Posted by: Alastair McGowan | September 2, 2014

The Drivers of Tyranny

Here is someone else who has spotted the link between extremism authoritarian personality and failures of reasoning. In fact, outright anti-reasoning.

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | August 25, 2014

The Threat to Democracy is not Terrorism but Power

How could a secret police use other surveillance databases: everyone’s calling records, everyone’s purchasing habits, everyone’s browsing history, everyone’s Facebook and Twitter history? How could these databases be combined in interesting ways? We need more research on the emergent properties of ubiquitous electronic surveillance.

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | June 29, 2014

Why (almost) everything leads to the Citizens’ Basic Income

Alastair McGowan:

Citizens Basic Income, an idea whose time is coming

Originally posted on clivelord:

Johnny Void’s blog gives a devastating criticism of the government’s merciless attack on the poor, but I want to take his message further. 23rd March on Osborne’s budget for rich kids is a must read. JV is angry, and rightly so.
As Johnny Void says, the only people with fifteen grand a year to spare to stash in an ISA to take advantage of George Osborne’s so-called saver’s revolution are George Osborne, his parents, and everyone he knows. The same could be said about David Cameron, Nick Clegg, David Miliband and even Nigel Farage.
There was nothing in that budget for the poorest: the families queuing at food banks, or disabled people living in fear of the next Atos assessment.
I remind myself of the youth who was referred to a psychiatrist for being obsessed with sex. The shrink showed him a card with just a square on it.

View original 892 more words

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | January 19, 2013

The Law of the Land

A concise article on the restrictions of the British land use planning system that prevents low impact rural community development:  The Law of the Land “The current system is proving to be a serious obstruction to a vast, untapped potential which, if it were released, could see the English countryside literally spring to life.”

And my comment on it:

It is hard to see why this bias towards economic criteria should not be changed. Low impact applications that demonstrate how people could live resiliently with a mix of land use and local economic production has to be the next step in rural sustainability.

At present the planning system has developed in order to keep people off the land unless they are geared towards intensive and industrial land use practices. This lack of land use diversity needs to shift so that rural ecovillage practices can develop alongside industrial agricultural practices. Low impact pays less to public revenue, nor should it pay more in monetary terms. It’s value to society lies in its provision of a social and environmental safety net of diverse mutual activity and community.

Criteria for planning should shift to accommodate a diverse low impact resilient lifestyle for those who choose this vital and complementary alternative to complex technological civilisation.

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | January 10, 2013

Child care is critical

So many voices are telling us that Western ideas about child care are simply wrong. Jared Diamond’s recent book refers to on-demand childcare in traditional societies again rings so true. Corneilius Crowley’s experiences at the hands of the Catholic Church stand in direct contrast to this. Controlling and abusing children leads to a deep rot of fear and anti-social behaviour in society and its institutions. Until we resolve this human damage a sustainable way of life will be impossible

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | November 13, 2012

Advocating Change Starts Here: Resistance is Fertile

Understanding the cognition of resistance to change is the most powerful item in the sustainability advocate’s toolkit.

One of the most frustrating experiences that sustainability campaigners face is when a convincing logical well expressed argument for change is placed in a forum and a large section of the participants resist accepting its validity. What makes this so much hard draining work is that the locus of the resistance seems not to be in the discussion itself but deep in a belief system that is never permitted into the debate for examination. We are sometimes left wondering ‘why come to a debate if you are not going to play by the rules?’. Well, there are reasons for doing so, simply being there to front a position and repeat it as though it were empirical truth, that is one reason.

I recently listened to a debate on BBC Radio 4 between Harvard students under the currently popular rubric ‘Who built it?’ The discussion appeared to be aligned across the usual political left-right dimension. I was filled with expectation that we would get to the bottom of the issue and hear a conclusion that would inform as to whether common-interest or self-interest was considered to be of most value to society. I don’t know why I held my breath. Optimist I guess.

