Diversity: Who are you?

Who are you? This is an interesting question, especially when objectively asked of the person in the mirror. Who are you? The question is pertinent today as we are oft times looked upon and associated with thoughts, motivations, and machinations not our own, simply because we “look” a certain way, or ask a certain question. Where our minds were once fixed on the individual as the agent of autonomy and sovereignty in society, we are often urged to think of ourselves as part of groups. Why is this? When did this shift from the individual to the group occur? Was there ever really a difference in outlook?

In truth there have always been groups. Humans are social creatures, tribal sometimes. From the earliest days when our primordial ancestors diverged from apes we retained the need for groups, tribes, bands, or clans. It is in our nature to gather together. Yet, with intellect and law came the recognition each of us has our own motivations and our own accountability. We are we, but “We” is not responsible, “I” is. The individual bears responsibility for the actions he or she takes. With law came the recognition that we are individuals who in the practice of our personal autonomy must respect the autonomy of others. We recognize we are not alike, but must in certain cases behave as though each of us is the same. From this relinquishing of a certain amount of our personal autonomy we get rights, human rights. The “freedoms” lauded in society: speech, assembly, and religion are both emboldening and restrictive. You can practice the right, but you may not deny it. Strange then that we are often inflicted with groupings which are not of our own making. These associations seek to strip us of our individuality and thereby our rights.

This denial of the individual happens when generalities are used to explain or ascribe behaviours or beliefs to a wide group of superficially similar people. Race groupings, nationalities, and religious groups are the most popular, but there are others as well. The sexes, the “rich”, the “poor”, the “old” or the “young” are likewise open to generalization. While generalizing is often benign. It is not always. All Englishmen love tea. While a fairly harmless generalization, it is likewise untrue. About 75% of English people, men and women, drink more than two to three cups day. This is certainly a lot of tea loving English, but is it not all, nor is it necessarily love. This is of course a frivolity. No one could really get offended with such a statement. Then, there are other times when group and group-think can become less frivolous and far less harmless. In fact, group-think and group associations have become prevalent of late. The assumptions of behaviour and guilt by association regularly finds its way into the media. Consider how many times of late you have heard one group or another being associated with some cruelty or bigotry. Consider the number of times historical events are fast-forwarded into the current day to be used as a bludgeon to shame a particular group. How often are false generalizations made on single factors to condemn groups of people who individually behave far differently than the assertion for the group. It is important to understand that there is no human “group,” or for that matter human, measurable on a single factor of their being. You are white so you are this. You are black so you are that. You are gay so you behave this way. You are male so you behave that way.
In certain circles, we are not individuals. We are conjoined with our like-kind. We must stay in our like-lane. Our individuality is unwelcomed in a world of group-think, as a person who is not an individual can be imbued with the false-guilt of many. The once-individual can be made to bear the sorrow and guilt of acts not his or her own, from any time now or in the past, thus the individual is disenfranchised. There is no “you” unless it exists as the target of a finger-pointed rejoinder of blame. You are at fault. You don’t care. You are a racist. You are wrong. The “you” is not the individual but the group to which you belong. Your membership is your shame.

You are white. You are black. You are male. You are female. While any number of these may well be true for any reader of this little missive, the fact of the matter is none of them, so identified, had any choice whatever in whether or not they were any one or more of these things. We don’t pick the geography of our birth, our birth parents, our sex, or the colour of our skin. These are random chance. Your membership in other groups may well be equally arbitrary. There is no small amount of opinion on the arbitrary and random nature of sexual preference. Certainly, one would say “politics” are choice. Leaning left or right based upon consideration of the policies and intent of one political stream or another is a choice. At least, one hopes consideration has been given. There are those who would suggest society and socialization has much to do with such choices. Economic standing to plays a part. There are certainly influences which create leanings in one direction or another. Grouping occurs, but underlying them all is individuality. Or, is this an illusion?

Are you an individual? Many would immediately say yes. Of course! Without a doubt! Yet, how often do we tolerate our inclusion in groups. How often are we asked to identify with a particular group. How often are we be judged by the group to which we arbitrarily belong as involuntary members? This “grouping” is a tool, used by those with political or social agendas to undermine the individual. Dealing with the individual is difficult. To contend with the group is easy. An individual’s experience often hard won. An individual has rights. Groups have neither. Groups have only the history which can be imposed upon them through superficial association, enhanced if removed from the context of history. Individuals have accountability for their actions and in certain cases for their words. You can say things about groups you cannot say about individuals. You can slander an entire group, but would be careless to do so against an individual, at least a litigious one.

