‘Yes, Minister’

Well, “under consideration” means “we’ve lost the file”; “under active consideration” means “we’re trying to find it”.

This is a true British classic which I feel one has to appreciate at its basic level. Beginning with the very first episode, and running through all of the episodes in both of the series (the new one isn’t considered), the characters epitomise some of the inherent contradictions in British society.

Now, Minister, if you are going to promote women just because they’re the best person for the job, you will create a lot of resentment throughout the whole of the Civil Service!

The caustic quips throughout by Bernard and others are absolutely amazing, as is Bernard’s overall concerned nature at the state of the society. Sir Humphrey Appleby is the other character that is always in the minds of everyone, convoluting the procedure and the message both. Meanwhile, he comes across as the very nature of the person taking the piss out of the system, which was no doubt the intent of the writers. Further, Hacker’s attempts at imitating Churchill are especially amusing given the apparent difference in the character of the two notable men. I can’t help but feel that the writers did a superb job of describing from life, a principle which Masaoka Shiki would definitely appreciate.

The ship of state, Bernard, is the only ship that leaks from the top.

The series is worth watching for anyone how wants to understand either the British political system or British life in general. Well worth watching!

Notwithstanding the fact that your proposal could conceivably encompass certain concomitant benefits of a marginal and peripheral relevance, there is a countervailing consideration of infinitely superior magnitude involving your personal complicity and corroborative malfeasance, with a consequence that the taint and stigma of your former associations and diversions could irredeemably and irretrievably invalidate your position and culminate in public revelations and recriminations of a profoundly embarrassing and ultimately indefensible character.

Opinion: On Syria & Interventions

The topic at hand these days is Syria, and whether the West should intervene. Given that nearly everyone in the West has already said what they think of these matters, I thought it only proper to describe my own as well. I have tried to base mine on logical reason and thought, which is to say that I have aimed to steer away from using emotions as a guideline on how to act in an instance like this.

My basic claim is that the West (or, at the very least, Europe) should not interfere in the Syrian civil war.

The question of chemical weaponry use in the past (and, potentially, in the future) is irrelevant in a more than a few ways — firstly, the West has used more destructive ammunition against both civilians and military personnel compared to any other denomination of countries. Thereby, a moral justification would first imply the complete renouncement of our own past actions which no political leader has suggested.

Secondly, chemical warfare is separated from ‘normal’/regular warfare by the simple fact that the bullet has been replaced by a gas. For either side, therefore the conflict did not change with the use of chemical weaponry since people died before and will die until the conflict is brought to a resolution. It is artificial to now say that “country’s own citizens are sacrosanct, and we will ensure military protection against further onslaught” when two years have gone by only with the mutterings of  “stop, please, it is not supposed to go like this”.

Now, I’ll come back to the original point and mention that it is not even confirmed that chemical weapons were used. Mind, I think it more likely that they were used — around a ratio of 80-20 for the weapons having been in use. Overall, this is a point that is far easier to determine than the next one while both are incredibly relevant in this matter. Namely, the question of who was the side to use the chemical weaponry.

The convention at present seems to be that the Syrian government ordered a chemical attack against its citizens. Unfortunately, without seeing the “proof” that the US intelligence agencies claim to have, logical reasoning would presuppose that given the following statement, ‘the Syrian government is in a conflict that it is slowly winning against an opposition that is varied in nature’ is true, the conclusion based on that statement would be ‘the Syrian government has nothing to gain by implementing methods that anger the West’.

Thereby, the logical answer to the question ‘Who gains from the apparent use of chemical weaponry in Syria?’ would be ‘the opposition to the Government’.

The opposition has the most to gain through framing the Government as if they had used chemical weaponry. The standpoint that the West would take could easily define the rest of the war as an aerial mop-up of Syrian forces while the opposition expands its power-base through the rest of the country.

Additionally, it is necessary to note that any benefit to the opposition that comes through Western use of force will be inherently against the interests of the West by way of the opposition consisting of a variety of different parties, some of whom are declared Islamist fanatics and al-Qaida allies.

From a Western point of view, I am of the opinion that if the present UK Government declares war on Syria, it will find itself in a far more difficult position for re-election — an important matter for the ruling Coalition. Likewise, a necessary point to consider is that none of the Western governments have considered the provision of military equipment (missiles, plane fuel at mission levels, etc) in their present budgets, implying that war would increase borrowing and lead to further cuts, increased borrowing, or raised taxes.

