Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

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Edited May 21, 2009, 14:05
Re: I'm sorry
May 21, 2009, 13:56
Ian, firstly let me deal with the most urgent point you raise.

IanB wrote:
did you know that Cliff was allegedly once robbed of a Eurovision title by the personal intervention of General Franco?

Kinnell! I didn't know that! Not since seeing The Sound Of Music have I had such strong sympathies for fascists.

IanB wrote:
I am very interested in what kind of society you envisage and how it is to be achieved and how it is to be governed.

Please forgive the delay in replying, but that is a really enormous question. I defy anyone of any ideological stripe to have a concise or complete answer to it.

Several things strike me as essential if we're to have a just society. Firstly, we need to embrace a real definition of sustainability and live by it. That is, using resources to meet our needs in a way that doesn't deprive others elsewhere (or yet to come) of the ability to meet their needs.

Anything that doesn't do that is, by definition, unjust. Anything that does it to supply themselves with throwaway tat that doesn't even make the user happy is insane. Consumer-capitalism is based on that insanity.

This leads to a second essential point, the abandonment of the profit motive as the main purpose of interaction. At present, corporations are legally obliged to maximise shareholder dividends. All other considerations are secondary. When you make the dominant institution of the age less bothered about welfare, justice or sustainability than profit, you are on a suicidal path.

I hear what you say with

IanB wrote:
my idea of solutions is to make solving the problems part of the lexicon of self-interest.

I don't think we'll have everyone skipping round doing all the dirty jobs for no pay except the rosy glow of helping the greater good.

But I do think that everyone does things for the greater good every day. We all help strangers for no reward on occasion. If the people helping frail relatives and neighbours were paid our social welfare spending would explode.

As a social species, we have a deep hardwired feeling that our place is within the group, and that we get that security as a two-way process. So what we mean by 'self-interest' can readily include approval from our peers.

This instinctive desire has become twisted into status based on material acquisition and the suffering of others, but it isn't like that everywhere and it isn't permanent.

Indeed, once we get beyond a level of our basic needs being met, there is a correlation between increased wealth and rates of mental health problems. We need something more humane and less tangible than a bigger pile of stuff. Ask anybody what makes them truly happy, it's rarely their most expensive possessions.

I think mass society presents problems for us. We simply cannot conceive of there being so many people. As such, it's easy to dismiss the suffering of those we don't interact with. Conversely, it's very easy to feel like we're insignificant. Also, those who wield power do not really feel that those under them are really human.

So, on many levels, concentrations of power cause suffering. Beyond party politics, beyond capitalism or industrialisation, it seems to me that the root problem is concentrations of power.

The solution is to devolve power wherever possible, to give people the real ability to affect the things that affect them, and to minimise their ability to affect the things that don't affect them.

This engagement improves self-worth and makes for stronger community and more justice in decision making.

Clearly, some things need to be centralised and co-ordinated. You can't have, say, every town making its own railway but no national overview. and where co-ordination occurs, so does the opportunity for power. And as, deep in our monkey brains, power means the security of being needed by the group, we love it.

It's one of the many paradoxes of humanity, the need for the love of others and the desire to control others.

We are, in the end, nature's experiment to prove that there is such a thing as being too clever. What other species has members who commit suicide? Our big brains can quite happily believe two contradictory ideas and act on them both simultaneously. It will, in all probability, be the death of us. We see climate change but we love flying to Barbados.

But then, as I said, if we're all acting altruistically every day, there is always hope. And if we can see the end of the Cold War without the nuclear war that most people spent decades beleiveing they'd die in, there's hope. If we can see the bloodless end of apartheid, anything is possible.

Those of us who remember the 80s, have a think about South Africa. nobody saw that coming or would've put any money on it ever happening.

The scale of modern communications makes rapid change all the more possible. And if humanity can do an Apollo project or a Dig For Victory war effort on short notice, then it's definitely not over until we're dead, and always worth fighting on.

Do I think we'll ever get there? No. But then, none of us think we'll ever have a society free of violence and robbery, yet we decry those things, we seek to move towards such a society. It's all about taking us towards something better, to keep us striving for improvement.

I realise I started trying to be specific but have gone into very broad generalisations. That's not any attempt to deflect you, just the natural response to a very broad - one of the broadest imaginable - question. Sorry if it's too vague. The stuff we talk about here a lot - anti-war, growing your own veg, questioning authority, challenging capitalism, reducing consumption, using less fossil fuels - are all parts of that move towards justice, and part of what I'd envisage as steps along the way.

The short version is: trying to ensure everyone's needs are met, whilst encouraging a reprioritising of values away from endless wealth and towards a relocalising of much of our lives. It's a massive task, but then you have to go for what's right, not what's easiest. No point fighting for something easy that isn't really any good. The scale of the change required is daunting, but then again it means we're also constantly presented with aspects of it that we can act upon.
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