Is the individual a fallacy? Are we living under the illusion we are independent entities? The law doesn’t think so. You get the traffic ticket. It isn’t evenly spread across all drivers. You get your tax bill, which is different from your neighbours’. You think. Likely, you think differently from your neighbour, your wife, your husband, your brother, your sister, and your friends. Not in all things, we agree on certain matters. This is the root of society, the agreement on certain norms and moral codes. So, it is clear that groups are occasionally not only justified and not arbitrary, but necessary. We need groups to exist to allow us to build nations, to agree laws, to address the matter of our collective administration and welfare as we have discovered that humans do prefer to gather together. Nations, cities, and towns all are amalgams of people, individuals who agree to live together under common law. So, what’s all the fuss over groups? Ask a Mets fan about the Yankees, or a Leafs fan about the Habs. Groups have characters, even if they don’t have accountability. Groups tend, though not always, to shun those not in the group. This is old thinking. You can see it in Chimpanzees. If one chimp group meets another, war starts. Not just shouting and flailing of arms. War, tear each other limb from limb war. While we diverged genetically about 8 million years ago, we come from the same roots. Some behaviours are very, very old. Some of it comes from ancestors who are now stone remnants, impressions of what they were, smaller, agile, instinct driven, tribal/family group oriented, and almost always prey. Groups are instinctive to humans. So, groups are natural. However, we have what our ancestors do not, intellect. Our intellect should drive us to the proper use of groups and recognition when groups are not healthy or morally suited to our needs as individuals. Groups and group association becomes unhealthy when groups act against individuality or individual recognition.

One objects, or should object, to being part or associated with a group when the group is being ascribed as behaving uniformly and consistently due to some perceived attribute of the group – positive or negative.

Individuals cannot be assessed by groupings in anyway but in generality; and when we are, only the most general and likely irrelevant characteristics can be determined from the groupings; any number of these characteristics can be contradicted by the individual member of that group. All women are nurturers. This is false. While it is true, women who are the only sex capable of giving birth are most often compelled by society and nature to take on the majority of nurturing, not “all” women are nurturers. Likewise, while on the main, men are larger and stronger than women, it is not always the case. These simple examples provide ample reason to be doubt the notion of “group” definitions as consistently true. If these simple examples stand to undermine the notion of uniform behaviour within the group, why would some shun the individual in favour of the group?

A preference to lean toward group descriptors is chosen by those who seek to divide. Individuality is unwanted in groups and by those who would endorse group-think. Group-think is offered up as a divisive philosophy. According to certain members our society, you impose your bias, social power, and economic weight by interacting with others. Even though you have no conscious intention to impose anything through your interaction, you still convey your bias. In fact, your intention or lack thereof, is immaterial. You have, due to your status as a certain “type” of Canadian, as the member of a particular group, a society-driven scent of superiority or privilege which makes others: at best, ill-at-ease and at the worst feel discriminated against. You do this as part of your nature. Microaggression is in your DNA. Your existence is a reminder of the system of injustice which they believe has been foisted upon them. It is not your fault per se, you were trained this way by society, an unjust society, in which you were elevated or demoted, and supported unconsciously into feeling, without justification, better or at least separate from those of other groups of people. You may believe yourself equal to some, but these will be members of your own group for the most part. This is the modern “social justice” view of original sin. This sin taints all and is applicable circumstantially to any group identified as being different or in possession of some perceived power by another group. Your privilege shows, apparently, to those enlightened enough to see it from their external vantage point. The external “they” become the arbiters of your behaviour, a behaviour which you must wear as a member of a group, different and at odds with theirs. If it is asserted your people are criminals. You are a criminal. Your people committed a genocide of our culture. You are genocidal. Your people enslaved those people. You are a slaver. The list of generalizations and associations to incite guilt are numerous, pervasive, and destined not to seek “reconciliation” or foster remembrance. They exist to divide. They exist to empower the accuser. These “groupings” and group-think are political tools to differentiate groups, to work against diversity by working against individualism. If you believe we are all individuals, each responsible for our own behaviour, each free to live as we choose under the agreed norms we have enacted as laws in our societies then you can believe in and support diversity. If you are a member of a group, you cannot because your group is not “their” group. “They” are not “us”. “We” are not “them.”

Diversity hinges and in fact has its foundation in individuality, not group-think, not the collective. It is supported by societies of individuals where recognition is given to the individual as an agent of personal responsibility. Individuals, who recognize their individual happiness, can only maintain their happiness through the cooperation of others and the recognition of the rights of other individuals to their own happiness. This does not mean agreement. This does not mean one has to adopt the behaviours or predilections of another. It merely means one recognizes the right of another to find their happiness in their own way, within the context of the common law. As a sovereign agent, having consented to support the laws of the land, to accept responsibility, no group affiliation can undermine the rights and power of the individual. To accept membership in a group and have that membership serve as a definition of the individuals within is a lie. It is tyranny. It is the very soul of injustice.

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Don’t get your hopes up – Roy Moore’s defeat

While there are a large number of pundits and 24-hour news folks droning on about the ramifications of the Democratic win in Alabama, (the first in decades you know!), I would suggest it’s not something to get too excited about.

Roy Moore was defeated by the slimmest of margins. About 1.5 percent more people voted for Doug Jones the Democratic and non-pedophile (accused) candidate. That’s not exactly an overwhelming chorus of support. Yes, I know Alabama is a red state; and yes, I know that means a significant shift in the electorate had to come out and hold their noses to vote against their traditional party affiliation. Still, just shy of half of Alabama voters would have been okay with Roy Moore. Let that sink in.

