Thursday, May 27, 2010

Diversity and information

My friend Conall McDevitt has a very sharply titled post up here: If you think libraries are expensive, try ignorance. It's a reworking of the line that "if you think education is expensive...."

It's an oddly roundheaded aspect of British culture that we don't fully buy the idea that a diverse thinking polity is essential to the wellbeing of the nation. We don't seem to value thought and we don't seem to value diversity.

We make almost no provision for argument and debate. MPs have to justify their expenses based upon roundheaded concerns related to their poor and inappropriate impersonation of social workers and not upon the fact that they need a team of intelligent researchers and a series of intellectual throwdowns to tighten up the quality of government thinking. Now, it seems - despite the fact that we have 2,600 people for every one elected representative in the UK (in France, it's 160-1), it seems that the Tories are determined to make the populist point that 'we have too many politicians'.

We have a political ecology that is largely sceptical of the state's ability to actually do anything in the first place. This is, I suppose, a reasonable viewpoint, but for the most part that system seems to insist upon ensuring that the state does everything poorly just to prove it's point. The Post Office is a classic example of this. Like the lefty revolutionary defeatists of old, successive governments have sought to ensure that the Post Office fails in the hope that some vanguardist free-market solution will emerge to snatch the opportunity.

The idea that any business will ever invest a fraction of what is needed to make the Post Office work is a fantasy that seems to survive every form of challenge short of actually killing the postal service stone dead (which I understand is now under consideration).

We have a party political system that has an odd - and I suspect unsustainable - obsession with the papering over of cracks. As long as the mainstream media was its gatekeeper, that was possible - I don't beleive that it occupies this role any longer and I think that the public are less and less impressed by shows of 'unity' as every new day passes. We have a political class who seem to have elevated the hunt for those who deviate from groupthink and orthodoxy into a sport.

The Labour Party seems set to be offering a leadership choice of a handful of over-scrubbed white males in their early 40s with barely a shred of political difference between them and almost no life experiences beyond politics. The winner will be go up against Nick Clegg and David Cameron and the rest of use can watch them melt into one hairless pink blob whose shit doesn't smell before we decide which one to vote for next time.

Almost every Prime Minister in living memory went to Oxford, we have a We have an unwritten constitution (trans: a settlement that is whatever a handful of newspapers decide that they would like it to be at any given moment) that we are almost incapable of adapting.

We have a bureaucracy that sustains itself by ensuring that everything is done the way that it always has been done - and that sponteneity and invention have no place in the process.

We've see the investment base of our creative industries narrowed down and resulting an a contraction in the range of film and TV content at our disposal.

Today, a private members defamation bill has been published by Lord Lester of Herne Hill. It remains to be seen if this will be adopted by the government and pushed through, but Simon Singh's views on this are worth a glance if you have time. It's about the only silvery lining to this cloud of homegeneity and monoculture that is coming from officialdom. The one thing that holds out the possibility that someone - anyone - will say something - anything - that falls outside our narrow range of pemissable sentiment.

Thankfully, when I say the only thing, I'm discounting this massive new pro-diversity, pro-debate behemoth that is the read-write web. Things aren't as bleak as they sometimes look, are they?

I hope your MP is going to urge the governement to adopt this defamation bill. I'm writing to mine to urge that he does so. My old Labour MP, oddly, would have done. I'm not as optimistic with the new Tory incumbent....

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