the mob it always hated., Ironically then the eighteenth century pursuit of freedom, and the idea of a freedom looping individual with state and company, will (possibly) aid most that very individual the said eighteenth century rationalist feared most the rabble raiser.
Freedom then created a single political axis linking individual with capitalism and state. It was the word that made this link possible- or perhaps better demanded it. Freedom came the Gear that allowed modernity to function in our minds. And yet their was from the early nineteenth century always another possibility. Another route into freedom. This was the romantic root, that tied freedom to a landmass, and so to a nation. to be free was then to be a freeborn citizen of a place a nation. It was then to be able to participate in being that nation (whatever that meant) and enjoying it fruits. This freedom then pitched nations against capitalism organization It has the immense advantage then of implying organization traditionally large enough to manage capitalism, and limit it in some sense. and yet it necessarily also imposed limited upon that freedom, the limits of borders. Freedom became then even more multi-faceted. A nations freedom was to in the name of a higher freedom able to limit capitalism within borders, without compromising its nature over much. More than that it was (in capitalist states at last) at least as much a part of the nations duty to protect freedom to trade and so protect the ‘nations wealth’. More than that the exchange was a real one, as a nations freedom as directly proportionate to its power, and its power traditionally pivoted around its ability to produce wealth – that is its capitalist roots. From which it flowed that a nations power need capitalism, and need not then to piss it off too much. The only exception was of course those mineral rich countries, where the capitalism need the resource too much, as was prepared to bend over backwards to get it. Nation states then both opposed and protected capitalism.
And yet of course all these limiting factors where in a sense of little or no importance. nor was the fact the fact that the system was assumed to be temporary by the most influential of thinkers (h assumed nations would not survive in the face global competition), all that matters was the politicians and people bought the myth, that is they carried on in the rallying call of freedom pretending that nation, democracy and economic freedom where all much of a muchness. That one really could not tell then apart. The unstable dynamic this claim fashions has then been a driving force for last 150 or so, it lead to the creation of empires and commonwealths, and the destruction of rainforests, and the hypocrisy of the west to take what it can whenever it likes , and to feel good about itself, and its own liberal values, in the process. The west has then driven the freedom bus very hard, and used it to triumph (or at least to understand its triumph, and make it look moral)
But far more than that it has of course used it as an excuse to fight war it wants, always in the name of freedom, and create new governments as it chooses. Nor does not matter if the government it creates barely function (or did not function at all), For at least they were founded upon ‘freedom’. Any action even up to genocide was acceptable in this higher cause. Blood was then spilled in ‘foreign countries’ , and the inhabitence of these other lands were blamed for that spill. It happened we were told because the people had not accepted the rivet of freedom that is they had not yet learnt how freedom combines its three pillars together (as we learnt). The blood and death was somehow then apart of the learning experience That is it was a part of their coming around to our way of thinking. Well maybe. But there is a tendency even now (when we assume the west triumph) to try other systems first. What else are the Maoist guerrillas in Nepal or more successfully Hugo Chavez (although he rides in the name of socialism, a resource based nationalism wave – and so is not so very different – hence perhaps his success). Other voices the do occur, and will occur, and there is no guarantee then the blood will lead to the shotgun marriage of freedom we in the west rather assume it will.
It also goes without saying that freedom at home is not a happy bunny. Or better it does not do what says it does (beyond certain very limited moves already noted) . I mean the windy rhetoric is all about the right to discuss and debate and the ability to choose government. And yet the rivet that holds the system together is rather abstract, and the powers that rivet create nebulous. government then tend to only be able to do certain things, impose certain limits or else bend to the capitalist will. This means that when people come to vote the arguments they are faced with are either necessarily highly technical or else (and this is the one that tends to work) very abstract in nature. We then tend to make political choice not based on the nitty gritty of real discussion but rather in terms of tribal loyalty and fairly abstract concerns – such as worries about immigrations (always more complex than the argument allows) or crime or a deficit of social disorder. The very parameters of our politics are necessarily of a very abstract nature, as the freedom that rivets the system together is necessarily nebulous and removed. Freedom then defines our society in terms of abstraction, an abstraction informing the entire way we can debate.
