Living alone is important to me – the freedom of it ‘restores my soul’; after a few days I tend to find human contact, but solitude is my ‘default setting’. I live without mobile phone, texting, social media, TV streaming etc; most of 2020 ‘connectedness’ is too fast and furious for me; I’m content to be techy inept as part of solitude. Through email and Google, I have a rudimentary hook-up with the worldwide web – enough to satisfy.
Pretending to read the newspaper, I’m watching my neighbour’s lad, five-year old Harry, on his tablet – competent and confident. During his lifetime (80 years?), Harry will come to take for granted technological advances which I can’t even imagine; it’s easy to understand the spreading illusion that Information Technology and Artificial Intelligence will change the human experience in a fundamental way. Along with the Book of Ecclesiastes (250BC), I take the opposite view – that when it comes to human nature, the possibility of change is limited and fragile.
I have little doubt that, in Harry’s time, scientific progress will easily be able to provide for everyone’s basic needs, affordably; but the distribution of this abundance becomes a moral judgement, beyond the realm of IT or AI; humankind has never been strong in this department.
Harry’s mother enters the room – chides him for some act of unkindness to his wee
sister; his face shows a mix of guilt and defiance. Harry’s look – his internal conflict – is at least 100 thousand years old – I see no prospect of change: ‘nothing new under the sun’
Fintan O’Toole interrogating English nationalism is always worth a look. The key point of his latest Irish Times piece is that – because it would be unconcerned by the break-up of the UK – English nationalism will not acknowledge that it exists – doesn’t know itself: “because they cannot articulate the force that drives them – they cannot set its boundaries” – and so we now have the open declaration of intent to break international law – ‘we’re free to do whatever we want’. O’Toole ends: “The tragedy for England is that it is not unfettered – merely unmoored. Its unspoken nationalism is not a course charted towards a well-planned future. It’s just the setting adrift of an ill-conceived nation. And it has just ditched its moral compass”.
Our Councils are 17 times bigger than the EU average – the disgrace of Scotland’s missing tier of local democracy re-surfaces as Shetland and Orkney agitate for more autonomy. Excellent piece by Lesley Riddoch (on a subject she’s researched) citing successful Nordic examples: “But devolution comes to a grinding halt when it reaches Edinburgh”.
I have a theory that our individual response to Covid restrictions is determined by our core personality; while I’m trying to behave myself, I’m afraid I’ve never been sufficiently risk averse. This FT article is about Sweden’s Anders Tegnell who argues that lockdown is using a hammer to kill a fly; I’m happier with Sturgeon’s approach.
Whilst uncomfortable with the tag ‘socialist’ (too much baggage), I’m a convinced supporter of the vision of a society outlined by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – the manner of their defeat was a shock which I’m still trying to understand. This Open Democracy piece is an unapologetic analysis from the Corbynista left of the Labour Party.
Many of our front-line third sector organisations are warning that the closing three months of 2020 will see crisis levels of poverty (destitution) for a record number of Scots families; including many who were ‘just about managing’ before Covid. The third sector continues to function (good SURF insight) but state intervention will be required. Guardian piece.
In ‘The Golden Notebook’ (1962), Doris Lessing reflects on the tortuous dynamics of human progress – its ebb and flow.
“It seems to me something like this: every so often, perhaps once in a century, there’s a sort of act of faith. A well of faith fills up, and there’s an enormous heave forward in one country or another; and that’s a forward movement for the whole world – because it’s an act of imagination of what is possible for the whole world. Then the cruelty and the ugliness get too strong and the well runs dry. Then the well slowly fills again. And then there’s another painful lurch forward…because every time, the dream gets stronger. If people can imagine something, there’ll come a time when they’ll achieve it”.