28 August 2008

Reflection of the month

Communism and Capitalism

Capitalism depends on certain aspects of the conditions in which we live – on the structure of time and the conservation of matter. The basis of capitalism is that if a tiger rushes towards you, you need a gun. If you acquired a gun at some point in time previous to the tiger's attack, and have it ready to hand, this is useful. If you have not actually got a gun, but know that you could acquire one at some point in the future, this is not so good. The problem is to survive so as to reach that future.

The essence of communism is that nobody may have guns unless everybody has guns, and the only way anybody can get guns is if the Collective-at-Large sees fit to make a universal issue. And you may not have a better gun than the Collective sees fit to issue for everybody. So if the Collective does not actually get round to issuing any guns at all, everybody will be equally liable to be eaten by tigers.

22 August 2008

Attitudes to academic appointments

I think that the academics at the Society for Psychical Research were more uninhibited and less rationalised about what went on in connection with academic appointments than they would probably have been even in their own Senior Common Rooms.

For example, it was said that H.H. Price became Wykeham Professor of Logic by being the least brilliant but also the least controversial of three candidates. The other two had definite original opinions which aroused strong opposition from some of the electors. Price had bland and middle-of-the-road views which were offensive to no one; hence he got the Professorship. (*)

They brought in an American ‘professor’ of zoology for the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology at Edinburgh (‘professor’, of course, only means ‘lecturer’ in America ), treating American academic appointments as equivalent to English ones. But when American professors visited the SPR office, it was freely said (although not of course in their hearing) that an American PhD was about the equivalent of a 3rd class Oxbridge degree.

That, of course, was what was being said when I was at the SPR in the late fifties. Since then academic standards have declined apace in this country and, from all I hear, are likely to have declined in America about as fast (on account of their also wishing to apply ‘egalitarian’ principles and to deny the existence of innate ability — as evidenced by their throwing money at Professor Anders Ericsson, the academic whose research purports to show that there is no such thing as innate ability).

So it is possible that the relative rankings have shifted a bit as both American and British degrees are worth a lot less than they used to be.

But of course there is no reason anyway why degree classes should be precisely correlated with ability to fulfil the requirements of an academic position, as was much more realistically recognised, and occasionally acted upon, in the early decades of the last century. (There were anecdotes at Somerville about Professors who had got 4th class degrees but been allowed to proceed with their careers.)

* I have no opinion about the accuracy of this view of Price’s appointment, but I think it illustrates the fact that, before about 1945, there was much more recognition of the disjunction between a person’s merit and ability to fulfil a certain social role, and their possession or otherwise of that socially conferred role. Nowadays there is a stronger and almost dogmatic belief that a person who has been unable to get social status is automatically inferior to those who have it.

18 August 2008

State pensions and Trojan Horses

Hundreds of thousands of pensioners are living in poverty because they are not claiming the benefits due to them, official figures suggest. Ministers admitted that 700,000 pensioners would be lifted over the poverty line at a stroke if they simply got all the help to which they are entitled. Opposition MPs say many are put off claiming by the complexity of Gordon Brown’s benefit system, which involves complicated forms and lengthy telephone applications. (Daily Mail, 12 August 2008)

This is all the result of a means-tested pensions system, which should never have been introduced and which should be abolished. The real deterrent to applying for “benefits” is, or should be, not the complexity of the forms and procedures, but simply the fact that it cannot be done without drawing to oneself and one’s circumstances the attention of agents of the collective, who may easily attract the attention of other agents of the collective, who may decide that one should be deprived of one’s liberty. Those who complain of the present system naturally miss the point, because they are themselves in most cases agents of the collective who have nothing against people being deprived of their liberty.

For example, Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Jenny Willott said: “The system must be simplified to ensure poor pensioners get the cash they so desperately need.”

The charity Age Concern also fails to address the real issue, instead taking seriously the rationalisations given for failing to apply. Research carried out by this charity shows that the reason given by almost 50% of respondents is that they find means-testing too intrusive, and by 40% that they are discouraged by complicated forms.

Opposition MPs do have some objection to means-testing, describing it as “demeaning”, and arguing that means-testing is

expensive to administer and acts as a disincentive to save. Officials trawl through details of people’s pensions, earnings, benefits and savings to work out whether they should receive top-ups. (ibid)

But no one mentions the real and absolute deterrent to applying, which is that in the course of “trawling”, officials may decide that it would be better for a person not to be allowed to go on living where they are living, or in the way they are living, at all.

It is very dangerous to draw the attention of the Oppressive State to your affairs, and probably many who fail to apply realise this, if only vaguely or subconsciously.