Any consideration of realpolitik would, therefore, quickly determine that even if there were justifiable moral reasons to support the side which chemical weaponry were used against, there can be no justification for supporting the opposition. There is no need or reason, however, to support Mr Assad’s Government.

In conclusion, therefore, it is apparent that the West should not intervene in the conflict in Syria and has more to lose from intervention than from not the opposite.

What do I keep an eye out for these days?

I’ve often lately thought that the newsitems we see daily go very much into the same categories. This category could be summed up as “trouble”, but I would rather call it “life”. The problem with this “life” is that it is nearly always the same.

I’ll expand on this in a bit, but if we assume that a modern person should keep oneself aware of what is going on in the world there is only so much that one can do — for we have established a set of boundary criteria within which we exist. This means there’s a certain amount of news-sites to be visited, and a certain type of blogs to be visited — depending on the exact interests of a person.

The problem with all the information coming out of these news-sites and blogs for me is that it is more or less the same. Take, for example, BBC News: there’s probably some new article around every day which says that we are doing worse, and the Government is doing worse, and people are generally doing worse. How much of this am I supposed to take? Why is there nothing which broadcasts the new heights we can achieve?

Certainly the world is not in a happy spot at present, but I tend to be somewhat more positive about the general state of affairs than “everything is bad”. This needs a certain set of mind though.

This set of mind has brought me to expect a few good essays on people and philosophy and the general state of life (not to be confused with livelihood) every week. The places where I find these are varied, but there are a number of sources that help. For some reason or another, I’ve found that the Australian media is of particular quality here — the Sydney Morning Herald is my favourite publication therein. They have a rather interesting lifestyle section that I try to read every now and then, and I find SMH to be slightly better than the rest of media with regards to politics.

Because when we come down to the basest of levels, a certain awareness of politics must be preserved. I find, however, that the British are going round and round, achieving more or less nothing at present — I could try guessing the news daily, and I would probably get the items half right. There’s more that I am unaware of in Australia which also makes it slightly more interesting, but I get the feeling that there’s more happening there — more happening with a real sense of direction for the place as well. [Not to mention there’s a set of comedians as brilliant as John Clarke and Bryan Dawe who manage to make the politics into a very good performance.]

This is not true at all for Europe as I see it right now, and that probably has made me slightly despondent in looking for reasonable news from the Continent. But that in turn has made me appreciate certain things more: there’s a fair amount of good essays that do relate to people and education and technology, and there’s a certain look into the future with the question “What is coming up for us?”. And this is what I have been looking for — not the downtrodden tune of the news but something that would act as a whetstone for my mind.

I’m afraid though that I haven’t found any good collective place for this type of journalism, so whenever I do find anything it is more due to chance. And, yet, I know that they are out there — and that gives me hope. And that hope gives me the strength to look, and to share, when I can.

As if News from a Theorem

The title of this entry is purposefully a bit more scientific (my first instinct was to write “mechanical” for some reason) than the content of the post, but it all has to do with a few good reasons that (very) accurately reflect the past days and what has happened during them.

Namely, for any fan of science-fiction and sir Arthur C. Clarke his book ‘The Last Theorem’ might ring a bell — especially given it was the last work by the renown author written in collaboration with Frederick Pohl. [Unfortunately, aside from my somewhat eccentric positive look on it most people have said it is not one of Clarke’s best works, but I would not resign ‘The Last Theorem’ that easily to the worst positions on ratings lists.] Be it as it may, what is speaks of is more important than the story of its creation : aside from the hint to the Last Theorem of Fermat, the book also considers some of the growing unrest in the world in its day and age (and provides a wonderful look into Sri Lanka which might be a reason I like it that much).

The “insights into the growing unrest” was the bit that I thought to explore though — I remember from reading it that most of the times when the book referred to any one of the characters turning the TV online or checking the news, the result they got from there was that there were more deaths, more accidents, more conflicts, in short : more bad news.

What has seemed to be happening over the last few weeks therefore restarted that button in my mind — every moment that I keep an eye on the BBC News bulletins they bring that same sense of “more and new catastrophes and violence” that was so prevalent in the description of politics in the aforementioned book.