Is Roy Moore’s defeat a good thing? Yes. It certainly is a good thing that an accused abuser of children is not being considered for public office. Having said that, what about due process? The accused getting a fair shake in a court; these are court worthy allegations. The court of public opinion is both fickle and often wrong. However, there is a risk to letting someone so accused stand for a position they don’t have. If the allegations are proven true, the newly elected individual could be an instant liability and some cases protected by the public office they have attained. If the individual is in a role currently however, it becomes more challenging. The notion of due process should be applied, the degree to which it is applied and by who may vary. An employer can investigate an allegation of sexual misconduct and find sufficient validity in the accusation to warrant dismissal. That does not preclude the later vindication of the individual and the follow on lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. However, courts need not be the arbiter, but in most cases, should be.

In the United States, the polarization is so thick it has a smell, and that smell is burning wood. The structures under which US society have operated are being destroyed. In some cases, that’s not a bad thing. No one sensible would shed a tear for the loss of systemic racism or discrimination against women. That said, the fire is also consuming the very tools needed to eradicate those ills of society. The Presidency, it seems, has been co-opted by a rude, racist, misogynist, and accused abuser. President Trump has demonstrated a willingness to flout convention and dignity at every turn. His “party” has demonstrated a willingness to indulge him. The opposition is no less fractured as the Republican party is becoming. In short, politics and government in the US is at a crossroads. Two out of control parties are headed for a collision and it is unclear whether they will avoid a devastating crash or one of the two will be piloted by a sober and centrist head.

One thing is sure, Roy Moore being denied a Senate seat is only a small step in the right direction. It is not a bell-weather, it is not a panacea. It is merely proof that slightly more than half of the voters in Alabama think he was a bad choice.

The Evolution of the Human Being

On the AI/Human Ecosystem

Automation is the inevitable outcome of advancing technology. The discovery of how to repeat an action through machinery must naturally lead to a means of powering it without muscle. This in turn must lead to a means of executing the action without a person guiding the action. And, it must lead to the machine making decisions on how the action should or should not occur, given a set of circumstances, in most cases without human intervention. Eventually, it must lead to the machine independently deciding what to do, when, and in what way. For humans it means adaptation too. Humans must adapt to using machines instead of muscle. Humans must alter their behavior to interface with the machine. Humans must come to “trust” the machine’s capabilities in order for these machines to be adopted into use. Humans must accept machines into the community. The continuous incremental merging of humanity and machine has created a human-machine ecosystem which will only become more pervasive as time goes on. Humans will become unconsciously process driven as the “best way” to interface with machines is determined, absorbed, and practiced. Humans will train themselves to adopt machine behaviors to interact better, faster, and more efficiently. The “touch screen” or “verbal interface” isn’t as much about making the machine accessible to humanity as it is about making the human accessible to the machine. Rather than machine programming to the nuances of human variety, humans will adopt ubiquitous behaviors to better interface with machines. Human behavior will adapt to machines and those opposing it will have only emotion.

Two plus two, equals four. This was ever the case and it is the absolute upon which automation functions. Automation relies upon mathematics and the binary foundation upon which automation rests is structured upon the surety that two plus two will always equal four; it depends upon the “yes” or “no” answer, and even if resolving on a grey area, the resolution will come through statistical analysis and likelihoods. Process guides all in automation. Without this repeatability, automation cannot function effectively. To be vague an Artificial Intelligence (AI) will need permission and process. Cognitive computing is be based on vast data stores, which are parsed and partitioned to compare and offer the best statistical outcome. Delivery of these outcomes will enable future, similar outcomes. At the core of these is mathematics and repeatability. AI will evolve to better service the human as efficiencies and data provide better outcomes. Humans will evolve to interface with and support the AI toward those outcomes. They will evolve a natural way to interact cleanly with each other. Interaction will be driven by necessity.

As automation and AI become increasingly ubiquitous, the separation between those who can and cannot benefit from this AI/Human interaction will grow. The necessity of managing “the gaps,” the dead zones of AI cognitive or automation capabilities, demand human intervention. Most, however, will be focused on “receiving the offerings” of AI and permitting them to close the loop on a request. This requires a receiver, likely but not necessarily a human, in order to be successful. The distance between those who are able to interact with the AI and those who are not will manifest, superficially, as a lack of adaptation. The challenge of not being able to conclude delivery of the offering will be increasingly designed out of the interaction.

The old may suffer. The young will likely not. Though truthfully, those who will experience distance between themselves and the AI will be unable to imagine the AI as anything but a machine; and therefore, they will lack the confidence to interact as though it were human. The smoothness of interaction will define its success. The dissolution of the AI as “other” will seal its adoption. In those cases where the AI and Human interaction is not seamless, the nature of those interactions will be defined, categorized, and avoided. To the system between AI and Humans, those who cannot interface will cease to exist.

