Tag Archives: Freedom

So what are you going to do?

There’s a lot of causes out there. Some good, some not so good, and some so downright fucked up they’re over the insanity event horizon and accelerating past lightspeed. It’s easy to feel snowed under sometimes. Anyway, I’ve done contributing to other peoples causes. Those that were supposed to be good weren’t that good. Those not so good turned out to be stupid and the rest aren’t even worth mentioning. Nowadays it’s hard to find one without a vested interest behind it, so I won’t be looking any more.

Having just been through a double bereavement with all that entails, I’ve been re-evaluating what I want from my life. Where I’m going, what I might do when I get there sort of thing. Becoming the joint senior member of our little clan has come as a major culture shock. No excuses, no deferment, it’s my ball and I have to make the rules now. If they need making. Which more often than not they don’t. My work as a parent has, and continues to be largely done. I’ve morphed role from family guard dog and occasional shepherd to long distance shoulder to cry on, which is as it should be. No doubt grandchildren are somewhere on the horizon, but please, not just yet. What gets me most is the odd sensation that I now have no-one to defer to, which makes me mildly uncomfortable. Adrift and hollow. Much better off financially, but directionless.

So, that begs the question. What do I do now? The world beckons. I’ve a hankering to live in Paris for a month or two next year. Ride those wonderfully curvy Swiss motorways on something like a Triumph Rocket III. Meander through Southern Europe, park the monster 2.3 litre sports cruiser motorcycle outside a little Bar Tabac and let the local kids stare slack jawed at it. Dance the centre line a little along the coast road from Marseille to Genoa. Thence down to Rome, see Naples and live a little. Maybe down to watch Stromboli and Etna spit fire before heading up the coast road with Venice and Vienna in mind. Wander round Prague and Berlin with a side trip through Warsaw. Up through Denmark and across the big bridges into Sweden. Visit a cousin of mine who lives in Gothenburg. Catch a freighter to Immingham and grey, damp olde England. Pay my respects to the wider clan. Ride a container ship back to Canada and run Highway One from Halifax Nova Scotia to mile zero again. Perhaps even zipping south of the border to revisit New York and swing in a wide arc from New Jersey to Texas then North through Nevada. Indulge my wanderlust. Write about what happens as it happens. Perhaps. Then I’ll pitch up on the Pacific shore again and think about the other side of the ring of fire. China, Japan, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Of course these are all mere dreams and may never come to pass, but I’ve done some instalments of that trip at various times in my life and truly want to do them again. While it’s still possible to do so.

Trust

I’ve been watching the developments south of the 49th, and all the moral panics going around with studied interest. It’s all about America’s ‘love affair with guns’ say some pundits. The violent video games. Violent movies. A sick culture some say. All sorts of reasons are advanced. Mostly the same ones as the last time. I have my own ideas, echoed by the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, some of which can be found here. Specifically in an interview found in Robert Liebermans documentary, “They call it Myanmar“.

There’s a lot wrong down south, and yet there’s not as much as you might think. On the other hand, many south of the border appear to be ‘tooling up’ with gun sales increased across the board. People are ‘prepping’, stockpiling food, water and weapons for some unspecified cataclysm, be it associated with the forthcoming ‘fiscal cliff’ or any of the other putative disasters. The paranoia seems almost endemic. Catching. Self-perpetuating. Reading various forums and web sites, I get the overwhelming sense that people, not just in the USA, but also in Europe, have lost faith with those in authority. They do not trust their governments and its institutions to look after (or rather not interfere so much) the very peoples they are supposed to serve. Nor, it seems, do various factions within those institutions have much faith in each other. See “Plebgate” and associated fallout for one example.

There’s the word – trust. As levels of perceived intrusive security and surveillance rise, so does the paranoia and distrust of the public. Because of the actions of minorities, authorities clamp down on the majority, in the process arousing mistrust. Therefore people feel obliged to protect themselves and buy another gun, another case of ammo, secure the house, stockpile more stuff, dig another hole, find refuge. They see the increase in government agency authority and in an almost Newtonian reaction, try to compensate for the powerlessness this makes them feel. In turn Government expands to address the fears, but the more government power increases, the more regulation, the less it is trusted. The bigger it gets, the more monolithic and frightening it becomes. The more resources it consumes without producing more in return. Like a dying star it becomes too massive and begins to slowly implode into an economic black hole.

