Nations: what are they for? It would be comforting to imagine that they’re organised for the benefit and succour of their peoples, but that seems naïve, at best. Every border, delivering apparent unity within, creates a divide from those without; an “us and them”. Much time and effort is expended seeking to reinforce ideas of nationhood; to make us feel we “belong”. The cynic in me says, this is not a charitable endeavour: if folk are committing resource to persuade me I am part of a nation, they must be expecting some return on their investment.

When I was a trade unionist, we were accused of “holding the country to ransom”. When a business moves some or all of its operations overseas, no-one mentions “ransom”, but I suspect folk are pleased with the downward pressure on my wages. Isn’t economics wonderful?

There’s much talk of regime change in the air. We can’t have governments doing as they please: not good for business. I guess you can always find some disgruntled or ambitious souls who are willing to stage a coup or glorious revolution (depending on which side of the fence you sit). History is littered with examples: William of Orange, Pinochet, Ne Win, Pol Pot, &c. If your fortune is increased, it’s a popular uprising. It’s a “rogue state” until your puppet is in charge.

The arms industry is worth around $1.5 trillion yearly. It’s hard to get your head round a number that large. I’m told this represents about 3% of world G.D.P. Strife is good for business. Having an “us and them” is a good starting point. Means to motivate the cannon fodder are a must. Patriotism and religion are oft employed.

Sam Johnson said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” I doubt Mr. Johnson was prescribing no nations (don’t forget: he was English!). Is there a better way to organise the world?


About micklively

Fifty-something, pacifist, six sigma black belt, lean implementer, brewer, vintner, guitarist, wood-turner, and slave to collies.
This entry was posted in division, economics, English, hatred, history, motivation, peace, strife, terrorism, war, world and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Scoundrel

  1. micklively says:

    I don’t mean self-sufficiency only in “The Good Life” way, on a domestic level, though I’m all in favour of that, as far as it goes. I mean also at a village, town, and regional level. Make the stuff you need, where you need it. If you can’t produce food next to people, move people next to food production. Walk to work. Growth is a recipe for waste. Just make enough.

    • micklively says:

      I don’t think this actually requires great changes in law or administration. If companies were forced to pay the true total cost of their activities, they would act very differently.

      • cicelywaspen says:

        I applaud the principles, but wonder where you draw the line on trade? Metal ore, medicinal herbs, food… How far would you allow it? Neighbours, adjacent towns, countries…
        What system do you favour for calculating the ‘true cost’? Is this purely financial?
        Just questions from me today 🙂

        • micklively says:

          I don’t pretend its easy. The line on trade has to be what’s necessary. If you have no iron ore, you have to buy it, hopefully from the nearest place. Do we need to buy coal from China, or wheat from USA, or cars from Malaysia: no we don’t. Do we need Jamaican bananas, when we have English apples? The problem with the present system is that the market holds sway in all instances. Some folk even say the market is right! I think this is dangerous thinking.
          True cost isn’t easy either. The price of a gallon of diesel does not reflect the environmental damage extracting it or burning it, or the cost to replace it when it’s gone.
          I suppose the only way is to change the mind sets from “owners” to “borrowers”: leave the Earth the way you found it or better. You’d have to find a way to suppress the greed gene. Good luck with that one!

  2. cicelywaspen says:

    Are you venting or would you like a debate?
    Recently on Radio 4 A Point of View Roger Scruton discussed democracy. Annoying and educating (part 1 of 4 here: Summary: recently ‘created’ nations are false; people should be lumped together according to shared values, not convenient geography. Religion vs. the law is doomed. Meta-powers like Europe are doomed. Friction and conflict will arise. Does this sound plausible?
    For me, there’s a lot of over-complicated mess in the world. I’m naive enough to believe much of it’s centred around money; I’m not naive enough to believe I can fix it. It’s overwhelming. So, to segue back two of your posts: (1) what are you passionate about? (2) What skills do you have? How can you put them together? (Of course you don’t have to share if it’s too personal) I have the inverse of your problem and it feels just as frustrating.
    And if you weren’t up for debate, you can hit Delete, no bother 🙂

    • micklively says:

      Hi Cicely,

      First many thanks for your feedback. I am definitely up for debate. I have opinions, but I’m always open to alternative views. I hope I can ask questions that prompt others to challenge their assumptions but I also hope others will set me a poser or two. I am not so pig-headed to think my answers (where I have any) are always right.
      I whole-heartedly agree with you about the over-complicated mess. Indeed, in so many fields, we seem to be starting from a state of “already argued ourselves down a blind alley”. What can we extract from the intractible? It is overwhelming, but if we put it on the “too difficult pile”, we’ll be in the same mess in ten, a hundred, a thousand years from now.
      I’m employed as a business improvement specialist. One of the tricks we use is to ask the protagonists to imagine what a perfect world would look like, and then try to plot a route to the best practical version of that world. It’s usually called “blue sky thinking”. I find it works quite well, because a shared goal helps to get everyone on board.
      My “Scoundrel” piece was an attempt to get folk to suggest what a perfect world could look like. I’d be very interested to hear your take on this.