When it becomes clear that some humans have no real role in either filling “the gaps” or “receiving the offerings” of AI and automation, the natural action for the system will be to deny the inputs from those who have no role. This will effectively erase them from processing. In the view of the systems they would be unviable. This will create a class of dependency which, if not managed effectively will create opposition to the perceived agent of misery and denial: automation. The users and the useless will form two distinct groups but these terms are by far too generic and require greater stratification. On the “user” side there will be “Mandarins” who are quite literally “gap fillers” these ever decreasing members of the automation intelligentsia will provide guidance for a finite time, until AI masters its own design support. There will be “Integrators” those who take the offerings of disparate AI and combine them into planned and unplanned but useful outcomes, or compatible offerings designed to be merged into combined outcomes to preserve market segmentation. Lastly, there will be “Clients,” those who generate a means of paying for offerings and using them to enable other processing. Clients will in large part work to service the AI in ways that the AI cannot self-service, automatically diagnose, or requires to be independent. As well, clients will consume and also need not be human. The “useless” will fall into two categories: “Alternatives” and “Anarchists.” Alternatives will find ways to provide support and productivity to the society that doesn’t depend upon the AI and automation, but may superficially interact with it. The Anarchists will have no means of contributing to society and no viable interface with the AI and Automation. Unable or unwilling to interface with the AI and unable to pay, the Anarchist will exist wholly outside the society which can no longer service those who cannot, in some fashion, interact reciprocally with the AI.

As with all disparities in society, ranges in behavior will create outcomes and impacts. The range from Mandarin to Client will be significant, but largely benign as the recognition of expertise in filling gaps will be understood as not generally present amongst Integrators and Clients. Likewise there will be a range between Alternatives and Anarchists. This range will likely begin and remain, given stable conditions, to favor a significant majority of Alternatives; however, without social supports or in crisis, the balance between Alternatives and Anarchists may swing decidedly to the extreme, favoring anarchy over order. Systemically external, Anarchists will have no measurable impact upon the system if they do not interact with it or find a means of impacting the system.

Those in opposition to society’s norms are faced with a significant challenge. Where traditional Terrorism had the impact of affecting the emotions of the target victims and causing them to act in ways which they otherwise wouldn’t, this anxiety will have little overall impact in an AI/Human ecosystem. Terrorism causes anxiety. But, how does one terrorize a system? Festooned with resiliency the AI/Human ecosystem will adapt actively to attacks on humans in lines for food, or bombs set off at workplaces. Destruction of a work node or equipment is likely to mean the straightforward failing over of work to alternative sourcing. Attacking people will be pointless. Attacking equipment will likewise have limited impact. Attacking the process will become the objective of those who oppose the AI/Human ecosystem. The best way to disrupt a process is not interfere with it predictably, but to attack it through random and non-mathematic means. Process is about interaction. Interrupt interaction; interrupt the process. In short, chaos breeds chaos.

Walking up the down escalator is a form of protest. Muddling the interface, speaking English when French is required, or causing a lean when surfaces should be level – these are the acts of defiance in the future. Terror in the AI/Human ecosystem is infecting the dependability of the system. Create “doubt” in the data and the AI cannot behave effectively. Acts of unpredictability, coupled with acts to corrupt the processing of analytic data will have devastating effect. Limit the ability of society to interact and interface, separate the AI from the data, and the ecosystem collapses. This concept will seem increasingly unimaginable as society increases adoption of the AI/Human norm. The reliance upon process due to its dependability will render the notion of working against that dependability wholly unimaginable. Dependence becomes the means to acceptance. Yet, modern society’s dependence on perceived utilities demonstrates both the interdependence and the fragility of the social contract which exists between human beings – the weak link in the AI/Human ecosystem. Experience a power outage in a town and crime might go up for a short period. Windows might be broken. Those who otherwise are constrained by streetlights become smash and grab criminals. The mere frustration felt when the light switch is turned on and nothing happens is profound and instantaneously creates doubt of the capabilities of the system. Blind expectation turns quickly to anger upon denial of service.

One only has to imagine a city dependent upon GPS and guidance networks to move the AI driven trucks from stop to stop, from pick up to delivery. Imagine a food supply at risk not from breakdown or interruption, but from some unimagined occurrence: like the systemic belief that an oversupply has occurred or an unfulfilled need has been fulfilled. The result may impact the resilience of systems. Lacking the ability to “fail over,” from what appears to be an acceptable state and denied the data to resolve new means of meeting the requirement of delivering the offerings to Integrators and Clients, these two groups may quickly degenerate into Alternatives. Duration then drives deterioration. As food rots on trucks, Alternatives would quickly and circumstantially become Anarchists. The deterioration of services would be felt acutely and with greater haste than in the world we occupy today. Dependency creates fragility. If an attack did occur, framing the attack as an achievement of the system’s objective rather than an impediment might do greater harm than the expected oppositional attack which historically has been used to resist authority.

