Yep, this is a core of the fear of the Winz class. As Johnny Banks reminded us only a few months ago, they be smoking P, watching porn and then running out of money to do that, so they will ROB EPSOM.
I remember as a kid someone telling me the difference between Left and Right was in perception of humanity. The Left see people as flawed but perfectible, needing encouragement. The Right see people as inherently irredeemably flawed and in need of firm guidance.
I remember thinking, hmm, well one of these positions meets the observable facts much better than the other. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong one.
Bloody unresolvable contradictions.
Surely, the basic political question, how to organise society, comes down to how do we resolve conflicting interests?
I want this and you want that, but if I have this you can’t have that and if you have that I can’t have this. What do we do?
The classic political answer to this question is whoever has the biggest stick gets both this and that.
All the time in conversation (I have an annoying habit of butting into conversations in pubs), people will say to me ‘But majority rules.’ As if purely by virtue of being the majority they get to impose their will on the minority as they wish.
Bollocks to that. Ask a class of five year olds if that’s fair.
(And, in response to something else entirely, I have no religion, just insanity.)
Harmony is nice. Science is the religion of the Atheist. It’s fucking amazing, far more spiritual than stained glass and wine.
Oh, but now we're getting into the Secret Knowledge of the Ancient Temple-Builders.
Let's not go there. Don't get me started.
Point is, class or no class, we will always try and find ways of restricting each other on various bases.
Heh, that’s being a social species for you. Hierarchies everywhere you look.
Ask any teacher, the kids rank themselves. Remarkably fairly apparently. If we had a proper society, none of those restrictions would affect your physical well-being. They’d all be based purely on complete fucking wank, inconsequential.
How hard is it to organise things so that no-one starves? So that those for whom buying social status is important harm no-one while indulging themselves?
Would a guaranteed minimum income do it? Only tax income over it perhaps? At a flat rate even?
How else do we break the cycle? Or is that in the ‘too hard’ basket? Not even thinkable?
Or is it simply politically unacceptable because people are generally far too punitive towards those unlike themselves? Grossly misapply the fairness principle (‘Why should I be expected to work really hard just to keep some scuzzbucket in fag and booze money!!!?!’ or ‘How dare you be interested in useless intellectual things, you snob, dreamer!’ et cetera ad nauseum).
If it’s the last, the entire goddamn species should hang its head in shame.
Atheists can dismiss religion as primitive superstition as much as they like (and we do, oh how we do!), but at least it (in principle) treats every human being as a human being. Unlike most political ideologies. Or science.
Class isn’t about categories, it’s about barriers to entry (we don’t invite those people) and barriers to exit (where were you? All the rest of the gang where there).
To-mah-to. To-may-to. I reckon.
On what basis do those barriers function? According to the category you’ve been assigned to. Or somehow managed to assign yourself to.
The degree of fluidity between those categories determines social mobility. In some societies, your birth determines your category, and nothing you can do will change that. Those societies have very little social mobility.
(I’m a big fan of overly reductive simplicity, but let’s not go into that.)
I submit that ours is such a society. If you’re born into certain kinds of family, your options are extremely limited. You are almost certainly going to end up just like your parents. Or, if you are socially mobile, it’s usually in a downwards direction.
Other societies are different. I’ve just been writing about Piero della Francesca, who was born the son of a leather worker. Piero’s dad spent all his days in a tannery and so was shunned by all the ‘right’-thinking people (‘Ew, stay away from the dirty smelly semi-criminal!’). And this feudal society (highly arguably) had more social mobility than ours now. Piero’s was by no means an isolated or exceptional case.
So, I reckon, our contemporary NZ society is fundamentally broken. Where even the supposedly upper middle class educated elite are corporate serfs. Where basic foodstuffs such as bread and milk are unaffordable for many, as are basic community-owned amenities such as swimming pools.
At the start of the documentary film ‘Someone else’s country’, there is a line I’m fond of quoting. It’s something like:
‘The South American dictator Pinochet had to stage a military coup in order to implement the same reforms that a democratically elected Labour government implemented here.’
With no mandate whatsoever.
And what have we done about it!?! Even now, 25-odd years later?
But, yeah, Labour vs. National. Left vs. Right. Rogernomics vs. Ruthanasia. Those crucially important differences.
I mean, the underclass has always been with us and always will, right? Nothing to be done about that, obviously. Dirty smelly criminal scum anyway, so who cares? As long as we’ve still got chardonnay to drink and are seen to be caring people, nothing else matters, right?
I reckon Prince Kropotkin had the right idea. He grew up in a similar society to ours.
Random associative blithering:
I, too, have been doing this for a while and I see it more as:
Yeah, lots of people have, and not very many of them agree on even the basics. It’s only been 20 years, so no one person can claim any depth of experience, especially when the bloody thing changes so fast. All our conclusions are tentative at best. It’s reasonable to assume that everything we think is wrong.
