The Hinkley black hole


Hinkley Point: a black hole through which Britain will disappear in a cloud of invisible toxic smoke while the Chinese and French tiptoe away.

See: Hinkley Point C nuclear power station gets go-ahead, The Guardian 2016-09-15.

Utility versus quality of life

Would you plant a stinky dustbin right in front of your door so that it greets anyone come to see you? Probably not. Then why have the local administration built a waste collection site right by the station where potential visitors arrive in Saint-Blaise? In this hot weather it stinks more than usual. Of course, there was a convenient plot of land available at no cost just where people could halt on foot or with their car to dump their waste, but then your front porch, to use the American expression, would no doubt be convenient too. You just open the door and toss your rubbish into it without having to stray further from your house or flat, or brave rain and wind in winter.

So what is this thought process that thinks first and foremost of the utilitarian and convenience to the detriment of quality of life and relationships between people?

Universal bullshit

source: RSR

The map depicts those parts of Switzerland where the Swiss Post may no longer be required to deliver post in the very near future as cuts are made in so-called universal service. No doubt this evolution is the impact of extensive internet penetration, the liberalisation of postal services, sparking fierce competition particularly in parcels, and a general tendency to slash the budgets of state-run services.

Such an outcome was predictable. I remember discussions (1) in the early days of the internet about new internet-based services and the reassuring words of those working for administrations. They would never abandon existing services in favour of the Net. It wasn’t lies, they believed what they said. Just bullshit that took some effort to maintain. Now the mask is falling away.

Exclusion may well be a fact of life. There will always be the excluded. Those who no longer get the post. Those beyond the range of mobile telephony. Those who have never been on the Internet and never will be. Those who will never have a job. Those who will never read and write. Those who will never have enough food… Despite all the goodwill and/or vested interests of those that strive for universality, the goal is probably unattainable. Like those mathematical curves that get closer and closer to an axis, but can never reach their goal, the closer you get, the more effort required to get even closer.

(1) See two articles I wrote, Desire and exclusion. The never ending quest for universal access written in 2000, and Belonging and being excluded written in 1997, both on Connected Magazine.

My thanks to Elisabeth Norton for her response to my original post on FB which sparked this short note.

Screaming mad? Who cares?

Many of the pictures of Forty-five* published in the press, not to mention his unpredictablity and his ravings on stage, point to some form of mental trouble. Yet American psychiatrists have shied away from speculating on his sanity or lack of it, afraid of coming away smattered from a messy combat, as if a diagnosis at a distance would undermine their credibility, putting them on a par with astrologers. Their caution is amusing in a context where expert opinion counts for so little. Forty-five’s campaign is littered with assertions that don’t hold up to careful scrutiny. Expert opinions, if they don’t serve his cause, are stomped in the mud. Experts have no more worth than truth in Forty-five’s world. But who cares? Who cares if he is raving? As long as the show is riveting. He’s a bit like one of those comedians whose taste is so bad, the audience laugh heartily, getting a vicarious thrill from their own embarrassment. An enormous crowd follows him avidly, mistaking his off-the-cuff, poor-taste comments for forthrightness. Despite the debatable truth of what he says and his frequent changes of opinion on policy, these people see him as not only worthy of trust but also as  the sole person who can make their dreams of a great and flawless America come true.

*- Forty-fifth president

A dance for life

For all its cry of sadness and rage – at the Orlando shooting tragedy – this music/dance video by Sia, with the dancer Maddie Ziegler, is a call to life. Dance, the ultimate expression of the human body in movement, fills me with wonder and joy. This video is excellent. I know. In my time I have made a number of dance videos, although nothing like this. Filming dance is hellishly difficult, the fixed frame constantly working against the movement, its rigid rectangular shape slicing through the fluid flow of the body.

Nano what?


Quote of the day: Research showed that, breathed in through the nose, nano particules of Magnetite (an oxide of iron) entered the brain via the olfactory nerve. These nano particules are thought to play a role in degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer. (Freely translated from French. Source: Le Temps Sept. 7th, 2016)
Comment: This tiny snippet of news was buried between a half page spread on the weather and an equality generous article on gardens. Surely the subject deserves more attention. It implies that some made-made substances, widely used in clothes, packaging, food, medicines and elsewhere, could be highly detrimental to our health. Why are there not tighter controls over their use?