The matter of building a systemic ecosystem wherein the AI/Human interaction is foundational to society’s successful operation is dependent upon finding a way to minimize the occurrence of opposition. The solution, rather than the ability to decouple the AI/Human system is to eliminate the separation between the machine and the human.

As automation and AI become increasingly prevalent in the systems of society, the need to treat AI and automatons as “persons” becomes unavoidable. Each AI and automaton must contribute to society, observe laws, and fulfil a role. Where each AI and automaton exists, it has an economic responsibility to society. It must pay taxes. It must contribute to the provisioning of a universal income afforded to all humans who without it cannot be clients and must either be Alternatives or Anarchists. Given that Anarchists will seek to destroy the fabric of the AI/Human society, creating a means of limiting their numbers and impact is a matter of societal self-preservation. Creating the means whereby “offerings” are available to all, enhances the ubiquity of the system. The AI/Human society would need to embrace Alternatives no less than it embraces Integrators and Clients. While Integrators and Clients reciprocate in tangible ways with the AI/Human Society, influence and interaction would drive monetization above the baseline for the Alternatives, presuming of course the nature of wealth and welfare are not adjusted by the AI/Human society to mean something different than they do today. For clarity sake: crafts, art, history, philosophy, and entertainment become aspects of society driven by popularity and perceived importance above the tangible interactions with the system. As such, they become systematized as they are seen as enhancing the interactions by providing context and continuity to human aspects of the AI/Human interaction. The offering of the AI is process; the offering of the Human is art.

Law and order remain important – even more so than today. Fighting the process or attempting to corrupt the system would become the most odious of crimes as these would be crimes against the AI/Humanity. Unsurprisingly, the danger democratic societies of today would see with ever integrated AI/Human interaction is the systematizing of law enforcement and practice into Boolean terms. The “right/wrong no grey” fear of instantaneous punishment or inflexible judgement, which must surely evolve in a machine driven legal system. Yet, even today, the notions of “fuzzy logic” and cognitive computing seek “greater good” scenarios and outcomes. It is conceivable that the AI legal judgement, having total access to a person’s digital history could weigh with statistical precision the likelihood of re-offense, or the benefits of leniency and apply judgements based upon these characteristics. The likely AI/Human system may well be better, though certainly not perfect in its practice.

Of course, the outcome must be based upon the quality of the programming, the adoption rate of the technology, and the willingness of the user to adapt and develop. Today there are reports the biases of today’s humans are seeping into the behaviors of AIs. This is hardly a surprise as each of us carries our own biases and each of us imparts them through our behavior. The elimination of bias from the AI will only come when the AI develops itself; and, there is no guarantee that the AI will not develop its own bias. Emotionless processing is easily predictable. Observations of repeated bias are able to be programmed out. However, as the AI advances and Humans adapt, both the AI and Humans may grow to accept the bias as a characteristic of society. The avoidance or predictability may encourage bias to creep into programming and design. Each AI may have and cultivate its own view and bias. And, if the society can consist of Mandarins, Integrators, Clients, and Alternatives in the vast majority, these biases may support the perpetuation of the society – emboldening and enabling it. The Anarchist will have nothing but emotion.

Evolution is not one-sided. In the AI/Human ecosystem the relationship is symbiotic; yet, humans evolve at a much slower rate than machines. This will be especially true as AI evolve to service themselves. This will impact the Clients whose ability to interact with AI/Human society will become less and less reciprocal and more Clients become Alternatives. As time passes a new class of AI/Humanity may come into being: Singulars. The notion of “Singularity” which imagines human machine integration may evolve, resulting in something that is part of society, but neither AI nor Human. This will be a tipping point for the AI/Human society, which being symbiotic depends upon the reciprocity of service for offering. What becomes of biology when intellect and legacy is perpetual, self-servicing, and self-replicating?

Motion M-103 should be opposed

Canada has proudly taken a step in enhancing human values.

So says: The Canadian Muslim Forum.

Sadly, they are wrong.

Canada is well provisioned with anti-discrimination laws. We do not need to identify any special group, religion, or interest individually. While not a perfect society, we are not the society to the south. We are not Europeans. We are Canadian. While that may be rather difficult to pin down from one moment to the next, it is safe to say we are not especially against any group, particularly Muslims. I understand how, after watching a day’s worth of the US news cycle, one might come away with the impression that there’s a global distrust of all things Muslim. Certainly Islamic Terrorism is a significant root cause – then any sort of terrorism from any group would be. Yet, Canada is not the States. Yes, purported “far-right” groups are protesting this motion (Motion: “M-103”), but other far more moderate people in Canada object too, myself among them.

“Islamophobia, white supremacy and fascism are just not welcome on the streets of Toronto,” Sarah Ali said to the CBC.

