Archive

Archive for December, 2016

Truth, post truth, lies or one persons truth is another is another mans lies: falsehoods and technical truths are the order of the day, but filtering for fake news will just take mass manipulation to a new level

December 23, 2016 1 comment

truth-2

Whichever way we turn, we have started to hear the media using the term ‘post truth’ as a label for just about every piece of news with which someone, somewhere disagrees. Some are more direct and call these stories lies. But politicians and activists have been using the same methods that they do now that they have for generations before the events of 2016 were even thought as being the remotest of possibilities. The only thing that has changed is that this method of communicating politically expedient truths has simply been given a name.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that this as happened, given that both the result of the European Referendum and the US General Election went completely against the establishment script, leaving many of most skillful users of this manipulative dark art crying foul, simply because the very same weapon that they have used against so many, has been so effectively been used against them.

So what is the ‘post truth’ – It literally sounds as if we have entered an era where everything now being said and done in government has progressed beyond the point of being true?

To be fair, we often say to others observing and discussing the same events that we experience, that they are ‘unbelievable’. But this is a turn of phrase that doesn’t suggest that these events or what has been said is untrue. It reflects a reality that the acts of the political classes often defy logical explanation; that they present outcomes it would be unlikely to imagine, or that the stories we hear are of kind ‘that you simply couldn’t write’.

Words present a different challenge again and we must be mindful of the fact that a story which one person’s experience tells them is true, can all too easily be dismissed through the eyes of another who has had an alternative or perhaps wider level of experience.

Sadly, the world of politics long since arrived at the point where saying that something was true – but in reality only just from the point of view of the speaker, would mean they could make what are wilfully misleading statements, whilst ‘honestly’ painting that particular perspective or alternative reality as being true.

Doubling down or the art of sticking to the story or script makes watching media interviews with politicians from all sides absolutely cringeworthy. I am sure I have not been alone in wondering ‘why the hell don’t you just tell them the bloody truth?!’

Unfortunately that’s how today’s unethical and morally devoid political establishment operates and how it expects new entrants to always behave. Whether always being ‘on message’, accepting that as a junior politician you will be told what you will think, or simply becoming a vote to be used in government at the will of the party leadership as soon as the elections are over, that is the distasteful and utterly dishonest way that the current political regime works.

Trump, Cameron, Farage, Osborne, Johnson, Gove, Hannan, May and every figurehead politician we can identify as having played a role in key events this year have all been telling us their very own truths. What they are not however, are genuinely or completely false. And we should all be very concerned that there is now a growing movement at work which is looking to filter ‘fake news’ from the material that we read. A development which has been spearheaded by the work which Facebook is now doing.

Fake news in its genuine sense is a concept which social media has facilitated and a source of satire and ridiculous comedy that most of us thoroughly enjoy. The Poke, The Southend News Network, Newsthump and The Onion are but just a few of many more that we can as easily have posting to our newsfeeds each day.

We access them just the same as the apparently legitimate sources we read like the BBC, Sky News, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, or again a great many others too. Yet even they all promote the truths of the journalists, the editors, the companies that own them and the advertisers who pay the bigger part of their wages within them too.

People do know and understand the difference between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ news already. They do not need filters – which will inevitably contain the bias or prejudices of the people who run or program them – to ensure that they are only exposed to news that they can ‘trust’.

In a certain manner of speaking, no form of news can really be trusted today, as very little of the news we read or hear arrives on the screen in front of us without some hint of opinion being present. This has always been the case on a broader level within the various parts of the national press. But it does now seem to have become that bit more unpalatable to dissenters when a reader’s exposure to the ‘wrong’ stories through targeted material they often really want to read removes the chance that the alternative – or to others the ‘acceptable’ or ‘correct’ point of view will not be revealed to them.

If every reader or viewer were to engage with the news that reaches them by thinking critically today, the media industry would simply cease to exist overnight. But that doesn’t mean they are unaware of the realities and truths at some level.

It has long been accepted socially that opinion is what makes news sell and what turns ‘news’ into a product that we then want to buy. However, we certainly don’t want to read, watch or hear anything with which we don’t identify, and this is the indisputable truth that all of those who now want to control news for their own purposes will be very quick to deny.

image thanks to unknown

Degree level entry for all Police Officers is a retrograde step which will push a common sense approach to policing even further away down the bureaucratic queue

December 22, 2016 1 comment

police-training

With everything happening across the political and public sector world feeling so very uncertain already, it will have come as a surprise to many that the Government has allowed the College of Policing to announce that candidates wishing to become Police Officers will be required to have Degrees from 2020.

The reasoning cited behind this move is the increasing level of activity within the role including the research which Police Officers are required to undertake online. But is this itself really justification enough to raise the bar to an occupation and public service which in recent years has been a key target to become a lighthouse of diversity?

