Sunday, March 06, 2011

Ideology, Libya, history & words

Well. we are out of our old place and in the new. It was all a bit of a battle.

Tuesday was a desperate effort to try to finish packing. Because I was going to be off-line for some time, spent time early am Wednesday on on-line stuff and then resumed packing. The removalists arrived 8.30. Finally, at 1:16am the next morning the last piece of furniture was carried into the new house. Then all day Thursday at the old house packing and carting remaining stuff while also cleaning. That left Friday for bits and pieces, including internet connections.

I didn't visit the web at all during the move, so have been catching up. I don't feel like writing anything to thought intensive, so just a round up this morning. In Uncivil Penalties, DeusExMacintosh comments on plans by the British Government to levy a 50 pound civil fine for "avoidable" mistakes in the benefits area. The apparent rationale is summarised in the following graphic. 


In what may seem an apparent disconnect, Peter Hartcher in the SMH reports

An Australian-style Tea Party could be big and noisy but it will be met head on by a tightly organised opponent.

The Liberal Party's Senator Cory Bernardi has told colleagues that he would like to be the most conservative politician in Australia's conservative party. He's not only well on his way to that title, he's also positioning himself to be its most effective organiser.

And then a little later:

In response, GetUp! organised a counter-movement. By yesterday afternoon, eight groups had agreed to join the counter-Australian Tea Party. Among them are the ACTU, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, the Climate Action Network Australia, and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. GetUp! is to be the organising hub and its director, Simon Sheik, its public face.

Both GetUp! and Mr Bernardi are ideological warriors. Mr Bernardi is not a conservative in the normal sense the word is used; he wants to impose a particular version of the state and of the relationship between state and individual, as does the current UK Conservative PM. In the topsy turvey world of Australian ideology, GetUp! is far more conservative in that many of its campaigns actually defend, attempt to conserve, previous dominant positions. With either, you can pretty much guess what their position will be on any issue.

Australia has always had its warriors of left and right, although the definitions of what is left or right have shifted with time. Both, it seems to me, argue with a moral fervour that leaves little space for alternative views; they want to win at all costs. 

Sticking with the gruesome, Mike Dash's Some experiments with severed heads takes my award as the most macabre post I have read. I leave you to judge! I found his An abandoned lifeboat at world’s end much more enjoyable.

In the midst of the turmoil in Libya, I found Martin Lewis's discussion of the area's history and geography quite fascinating, and an aid to understanding some of the complexities involved. From oldest to youngest, the posts are:

I am constantly reminded of just how little I know. Staying with Martin Lewis, his most recent post, Unrest in M’zab Oasis, Algeria, says in part:

The surprise expressed at the M’zab demonstrations stems from the community’s distinct form of Islam: Ibadism. Our “received ideas” may tell us that Islam comes in two major branches, Sunni and Shia, but it actually comes in three. The roots of the Ibadi sect predate the division between Sunnis and Shi’ites; when Ali, the fourth caliph, agreed to arbitrate with the kinsmen of the recently assassinated third Caliph, ‘Uthman, many of Ali’s supporters broke away, declaring that since the sinner ‘Uthman deserved death, arbitration was ungodly. These so-called Kharijites adopted an uncompromising, egalitarian, and puritanical form of Islam.

I had never heard of Ibadism, nor did I know that Oman was the only country in the world where the majority of the population is Ibadi. Now that actually explains something that I had not understood, the reason why Oman stood somewhat outside the political developments that led to the formation of the United Arab Emirates.

Staying with Libya and its environs, Randy McDonald's post On Libya as an immigration country adds another piece to the jigsaw, with a special focus on sub-Saharan migrants. He also points to the way in which the Libyan troubles are likely to add to Egypt's economic woes as a consequence of reduction in remittances.

In another post, On maps and territories and their slippery relationships, Randy looks at the relationships between maps and territory, at the way the mental constructs we use to interpret the world affect perceptions and actions. Here he quotes Ed Yong. I have put the key point in bold. 

As with all complex issues, crime is suffused with metaphors. One common frame portrays crime as a disease, one that plagues cities, infects communities, and spreads in epidemics or waves. Another depicts crime as a predator – criminals prey upon their victims, and they need to be hunted or caught. These aren’t just rhetorical flourishes; they’re mind-changing tools with very real consequences.

This actually links to my opening remarks on left and right; both use language to assert positions, as do we all. Mostly we can recognise this. However, the effects can be unseen, and then they can be very dangerous.

I know that I write about this one a fair bit, but it interests me in a professional as well as personal sense. Let me take a purely professional example, a business case or business plan intended to attract funds. This will be wrapped in sale words that have to be stripped out before you can sensibly address the proposal. The same thing happens in politics and public policy.

Well, enough for today.    

While I was off-line, Neil Whitfield had a minor heart attack. He seems to be recovering okay. Just as well. It gave all his friends, personal and blogging, a bit of a scare.   

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