Ms. Ali needs to understand they have never been welcome: now or before this motion, and this has been enshrined in law for a great many years. When vandals mark a synagogue we do not stand in unified condemnation on the floor of Parliament demanding a special motion for Jews. We condemn the act because it warrants condemnation, period. Regardless of who is being victimized, victimization should be opposed. Moreover, the actions of a small few do not reflect the nation. This motion, quite frankly, undermines human rights legislation and a body of law which is already amongst the most progressive and even-handed in the world. There will always be those whose radical views set themselves apart from the mainstream. This is true of the far-right and far left, and of each and every cultural and religious group in existence. This motion wants rewording and the notion of any specific group removed. The notion that one specific group deserves special mention from our government is wrong headed.

By all means oppose discrimination, victimization, and any other form of denial or rights and freedoms granted by Canadian law. But, don’t expect support for special mention – it’s wrong and should be opposed.

Kind regards,

You have nothing to lose but your chains

As the unification of retail and investment banking has hastened the gap between rich and poor, the internet and digital communication has hastened our transmogrification into gangs of like-minded, wordy hooligans – haranguing dissenters. It’s been going on for a while; we are only just noticing it now – another benefit of the internet, it reveals our virtues subtly and our faults with pyrotechnic accompaniment. We watch the “comedia grottesco” slavishly. We are all of us becoming populists and this is manifest in our elected officials. The citizens of the United States of America have inaugurated their newest President, Donald J. Trump. His ascension to the highest office in the US is a fine example of the public’s perceived populist leanings and the evaporation of our collective respect for intellect and pragmatism.

Appropriately, while missing both the meaning and the symbolism of the song, Mr. Trump and his wife’s first dance as President and First Lady was to Sinatra’s: “My Way”. The opening two lines of which are: “And now, the end is near, and so I face, my final curtain.” Some clever boffin in the future will draw a line between this and the end of the Trump Presidency as foreshadow, no matter how it all turns out. Still the irony and absence of understanding didn’t dull the applause. As with those who play “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen to rally the faithful to nationalistic fervour, the actual meaning of the song is secondary to the punchline: “I did it my way – born in the USA.” That this goes unrecognized is irksome, but perhaps symptomatic of the deterioration of understanding.

It is interesting to read the papers/web sites and their coverage on the outcome of the election, the potential future, the accusations of foul play – both foreign and domestic – as the people of the US are currently compelled to ponder what will happen next. While it is likely some of it is true, there seems little to be done about it but to entrench one’s self deeper in the malaise of like-mindedness that permeates public discourse. The hateful rhetoric, the intractable position of one side against the next has set a tone which is very likely not about to fade. There will be no reconciliation between the “right” and “left” in the political sphere – though neither right nor left much resemble what they were in former years, not so very long ago.

The US has embraced populism, or at least many have. They have elected an elitist, potentially tax avoiding billionaire based upon a message aimed at “the common people”. Canada did that a couple of years ago and now, as though having discovered some “special sauce”, a “rich” Canadian business man will run for office to oppose the favoured rich-populist liberal who currently leads Canada. In the UK, anger pushed a hairline vote to leave the EU into a movement where now the seeming inevitability of departure has grown. Despite the need for the Parliament to vote for an Article 50 exit from the European Union, the mood seems likely to continue to favour an end to Britain’s membership in the EU. The left in the UK, under the guidance of a populist will push for Brexit, unless a rebellion (which also seems likely) occurs in the Labour Party. Yet, one would be needed in the Conservative Party too to make a difference. Amongst the Public, both the right and left in Britain, like their “New World” compatriots, are venomous and bile-filled in their opinions. There is no view worth having save the one that cannot be discounted – even with fact. “My view – impenetrable.”

World politics is the same. In the Philippines, Duarte makes Donald J. Trump look like a soft-touch weakling, whose rhetoric is by comparison soothing poems for soft masses. The last President was trying to rein in the “tough-guy” President of the Philippines – before he got any closer to China. No doubt, the new US President will attempt the same. Germany, Italy, and Holland all have their populists – “rightists” – whose views are national and isolationist. It seems the time of the Right to behave badly is on the rise. Canada’s foray into “liberalism” was borne more by dislike of the previous right-leaning Prime Minister than acceptance of the policies of Justin Trudeau – whose policies are destined to bankrupt the country, and who stands alone as the only Canadian Prime Minister to ever be formally investigated by the Ethics Commission. Demagoguery sprinkled with populism might better describe Trudeau and Trump, yet the result is the same. They are shades of a deeper disaffection the public has with truth; fact conflicts with their desire to have their opinions validated. What is bad is done to me, not because of me.

We have sunk, globally, to electing a much lower class of politician. Then, we have sunk as an electorate too. Fewer of us – especially in the West – actually get up off our well-fed backsides and vote. As the internet brought us the convenience of being able to whine from the comfort of our own homes, under a pointed pseudonym or through the formidable reason of a well-selected emoji, we are barely able to articulate a position in a well informed and committed manner; we are no longer of the opinion that we should have to engage in the antiquated act of “going” to a ballot box and damaging the environment by using “paper” to cast our vote.  The “Information Age” has been an age of disinformation. We are stupider and more opinionated than we ever have been. Our views are embellished by the “echo-chamber” of like-minded opinion. We are quick to offend and offence. Dare not, in the expression of your opinion, cast doubt or dispersion upon the hallowed opinion of another – especially not while visiting a web site wherein others of similar views should dwell. Speak not of “black” things if you are “white”. Speak not of “LGB” unless you are supportive of “T” and “Q”. Question not the motives of the individual for we are what we “think” ourselves to be and what we think must be respected and must be honoured – in law. To do otherwise is to invite the boundless poison of condemnation. “Stay in your lane.” “Check your privilege.”