North of the border, at least here on the Wet coast of BC, we are encouraged to ‘prep’ for the ‘big one’ with emergency supplies for about 72 hours. Every year there is a public earthquake drill called the ‘Shake-out’. We sometimes take part, sometimes not, but all of my friends and neighbours have a stock of supplies, just in case. At home I can rely on enough food and water for one week, and have reasonable and workable fallback options (Hunting bow, fishing gear, hand tools) should the worst ever happen. Not only that, but I would work with my neighbours to assist them in any way I could. We all know that public resources will be limited in time of emergency, and so we prepare accordingly. There is still a strong sense of community and self reliance here in the Mid Island. Particularly in the more rural areas. What’s more we are trusted, indeed expected, to be so. This appears not to be the case elsewhere.

The truth is that organisations fail when they do not trust the very people they are supposed to serve, or fail to motivate their members enough to be trusted. A classic management failure occurs when those in positions of authority do not listen to anyone outside of their own close circles. They fail when focus groups, lobbying self-interest groups and think tanks direct policy. They fail in their allotted task when they become dishonest, distant and unaccountable. When spin becomes the message. When promises are easily discarded.

Without trust and co-operation there can be no real and lasting social interaction. Without open and free speech there can be no real confidence or trust. Without that honesty, confidence or trust, nations and societies cannot stand. At least not without massive surveillance and repression. And the price for that comes high. Too high.

Unfortunately, by treating other peoples property as public and lying to cover up their own mistakes, politicians and their pet activists lose that trust. No wonder voting is down and gun sales and ‘prepping’ are on the up.

Merry Christmas.

Popcorn futures skyrocket

There seems to be a lot of upset coming from our cousins down south about their recent elections, with an unprecedented array of states wanting to secede over Federal interference. Which is what started the last big kerfuffle. ‘States rights‘ was the original battle cry of the 19th century secessionists, which still echo today.

According to the LA Times, 50 states have submitted petitions to the White house formally requesting permission to secede from the Union. Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas have submitted petitions of over 25,000 each. Texas was over 100,000 at the last count. Which should come as no real surprise. Texans are well known as traditionally independent people.

There is also a much smaller counter movement who have petitioned the White House with the following plea; “please sign an executive order such that each American citizen who signed a petition from any state to secede from the USA shall have their citizenship stripped and be peacefully deported.” Yeah, like that’s going to work if someone was born in the USA. What are the petitioners suggesting? That hundreds of thousands of people are declared stateless and homeless just because they made lawful protest? First Amendment rights anyone? Besides, if those protestors ‘to be deported’ have families who have been resident since the 19th Century or are even native Americans, where would you deport them to? Canada? I bet our immigration people might have a few sharp words to say about that.

It’s a joke, of course. A poor taste partisan threat even. Only 10,000 signatures against several hundred thousand pro-secessionist so far. Although according to the White House web site “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.” Like consigning all those petitions to File 13 after making the usual noises about “Having given due consideration” etc. Ignore it and the problem will go away. All sound and fury, nothing more. Yet…. smoke and fires. From my reading of US Civil War history, I seem to recall reading this was how the last mess began.

According to this piece in the Digitaljournal, it’s not just sour grapes by disappointed Romney voters, as some might be tempted to think; the secession movement is more deeply rooted than that. It’s not about the perpetual dogfight of partisan politics at all, but derives from perceived blatant abuses of rights by the NDAA and TSA, amongst other federal authorities.

The Texans are not the only ones to be angered about the abuse of political power. All over the world there are similar sentiments. A need to break free from overweening authority and top down thinking driven interference. A desire to be liberated from Corporatist or Socialist regimes (The two are so similar it makes no real difference). From the British EU Referendum pressure groups to the Syrian militias; it’s all about the rights of the individual over unrepresentative authority.

