The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

' There's every reason to believe that human civilisation will continue into deep time'

Gosh, did I say that?

Yes. It would be great to hear from the Astronomer Royal or such, but it's just me.

And: 'A lot of the formal rules of the left are still based on 19th century communications technology, which meant newspapers'.

Hey! I wish I'd said that! Oh, wait, I did.

I'm impressed with how socialist feminist blogger and journalist Laurie Penny, who talked to me at Eastercon, has managed to distill my handwaving and rambling into a coherent interview in the Morning Star, available in tomorrow's (21/4/10) dead tree version from all good newsagents. Laurie is a genuinely encouraging and invigorating person to meet, and indeed a reason to think human civilization will continue into deep time.

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I've been reading this blog for a while, but I wasn't aware that you didn't self-identify as a socialist anymore (I might have missed or repressed a post). What do you identify as or with, if anything?

You sound pretty socialist to me, Ken.

A bit unfair on Monbiot, I thought. Why call him Malthussian when he often has a critical view of the general "overpopulation" issues, emphasizing that most of the people considered "excesive" are actually the ones whose activity is less problematic to the sustainability of current human well-being, and that saying that they are the problem is the anti-human position. A more human view is, to me, to say the problem is how non-infinite resources are appoppiated by minorities but talked about as infinite when the rest asks when is their turn to enjoy them - "your time will come, just wait for development to follow its path". Who's being anti humanist there?


The problem with Monbiot is he is a liability to the public perception of the environmentalist movement.

This is partly because of the "green slime" aspect that Ken mentions that puts off humanist technocrats.

But it is also because of his holier than thou attitude that turns people off environmentalists and environmentalism more generally.

I'm sure he acts with the best intentions and I agree that he is broadly correct on a number of policy prescriptions, but I do think he needs to take a chill pill, dial back the lifestyle guff and focus more on the technocratic job of making the world safer for humanity.

Aw thank you Ken! *blushes* It was an honour.

What you say about the Internet rings true to me. I am elated by the speed with which information can be disseminated. The WikiLeaks video affair elated me. I am sure that more than one online rag would not have published one second of the video, had their editors not known that the full video and plenty of links were easily available online, say at BoingBoing. And Stalinists I know still go on and on about decisions being made by what they still call "Democratic Centralism!" They just do not know, and/or don't want to know, about such new possibilities.

I think it is this type of phenomenon that makes it hard to define onesself as a Socialist, Two days ago I had a long conversation with a right-wing Libertarian who knew more about the modern possibilities than almost all Leftists I have known. We agreed on many points, because we agree on essentials necessary for survival. What comes after that is for me largely open. The only things I know are that--as you say--there's no inherent necessity in the existence of our present modes of production (and distribution), that they have largely had disastrous consequences, and that they should therefore be replaced by something as humane as possible.

Hey, I win. I've interviewed that same guy that _Laurie Penny_ interviewed. How cool is that?

Chris Williams

PS My use of 'therefore' does not indicate any sort of logical implication. What follows it is my value-judgement of what precedes it.

So does some green thinking tend towards the fascistic? "It's much worse than that - at least fascism believed in some human beings!"

Sir, your talent for epigram is an inspiration to us all.

Six Thinking Hats

Six distinct states are identified and assigned a color:

Questions (White) - considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
Emotions (Red) - instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
Bad points judgment (Black) - logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch
Good points judgment (Yellow) - logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
Creativity (Green) - statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes
Thinking (Blue) - thinking about thinking


thanks that practicality rules a pendulum's sway.

For those who haven't seen it, the cover of the paper shows a grizzled sf writer gazing off into the future, with the clear far-sightedness of a Finland Station statue in Leningrad. Next to him are the words "A prophetic vision."

It's inspirational, I tell you - inspirational! If only we knew what this man self-identified as, we could briefly install him as our leader and then overthrow him!

Faanish historical query: is this the first time ever that a Mundane paper has covered an SF con without piss-taking?

It's a very good piece; congrats to writer and subject.

On the other hand ... as the Star's main SF reviewer, I'd like to apologise for the fact that so far I have not proved up to the task of training the subs out of "sci-fi".

- Mat Coward

Mat - that's Orbit's stock photo of me. It shows what happens when the photographer tells me not to smile. And yes - Laurie's a star.

George - I really like your PS, as well as your comment.

Nathaniel and D.J.P. O'Kane - why I don't self-identify as a socialist: I haven't changed the views I've often enough expressed on this blog, but it has occurred to me that calling these views 'socialist' was a bit of a stretch. I'll no doubt write a bit more about this soon.

Thanks Ken. I spoke with a philosophical colleague about that PS just 2 hours ago. He told me that many readers would have taken my "therefore" as an implication. He's the teacher, I'm retired, so "therefore" he is right.

Thats funny, I rather got the impression from reading Monbiot over the years that although he thinks plants and stuff should be preserved for themselves, his main issue is that our behaviour damages the very ecosystems that we depend upon for our survival, and therefore if we carry on this way there will be bigger problems in the future. One way to help reduce such impacts is to have fewer people using more and more resources. I don't see how this is a big issue at all really. Now if he were advocating everyone kill themselves so that the earth can recover its perfection, that would be a different story.

How much of party politics is still locked into that 19th Century model of control of the mass media?

(The real embarrassment is that my father still thinks I'm a Conservative supporter.)

antonia-tiger, that's a fair point but not what I meant. Influencing the mass media is one thing, the idea that each revolutionary would-be party should have its own paper that prints the party line is something else.

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