      • cicelywaspen says:

        Thank you for a forum to explore some ideas.
        A perfect world? Obviously I dislike people 🙂 I like the individuals I meet but when we get together we distort things and screw them up horribly. And have been doing for millennia.
        I like the analogy of societal psychological dysfunction. We’re deeply uncomfortable with our situation but often can’t even articulate it. We seek comforts, gratifications through materialistic addictions, and behave selfishly, destructively, cruelly.
        Breeding is a hopefully contentious example: it’s no longer a badge of prosperity, it’s irresponsible while we’re way into our planetary overdraft. (Easy for me to say; unlike you, no-one’s offering me sex :-D) It doesn’t seem to express love much either; office banter often centres on the trials of child-raising. Is it an out-dated cultural response to an ‘ache’?
        So would fewer humans be perfect? Right now we’re evolutionarily unsound and we’re not adapting.
        On to my lash at money: we have this supposed economic-social-environmental tripod to weigh the benefits of development proposals, but in reality, ‘sustainable development’ is still blinkered on economics. We speak of ‘ecosystem services’ as an exciting device to put monetary value on nature. It’s merely an attempt to leverage policy using the old, failed value system / blind alley, interim at best. We need to go much further to change people’s values and behaviours. How about measuring ‘national’ prosperity with Gross National Happiness? Hippy thinking? Bhutan uses this since the 1970s.
        So, my poser for you is: what of this is flawed assumption or impractical?
        Thanks for another stimulating post 🙂

        • micklively says:

          If variety is the spice of life, we need all sorts, from hermits to socialites. Not liking people might be a boon. 😉
          Our global economic system is wedded to endless growth. It cannot countenance anything else. Contentment and population control are both counter to this policy. But it is not sustainable. Sooner or later, we will find the finite limit. I’m not sure which version of armagedon that will look like.
          Individuals make the economic decisions that sustain the system we see. But it doesn’t feel that way. It seems the system is bigger than its components, almost as if it has a life of its own. If there is a flawed assumption or impracticality in your model, I think that’s it: that free will has a part to play. Even if everyone agreed on a better way forward, I don’t think we would execute it, until we were forced to by a meltdown.
          Sorry if this sounds depressing.

          • cicelywaspen says:

            It is depressing! But that’s my point: we’re a depressed species because we’ve so totally lost sight of, I don’t know, the Tao, man 🙂
            Good point about growth. Could you elaborate on “the system is bigger than its components, almost as if it has a life of its own”? That’s intriguing.
            So do I put this back on your ‘too difficult’ pile? We can’t change mass attitude / influence free will quickly enough without melting folk’s psyches? I revert to selfishly doing what I think’s best. The planet will find a new equilibrium, with or without us. Ka-BOOM.
            I didn’t mean to push you over the edge though. What’s your ‘perfect’? We’ve still that route to plot…
            And thanks for letting me hermit 🙂

            • micklively says:

              I agree with your “lost sight of” comment.
              My “life of its own” comment: I’m not sure. I think there are a lot of rules that don’t allow individual freedom. The vast majority of shareholders never vote or even express an opinion at general meetings, yet corporations are bound to act in their best interests. So the profit motive is systemised, rather than personalised. Your pension funds will be weilded in this way. They are your wages (deferred) yet you get little control over them.
              I used to think self-sufficiency was an answer (of sorts). I see global ambitions as a major problem, because of the huge power involved, the massive waste on transport, and the flagrant abuse of the earth’s resources. Take a plough to the motorways and runways. I’d like some technology censorship. I want hi-tech medical care, I don’t want hi-tech food production.
              Modern communications mean cities are unnecessary. Centralisation is hugely wasteful.
              I like KA-BOOM: only cockroaches and the Irish left. 😉

              • cicelywaspen says:

                Thanks for elaborating. “Shareholders never vote” – another good point. This reminds me of a shortcoming in democracy: I voted for you (or not) so you would represent me; why do I have to keep checking up on you and reminding you of my opinion? It’s supposed to be more efficient in society to have people specialise so I don’t have to grow my own food, make my own clothes, build my own home etc. But I find those I’ve entrusted to e.g. make my clothes have done so without any morals whatsoever using resource-hungry manufacturing and slave labour. I have to take back control.
                Self-sufficiency is a very tempting ideal. I wonder what exactly my job is; mostly just manipulating and pushing ‘information’ about. Isn’t that just perpetuating the over-complicated mess? I can’t see my widgets!
                Plough the tarmac – yey! Technology censorship – yey, just because we can doesn’t mean we should.
                Cities are unnecessary – aye, but worse: ‘urbanisation’ is… ta-dar… the cause of our dysfunction as we’ve lost connection with nature. Within a couple of hundred years we’ve insulated ourselves from all the cycles and relationships we evolved with for eons, to shut ourselves in a grey cubicle, eat plastic food, stare at an idiot lantern and wonder why we’re unhappy.
                I seem to agree with you… curses. Alright, if I release the plague of cockroaches, can you get cracking with your rotavator? 🙂

I will be pleased to read your thoughts, even if you don't agree.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s