In the West at least these things are slow to come to the boil, and the only realistic way to deal with them is to ease off the legislative pressure. Less state intervention. Fewer, not more laws. Less, and more human, enforcement.

As a keen student of history I’m not sure where the process will lead, but one thing is certain; this secession business isn’t going away any time soon. This side of the 49th Parallel popcorn futures are rocketing. Although don’t mention Quebec.

The end result

Currently, the libertarian end of the blogosphere is under assault (Again?) from the forces of darkness. Cranmer has had some come catspaw using the ASA. Witterings from Witney from another source (on a three year old post? Is someone taking the mick?), and there are mutterings in various comment columns about “We’re coming to getcha.” (Oh noes, not again). Some sites, offering informal advice based on personal experience have been shut down by regulators. Bloggers, even in ‘free’ societies have been raided by Police and even faced criminal prosecution simply for publishing their version of events (Tallbloke over ‘Climategate’ springs to mind, follow the ‘Holly Grieg‘ subject blogs for others). Never mind the (Very) hastily taken down Greenpeace threat last year “We know where you live” – seriously? Just because of a disagreement on an issue – even though reality tells a different story? Talk about acute humour failure. Definitely the Violet Elizabeth Bott approach to dissent; (“Do what I want or I’ll thcream and thcream ’till I’m thick – I can too!” ) No one is fooled. Behind the attempts at suppressing free speech blogs come the echoes of marching jackboots, and it isn’t a pretty sound.

Aldous Huxley nailed the major weakness of suppressive tactics in 1941;

“For the means employed inevitably determine the nature of the result achieved, whereas, however good the end aimed at may be, its goodness is powerless to counteract the effects of the bad means we use to reach it. Similarly, a reform may be in the highest degree desirable; but if the contexts in which that reform is effected are undesirable, the results will inevitably be disappointing. These are simple and obvious truths. Nevertheless they are almost universally neglected.”

For a given value of ‘good’, I might add – there’s a downside to everything; and ‘good’ is mostly subjective anyway – even more so when preceded by the word ‘greater’.

So it is with attacks on free speech. In seeking out offence everything becomes offensive. Pointing out that something can’t work / isn’t working means being labelled a ‘Denier’. Highlighting the failures, areas of suspicion and dodgy dealings of an administration makes you a ‘Hater’. Mildly contentious comments that some might find slightly objectionable (Mostly if they contain a good deal of objective veracity) are turned into ‘Hate speech’ by offence seeking drama queens. Setting official agencies on people because of a flimsily perceived ‘offence’, likewise.

Like a school playground ruled by sneaks and snitches running to teacher every time their feelings are hurt, this creates an ugly place to live in, so such behaviour poisons discourse and spreads a fog of disinformation. Not to mention creating a huge enforcement overhead. It prevents open and reasoned examination of an issue, and hides that which should be known. As with war and truth, honesty is always the first casualty because in order to shut people up, the primary weapons are always emotive lies, disinformation and exaggeration.

Essentially what we’re dealing with is immature offence seeking such as;
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re saying bad things about me!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re smoking at me because I’m a non-smoker!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re drinking at me just because I’m teetotal!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re shooting guns at targets and it fwightens me!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re eating bacon sandwiches at me because I’m a Vegan!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re saying I’m bad because I tell on them all the time – stop them Mummy!”

All of the above have one thing in common – they are invented ‘offences’. Of course said attacks on freedom of expression are dressed up in grown-up speak, but the impulse that drives such behaviour is nonetheless childish, born of unreasoning fear. There’s only one real cogent response – overt mockery. Specifically Shakespeare’s classic from Twelfth night; “T’hart a fool. Go to.” or the more modern “STFU” and variants thereof. Which is why I often respond to them in baby talk and parody. “Has Oo had oo’s feelings hurt, den?” highlighting the attacks for the contemptible, selfish and immature outpourings that they are. Not to do so is to allow the jackboots to march again – and 20th century history holds a grim record of what that led to.