Freedoms power lies in its ability to be a rivet or gear. It is the point beyond all visible worlds, were capitalism, nationalism and democracy meet and bind together. It is point our freedom comes from, is then beyond all sight: It is the light of a meta-sun hidden always from view: The Platonic Good – perhaps. It is the old heaven writ large upon the world. It is then no wonder that others attempt at times to profess other faiths, or that the path to this one true heaven is so bloody. Crusades always are. The real problem though is whether the sheer overwhelming might of capitalism will impose this model upon the earth, one way or other. Or whether other systems will find different compromises with capitalism, that is other places beyond sigh that yet might meet with it and be one with it. Or else whether the world ecological system and the scientist who champion it trumps the entire argument about freedom first. Or finally our sheer current freedom of information on the internet might warp how we understand our freedom (it clearly is). The only thing we can absolutely guarantee is that whatever happens freedom as it currently understands itself will not go down without a fight. For fighting has always been is metier.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Seven Epochs of the Past

The Tense Collective Case two: Seven Epochs from the Past.

Personally I doubt it is true, that if you control a county or individuals history then you control their future. It strikes me the future has a habit of flying off the handle and developing its past any which way it wants. Likewise the first Seven years or months or whatever are no doubt vital years (but then so is every epoch of our life). What is I do not doubt that those years lay down the memories upon which we then draw for the rest of our lives. What I would debate is the predestination that would rivet certain memories to certain behaviour. On the contrary it always seems to me the it is more likely the needs of the future that dictat the memories that are retained and the effects they have. That is it is the here and now that makes me look back into my mind and dig up this memory – it is the future that makes the memory important or relevant. It is always then the future, which bring memory into play. The same event need not mean the same to both of us, or even to myself across time.
Possibly the best that might be said about ‘know they self’ (know the past ) type mantras is that they highlight the fact that certain futures are far harder to escape from that others. To not have one parent or to lose them or to be abused is to have in the world we inhabit to have a difficult hand. One lacks what others have and will need to make up the difference. That is one lacks some of the intricate subtleties (say the relations of parents to each other and to oneself), which one needs to remember, and build upon, as one works out what one is, and as one tries to have ones own life. To lack a history in society as rich as ours, is to necessarily be at a slight disadvantage. Which does not mean to say that anything necessarily follows from that set back. It remains at heart merely a probability and no binding certainty. More importantly what one lacks is actually rather subtle. Perhaps one might say it is not a lack so much as a lose of complexity. Relations between humans, lose a little of their sheer nuance, and are reduced by lack of experience into lightly (and the move is slight) base thoughts. Flirting becomes sex, and friendship destabilises involve whatever. One looses then a little of the bottom of the mind – or at least their is a tendency t do so.
What is lacking is any real binding power of the past. And yet this is not the way we want to think about it. On the contrary there is clear and marked tendency to look to the past to find strong narrative to bind the present with. One might understand this quest in two way. On the one hand this tendency to rummage around in what we wee for what we will become, is one of the ‘left overs’ of religion. We might not have faith in a God (who used to handle his kind of stuff, and do it probably much better). But we still like a good myth. The past our past or nations or species, real or imagined, the allows one a mythological base, a set of stories to comprehend the world by. On the other hand we are clearly wanting to use the past for overtly political reasons. We want to take a hodgepodge of differing thoughts and feels and capture them in a single past, with an implied future stuck upon it. The past then becomes a future grab. Or perhaps better a way of setting the present, so that it appears to imply one particular set of futures. The past then makes mystics and Fakirs of all of us!
Moreover the past we use is clearly not all of the same kind. We have clearly rather different epochs of the past, different ruses of capturing the present in past tale and implied future). Each sites of a certain kind of capture, which signed to make our lives just that little bit more easy, and our selves feel that little bit more clever in identify them, and ‘knowing the future’. In the rest of this essay will consider perhaps my 'favourite’ seven.