What I did glean from the discussion however, was that one section of debaters appeared to be arguing based on logical parsing of ideas and recourse to deeper foundations at each step, while the other group simply stated and repeated certain ideas and again and again stumbled when challenged to provide further support for those ideas. You can guess who was prepared to keep widening and supporting their arguments and who sought recourse to the vague, obfuscating and repetitive ‘truths’. For some people there is certainty in a belief system and for others a belief system is a circle of ever widening connecting of dots.

The Self narrows down to categorical belief systems to maintain its confidence in reality, and the Whole widens out to interconnected beliefs confident that reality need never be pinned down.

It is often said that opening minds in the educational process can be achieved through the teaching of critical thinking. But this misses the fact that emotion will always switch off critical thought process whenever logic challenges self-protecting belief systems. In the example above ‘Who built it?’ is a direct challenge to the belief in primacy of self which sits at the core of conservative values. Having a debate ain’t going to achieve anything here because the belief system is not negotiable. What results is a rather annoying and grinding process of logic versus faux logic and occasional loss of temper. Even more upsetting for those of us who want the discussion to progress is that in the interests of balance the chair sums up the stalemate but presenting both view points as somehow emerging from the ‘debate’ as equivalent but different in value. They are different in many ways but chiefly in that one is emotional and isolated and the other logical and empirical. Sadly this point is never made, perhaps because the moderator does not want chairs thrown about.

Sustainability sits in the same frame as the left-right dimension illustrated here. Proponents argue from facts and resistors repeat slogans from emotion. So what can we add to our toolkit? What we have to recognise is that by entering a forum of debate we can so easily offer equal credence to the repetition of an emotional worldview based on self-interest in the status quo. Solutions to this situation can then be devised. For example, better controlled debate processes can help to permit only facts to be laid out for a more ‘scientific’ examination – ‘this house concludes that based on the facts presented by each side the motion X is preferable’. The education of critical thinking can be done in a way that side-lines or negates techniques of oration so that balanced argument strikes out from the common record challenges that run to dead ends. There are a multitude of methods from the history of debate and philosophy that can be used but what is most important is that we come to the table always prepared for the empirical to shift to the emotional, which it almost always will.

A more sophisticated approach, the killer app in our toolkit, is to mould predictable emotional positions long before the public debate occurs so that we play chess with and capture or negate emotional positions = then turn resistance into fertile ground for co-option. This is the purpose of George Lakoff’s framing technique developed at the Rockridge Institute. I would like to recommend a resource which covers framing analysis and wider cognitive approaches to working with emotional resistance to change. Cognitive Policy Works

Emotional resistance is identifiable, it has known quantities, and we need to engage with it and turn its power into consensus.

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | October 7, 2012

Science vs Religion?

Why oh why oh why? Answer, power control and authority.

The God that Richard Dawkins rails against is the imagined supreme commander of right wing fundamentalist social groups. The authoritarian God of the Universe rather than the monotheistic God of Western civilisational religion. Read More…

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | September 1, 2012

Stigmergy: An Introduction

You have probably heard of hierarchy, and also anarchy. These two terms used socially refer to the way we organise our socio-economic lives. Well these are not mutually exclusive sole alternatives in our political lives.

Stigmergy is a concept which desccribes a different form of organisation, part self-organising and partly cohesive around leading principles. Stigmergy occurs in natur and society. Harnessing its processes could be key to creating a decentralised and hence more resilient human society. Read More…

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | July 23, 2012

Revolution – Iceland’s practical anarchism is working

This documentary Pots Pans and Other Solutions describes how Icelanders refused to bail out the banks and instead opted to engage in participatory democracy, dispersing malignant power from institutions into the hands of the people. They are leading the way along with #Occupy and #Wikileaks in the evolution towards more intelligent democratic institutions, openness, and social reform. We all have it inour power to follow:

Posted by: Alastair McGowan | April 1, 2012

The Time Has Arrived for LVT

Land Value Taxation (LVT) is at its most basic premise a way for society to pool its core collectively owned asset at source, grabbing it before it enters the mileu of private ownership and market economics. Read More…

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