Information Technology and ‘web fluency’ levels are arguably highest within the generation now reaching the workplace at 16 and above – irrespective of the level of formal education they have attained, simply because use of smartphones and PCs to access the web has now reached a point of social permeation where children are culturally conditioned in their use. To suggest otherwise would arguably demonstrate just how seriously out of touch our policy makers have now become.

Cyber-crime has become increasingly prevalent. But it has not in any way superseded the need for real-world policing, which has itself become painfully absent in recent years as a mix of bureaucracy and the public sector funding crisis have hit the Police Service very hard indeed. The widespread perception exists that the physical presence of our Police forces have now dwindled to a point where it would logical for us to ask if our communities are really safe.

The concept that more can be delivered using less is one that is now followed in every sector. In some cases there are significant efficiencies that can be made within organisations of all descriptions, particularly when new technology can reduce the workload or requirement of staff numbers. However, this is not without consequence as the current raft of strikes in the UK have arguably displayed. There is also a significant question to be addressed regarding these economies being made when the financial benefit has become the priority over the experience of the customer or members of the public.

Like many, I grew up with a respect for the Police which is increasingly hard to justify, given the level and type of interaction which Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers now have within the community. The focus on a system of delivery where you once felt that a Police Constable really did have autonomy as they enforced and represented the Law appears to have long since left the building. It appears to have been replaced with a bureaucratic nightmare where Officers now have to look over their shoulders before they decide either to engage or to act.

It may seem romantic, but an age where a Police Officer didn’t have to resort to making arrests or presenting Court Summons to achieve a real-life result with ‘petty crime’ was not so long in the past. Yes, these Officers of the Law did not have to chase their quarry online, but they also engaged with would-be criminals in a much more meaningful way. One which was adapted to the specific circumstances they were addressing and did not result in so many young people being tarred by acts of stupidity which with the arrival of the net itself, have become far too accessible to the people looking for controversy who need no degree to go searching for any mud that can easily be used to stick.

Most of those less senior Officers had very little formal education. But what they did have was life experience and common sense by the bag load; the essential ingredient for constructive interaction with people of all levels and of all kinds.

Being ‘streetwise’ isn’t something that can be taught from a text book. One of the simple facts that the College of Policing may be seriously overlooking, is that degree level students want to earn their money straight away. University leavers will not have the world view or wherewithal that the public should be able to expect any Police Officer to have, whilst waiting for the graduates who would make ideal police officers to gain experience in other occupations first may prove to be a fruitless exercise given that they will probably stay in other safer, more lucrative and perhaps even more rewarding careers if they have by then already found them.

Police Officers in the UK already undergo extensive training to support them in their roles, and extra modules to support non-specialist officers to fit their IT skills to the purposes of our Law enforcement regime would be no quantum leap for those who have qualified for entry by today’s terms.

Sadly, this move towards elitism within the Police Service has all the hallmarks of taking one very large step in the progress of bureaucracy too far and risks disenfranchising communities from those in power beyond that too.

 

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

The Living Wage is as much Labours’ child as it is the Conservatives’ and their MP’s Band Aid parody highlights the political culture of creating policies which deny the realities of consequence

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

labour-band-aid

The principle of the Living Wage or rather the concept that everyone should at least earn enough to provide them with a basic standard of living is a good one for many reasons. But in isolation, the coercive nature of such a policy being unleashed upon business and industry was always going to be seriously flawed.

The indirect impact and ripple-effect of this Policy – which have led to consequences outside of political control, were as poorly considered when it was launched and implemented by former Chancellor George Osborne as it was when it was first mooted by Labour Leader Ed Milliband.

That big business has adopted a rationalisation of employee terms and conditions as a method of offsetting the additional expenditure which the Government has effectively imposed upon them should not come as any surprise.

Profit is for many organisations a god after all, and whilst to many the implementation of the Living Wage appears to be a highly positive step in making life better for the lowest paid, it also overlooks many facets of its knock-on effects or indirect impact upon those it was not designed to benefit. Above all, it fails to consider the responses and choices that employers of all kinds would make as a result.

Whilst the behaviour of successive Governments and the City would suggest otherwise, for the rest of us, money doesn’t simply grow on trees. The impact of paying employees more money has many effects besides using up a company profit margin and whilst it may be a principled idea to expect business to warmly welcome such an apparently altruistic move, it is also extremely naive. Would these very same companies not already be paying everything to staff that these politicians expect them to, if the owners or managers making the decisions already believed the idea or principle was right?

Perhaps most concerning when considered in this context, should be the fact that in April 2017, the Living wage will rise by another 30p to £7.50 an hour, and that a further rise will follow the next year. The consequential impact of the Living Wage will become continue to become worse as it becomes more widespread, and the economies and efficiencies that have been made to service the inflation-busting rise so far, will simply become unsustainable as the costs escalate beyond where they are today.

