The Forty-fiver syndrome

There are a good many people like Forty-five* in the world, brash, outspoken individuals who insist they have the answer to the problem at hand. Each of us has come across them. Forty-fivers have an inflated sense of their worth, but have no idea that they lack the competences needed for the task they insist on doing. On one level Forty-fivers are impervious to those around them in their conviction that they alone can solve the problem. As such they are the first victims of their own bullshit (1). They are convinced they can solve the problem, that they are the only people who can solve the problem. It is for this reason that, on another level, Forty-fivers are deeply affected by the slightest suggestion of their inadequacy. Anyone who gets in their way, has to be belittled as incompetent or disqualified as part of the problem. Forty-fivers blunder their way forward, leaving a trail of devastation behind them.

Perhaps the sole merit of a Forty-fiver is to insist on drawing attention to a problem that needs answering. Unfortunately, publicly hailing a problem doesn’t imply a Forty-fiver is the person to solve it. Generally they muddy the waters by deflecting energy away from really addressing the problem. Sadly, the Forty-fiver intuitively grasps that insistence on his capacity to solve people’s problems will sway a good many to believe his bullshit and support his cause which is then taken as a legitimation of their role and their capacity to fulfil it.

(1) See Harry K. Frankfurt’s delightful and enlightening little book, On Bullshit. See also the section on bullshit as a strategy in my article, From clockwork to webs of relationships. The relation between policy and practice on Connected Magazine

* 45? Forty fifth president

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?