Until relatively recent years, pensions were the only “benefit” which was free from this danger. They were paid as a right to those who had made enough contributions, not to those whose “need” would be assessed as greatest by agents of the collective.

Means-testing of pensions should be abolished.

‘The question of ethics with regard to pension policy is one of the issues on which Oxford Forum could be producing fundamental critical analyses if it were provided with adequate funding. We appeal for £2m as initial funding to enable us to write and publish on this and similar issues, which are currently only discussed in the context of pro-collectivist arguments.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil

13 August 2008

Plugged into the belief in society

When I say that people at the SPR were only interested in socially conferred status, I mean that they appeared to be there only to participate in certain kinds of social goings-on. There is a tendency these days to identify a field of work with those socially appointed to work in that nominal field. (Physics is to be defined as ‘what physicists do’, philosophy is ‘what philosophers do’, and psychical research is ‘what parapsychologists do’.)

So experiments supposed to prove some particular thing (ESP, PK) would be done by a person with academic status, such as S.G. Soal (maths lecturer at Queen Mary College), or physicist John Taylor (professor at King's College London) who encouraged schoolchildren to do ostensible PK for him, and then decades of active social interaction on an international basis would take place. In the first place, the experiments had to be taken very seriously and hailed as unquestionable proof because they were done by someone with socially conferred status, and then there was the interest of discovering whether a statusful person could be publicly and professionally disgraced.

In my case, the storms which surrounded me arose from the emotional interest of preventing someone who had already been disgraced and outcast from managing to climb back to social salary and status. Preventing someone who has been deprived of it, and thrown out from getting it back, is as good an outlet for emotional drive as is worshipping the productions of socially appointed academics and having controversies about whether they can be deprived of it.

While spiritualism never caught on in my mind, the idea did appear pragmatically useful that people were all somehow plugged into a network of belief in society. So that they were all really expressing a single set of aims and objects, and the attitudes and interpretations expressed by any one of them could be taken as informational about the attitudes that would be held by any other. (Attitudes about everything, actually, but in particular about whether there is anything "paranormal", or whether people like me should ever be permitted to recover from their ruined education.) It does not appear to me impossible that ESP enters into this, although it makes no difference in practice whether or not this is so.

I have certainly found the unanimity of the responses I receive remarkable, over a wide spread of nationalities, genders, social classes and IQ levels. I felt at the time of my ‘education’ that one could not see how the dance of death was so precisely choreographed. Of course a lot of overt social slander does go into it as well, but one finds the same interpretations being produced by people who are ostensibly not on the obvious slander circuits.

It is all rather like the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. More and more of the population is replaced by a zombie replica, and anyone who has not yet been taken over must not give overt evidence of this; if they fail to behave exactly like the others the whole population turns and points at them and pursuit begins.

06 August 2008

Iatrogenic drug addiction

A form of torture practised by the medical 'profession', and in many ways the most horrifying, is the infliction of suffering, in the form of 'treatment', against the will of the 'patient' (victim). This includes the compulsory 'medication' of those 'diagnosed' as 'mentally ill', who can in some cases be re-incarcerated for forcible 'treatment' if they fail to present themselves for regular torture when they are 'released into the community'.

Even when 'treatment' is not compulsory, doctors have no scruples about getting 'patients' (victims) hooked without warning on mind-altering drugs which will have severe side-effects if the 'patient' attempts to regain his independence of them. At least, their scruples only appear when it is a question of refusing to let the 'patient' have a form of medication which he wants to have. Doctors then become very sensitive indeed to every possibility, however remote, of any side-effect, and most unwilling to let the 'patient' decide for himself whether the risk of this possibility is one which, in view of his own motivation and knowledge of his own constitution, he wants to take.

Curiously and informatively enough, people appear blind to the horror of people being hooked for life by doctors on drugs which effectively deprive them of the use of their own minds — actually a more horrific deprivation of liberty than the infliction of physical pain against the will of a conscious 'patient' (victim), which would be regarded as torture if the doctor who inflicted it was not a properly trained and qualified person.

The hatred and persecutory fervour of modern society is reserved for those who wish to alter their mental outlook by the use of chemicals of their own choosing, and for those who sell them the chemicals they want to have. Self-inflicted drug dependence is regarded as an 'evil' from which victims (who are not 'patients') should be rescued against their will by the expenditure of massive amounts of taxpayers' money, while the drug dependence so freely created by doctors arouses no such opprobrium, although in many cases its continuity is enforced by compulsory medication. The voluntarily drug-dependent person is still free to decide to break away from the addiction, whereas the involuntary victim of compulsory medication is not. Nevertheless it is the former that is described as 'abuse' of drugs, whereas those who are compulsorily and permanently under prescribed influence, are described as 'users'.

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)