There are currently too many factors outside of the control of government, such as the escalating prices charged for services and goods that are essential to a basic standard of living, for isolated meddling to have a genuinely sustainable positive impact. And that is without even factoring in whether the many marketplaces in which different organisations operate can sustain low margin companies paying their staff more.

As things stand, MP’s and activists can bitch about the injustices of the Living Wage all they like, as the story they are telling will in some ways certainly ring true. But until they accept that they must all think differently about how they address the impact of all that they do, it will continue to be the very same people they are telling us they are going to help who will be the ones who will ultimately suffer as a result.

image thanks to http://www.totalpolitics.com

‘Soft Brexit’ or ‘Hard Brexit’ are no more than a Yes/No choice to a question which no longer exists

December 20, 2016 1 comment

brexitIf you are driving a car and find yourself in the unfortunate position of knowing you are about to hit something, time and space might momentarily slow down as you brace for the inevitable impact, but you don’t get a choice over the damage it will cause and whether the impact will be soft or hard. You just deal with the consequences thereafter.

It’s an analogy which some will quickly dismiss in relation to Brexit, but the parallels are there for all to see. The distinct difference being that in relation to the European Referendum, the result – and therefore the destination to which we already know we must travel, is a genuine exit for Britain from the European Union.

Much is now being made of the difference between the two terms ‘soft Brexit’ and ‘hard Brexit’, yet they are discussed in a way which suggests a choice about leaving the EU continues to exist.

If we respect the will of the majority of the British people, we will also accept that it does not.

What will be discussed when Article 50 has been triggered, both with the remaining Member Countries of the European Union and also the many Countries beyond will be the relationship and the way that it will work between all of us thereafter.

On the part of some, it is intentionally misleading. With others it is the the effect of a process of engagement being conducted by politicians who simply do not understand the impact on the general public from what they are doing. But either way, talk about dictating the terms under which the Government will negotiate Brexit do little more than indicate that the ‘remain lobby’ intend to halt Brexit in all but name, simply by insisting that the key qualifications and requirements of membership will ultimately be retained.

For them to succeed would be a political fudge of momentous proportions, not least of all because it will be representative of the same manipulation and game playing, focused on self-interest and political expediency by those in power, which inadvertently created the disillusionment and disenfranchisement which led to the choice for Brexit in June.

The choice was not simply about Europe, even if the question was framed that way. Outspoken Europhiles as well as those masquerading as born-again leavers within the political bubble would do well to remember this. People know their minds and they are not going to accept a giant backslide of the kind being advocated under the auspices of the disingenuous suggestion that anyone sensible or without prejudice who voted for Brexit didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

Talking up technical truths may well have been a big part of what the success of the Leave Campaign message was about. But these messages resonated so well with people because as any good marketing man knows, the adverts that really sell are always the ones which play on an element of a story which is inherently true.

Remain failed to connect with a working majority not only because they relied upon events that had no guarantee of ever happening – no matter how scary they might have been presented to seem, but because they were not able to sell or even speak of benefits to the lives of everyone in this Country which as a majority we could either see or believe.

It is a mistake to believe that a different campaign on EU membership dressed as ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit will now yield a different result, just as it is foolish to imagine that the European political terrain of before the 23rd of June 2016 still exists.

brexit-2

Our focus should now be well and truly upon developing the best post-Brexit relationships that we possibly can, whilst recognising that the remaining Members of the EU have as much to lose from a bad deal with the UK, if not arguably more so than we ever could, given the position as a self-governing, unrestricted and fully-open-for-business entity that this Country will then actually be.

images thanks to http://www.inthenews.co.uk, http://www.dailymail.co.uk

An Oath of Allegiance to a broken system will legitimise the punishment of scapegoats whilst the real problems within public services will remain unresolved

December 19, 2016 Leave a comment

oath-1It was perhaps inevitable that with the publication of messages which were supposed to result in a public-wide swift and audible intake of air, Dame Louise Casey’s report on social cohesion would provoke the Government into making a knee-jerk but nonetheless media-hyped response.

Reviews and Reports of the kind which are commissioned by a government are of course expected to make recommendations. But can we really have confidence that the implications of adopting any policy which logically represents a very narrow and isolated point of view have been considered in the widest context just a couple of weeks after its publication?

Comments from The Casey Review did indeed resonate with many more people than the Government may realise, purely because it was stating in many ways what many already know to be clearly true. But that doesn’t in anyway mean that Dame Louise has the answers to those questions.

We all want to see decisive government action of the kind that we can be sure Sajid Javid intends this policy to be. But it is not in anyone’s interests and least of all his own, for the social injustices which we are now experiencing throughout society, to be compounded by legislation which will legitimise witch hunting and provide a focus for irresponsible leaders who to publicly point the finger of blame.

After all, when we make an oath, the mere act of breaking it becomes a verdict of unquestionable guilt. One that for others makes an easy target upon which to attribute much more negative association besides as they draw attention away from their own roles and [lack of] responsibility.