Here’s an Australian perspective on why freedom of speech and expression is so important. H/T Just about every blog I link to, but I believe the Angry Exile was first by a nose.

To Quote the late, great Ray Bradbury; “For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangu­tan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversation­ist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics.” The old adage of the road to hell being paved with good intentions springs to mind. For a given value of ‘good’.

H/T for the Huxley quote from Ends and Means to this post by Sackerson at OOL.

Reading Hayek

It’s nice to see that you aren’t alone in how you see the world working. Reading Hayek’s 1944 exposition on the individual vs the intrusive state, I’m struck by his thoughts on the pros and cons of both approaches. The bit that resonates with me, having spent time as an enforcement officer, is the difference between the rule of law (One rule for all – occasional lapses of ‘Justice’) and attempting to legislate ‘morality’ (Creation of privileged minorities – ‘Justice’ begins to disappear altogether – for everyone).

‘Morality’ to me is rather a subjective term, and perhaps therefore not the best basis for legislation. What might be moral for a far right religious fundamentalist for example, say pray every day, death to the infidel (As self avowed ‘infidel’ I take this rather amiss), women as second class citizens, whatever, looks like perpetuating the same old mess. Similarly; the far left pro libertine (as opposed to libertarian) perspective of enforcing the ‘rights’ of minorities instead of simply agreeing that everyone has the same rights. By ‘rights’ I mean the rights to freedom to own property, go where you please, work at what you please, believe what you please, say what you please, and to live how the heck you please so long as you don’t cause deliberate harm to anyone else and are tolerant of the rights of others. Regardless of age, belief system or cultural heritage. If my neighbours want to dance half naked round their garden wearing nothing but goat skin loincloths I won’t bat an eyelid (I might giggle at them a lot if they did and post the pictures online – but that’s the downside of such behaviour – right?). Just so long as they don’t demand that I do as they do. When it comes to ‘rights’, I most certainly do not mean something like ‘Freedom from poverty’ (Want to be poor? Don’t want to try to do better? Your choice) which means other people are paying for your ‘rights’. Especially Freedom from ‘being offended’, which means no-one else can have an opinion differing from your own (You’re ‘offended’ by the opinions of others? Tough shit you intolerant little tit – now fuck off and die, no one forces you to read). In my books ‘Freedom to’ trumps ‘Freedom from’ every time. Although those who screw around with me without provocation should be aware that I reserve the ‘right’ of creative retaliation.

The other thing I ‘get’ is the futility of rigid planning when it comes to humanity. In war and peace it is said that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’, and the old and discredited road of ‘five year plans’ etc is littered with the detritus of failure. So why, when the evidence of experience clearly demonstrates that too much planning leads to failure, are said plans trumpeted as ‘the only way forward’? Phrases like ‘the triumph of hope over experience’ and remarks about the definition of insanity being repetition and the expectation of differing results spring jack-in-the-box style to mind. For example; journeys planned to inflexible schedules which do not include a significant ‘jesus factor’ for flat tyres, traffic conditions, doses of unscheduled minor illness (on anyone’s part), or mechanical breakdown of any sort will be high blood pressure affairs at best.

On a personal note; posting has been erratic because firstly I’m exercising my freedom to be busy on other projects. Secondly, during the recent windstorm, the local trees have been exercising their freedom to fall on the power lines. This has denied me my ‘right’ to a constant electricity supply. However, I exercised my freedom to use alternative means of heating, and didn’t worry too much. Still, the Hydro crews have (Bless ‘em) exercised their freedom to rush all hands to the pumps so the electricity was back up and running within four hours. Therefore they will get paid extra overtime and perhaps time off in lieu to exercise their freedom to spend money on nice holidays or pay off the mortgage early, neither of which they should be begrudged. They earned it, and the product of their honest extra sweat should not be stolen via taxation to pay for the chosen extra leisure of others.

As an addendum; I’m amused to see that there’s even an online comic book of Hayek’s seminal work. To be frank, the cartoon version’s a bit simplistic, and dare I say a piece of classic propaganda of its own, but still worth a look.