First and foremost of these motley Seven, in Britain least, is our current obsession with the ‘eighties’. For which read the last time one had a conservative government with a economic problem. No matter that this appeal to the past is clearly misplaced. The world has changed so very much in the last thirty years. Trade unions, the powers of the government and the individuals are simply different, and so there can be no straightforward comparison made; and yet this does not stop it being made. This does not stop the very idea of it being very convenient to politicians and pundits alike.
The politicians get a free plot line. Perhaps it started with Gordon Brown who wanted to prove that the Labour way of handling recessions was the right way. That is, he was going to show us why we should have followed the Labour party n the early eighties and not Thatcher. We lowered taxes, and allowed a deficient to grow. And yet in his appeal to he past, he forgot the world as it emerged after (and during) the Thatcher ears, a world which in spite of its clear failure, still lauded the free market and deficit reduction, and the credit agencies and banks who were its overlords. These overlords (IMF and all) howled and waffled in fury, and voters (remembering other promises Brown had made) simply, did not belief him. The result was of course that this plotline played into the troy plot line, that is was indeed a return of the eighties, and the Labour party has once again ruined the economy, and the Tories were once again going to safe the day. Union were again attacked (inspire of the fact that it was to their responsibility) and massive cuts in public spending announced, and the poor hit (in spite of the fact that their greed was only a very small part of the cause of the problem).
Likewise the eighties return of course flatters journalist and pundits. That is it supplies them with a simple Dog tag, ones most of us recognise and polarize around. On can then make prediction, and sell news, based on this appeal to the past. It makes commercial sense. Additionally the moment the spectre is raised then it works its polarizing magic. The contours of society start to pull with way and that. Different conflicts differing debates are set in the language of the eighties, the past is recreate in the present before fatalistic eyes. The past that might not repeat itself, but we can sure make it feel like it does. Finally this conjuration of the past has the advantage that it stops of having to worry about something. Tory government (or labour government) do expose different fractures in our society, fractures between poor and rich, drivers and non drivers etc at are actually rather worrying, and they lack all real reconciliation. These conflicts tare then wrapped up in the language of the past, in want of a solution and made palatable.
The second type of past that is doing the repeats, is far older tale, and one we all know. We all know - don’t you know- know what it is to have Brothers (well many of us do). More importantly we all know how bothers behave when the stake are high, and there is the quasi-mythic power of been prime minister at stake. The behave like Esau and Jacob or Cain and Able, they revert to elemental rivals caught in a passion of power; or at least they ought to rival the jealousies of childhood, thought in their fratricidal intensity, and so had to matter. The relationship between the Miliband Brothers in the transfigured into this old tale, and their slightest cross word becomes a sing for hidden jealous and power. Passion becomes the order of the day. The trouble of course hen is that others, the ‘allies’ of the political reveals gain by the conflict and magnify the conflict. A conflict that is all he more ludicrous because it is so one sided. It is the common fate of elder brother to be beaten by their younger one ( I for one was often outwitted by my younger brother, and outwitted my elder brother in turn). It happens, and one learns to deal with it ( I also felt fratricidal for other reasons, not because I was beaten, and dealt with that to)- life is like that!. It is of course different then being beaten by stranger, but different is neither fratricidal or essential domestic. It is then nothing to do with their mother. Standing in direct competition is difficult not doubt, and yet that difficult is likely to be very complex, and utterly irresolvable into the host of platitudes and archetypes the pundits want to foist upon it. The trouble of course is that once again the politics of a political parties risks being mythologies, and becomes the psychodrama of collective media fantasy. It is no wonder then that one brother hand to bow out.
The third main myth of the past we use and misuse of case studies and ‘lessons of history’ Such Pilot projects are very sensible in the realm of statistics, where one wants to always worry about the effect of asking questions. It also makes some kind of sense to trial a special policy. The trouble is of course that the very fact that on is doing a trial is usually enough to query the result r at least not make them representative. The knowledge that this is a trial and that we are going to be judged by it, makes it to represent what actually happens when the thing is unwound. Likewise if we look to the past of other nations and even our own past guide us to what will happen in the future, we invariably loose sight of the difference between then and now, as our brains get caught up in the joy of finding and inhabiting connections. We then want to relive the past or use somewhere else as the example and that is enough to strength the connection and affinity we feel, and blind us to the reality. The past becomes even as it is transfigured into a model or a norm, a dangerous and problematic friend. Torn as it is from the actual welter of experience that supported and created it, it becomes as a principle, always likely to be unstable and unpredictable (it might even be so much better than we thought).
Fourthly there is the domain of the Genetic and the appeals to a ‘biological story’. Genetic is clearly one of the great terminal points to thought in our society. There is an easy (and ultimately commercial) myth that finds a genetic cause is to uncover a truth. Our biological history is then riffled to learn things about our present and in the interest of making drugs). The great gap between imprints for certain protein molecules (which has all DNA allows), and actual behaviours is then drowned out in the song of hope and drugs. We turn then our behaviour into a matter of switches and histories, of predispositions and solution. We thereby ignore the clear fact that actually how the world is into within the small protein molecules falls matter probably more that the molecule itself. The ’Environment’ and the Gene are not then separate factors, but rather are caught together inn making ourselves. Solutions then are always more complex than this simply rummage through the draws of our collective biological (or sociological for that matter) past to find quasi-mythic one off switches. This is a fact that is not on most scientist, physical biological or social.
Fifthly it is cleat we endlessly draw upon the past for verity and certainty. If something feels like it has always been there, be that nation, or political party or fancy dress or whatever, we feel safe: it will always be there (in some form of other), and we can relax into the identity it allows us. The past then becomes the mythic point for identification with a land mass or a nation. Its very irreducibility becomes them political. To question the mythic the makes a state becomes seditious, and certain truth thereby become in effect sacred. Certain tawdry facts, or past conflicts, become the great lighthouses of centuries who draw upon the same events rather different). From which the sixth point follows, the past is then gloriously political. To rework what we think about Cromwell or Ludlow or to forget the influence of the great Earl of Shaftsbury, is in effect to make endless little complex statements about the politics of the present, and where one wishes to do with those politics. We then as a nation (or as the [people, our mythic past makes u out to be), use our history both identify and to challenge one another. We become what we are but also look to become something else through it.
Finally there is a clear problem when we do not realize how mythic this political posturing through the past really is. A mistake that has one take a very late Bronze age story, and set it up as ‘Gospel’. A move that then allows one to too easily assume the people who were the badge of these bronze age folk (for whatever reason rooted in the long history between then and now), are one and the same folk. What is more they have the same rights as the bronze age folk, the same land claim, the same wars and basic (in)justice. A claim made of course all the more urgent because the wearing the badge of the past has been associated with persecution in the West. We then assume it is right to support a land grab by a folk (who to put it kindly) have had no claim to a land mass to two thousand years or so, and what is more support it right or wrong. That is we support not merely the and grab but also the quests for water and farmland than followed upon from it (and made the piece of mouldering rock that is Historical chosen land) valid. In short we allow the persecution of the West to be moved out to the middle east, and the roles reversed (Arab who never persecuted Jews become now the victims), and for this to happen in the name of a past. It is then no wonder that bloodshed follows. In short we hit real problem, the minute we stop this game of the past being mythic. That is the minute we allow it far much reality.
The Past then overseas us, for it the land modern of myth and legend. We do not do Gods or even A god, and certainly do not belief fairy tales, but we do to the past. We can allow thoughts in the past that become difficult in the present. We use our pasts then to understand things we cannot gasp in (and about): or even use this myths and legends to set the present: Our historians are then whether they like it or not our modern myth makers and priests. The only problem is that the religion we thereby create need always to be seen fro what it is – myth, and not confused with vivid reality. The problem being that if the myths slips too far into assumed reality (which must be alright) it pulls a world that as changed and that is do different to the mythic world, violently in a way and complex direction. The past is a world vital to the myth makers, without whom politics would be impossible, and yet toxic to politics itself.