The whole public sector is in a mess, and it desperately needs top to bottom reform initiated in the form that only the Government can provide. However, making anyone associated with delivery itself liable for actions which personally, professionally, culturally and in some cases contrary to social acceptability are outside of their control, is surely a giant step upon a very slippery slope to a dark place indeed.

I am not arguing against taking action in any way. But the suggestion being made by Mr Javid is no better than the discussion initiated by David Cameron following the child abuse scandal in Rotherham in which he suggested that public servants who overlook their safeguarding responsibilities should simply receive jail terms. I wrote about the issues facing the Sector then, and nothing has been improved by the politicians with the real ability to do so in any way since.

If public services operated as effectively as they could, and were underpinned by processes and localised standards of governance which really worked to ensure the very best deal possible for each and every end-user, yes, an Oath by all employed or elected to represent us within would be a fair and appropriate benchmark.

However, they don’t work effectively and they are certainly not underpinned with the continuity and levels of service to make it possible for only one person to be branded as being at fault when so many more are always, if not inadvertently involved.

 

image thanks to unknown

Trump & Farage: The heralds of change, a final warning or an opportunity to put things right?

December 18, 2016 Leave a comment

trump-may-farage

2016 will surely be remembered for the watershed electoral events which have taken place on both sides of the Atlantic. But can we really say for certain just how people will view the impact of these historical moments, perhaps in just a few years time?

Churchill once said that ‘History is written by the victors’. Many of us would agree that such sentiment is true. But a problem arises with our view of 2016 when we look upon the British European Referendum in June and the US General Election in November and try to identify who, or perhaps more accurately what it was that actually won.

Yes, it is easy to look back at recent weeks and conclude that Trump won in the States – even if there does remain a question mark over Clinton’s result in terms of the popular vote. But if we look closer to home and back to what has become known colloquially as ‘Brexit’, such definition is far from easy – if indeed possible at all.

The figurehead whom most would recognise as having been the defining leader or agent of change which led us to ‘Brexit’ is Nigel Farage. However, the reality that key individuals such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove played highly significant parts too, surely attests to the reality that this seminal moment was about far more than the impact of just one person or three, and was in fact about a significant and great many more.

It sounds simple. But people and even the politicians who apparently lead them have a habit of hanging results or actions around the necks of the one person they identify as being responsible for something, rather than recognising the many contributing events, factors and the influence of any number of different people which may have contributed.

Whether the circumstances be good or bad, there simply is no difference. Change must have a face, and therefore a name.

We cannot take away from him the impact that Farage has clearly had on the rise of whatever this evolving collective is that won the European Referendum. It is almost certainly fair to say that the Prime Minister may regret not ennobling him far sooner than she might comfortably think.

However, the face and focal point that Farage has provided this otherwise undecipherable ‘movement’ for change, is also one which has multiple personalities. And it is perhaps this imaginary friend in which a truly diverse, yet massively significant range of choices for both the public and those in power now really lies.

People have responded to Farage because he has spoken with a voice which has sounded different to the political establishment, using language which has made people feel it is ok to have the feelings about the world around them that they do. He has dared speak terms loudly which we have all quietly become afraid to use, and demonstrated that a choice to what a silent majority have been quietly coerced to accept, does in fact exist.

Indeed, Farage and a growing number of key influencers from across the political spectrum are now providing a voice which is in varying ways representative of the anger and frustration which so many people feel.

He has elucidated his message well. However, while they may be late to the game, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and many others in politics are regurgitating a range of these specific truths.

They are doing so simply because the frustration and anger we are now experiencing after years of willful indifference and political neglect are now touching the lives of everyone, whether they would ‘naturally’ vote Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat or UKIP.

But there is a problem with this too. Placing our faith in people who may be seen to be the heralds of change when they do not represent real change itself is very dangerous indeed. Many of these same faces have not only been present, but have also provided a voice for the very establishment which created those difficulties for us in the first place.

It is surely the case that those who are responsible for leading the change that will make our lives better, should fully understand and appreciate the complexity, nature and impact of the problems that must as such be left behind. Otherwise, it might only been seen as natural for them to reject everything associated with the period before, whether good or bad, simply because it represents the time when they didn’t possess the level of power which they have now come to cherish and enjoy.

We only need look at the last Century to recognise the warnings from history of how dark our lives could quickly become under the leadership of people who say much, but are completely out of touch when it comes to the world outside of the bubble that surrounds them.

In the UK, the chances of Farage having his hands on the levers of government do as such seem as remote as the possibility that Theresa May will steer us through the entire Brexit process trouble-free. On the other side of the Atlantic however, Trump may already be placed perfectly well to assume powers which he sees as being perfectly justified to prevent a return to the bad days of old. He does after all have a mandate to do so, based upon all of the truths that have been told – doesn’t he?

Nonetheless, to award Trump and Farage the status of demagogues as some have already tried, would be insulting to the realities and hardships of people that have for too long been openly denied.