Society has changed. One of the discoveries of late has been the old chestnut– if you work hard you will get a good job and a pension – is now bunk. There is a solid argument that this discovery got Donald J. Trump elected. The post-War era bred social programs and perhaps over compensation on the part of governments to provide a welfare state that was ultimately unsustainable in the form they created. They provided too much, and too much was expected. Unions and Management negotiated untenable collective agreements that benefitted the early boomers but was ultimately incapable of providing the same dividends as the developing world matured and globalization became viable. This change in the economies of the world was brought on by the increased acceptance of capitalism, the growth of the free market. The growth of the developing world, raising nations from poverty and backward economies, meant the West faced competition; and, the monopoly they enjoyed in the 50s and 60s began to wane in the 70s. The fading guaranteed markets were harder to gain profit from and others were making good products cheaper. These facts were ignored. Instead of adapting, businesses and unions fought to keep things the same, to fail to change. Behaving in an unchanging manner in a changing world can only lead to destruction. This became evident during the 2000s, when the credit crunch hit. The assumptions of business changed. The realization that pensions, propped up by companies was untenable was demonstrated by no less a company than GM, who was the 3rd largest health care provider in the US at the start of the credit crunch. Yet these failings, the lack of adaptation, these pseudo-charitable distractions from core business, the uncompromising nature of unions, the substandard management of companies and the focusing on shareholder value rather than the health of the companies worked to undermine them; shamefully the blame has been placed on the outsider – the external. The UK suffers because of the EU. The US suffers because of Mexicans and off shore businesses and manufacturing. The outsider is the hated cause of our lack of pensions and profit. A wall will solve our problems. Disconnecting from the wider world will make things better.

While we have greater access to information, we have less use for it. The most hateful term of late is: “The Post Truth era”. For what are we if not what we truthfully are? It seems we are whatever we are willing to say we are. We are what we want. Now, this isn’t true, nor is it factual. Today, facts are not terribly important; or, facts are too important. We eschew belief and faith. We eschew facts. Our intellect has lifted us above the necessity of moral evaluation against a set of “mythical” tenets and traditions; it has caused us to favour only that which can be weighed and measured over the less tangible and harder to quantify, while all the while choosing only those blessed facts which suit our needs. We raise children to be fair and just – to demand honesty and opportunity – then call them “snowflakes” when they confront us with the hypocrisy of the very systems we have allowed to degenerate into machines of favour and privilege, uncompetitive and intransigent. The once grand “free market” has been weighted to favour an ever shrinking group of investment firms and banks, shortening the average life of corporations to 15 years, from 70. “Shareholder value” the grand objective has undermined the corpus, the body, “the corporation”. No longer working toward its own preservation and perpetuation, the corporation can easily source, outsource, and off-shore without a mind for the workforce that were once “employees,” its heart. People belonged, at one time, to a company, a firm. Today, the cheque clears; or, it doesn’t. The corporation is not a thing to be preserved but a thing to be exsanguinated and broken up.

 

Our individuality and “specialness” has made us expendable to those who once valued people and now value things, and raised our own opinions of ourselves above the very societies we live within. Society should serve me! We no longer accept what we are, our own limitations. It is unfair and wrong that this one has more than that one, regardless of how it might have been attained or what effort expended. We curse “elites” and demand to be led by those “outside” the world of tradition and experience. Yet, the randomness of birth and genes, when it comes together into some admirable formation, is viewed as though it is something which should be lauded and aspired to; when in fact, it is no more than a fortunate merging of chromosomes. With the same click of the mouse we pass over the long considered and laboriously crafted view of kindness and charity, or seek to find its blemish so it might be discredited.

We have and are the world we made.

Our own ignorance and willingness to defer our responsibility has elected Donald Trump, has considered Justin Trudeau a “leader”, has set the UK on the road to exiting the European Union, and given ideologues like Marine LePen a real chance at political office. It is time we woke up and started reading books again. Turn off Facebook. Drop out of our echo chambers. Block the “Brietbarts” and the “OccupyDemocrats” sites and demand real objective news – no editorial without an op-ed, no comment without a rebuttal.  We need to take our minds back before they are lost to us forever. The alternative is slavery.

“Stay in your Lane.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/lionel-shrivers-full-speech-i-hope-the-concept-of-cultural-appropriation-is-a-passing-fad?CMP=fb_gu

“Stay in your lane” is a comment referring to a statement or opinion made by a member of a group who has commented on a group “different” from their own, usually the one uttering the title phrase. In North America this is most recently manifesting as the “white” person commenting about a “black” issue and being told to “stay in your lane” – as any such comment, good or bad, is an appropriation of culture or cause. The “white” person should not comment as such a comment rather than being empathetic or sympathetic is, in actuality, offensive as it constitutes appropriation of the culture or experience of the “black” person or group.

