Monday, 21 September 2009

Ring in the New Order!

In the world of iPhone applications - which don't much concern me personally, except as a reason to giggle or stick my head in a big bucket - it is pretty difficult even to make the Stupidity Top Hundred. I mean, we're talking here about competition like Hold the Button and Pour1out: no fight for the faint-hearted. But England's very own Noel Edmonds appears to have come through with a real winnah!

Yes, it's that man again. Not content with bringing the world the colour-out-of-space pullover, discovering singing amoeboid superstar Mr Blobby, and standing up to be counted against the evil cake-pushing zwilniks who threaten the very foundations of our Civilization, this genius has been much concerned of recent years with spreading the secret of his success around. He modestly confesses to owing all to his remarkable 'philosophy' of Cosmic Ordering. As he sums it up:

'The cosmos exists solely to help those who want to help themselves. It is an incredibly powerful force and a wonderful friend.'

So if you want something and it is proving hard to get, you put in an order with your old mate the cosmos for some, and cor blimey bingo Mary Poppins, there it is! Which is nice. But as the state of the world may suggest, it hasn't in every case been delivering the goods. In the light of this, and possibly connecting it with the deteriorating state of the present UK postal service, the Dancing Wu Li Master of Crinkley Bottom has finally figured out how to make 'the power of Cosmic Ordering instantly available to everyone'.

You submit your dreams and ambitions to the cosmos on your iPhone, and record the Infinite's response.

What a snip, at £1.20 for an app which as good as has the Cosmic All's private telephone number encapsulated in it! Personally, if I were the Cosmic All, I'd be thinking about contacting the Telephone Preference Service around this point, but that is just me being a bastard as usual.

Then again, my mate Randy has an alternative theory about the cosmos's true relationship to human hopes and desires, and maybe you want to be careful about mysterious bearded strangers handing out transcendental sweeties, at that. Especially when they are associated with colours out of space, ineffably blasphemous amoeba men, and appeals to Powers unknown to bear you to the heart of your dreams.

Mind how you go, OK IƤ!?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Plastic Man

Apparently it's no longer enough for our lords and shepherds that we should merely be obedient sheep. This BBC article suggests that the whole boiling of our political class can hardly wait to take on a whole new level of control over the Artist Formerly Known As The Individual. They call this new use of their authority 'Person-Shaping'.

Barnet Council leader Mike Freer says bluntly: "The role of the council has shifted away from being a provider of services to being responsible for helping local citizens improve their lives." And by 'improvement' he doesn't mean help them to achieve their wishes - as far as I can tell, he means principally to improve their wishes so as to correspond with the wiser ones a benevolent Authority would wish for them. Various forms of soft pressure and psychological manipulation are to be the new nagging, the old nagging having proven unexpectedly unpopular for some reason. Sending canvassers around to knock on every household's door, and asking its members to make three out of nine 'voluntary pledges' from a menu prepared by the Council, are one of his new non-nagging techniques. H'mmm!

Defenders of this approach, like Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, follow the line of such nudge-nudge public policy advocates as Cass Sunstein, in suggesting that the State's influence is better exercised by small non-coercive interventions that go with the flow of human nature, than by sending the cops around to collar small children for playing hopscotch outside their front doors. And as far as that goes, who could argue with it?

But a world in which our rulers have figured out how to stop small children from even wanting to play hopscotch outside their front doors... does not strike me as any improvement at all.

A stranger who comes knocking at my door expecting me to make this year's quota of pledges to advancing the district boss's agenda... is not assured of a welcome.

A 'public servant' who aspires to replace the public with Person-Shaped units for the better service of his desires... should be sacked before he gets started, and that without a character.

And if all other serious candidates for his post have similar designs on the family honour, and abolishing his post or leaving it vacant aren't among our allegedly democratic options? What then, for those of us who prefer being persons to Person Shapes, and are flatly hostile to the replacement of our unregenerate species with a clean new Homo Plasticus?

Well, psychological warfare for the general good can be waged upwards as well as downwards. As so often before, the late great science fiction writer Eric Frank Russell has much to teach us on this subject. It's times like this that make me remember why that most mischievously and eloquently human of bolshy old geezers has been such an inspiration through all the yarns I've spun, including the one I am presently living out.

Let the diabologic, disobedience, and turning of cranks commence!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A Quote for the Goats

Angora goat, by Trisha M Shears - public domain For the past week or two, I've been treating myself last thing in the evening to an audio of G K Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. I usually enjoy Chesterton very much, and this is proving no exception at all. The other day, I copped from it a quote which sings very well to my goatish heart:

"Do you understand," said the other, "that this is a tragedy?"

"Perfectly," replied Syme; "always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?"

A fair chunk of my personal philosophy put over in two bright breaths.

As far as I'm concerned, Great Pan can take the professionally censorious and solemn, and administer the divine kick where it will do the most good.

For if we can't act the goat in a tragedy - I'd surely like to know where we can!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Hot Roddin'

A sports car, by Corvettec6r on Wikimedia Commons - Public domainFinally, my drains are no longer full of evil abominations bubbling up from the nethermost Pit! All hail the mighty Dyno-Rod, who have seen to the business like good 'uns. The downstairs neighbour has been duly advised not to flush his used shoggoths down the bog, and the odour of sanctity is restored to the sacred precincts. Also, I am in the humour for writing and other human activities again. So - maintaining a previous association of ideas - I shall turn my mind once more from drains to democracy. Think of this as baby steps.

Like every other beggar, I am quick to pan our democracy's daily results, from the War on Chocolate all the way down. Unlike many, I don't think most of the problems are fixable by electing the 'right' people, not even though they be as right as yours truly. Pure democracy is a fancy name for brute mob rule, and Parliamentary 'democracy' is an oligarchy with some really rotten built-in incentives for both rulers and ruled. No, I do not really love democratic government very much, and the main thing for which I can be relied upon to vote is less of it. On the other hand, when we start looking at the existing and historical alternatives...

...Well, ych o fi! Must we just come back to the old Churchillian grumble,

"Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

and a grudging single cheer for the brute, then? I have felt a bit churlish now and then lately, for whaling on even so poor a thing as democracy, when most of the world's population doesn't even live under anything so good as that.

But just the other day it struck me that I may have been suffering from the same logical error as democracy's most ardent boosters. I am used to thinking of democracy the way I was taught to, as the steering system of the great big flash car of State - and then abusing it for being such a bad one.

Of course it is a bad steering system!

Because what democracy properly is - and why so many poor oppressed bleeders have rightly longed and fought and died to get some - is a really good set of brakes.

(Come in, No.10, your time is up...)