Rejection of the status quo is after all no less populist than the election wins that facilitated their legitimate arrival via the policies of governments that came before and led to it.

And so, it is arguably the case that Trump, Farage and May are all riding a wave that they simply do not understand. But it is the direction and the choices that they make next that will decide the fate of all us when this ‘new tide’ really begins to break upon the shore.

The evidence may not look too promising so far, but let us hope that any power or responsibility that these three or any like them who follow will have over us from now onwards, will be exercised with a level of care and consideration which is ultimately beneficial to us all. For it is here that the true opportunity to address the problems which society faces truly lies.

images thanks to http://www.businessinsider.com, http://www.independent.co.uk, http://www.thetimes.co.uk

Festive Strikes defy sense and reason, but we should all be mindful of the unspoken issues behind them which serve as a warning for us all

December 14, 2016 1 comment

download-1We should all recognise the value that Unions historically had in influencing positive change in the workplace. But times change and the question over whether they have continued to provide a genuine voice for poor treatment or have simply become little more than an archaic nuisance to business and government alike will certainly lend legitimacy to the arguments against Union power by the more neoliberal within them.

The effect and reach of equalities legislation has permeated through every part of society and our lives to a point which has arguably gone well beyond its point of good, and to a level where its influence has become fundamentally regressive.

From this standpoint alone, you could make a reasoned and valuable argument against any organisation or movement which seeks to progress the work of the rights lobby further, and beyond that see the power of Union Leaders as the menacing anti-business device that the untimely raft of strikes by Southern Rail, Post Office and Argos Staff this December would ultimately suggest that they are.

It is certainly true that in relative terms, there is no difference between bankers creating profit-focused financial devices that speculate the cost of products or services, indirectly raising the cost of living for us all, and a self-serving union rep who places a stranglehold strike on an employer simply to get a pay rise or a perceived improvement in terms for their fellow staff.

But should we really dismiss any kind of industrial action by narrowing cases down and concluding that personal gain is simply what its all about?

On the face of it, it really doesn’t matter if a debate is framed as a matter of health and safety or fairness over holiday conditions and pay. Gain does play a significant part, but so does the fear of loss, and both these two debates are representative of much deeper seated root causes of problems at work around us which are building up as a significant time bomb, whilst they continue to go unchecked.

Union leaders do not help themselves by behaving as if business exists only to create and facilitate jobs. It doesn’t and never has. Yet the drive to pay less for the same work to be done or to do away with specific jobs entirely in order to cut costs when profits are maintained and prices are soaring, rather gives the lie to where a public service provider’s priorities focus. The more concerning element of the Southern Rail strike debate however, is what the introduction of technology which immediately halves the staffing requirement for managing just one train alone will mean or may have already meant when considered outside of this specific context and becomes representative of the impact its is having in every area of business and employment.

Immigration is blamed by many for the loss, or rather diversion of jobs to foreign and particularly Eastern European workers, with the caricature of the Bombay-based call centre worker being used to account for the export of many others. The inference being that jobs are in some way set in stone and that it is just the terms under which they are awarded to an employee or contractor that changes.

What it doesn’t account for is the genuine loss of jobs due to technological advances having literally removed the need for a particular role to exist.

We would perhaps like to think that his march of technology is researched, developed and delivered purely on the basis of improving many different aspects of production and service delivery. That is certainly how the benefits are sold.

What is rarely mentioned – the elephant in the room, is that jobs have been disappearing for a very long time as a result of this pathway of progress, whether it has been within manufacturing, agriculture, public transport or any one of a multitude of industries and skilled areas where services or production have been highly labour intensive.

Up until now, the change has not been noticed. Workers have retrained and like the once redundant miners who moved into call centres in the North, many manual jobs have been replaced by others within newly defined service industries which are focused on producing an experience, rather than some kind of definable or tangible product we can buy.

It sounds good, and little is said when jobs are there for those with apparently transferable skills when a factory closes. But what happens when the new jobs do themselves become the target of efficiencies and the technological breakthroughs which leave a machine doing the job of many different people over its amortised lifetime at a fraction of the cost?

This whole idea will to some sound far-fetched. But the change is very real and is now becoming present as a very clear danger to a broad spectrum of jobs.

Take for instance Amazon Go, which is set to be launched in the United States early in 2017. This forward looking and innovative Company is not standing still when it comes to the platforms from which it seeks to acquire new market share. Within weeks, it will move into location-based grocery stores which do not require shoppers to use tills or a check-out system when they visit. You simply use the smartphone based Amazon Go App which does the work for you and the system even knows and calculates the change when you put an item back.

We need only consider the number of tills at a standard sized Asda, Morrisons, Tesco or Sainsburys near to where we live and the inevitable irritation that queuing to pay causes us all to appreciate just how quickly this new way of shopping could explode, taking many jobs from any one or all of these stores as the concept is rolled out and goes viral throughout the retail industry – which it inevitably will.