So yes : the US debt crisis, UK economic downgrades, US AAA lost, riots throughout England, plummeting stock prices — all of these have served to remind me of that book, and of the continuous downward slide.

What is the significance of this ? I wouldn’t know in the slightest, except that it would be good to have news of some other sort than the summary of what’s going wrong.

And I guess that’s when I realized that all the short clips that I previously did not appreciate all that much : either CNN’s MainSail (which I used to watch in the good old times that CNN was easily accessible)  or BBC’s clips on Olympic (2012) contestants and the ‘Meet the Author’ are there to serve a purpose. Possibly, it is not meant that they are there to cheer the people up after another slide in the politics and economy section, but it is somewhat comforting to know that when most things are resigned to whatever fate can bring them, we’ve got a promising young swimmer in the UK or a great runner in…

… Does it matter “where”, as long as we have him ?

Narrowsightedness on Democracy

The case for democracy is a moral one, not an economic one; but if democracies can’t handle responsible governance, either on economic or more general policy issues, then governance will gradually become less democratic, and the moral case will make little difference.

The above quote is from a The Economist blog post and illustrates what I believe to be an extreme case of narrowsightedness. A quick Google search on “the case for democracy” brought up the following quote: “The moral case for democracy is based on the apparent degree of fairness that it offers…”

I would very much like to hear what the author of that blog post has to say on such apparent democracies like the United Kingdom, Spain, or similar countries, which are decried not to be democracies by their republican fanatics but which offer a degree of fairness that is comparable to “the greatest democracies” on Earth (or in a singular form, “the greatest democracy/country”, as the US politicians love to call their land). Comparable, I say, though it would not be wrong to call them fairer than the United States.

So, does the author actually mean something more in line with the so-to-say republican fanatics that we see all around the place these days, or does he also accept the possibility of a fair monarchy/autocracy (Singapore anyone?) which does provide an “apparent degree of fairness” and a far more effective political governance (though it would be fair to say that no democracy can or should be effectively governed given that means that debate is being smothered somewhere along the line)?

What is the worst about this approach, however, is that the author has refused to accept that the same moral values might exist in a non-democratic society if the tradition and principles for it were there. Fairness of people does not need to mean governance by people.

Constantine, where art thou?

Continuing on the track from the previoust post, I realized that just as with reading, I’ve said very little on politics (and philosophical topics) lately. Not that I’d like to do any further explaining today, except for reminding myself of the fact that I’ve still not managed to give my thoughts on exactly why thalassocracy might just be the best way of governing (though, admittedly, you need to incorporate other things in as well).

Earlier today I managed to read an article in FT about Francis Fukuyama and his ideas on the present situation (not that good) and how things will proceed (hope for the best, prepare for the worst). He has (almost, I’d say) resurfaced along with Henry Kissinger who had an interview with FT published last week where they mostly spoke of China but also mentioned a few other things (now, thinking back, the interview might have been in the Guardian, but I cannot remember that well — I guess it is of rather small consequence where exactly it was).

Given that my original hope was reminding myself of the need to write of politics, and now I’ve ended up writing about it, I guess it only fair to continue on the track that I’ve chosen (or that’s chosen itself for me).

I noticed an interesting idea a few days ago which dealt with the possibility of resurrecting (in some form) the non-territorial organizations of the past (much as the Knights of St. John or Malta or whatever they are called today //Sovereign Order of Malta, quite possible// have an observer status in the UN) to replace some of the countries that will be lost in the upcoming centuries. I myself do believe that same notion could also be carried forward to seasteads once they get underway (the sooner the better) and why not to other good ideas as well (might not have any more need for a purely military-banking order but what if we incorporated diplomacy into it as well?).

And quite separate from that, yesterday was a day which is considered rather universally the end of the Eastern Roman Empire. There’s been lots of notions running around at exactly how Constantine (Konstantinos) organized the defenses of his city; and in many a place have I seen/read of them being much like the Western knights trying to do their utmost in a valiant situation. I guess that is one of the finest ways of looking at it, especially given that if you’ve got the opportunity of immortalizing the last ruler of a legacy of two millennia in a last charge against impossible odds then you do it… because, even if did not happen exactly that way, then it should have, eh?