Archive for January, 2012

Fine Gael – Merkozy’s Satellite Party in Ireland
January 23, 2012

While members of the Irish government blame Fianna Fail and Merkozy for Ireland’s woes,  many of the people who elected Fine Gael and Labour are unaware that the main party in government is in fact a partner of both Sarközy’s and Merkel’s political group/party at the European level.

It would appear that Enda Kenny hides while his ministers speak about the “fact” that there is little they can do about European developments – because the die is cast by a previous government. The government has failed to secure a drastic reduction of the interest rates charged on our bail-out which should, morally, as we are bailing banks at their behest,  be in line with ECB’s current lending rates to banks i.e 1%.

However, while you might think Ireland is marginalised from the centre of European decision-making, our main party of government Fine Gael,  is in fact in a European political party, the European People’s Party, the EPP.   The dominant members of their EPP are M.E.P.s from Angela Dorothea Merkel’s Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands aka CDU and Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire aka UMP. At the European level Fine Gael is partnered to the political parties, politicians and politics that could determine our path to progress and prosperity but who chose to demand our penury.

While Fine Gael might state that Merkozy are running the show and there is nothing they can do, they still remain political allies and partners of our persecutors.
While 24 of the 27 countries at the EU remain voiceless and while Sarközy and Merkel define our bailout; Fine Gael is silent. Why?
Because Fine Gael, the main party of government in Ireland, is in fact their political partner.
In Europe they are in the same party!!!!
In Europe Fine Gael, the UMP and the CDU are as one!
They vote as one and they speak as one. They are the European People’s Party. This is the largest grouping in the European Parliament and therefore we must ask Fine Gael are you with us or are you against us?
They have not withdrawn from the hard-conservative right-wing Thatcherite grouping of our fiscal persecutors…. they stay on-board and happily do the bidding of their right-wing amalgamation (party) at both a European and a national level.

See the European People’s Party by country here http://www.eppgroup.eu/members/en/default.asp

The next time Fine Gael say their hands are tied why not ask them why they are politically welded as collaborators in Europe to both Sarkozy and Merkel at the highest levels of European governance.  The EPP states

As the largest political group in a Parliament where non-socialist parties now enjoy a clear majority, the EPP Group is in a stronger position than any other to set that body’s political agenda and to win its most critical votes. This strength is reflected in the fact that, since 1999, the EPP Group has been on the winning side of more votes than any other group in the European Parliament’s monthly plenary sessions.

Why can Fine Gael not use this power they have, being in the EPP, to be on the winning side of a vote for Ireland?  The next time Fine Gael tries to pass the buck to Merkozy you might ask them why they are they happy and willing partners at the European level as members of the Merkozy’s European People’s Party.

It is fair to say that Fine Gael’s fiscal policies and the policies of Merkozy are at one because they are one and the same. The draconian bail out terms merely allow Fine Gael to introduce their policies and blame others. Their own fiscal depravity such as sacrificing the poor, our services and our national assets is countenanced because this is what they want to do. Just as they are Merkozy’s political partners at the European level, they are Merkozy’s satellite party in Ireland.

People Korps  23. 1 .12

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The History of Writing
January 21, 2012

I’d never given too much thought to the history of writing until now, beyond having the vague idea that it had started in what we now call the middle east, in a rich agricultural area based on virgin riverside topsoils.  Plenty of food  (time to do things other than hunt or dig, and food stores to keep track of)  and plenty of clay and reeds.

Written number systems originated in the same area (now part of Iraq) –

The earliest known writing for record keeping evolved from a system of counting using small clay tokens that began in Sumer about 8000 BC….

The cities of Sumer were the first civilization to practice intensive, year-round agriculture, by perhaps c. 5000 BC showing the use of core agricultural techniques, including large-scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping, organized irrigation, and the use of a specialized labour force. The surplus of storable food created by this economy allowed the population to settle in one place, instead of migrating after crops and grazing land. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labour force and division of labour.  Sumer was also the site of early development of writing, progressing from a stage of proto-writing in the mid 4th millennium BC to writing proper in the third millennium (see Jemdet Nasr period).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumer

There is an interesting wiki page on the history of writing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_writing  (enter into searchbox to access this page)

The earliest writing, and the first use of symbolic written numbers, were both concerned with recording the number of animals and the quantity of grain stores.