In business terms, this development by Amazon can only be commended as the groundbreaking step that it actually is. But the dark realities behind this very appealing change for our instore shopping habits is that its true benefit will be profit to shareholders. It will be masked by a transient benefit to us all as shoppers, but it will ultimately lead to the loss of jobs which may simply never be replaced or made available elsewhere.

The very difficult message that needs to be swallowed, fully considered and then acted upon by policy makers as a whole is that the story which underlies comparatively simple squabbles with the Unions over pay and conditions do indeed relate to the range of still unanswered questions over the continuing cost of living crisis, but are in fact just the tip of a very large iceberg indeed.

In recent weeks, highly respected British Scientist Professor Stephen Hawking and US Tesla CEO Elon Musk have both alluded to these issues with Mr Musk going as far as to suggest that government may have to consider providing a basic income. He is absolutely right.

If industry continues to deliver efficiencies via technology in the way it that it is already doing so, whilst religiously maintaining or increasing margins and raising prices despite the savings being made, profit for the few and the effect it has on the many will unquestionably result in the Government paying the bill to finance a significant workforce which has become unemployable and left without choice.

Less people paying tax will exacerbate the difficulties that the Government faces and families in genuine need will not be sustained on a level of income which doesn’t meet the increase in the cost to maintain a basic standard of living which is being dictated by and large, by the very companies who will benefit from the implementation of the technology that enables them to shed so many staff.

The alternative will be that Government must take the concept of responsible capitalism seriously and consider the steps that may need to be taken to prevent businesses growing to a point where their market share enables them to become a monopolistic menace to the very society that buys its goods or services.

In the mean time, the methods, approach and lack of consideration for the impact of their actions upon people who are struggling in the very same ways as union members are themselves in the run up to Christmas may well make any feelings of support for the Strikes feel somewhat unpalatable. But we may all nonetheless do well to appreciate the value in the story which is not being spoken by the Unions, the media and Government when for far from obvious reasons, the voice of militancy leads an employee to act.

 

image from source unknown

 

Social labels and media-friendly umbrella terms are misleading everyone and politicians are too scared or too lazy to communicate the truth

December 13, 2016 1 comment

umbrellaYou’ve perhaps heard it said that the simplest use of language is the most intelligent. Great writers such as Orson Welles have been quoted for their direction in trimming unnecessary word use too. And within a culture where the use of subtext allows many of us to make guesswork of messages that we could all too easily say, it might sound strange to suggest that this process could go too far.

Words are truly fascinating things. But we are experiencing times when simplification and the focus of broader meaning down into one or very few words – often for the purposes of marketing or political expedience – has created a cult of watchwords or polysemic terms which overtly mean just one thing, but do in fact hide a multitude of different meanings, which can be as diverse as the number of people reading or indeed using them.

It doesn’t sound like much of a problem when we think about the way we see the world, because its all too easy to assume that everyone uses the same words for the same things as we ourselves do.

The problem is that they don’t.

On a day by day basis, those differences may not be so big as to cause any great problem, and discussing the structural differences and the relative meanings of there, their and they’re, probably creates more humour than it ever will do some level of dangerous misunderstanding between two or many more people.

So what is it I’m trying to say so simply here?

Well, oversimplification of language and/or meaning is not only flawed, it is also fundamentally dangerous. That narrowing dialogue down in to terms which the speaker or author understands takes for granted that the reader or listener will do so too. That people with responsibility to communicate a message should be mindful that the words they use may not generate the same understanding for those who hear.

The profundity of what is becoming a menace, cannot be illustrated better than the use of the term ‘immigration’, and the significance that its use has and continues to have in relation to the debate over Brexit, our relationship with the European Union, and also the different lenses that we are all using to picture the political viewpoints of people across the political spectrum.

So let me ask the question; what do you think of when you hear the term immigration?:

  • Welcoming refugees?
  • Being burdened with unwelcome economic migrants?
  • Creating cultural diversity?
  • Destroying our National identity?
  • Helping those who need our help the most?
  • A source of cheap labour?
  • The loss of British jobs?
  • Long queues in A+E?
  • The source of the housing problem?
  • The reason its so difficult to get an appointment at the Doctors?
  • No place for your children at your most local school?
  • An opportunity for our children to learn other ways of thinking?
  • An opportunity for us to learn other ways of thinking?
  • We are importing terrorists?
  • Being made to feel like a foreigner in your own country?
  • Everything that is wrong about Europe?
  • Everything that is right about Europe?
  • That everything will change for the better if its stops?
  • That everything will go wrong for us if it stops?

The chances are that it could be any one or perhaps more of these or many others., and almost without exception, there is a duality to the particular meaning that it may have, which depending on which side of the Brexit coin you may sit, will be conversely mirrored by someone who sits on the other side.