In a sense, a 13-year-old kid fresh to it all has more relevant experience than someone with 20 years’ history. They don’t have to unlearn things, nor do they have inappropriate assumptions developed for circumstances that no longer hold. Some bloody kid is going to come along one of these days and demonstrate just how wrong we are. About everything.
To bring it back full circle, human beings have been living in cities for about 6000 years. We still haven’t worked out how to organise that very well yet. Churchill (‘the baddest punk of them all’) had something to say about liberal democracy as a solution to that problem.
Speaking personally, I have spent my life deeply shocked that here we are living in an advanced technological society of marvels, living in the future, and billions of people are still starving or living in grinding miserable poverty just so a few people can live like kings. It’s a bullshit future. And most of the supposed marvels are bullshit as well.
Cliche time: It takes all sorts of people to make a world. And there is nothing wrong with any of them.
Class is a categoriser. Take all these billions of unique individuals, with hugely different values and ways of living, and sort them into (very rough) categories based on some (even rougher) similarities between those values and/or ways of living. Then assign those categories roles. Billions of square pegs! Jammed into three different round holes!
The problem with small isolated societies such as NZ is that social cohesion becomes the paramount virtue, including on the internet. Small isolated societies tend to be highly conservative and conformist. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t stick your head up. Otherwise you’ll sink us all!
Any deviance must be punished!
‘Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!’
Merry Xmas one and all.
You’re a more generous and patient man than me, clearly.
Two word answer: Tui billboard.
Hmm, I’ve just stumbled on this, and waded back a few pages, and I’m going to chip in, prompted by this comment:
‘The reason those discussions work is that no-one is dumb or insensitive enough to be a nit-picky fight chasing arsehole on those threads.’
I have been arguing stuff on the internet ever since the day in 1991 when I got given access to the internet, made a reasonably innocuous (I thought) comment on a discussion forum, and crashed the university’s computer network with the volume of outraged responses I got.
Now, the way I understand it, the Golden Rule, as expressed by pretty much all the good philosophers of ages past, is not ‘Don’t be a dick’ or ‘Read kindly’. It is ‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you.’
Given that premise, these are the conclusions I draw:
If you’re running a discussion forum, the Golden Rule suggests what the tone and style of argument participants adopt should be.
If your over-riding aim is that no-one gets their feelings hurt, then all participants should adopt a tone of exaggerated politeness and avoid any topic on which they disagree. Cats would be a good subject for such discussions (pretty much anything other politics and religion). Most people like cats. And those who don’t aren’t welcome anyway. Such discussions tend to be exclusive, with fairly primitive group dynamics in play (i.e. anyone not a member of the elect who is seen as challenging the elect in any way is demonised, a ‘nit-picky fight chasing arsehole’ or worse).
However, if your aim is to promote a vigorous discussion that includes variant and unconventional (some would even say deviant) points of view, then you cannot worry too much about people getting their feelings hurt. Nor can participants be overly concerned with how they appear to others. What matters is the exchange of ideas, not self-serving posturing. The participants put their self-image to one side.
In such a discussion, provocatively bald statements are considered to be, not personal insults to be countered with all the weapons at one’s disposal to preserve one’s self-image in the eyes of others at all costs, but rather valuable contributions to the discussion, ones that clarify or extend that discussion.
Each participant fights their corner. A corner defined by ideas rather than personal feelings. It’s called being disinterested. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
I’ve had a couple of run ins with Giovanni Tiso on these forums here in the past, neither of which I much enjoyed because I found his style of arguing particularly annoying. I thought he kept shifting the goal-posts and was being deliberately obtuse. However, this was my failing, not his.
The thing with discussions on the internet, as everyone is well aware, is that small snippets of text that were written in the heat of the moment and that contain little or no contextual cues are more likely to be misinterpreted than not.
Therefore, you get a lot of back and forth clarification, which can be frustrating. This is where things tend to break down.
Final 2c re: the ‘middle class’. No-one should be made to feel bad for circumstances out of their control, but by the same token privilege (especially economic privilege) comes at other people’s expense.
(Note that this is not directed at any particular individual or group of individuals:) Not acknowledging that expense while insisting on your entitlement to that privilege is not very nice. Those who have to pay the price resent it.
Comments welcome, including name-calling. Shall I start? What a smug patronising wanker comment this just was eh? Annoying nit-picking fight-chasing arsehole!
What a dick!
Well, I was there too, and no honours student or high court judge ever asked me what I saw and experienced, or asked any of the quite large number of my friends who were also there as far as I'm aware, so I'll respectfully disagree.
Were you with us when we were stopped on Mt Cargill one of those nights?
But I don't want to argue about it. All I wanted to say was that Dunedin cops are hard arses, or at least were not that long ago. Reasonably uncontentious thing to say I thought.
Apparently he mostly does film of dance now?
That makes sense.
Bollocks. Tried to get a picture up as per Jackson’s instructions, but no dice.