Counting and recording food stores was not an idle pastime, but necessary to calculate (and ration)  that sufficient grain was there to see the population through to the next expected harvest.

The earliest known writer of literature was a woman, an Akkadian princess from Sumer, called Enheduanna.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enheduanna (an example of her work –   http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.4.07.2&display=Crit&charenc=gcirc&lineid=t4072.p7#t4072.p7

Enheduanna was a magnificently powerful and expressive writer.  She was also a high priestess of the moon goddess – not coincidental perhaps, as the phases of the moon have traditionally been used a guide to optimal planting times.

Middle Bablyonian legal text in its envelope

The concept of writing spread outwards from Sumer, and new forms of writing were developed, one of the early ones being in Egypt. There were also, thousands of years later, completely separate developments of writing – in America ( Mexico)  first and also in China.  Both Mexico and China had complex agricultural systems in fertile, irrigated lands.

Writing is important to social development –

 The great benefit of writing systems is their ability to maintain a persistent record of information expressed in a language, which can be retrieved independently of the initial act of formulation.

Writing has made possible the accumulation of and rapid spread of knowledge and culture through large populations and has also allowed for an increasingly rapid development of new knowledge, standing on the shoulders of what was known before.

The benefits of writing were constrained when each copy had to be hand written. Many important works have been lost from that period.

The development of the printing press in the 15th century “cracked open” the potential of writing for societal development. Written works were far more accessible and less likely to be lost.

16th century press capable of printing 3,600 pages a day

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press

The internet (developed in the 1950s-80s), likewise, provided for an exponential effect on the sharing and spread of knowledge, in that it is a much cheaper and more readily available global means of access to writing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet

There are thousands of free books and articles (damn you, pay walls!)

http://www.gutenberg.org/

Lee Kleinbeck and the first Interface Message Processor

All of these developments have come about on the back of the general level of technological and scientific development in society.

One would think that writing might be challenged by the development of telephony and recorded sound – I have just listened to a talk by Conor McCabe, on youtube, for example, that once would have been more likely shared by means of a pamphlet, or that would not have been heard beyond the initial live audience.

But writing is in many ways superior – a moment’s lapse of concentration when listening to a recording means the tedium of playback and listening again, maybe more than once. Reading a written version, one can go at one’s own pace.

Perhaps the next step will be some form of direct plug-in of information into the brain. 🙂

C. Flower  21/02/2012

The Spiral of Silence
January 12, 2012

I came across this theory and thought is was interesting, looking at it from an Irish Perspective

People will be unwilling to publicly express their opinion if they believe they are in the minority. They will also be more vocal if they believe they are a part of the majority. Thus, the more marginalized you become, the less you speak and so spiral into a fully marginal position.   This works because we fear social rejection. and that when a person appears to be rejected, others will back away from them, fearing being rejected because they associate with the rejected person.    It also makes marginalization a powerful way of eliminating political and social competition.    Public opinion is the “attitudes or behaviors one must express in public if one is not to isolate oneself, in areas of controversy or change; public opinions are those attitudes one can express without running the danger of isolating oneself.

http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/spirals_silence.htm

The crucial points of the theory are

People have a fear of being rejected by those in their social environment, which is called “fear of isolation.”
People are constantly observing the behaviors of those around them, and seeing which gain approval and disapproval from society.
People unconsciously issue their own threats of isolation by showing signals of approval or disapproval.
Threats of isolation are avoided by a person’s tendency to refrain from making a statement about something they think might attract objections.
People are more willing to publicly state things that they believe will be accepted positively.
The spiral effect begins because when people who are seen as representing majority opinion, often authority figures, speak out confidently. The opposition feels a greater sense of fear of isolation and is further convinced to remain silent, since they perceive themselves to be in the minority. The feelings continue to grow in either direction exponentially.
A strong moral component is necessary for the issue to activate the spiral.
If there is a social consensus, the spiral will not be activated. There must be two opposing forces.
The mass media has a strong influence on this process.
Fear and threat of isolation are subconscious processes.
The spiral of silence only “holds a sway” over the public for a limited time.
If a topic activates the spiral of silence, this means that the issue is a great threat to social cohesion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence

Criticisms

The critics of this theory most often claim that individuals have different influences that affect whether they speak out or not. Critics believe that there are three potential influences besides the fear of isolation that could cause the spiral of silence. [46]
1.) Many researchers have studied whether influences of close social networks can influence a person’s willingness to speak. It is found that people have the same opinion of their social networks. However, it is not clear as to whether our fear of isolation is greater among acquaintances and stranger than in our close networks. “In the smaller context of friends and family, we may feel safe expressing our opinions since we already perceive their opinions as similar to our ours.” [46]
2.) Scholars have also questioned whether personal characteristics have an influence on whether a person will willingly speak out. “Naturally, if one has a positive self-concept and lacks a sense of shame, that person will speak out regardless of how she or he perceives the climate of public opinion.” [46]
3.) Another influence critics give for people choosing not to speak out against public opinion is culture. The culture that a person lives in greatly affects their willingness to speak out. “Not every culture holds freedom of speech in as high regard as the United States, and in some cultures, open expression of ideas is forbidden. “ [46] Some cultures are more individualistic, which would support more of an individual’s own opinion, while collectivist cultures support the overall groups opinion and needs. Cultural factors could also be gender. “Perhaps another explanation for why individuals do not express minority opinions can be made: that women’s perception of language, not public opinion, forces them to remain quiet.” [46]

Thinking back to the time of the Bank crisis in Ireland, and how taxpayers learnt that they would be paying that for the greed and mistakes of the elite few, the prevailing attitude was that there wasn’t anything we could do about it, mass media reinforced the mantra by politicians that the bank bailout was “the only show in town ” even though there were other options available.

Some people spoke and acted out, the ‘call for a general election’ campaign, was one, that had support, but it never gathered momentum. People felt that there was nothing they could do to stop austerity measures being enforced on them, and on political forums and elsewere the protests were laughed at, and mocked.    How many people would have liked to show their support but were silenced into doing so, by the ‘majority’?    Eygpt demonstrated that results are possible from protesting.

Then there was Eirigi, who occupied some bank buildings, they were outwardly ridiculed for doing so, because their political stance didn’t sit comfortably with people, but I wonder how many people inwardly supported what they were doing, but were afraid to voice this support, because Eirigi weren’t popular judging by mainstream opinion ?

Another example was the first Gulf  War, and I’m sure the findings could easily be also applied to the second Iraq war

This study analyzes actual and perceived support for the Persian Gulf War in the United States.   Data were collected from 292 residents of New Castle County, Delaware, during the 1991 Gulf War.    Results show that support for the war was not the strong consensus reported in mainstream media.    In fact, 53.1 percent of the respondents fell within the neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree ranges of a support for the war scale.    Only 6.6 percent of the respondents were in the strong support range.    However, responses were significantly higher on an item measuring perceived support for the war.     Consistent with Noelle-Neumann’s spiral of silence theory, perceived public support for the war was a significant predictor of support for the war even after 13 variables were controlled.      The alternative explanation that subjects were ‘projecting’ their own perceptions onto the public, is discounted by the finding that liberals, moderates and conservatives did not differ in their perceptions of public support.

http://ijpor.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/2/91.abstract

The ‘Occupy’ movement will be an interesting one to watch.   Will the mainstream media and ‘majority opinion’ succeed in limiting support for it, or will people, encouraged by events in Egypt and else were, speak out and get behind it?

Mutley    8.1.12

Occupy Social Media ?
January 7, 2012

Social Media

Much has been made of the role social media has played in both the Arab Spring and the subsequent Occupy movement.  Some argue that social media has been a revolutionary game changer. Others argue that Facebook and Twitter provided indispensable tools but that these were of a mere logistical nature. While they spread news of the revolution and rallied people around it, the genesis of revolt was entirely independent of them.  The truth, however, most probably lies in a convergence of both views.  To grasp the importance of logistical tools that bypass state control and allow control of one’s own narrative, you just have to remember fax machines were banned as recently 1989 in the West Bank and Gaza.   Social media proved indispensable in rallying crowds and providing a picture of a reality rarely seen on state or mainstream media.

Throughout history tyranny feeds off lies. The tyrant distracts his oppressed people by spewing propaganda that demonises some ‘other’.   But now truth can counter lies.   People can communicate with each other. With communication comes empathy and understanding. Empathy and understanding erode the foundations of tyranny.  The rise of Al Jazeera could be attributed to the fact that it was one of the very few conventional media outlets whose coverage was in sync with the reality portrayed by digital media.  There is, however, another more subtle but perhaps far more revolutionary force at play behind this digital drama.  Just like the printing press in its day, social media is reshaping how we access and process knowledge and thereby our whole relation to society’s constructs.  French philosophers Gilles DeLeuze and Felix Gauttari have argued that structure of Western knowledge and the power which stemmed from it was hierarchial, vertical in nature.  With limited access to knowledge, you arrived at a subject, planted yourself and then worked your way upwards to greater awareness; the dynamic was like a tree.   This notion is conducive to the idea of the superior, of looking up to the leader.  The digital age is changing all this. With the computer link one processes knowledge in a horizontal fashion.   The French philosophers coined the term rhizomatic for what they saw as this new approach. You don’t move above others in a horizontal trajectory. The idea of superiors, those on top, does not make sense here. The much vaunted ‘leaderless’ nature of the Occupy movement can be seen as a manifestation of this new reality.

Although in its infancy, some see the grounds for greater democratic promise within this new reality.  The either/or world view of the old hierarchial body politic is being replaced by the more inclusive both/and of the digital age’s more democratic horizontal nature.  Others argue that there is revolutionary progressive potential in the unprecedented speed and scope of today’s transmission of ideas.

Occupy as meme

BBC Newsnight Editor Paul Mason sees the nature of the Occupy movement as mirroring an internet meme.  A meme, Mason says, is an effective action that transmits itself independent of any democratic structures and party political hierarchies.  “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices….so what happens is that ideas arise, are very quickly “market tested” and either take off, bubble under, insinuate themselves or if they are deemed no good they disappear.   Ideas self-replicate like genes”.   Today’s global village features the compression of both time and space and this is plays a crucial role in how we, the global populace, share ideas, interact and conduct politics.  With internet-mediated forms of collective action we see a massive ‘speeding up’ of how social symbols and practices are produced, reproduced, adopted and internalised.  “We can think of the internet as a bank of ideas, and the really successful meme occurs when one of those ideas chimes massively with the population it encounters, summing up a shared or individual experience or viewpoint to the extent that users wish to perpetuate it as somehow representative of their position, often amending it slightly on it’s way.”

The printing press as previous ‘software’ change

Some dismiss this notion of the Occupy movement as a meme as mere mystification of technology. Far from challenging the very nature of our body politic, cynics argue that digital innovation has given us little more radical than the ability to watch Glee on a smart phone sitting on the metro.   But it is early days yet and trivial use by no means negates serious and revolutionary potential.  English writer Aaron Peters notes one could have adopted a similar dismissive attitude to the revolutionary nature of the printing press.  “Bear in mind that after the arrival of the printing press the first pornographic novels came about within a few years, while the first regularised scientific journals took a little over a century,” Peters says.  The last time we changed society’s ‘software’ was when we ‘switched over’ to the printing press.  “The changes we will see with how the distributed network impacts the existing social and political apparatus through its impact on political, cultural and social memes could be as big as those it affected the last time the ‘software’ changed with the rise of typographic print and the printing press.”Like the internet today, the printing press led to a qualitative speeding up of memetic reproduction of symbols and practice.  “The consequences were the Reformation, the nation-state, scientific rationalism and the formation of the Habermasian public sphere.”  The effects were seismic, giving us the modern world as we know it. And now the modern world is facing another seismic change.

We are on the threshold of something potentially epic as “the institutions built in previous eras of information scarcity will increasingly no longer make sense as we enter the era of the internet’s information abundance.”

A challenge to national, parliamentary democracy itself.

“My impression is that the last year, as well as subsequent years to come, will show that how the ‘people’ make demands on political power is changing beyond all recognition. Where it ends is possibly with a challenge to national, parliamentary democracy itself.” Peters says.  “The software is obsolete; things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.”

Kevin Barrington   6.1.2012

“Down with that sort of thing”
January 6, 2012

Down with that sort of thing

“Occupy doesn’t know what it wants,” or so we are told.  Allegedly Occupy is a global movement of i-phone wielding, privileged malcontents shouting “NO”.  In an Irish context, it’s a crusties meets Father Ted  “down with that sort of thing”  affair.  A recent Vincent Browne show saw one of the movement’s rare appearances on the Irish ‘mainstream media.’ And the viewer was treated to variants of the above dismissals by panelist John McGuirk.  McGuirk, giving a polished performance, came across as the epitome of the slick conventional politician. Robin Wilson, the Occupy spokesperson was not so polished.  Probed by Browne, Wilson said Occupy “wanted democracy.”  Vincent told pointed out we had just had an election, a democratic one. Wilson said the government had betrayed us by not burning the bondholders. Vincent pointed out that the Fine Gael manifesto had never made such a promise. To McGuirk’s delight, the Occupy spokesperson faltered. But empathetic to the Occupy cause, Vincent let the spokesperson off the hook Because whatever about the details, the system had failed the people. They were paying an unjust price. They had been had and they knew it.

Ex Fianna Fail, ex Fine Gael, ex Libertas and unsuccessful Independent candidate labels Occupy as incoherent

McGuirk, however, capitalised on Wilson’s unsure performance to paint the Occupy movement as uninformed amateurs, novices out of their depth.  The ex Fianna Fail, ex Fine Gael, ex Libertas and unsuccessful Independent candidate implied Occupy was incoherent!  McGuirk is a poster boy for the traditional political world, an analogue world of either/or. You were for something or against it.  You were either for capitalism or you were for a workers’ revolution.  If you said NO, you were beholden to explain what you said YES to.

And if you could not clearly do this, the inference was ‘leave it to the big boys, leave it to your betters.’ But the dawning digital age does not see the world in such simple divisions.  The simple either/or point of view is being overtaken by a more novel one of both/and. According to McGuirk’s rules, Wilson had lost the game. But what he didn’t seem to realise – and what the Occupy spokesperson failed to clarify – is that Occupy does not want to play by these rules.  It does not want to play the game, it wants to find an entirely different form of sport.

A coup d’etat by a corporate criminal class

Occupy does not claim to have the answers. But it knows that the current system is broken. In the movement’s parlance, the system places the interests of 1% above that of 99%.  And in the meantime it appeals for the restoration of law and order. For fairness. For social justice.  Curiously Chris Hedges of the New York Times sees the Occupy movement as the voice of “true conservatives.”  Hedges argues that democracy has been hijacked by radicals. And the radicals are a criminal elite who have pulled off a corporate coup d’etat.  The true conservatives demand that law and order be restored by bringing the criminal class to book and that democracy be rescued from the corporate elite who have hijacjked it.

The view that a corporate criminal class is seeking to guard its ill gotten gain has been highlighted by some of the more infamous scenes from the Occupy movement. Frenzied Madrid police beating peaceful seated protesters and the now infamous Lt Pike casually pepper spraying kids like he was watering roses have beamed out powerful images showing not just the delinquency of the system but the near psychopathic realms to which the 1% will stoop to defend its privileged position.  These are loud and powerful messages dramatising the forces Occupy is opposing.
Much less dramatic and less discernible is the novel, subtle way in which the movement is seeking to establish what it stands for.

What Occupy says Yes to cannot be captured in a youtube clip.  Tentatively, the Occupy movement is trying to find a way out of the quagmire and trying to discern a whole new way of playing the whole game. The aim is a popular, collaborative new form of democracy which will be robust enough to resist being hijacked by special interests. And that, to put it mildly, is no small or easy task.  A challenge to national, parliamentary democracy itself.  The Occupy movement is a picket line on the dysfunctional politics as we know it.  Whether Occupy will succeed is anyone’s guess but one thing is pretty certain, it is throwing an unforgiving spotlight on how the current system has failed the people.

Kevin Barrington  5.1.12

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