Knowing that immigration is a word with such diversity of meaning, and that it also makes people think as it is said was in some respects the greatest genius of the Leave Campaign message. However, it may also have been the most dark, bearing in mind that it is clearly the case that the use of a dog whistle of this kind has inadvertently let a rather large genie out of the bottle in terms of the broad misunderstanding of other people that we might previously have thought we understood.

For instance racism in its genuine, un-nuanced and non-pc promoted sense is thankfully rare. But immigration to those few amongst us has always represented the unwilling acceptance of difference within our communities and its end, the removal of all other kinds. These are the few who have shamefully found new confidence in their ignorance and bigotry, taking their vitriol to our streets and transport since the 23rd of June to offend people who have done nothing to deserve such intolerance.

However for those looking on with the moral certainty that Remain was always the enlightened path, this intolerance of immigration must surely be representative of all people who voted Leave on the basis of the immigration question.

Call it being tarred with the same brush or death by association, the fear and frustration that the collapse in public services which has correlated with the arrival of mass immigration is seen as excuse enough to cast many people who want to do nothing more than go happily about their normal lives in safety in the light of thugs who desire no such thing. And all because these issues have been narrowed down into just one thing, which itself overlooks the reality of the role of the EU in immigration in the first place when the matter is correctly put into context by the role of Globalisation.

It seems there is a lot to be said about simplifying language into more accessible terms. But the access can itself can go too far, and the travesty is that simplification of this kind is not rare and is continuing within the government and media sphere all the time.

Take ‘hard Brexit’ and ‘soft Brexit’. What do these terms mean to you?

Whats about JAM’s (Just about Managing). Isn’t that the experience that most of us are having too?

The travesty of using terms like these, is the damage that their being misinterpreted or misunderstood creates. It is distinctly unintelligent to heap so many meanings into such basic terms and then expect everyone else to understand them.

They don’t. and social, demographic or political labelling of this kind is merely serving to create even greater distrust and disenfranchisement than that which shook the establishment with the No Vote in June.

People are never wrong when they understand things their own way, using the lense that their life experience has given them. Some of us would risk simplifying this to the term ‘living in the real world’ and until our leaders begin to respect the people they collectively represent and stop treating us all like an audience which is a seedbed for manipulation, the electoral shocks will continue to come.

Make the effort to put ideas, problems and policy into terms that are easy to understand. But please do us all a favour and stop being lazy as you do.

 

image thanks to source unknown

Cameron names his nemesis populism, but the Westminster set still refuses to accept that it was a rejection of self interest which was the key to Brexit

December 13, 2016 1 comment

imagesAs I stepped into the polling booth at a local church hall on the evening of 23rd of June and looked at the voting slip in my hands, the feeling that crossed my mind couldn’t have been further from the thought of being part of something populist, even if I had been confident that my No vote would contribute to an unscripted win.

I know that I am not alone, and whilst the bizarre polarity which now exists between Remainers and Leavers has reached the level that you will find friendships broken and even online dating profiles telling would-be suitors not to waste their time if they voted the other way, it is certain that David Cameron continues to do a great disservice to all voters by now suggesting that such a momentous decision could be made under the influence of a populist cause.

It isn’t cool to be a Leaver for the same reasons that our former Prime Minister came to draw that very conclusion.

Labelling and the use of umbrella terms to cover a multitude of different interpretations make life easy for politicians and the media alike. But they mean different things to different people. They provide an ill-considered opportunity to stereotype, and there is a very dangerous assumption that everyone who voted one way or the other did so purely on the basis that it was a populist choice and that we therefore think alike.

We don’t.

One of the most significant errors being made by politicians from across our range of political parties and even the USA beyond, is to believe that workable solutions to the root causes of the problems which have created these inappropriately labelled ‘populist’ votes can be narrowed down to focusing upon or addressing these tent-like terms such as ‘immigration’. Indeed, as we now progress forward from the Referendum they believe it sensible to use the newly coined ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit with the inherent suggestion that there is again some kind of black and white choice which still provides an ‘in/out choice’.

It doesn’t.

Not only are these terms misrepresentative and wholly misleading about the life-experiences which people are having across the Country, they are exacerbating the level of confusion that the mishmash of issues surrounding our relationship with Europe actually presents. And that’s the end of the story only if you are prepared to accept that the Referendum result was itself only ever about Europe.

People are neither one thing nor the other as leave or remain has been darkly painted suggest. The majority of people are in the most part probably sat somewhere in between.

But even ‘somewhere in between’  would be far too specific a way to try and position the basis of a debate or the questions which support it, when the European question relates so differently to so many people, depending upon just how the plethora of issues involved may have impacted upon their own lives on perhaps a very meaningful basis.

The European Referendum arrived at the front of what we will perhaps look back upon as the beginning of a perfect storm. One which has been created in no small part by many years of neoliberalism in its ascendancy, and the evolution of a political and governmental culture of self-interest. A self-contained entity which has seen decisions and policy making made within bubbles of understanding about the life experience of others and a narrative of the world outside which in relative terms operates no differently to the insular online realities that so many disenfranchised people feel falsely empowered by, and as such enjoy.