Fracking politicians (1)

Collage: Alan McCluskey
Have they become so dumb, so deaf, so blind, so hopelessly unfeeling, so caught up in petty squabbles if not bloody skirmishes, wary of friends and foes alike, so enamoured of their own words that they are ensnared in their own bullshit, so worried about sinking ratings, their eyes riveted on opinion polls and the rumblings of social media, so pressured by lobbyists slipping white-washed cheques in wide open pockets, so engrossed in engineering an endearing  and enduring image, so faithful to their ideology while enslaved by procedures and rules and the status quo, so afraid of being singled out, caught with unclean fingers straying where they shouldn’t go, so obsequiously obedient to their party line, so bound to the glorious market place that promises to save those who save themselves, … that they have forgotten they are human beings and neglect the welfare of the world and the people who live in it?

(1) Yes. I know. There are a good many politicians that fight for a more humane and caring world… This text is about the dominant crowd that don’t.

Outrageous wins hands down

Forty-five* will not endorse Paul Ryan as Republican splits widen says The Guardian. It’s almost as if the candidate is seeing how far he can go before he gets booted out on his ears, except that the more outrageous the things he does and says, the more despicable they are, the more the mass of his supporters clamour for him to do more and ultimately be elected. This is not democracy. It’s some twisted TV reality show during which competitors try to outdo each other by the most outlandish and unacceptable behaviour cheered on by a frenzied crowd. It’s “Kill the pig”, TV style. Except it is is the pig that is the killer not the killed. What do you expect, he’s a multi-millionaire. This is not Lord of The Flies. The spectacle has erupted in real life and not on a deserted island or on a TV set. And if someone doesn’t have the courage to put a stop to it, we are all going to be dragged into the nightmare.

*- Forty-fifth president

The Have-Your-Cake-And-Eat-It brigade

BJ2The Have-Your-Cake-And-Eat-It brigade are at work again. Boris the Johnson is quoted as saying to press in the US: “Brexit means us being more outward looking, more engaged, more energetic, more enthusiastic on the world stage than ever before.” There is a very precise word for such nonsense, bullshit. No. Not lies. Not in this case. When you lie, you know you are not telling the truth. Rather, creating an alternative reality and throwing all your efforts into having people accept that as reality, including, first and foremost, yourself. Unfortunately, the longer this continues, the greater the rift with what people experience on the ground, the more force and effort required to maintain the bullshit, because everyday reality fights back. Denial some would call it, but you can’t deny what you have convinced yourself is reality. The ultimate outcome of extended bullshit is the eruption of violence. For an insightful little book about bullshit, read On Bullshit by Harry G.Frankfurt.

See: Boris Johnson distinguishes Brexit from Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ policy, The Guardian, July 22nd 2016.

Challenging democracy


Why so much disrespect directed towards politicians? The buffoons, the liars, the twisters-of-truth, the fear-mongers, the hate-makers, the racists, the wall-builders, the divide-and-conquerors, the off-with-her-headers, the its-their-faulters, the power-hungry führers, the mad hatters, the control freaks, the drug-pedlars-for-sportlers, the you-know-who-I-meaners. The problem is not so much this foul-mouthed, foul-breathed breed of would-be politicians, but the fact that they are acclaimed by the crowd, granted legitimacy by a vote and handed power over our futures. Democracy has become about numbers, big numbers and related alluring promises, rather than competence or quality or vision. Despite the illusions they peddle, this riffraff cannot help us. They bring only isolation, violence and ruin. Yet despite this fact, they are applauded and their words of vitriol are echoed by their clamouring followers. “Kill the pig.” Democracy? Don’t shake the boat, the fearful masses scream. Don’t rock the ship timid politicians plea. But democracy is at stake and society with it. It is not the enemy without we need to worry about, but the cancer flourishing within. That fearful growth that is eating out our society from inside feeds off money and media and secrets and unchecked violence and our tacit complicity. Despite the desperate cries for security and stability, we need to challenge the way we do democracy.