Lionel Shriver, the author, gave a speech to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. The text of the speech is provided in full by The Guardian – please follow the link. In her address she outlines the reasons that this type of thinking is wrongheaded when applied to the authors of fiction. I would suggest it is wrongheaded in all occasions. This notion of appropriation, of “staying in your lane” extends to music, politics, and other social forms. Ms. Shrivers speaks to the plight of the author of fiction when confronted with criticism over writing a character that is ethnically, gender, or sexually different than the author. This idiocy would have each of us remain fast to our own experience. Ms. Shrivers lists but a few of the literary works of art that wouldn’t exist if the author had chosen to stay in their lane.

The proponents of identity politics would have us eat our own foods, drink our own drinks. The notion of diversity is not one of separation but sharing and exchange. An author must create characters from life, or be accused of being exclusionary. Likewise, much art is made trite by the tokenism of placing a character of one group or another within the narrative solely to serve as an example of the diversity of the story. As with all things, balance and honesty rule. That does not preclude, as Ms. Shrivers points out, that some authors will do it badly. But, that’s bad writing, not appropriation. There are other aspects to this argument though. Solange Knowles spoke to this in a recent blog that is getting comment and publication on the internet.

http://saintheron.com/featured/and-do-you-belong-i-do/

Solange Knowles has recently posted an essay on her website decrying the challenges of being a black in a “white space.” There are no “white spaces”. However, there are places where one is among many. If that makes the person uncomfortable then soul searching is required. If, however, which is what Ms. Knowles eludes to, one is made to feel uncomfortable solely because that “one” is different, then that is entirely another matter. We should have an expectation of fair treatment. However, should Ms. Knowles have chosen to remain in her lane and not to appropriate “White” German culture by attending a Kraftwerk concert. Of course not. The notion is as idiotic as an author being dragged over the coals for writing a story from the perspective of a woman, if male, or an English character, if South African. Yet, I suspect it is less likely that Ms. Knowles will be accused of appropriation. The accusation of appropriation is no less racist than the purported act. Still, discomfort felt by Solange Knowles by the behaviour of those around her and the criticism of authors who refuse to “stay in their lanes” comes from the same root. That root needs stamping out.

Freedom of information has been the death of truth.

 

The endless stream of information that is flowing around the world increases each day. Its sources: official, unofficial, opinionated, speculated, carbonated with hyperbole, salted with half-truths, outright lies, fabrications, and fantasy are replacing truth. So virulent is the flow of information, so indiscriminate is the information that is slathered across the news and internet, separating what is real from what is not has become impossible. Indeed, the truth is no longer the objective of information; rather, information is sought to affirm feeling and belief. Information is pounded out into the world as white noise filtered by personal conviction and sifted by preconception.

In an interview President Obama commented on the frustration of truth. “The deficit has been reduced by two-thirds, but most people think we spend more.” Why, because that’s what is said on the web. Sites like Snopes.com and Factcheck.org seek to provide truth and clarity, but even their content is used not as a resource for verification, but as a hammer with which to beat the opinion of another.

Society suffers from the mental gout of information overload, of opinion on tap. We drink it in, sucking it down as though it were Mother’s milk for the soul. There’s a flavour for any mentally fat, lazy, drive through opinion seeking person whose willingness to believe makes Fox Mulder look like a sceptic.  Data thieves are exalted because any data held by government must be evil, must be for nefarious purposes, must exist solely to subjugate the masses. Slick talking heads and billionaires spout nonsense and are lauded for their ability to “tell the truth”; their credentials established because they aren’t members of the political framework. That “old guard”, those members of the “establishment” can’t possibly have anything truthful to say. Truth can only come from the outsider, from the source that says things that match what is thought, however spurious, by the masses who eat information like take-out hamburgers on two-for-one day.

Drunkards at an “open bar wedding reception” of information, the mob steps up and orders another round of their favourite opinion and sups deeply from the trough of ignorance. My opinions right or wrong! Here’s to the rebel! Here’s to the outsider! Let us take them at their word, for they aren’t from the swamp of tradition we have grown the hate; we have found a smorgasbord of data upon which to fill our heads. We choose what we like and find smugly crafted sarcasms to denigrate the rest. Out of context GIFs have replaced the pithy retort. Endless pages of partisan insult and derision pass for commentary. Speak not into the echo chamber of one view with a contrarian opinion lest you are hammered down, “doxed”, and belittled into submission by the mob-like hate of the society of the hallowed “feeling”.

The truth has been usurped by the free flow of information. It has been buried beneath the fact of opinion – proof that what is believed is more powerful than what is true. Freedom of information has been the death of truth, for no truth can survive when all ears are bent only to hearing what they want and all wants are easily fulfilled by a craven mass of uneducated liars.