Many voters do not themselves understand the true complexity of the issues at hand, such as the role of Globalisation in freedom of movement, nor the impact that new and improving technology is having on the decimation of well-paid jobs which are disappearing rather than being awarded to some foreigner who is always guaranteed to do the job for less. They certainly do not consider the unrecognisable role of the taxpayer in subsidising low paid jobs through the benefits systems for the corporate businesses that could afford to pay more along with the impact on small ones whose owners would genuinely like to do so.

It is correct that we should all be able to expect those who have been elected to represent us would properly do so. Not only should they understand fully the issues before them, we also have the right to expect that they would legislate with balance, fairness and the full reach of consequence in mind.

Regrettably there is scant evidence that they do, and with the secret now open that political parties work only towards the delivery of a beneficial result in the next election, Westminster should be in no way surprised by the fact that continuing to do things the same way that they always have, will continue to yield results which beat to a different drum.

No. Many people voted ‘No’ through the feelings of isolation which our political establishment has dealt us over many years and Governments, and it is the frustration building up inside which in one way or another to each of us said ‘No, I can no longer go with what I see as this hollow and populist status quo’.

Brexit and the Supreme Court: What will be the price of ‘objective’ judgement if no new precedents are set?

December 13, 2016 1 comment

technical-truths

Dipping into the proceedings of the Supreme Court last week was hardly the emotionally charged experience that Leavers and Remainers had been conditioned by the media to expect. But should we really be surprised when case law is being used to define arguments that have never previously been made and do in fact need our Judges to make a judgement in the purest sense?

As with all too many arguments in the political sphere these days, there is no small amount of semantics in play. Labelling of one kind or another has progressed to a level where the very act of simplifying language has progressed beyond the point of being intelligent and really given the lie to the idea that one word really can and does mean the same thing to all people.

Never mind ‘hard Brexit’ this or ‘soft Brexit’ that. Judicial process is itself hiding the truth that case law did at one point or another have itself to be created. It was at these very moments that it was the objectivity of the Judiciary or other high-level-offices of responsibility upon which we have relied and trusted to make the decisions which would today become the precedents that the debate over parliamentary interest in the triggering of Article 50 has rested.

At a time when the level of public confidence in politicians can be generalised as being the core issue that brought Brexit about, we all need to see leadership within the system of law which reaches beyond the scope of sticking to what is considered safe, or fundamentally right, simply because it’s the way that it is expected to be done.

So when we look to the Judiciary for the impartial type of leadership which is sadly lacking from government, why have the Courts not focused on the chronology of events, and above all what cannot reasonably be disputed as the democratic will of the people?

The easy response would be to suggest that the Judges concerned are expressing views which have been informed by bias. Indeed many of our media outlets have gone to great lengths to explore the backgrounds and links of the Judges who sat on the case previously, as well as the 11 who have sat in the past week at the Supreme Court.

The upshot of this approach which is inherently linked to the Brexit camp, being the inference that a decision which goes against the perogative of the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 directly and without further reference to Parliament is pro-Remain.

Be it right or wrong in terms of principle, the hardest pill to swallow for anyone looking in from the outside who supports Brexit is that the Judges have not done anything wrong by ruling the way that they already have. Nor will those sitting in the Supreme Court do so if they then uphold the previous ruling.

Yes, the Judiciary may well be hiding behind process and this could indeed give legitimised cover to the less objective members of a bench who might put personal or subjective views before what Brexiteers would see post 23rd June as being clearly right. But that is their gift and we are unlikely to ever know the truth to this question and the fact is that the system does – as its stands – both allow and facilitate an intelligent form of responsibility-ducking which sadly permeates all forms of government today.

Technical truths are the harsh and uncompromising reality of a protectionist and self-serving age where taking responsibility is considered dangerous and actions are legitimately excused by reference to the precedents set by others rather than what experience tells us exists in front of our own eyes.

The objective view would recognise the democratic decision and therefore the mandate of the people above all else. Equally it would reference the fact that Parliament has already had its say when it passed the legislation for the Referendum in the first place and then made that choice directly subject to the will of the people. Ironically, it would also reproach the significant transfer of legislative power which has been undemocratically transferred to the EU beyond the previous mandate given by the British people for a common trading relationship, respectful of national sovereignty, which people on all sides of the argument still actually want.

It is possible that the Supreme Court will support the Government view and allow the triggering of Article 50 without any further debate. But it is unlikely.

Like it or not, we simply do not exist within a time of true leadership. If we had, we would not be anywhere near the constant two and fro of discussions surrounding our exit from Europe and the rise of a new American President whose arrival together in 2016 are being heralded as the turn of a populist tide.

We certainly wouldn’t find ourselves questioning what constitutes good judgement.

%d bloggers like this: