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This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
Polar Bears are heading towards colder environments.This picture was taken in East Kilbride on Wednesday by a frightened taxi driver.
With the first of April just around the corner the country is gripped in an icy, snowy and slushy mess.People cannot get to work or are stuck in traffic for hours on end. Weather warnings have been issued on a daily basis telling people when to travel and not to travel.People are quite rightly asking probing questions about who is really to blame for this.
The SNP government are behind all of it. We can reveal that as well as this recent weather ‘event’ that SNP have been manipulating the weather above and around Scottish air space for decades.
As recently as November 2016, the first named storm of the winter was named storm Angus (no relation).This Scottish named storm went on to cause a number of serious impacts. A cargo ship collided with a barge in the English Channel and a ferry carrying 150 passengers was stranded for 26 hours before docking at Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. Large waves battered the south coast and damage was reported to the sea wall at Swanage, Dorset.
Other famous Scottish named storms are planned for later this year with Storm Iona due to hit in a few weeks time. But it is the government manipulation of the Polar Vortex that is the most concerning thing. Not content with improving the road and rail network to the fullest extent for decades the Scottish Government are messing with our weather patterns in a cavalier manner to test the road and rail infrastructure to its fullest, like Gods sitting on top of Mount Olympus throwing lightning bolts at the Earth.
Somehow they have managed using teams of Scottish scientists to cause a shift in the position of the polar vortex.
A polar vortex is a mass of cold air that sits above the Earth’s north and south poles. This cold air is controlled by a large pocket of low pressure, which rotates in an anti-clockwise direction at the North Pole and clockwise at the South Pole. When a polar vortex is weak, it can split into two or more freezing vortices, forcing wintry air from Siberia towards the UK.
Somehow the SNP have managed to exploit this weakness and have caused this severe weather event to happen.It can be the only explanation.They are so good at everything else they are getting bored at being a well organised and efficient government and are now playing about with the weather.
We can only speculate what other disasters the SNP have caused in their relentless drive to achieve efficient democratic government.Rumours are that they have already negotiated access to time travel technology through use of their advanced diplomacy skills with space aliens and are now capable of going back and forward in time at will.
Who knows what disasters await us, but we will know who to blame.(Winks)
Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Today many press outlets discussed how this 10,000 year old man’s facial characteristics have been updated in the light of the latest DNA techniques worthy of the most modern forensic laboratories.
We should not be surprised about the issue of skin colour.Human Biology and the study of human evolution has clearly marked out the migration of early Hominids from Southern Africa and more prominently from the Rift Valley in East Africa . Migrations have been shown to ‘fan out’ across the Middle East , Central Europe and eventually sea borne migrations. Much of Britain was under ice until about 11,700 years ago, so no one lived here then unless they walked across a frozen expanse or paddled here in a dug out canoe after the ice melted.
‘Britain’ then was connected to the land mass of Europe. So we are all ‘Jock Tamson’s Bairns’ after all.
We are categorically one race- that is the human race.
That fact is a very welcome one, empirical evidence of our connectedness as one human race when for centuries there have been people organising to divide us into distinct racial groups either by skin colour or by reason of faith , beliefs or sexuality.
My first thoughts this morning when I learned of this ‘revelation’ about the ‘First Briton’ was to say ‘so what’, that was my internal view of human evolution anyway.
However we have been bombarded by so much recently about ‘Make USA Great Again’ or other groups closer to home like Britain First that my second thought was, ‘how are some people going to cope with this information’?
If your world view is of a mono-culture of ‘we are British,white and proud’ and we do not want any other ‘near white’ Europeans being in our country picking our fruit and vegetables for not much more than the minimum wage-where do you go with this information?
What happens is that you will probably deny it and blame the scientists for issuing wrong information.It will not matter that it correlates with hundreds of other studies tracing the migration of early humans from Africa over millions of years. From ‘First Briton’ to ‘Britain First’ it’s always going to be a white picture, init?
The evolution of modern man and woman has taken many turns including a view that there were distinctive streams of evolution. So called ‘branching’ in the typical view was of a ‘tree of life’ representation of evolution as a dominant view. Studies have shown that there was more of a braided stream rather than a branch and there was inter-breeding between groups of early humans as they struggled to survive.
As modern humans we look back at depictions of early humans with a mixture of fun and ridicule.Incidentally most of these depictions got it wrong and had early man fighting dinosaurs when they had been extinct for centuries.
It’s a kind of racism against ourselves if you think about it.
In the process many people have categorised whole populations not based on human evolution but on more recent acts of drawing arbitrary lines on maps to designate nations or colonial territories.
Just before the first world war, ‘the war to end all wars’, groups of Europeans divided up the African continent. It was a prelude to the full-scale international rape of natural resources of a whole continent that has lasted for nearly one hundred years.
Meanwhile in the Americas the same was happening in both North and South America with the colonisation and the persecution of indigenous native people (Australia and New Zealand’s time would come)
When your childhood heroes are no longer heroes.
The big step up for human evolution seems to be our eventual downfall.The growth in agriculture and the switch from hunter gatherer to more complex organisations led to enough resources to wage wars and campaigns of invasion and eventually to aspire to world domination.
We have had many scrapes with total annihilation including total destruction in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.Who knows how many more times this has happened and we have not been told.
Now in 2018 , in this ‘neck of the woods’, the biggest change is about to happen in terms our relationship with our European neighbours. Funnily enough this relationship stared just before and continued after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The United Kingdom made its first application to join in 1961. It was quickly apparent that there was a danger of political isolation within Western Europe, Commonwealth states were rushing to do deals with the new bloc, and it had American support. This application was vetoed by the French Government in 1963 with a second application vetoed by the French again in 1967. It was only in 1969 that the green light was given to negotiations for British membership. The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (as it then was) on 1 January 1973 with Denmark and Ireland. This proved controversial at the time. The Labour party initially sought renegotiation of membership. This was toned down to requiring a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain part of the Community. This referendum was duly held in 1975 with a 67% vote in favour of continued membership.
A lot of wine lakes and butter mountains have come and gone since then and gradually a growing, some would say festering thought of past colonial glory has crept in to the equation. Some articles have articulated this very well as being the root cause of the irrational and ideological drive towards Brexit.Above all else it seems we must achieve Brexit when all damage analysis leaked or otherwise says it will harm the economy for years to come. It’s a very strange thing indeed that when scientists reveal our pre-historic past our politicians continue to plot a future for us that will take us back in time not forward together as one human race, just a belligerent small island nation with an inflated sense of its own importance based on past colonial abuse of other defenceless countries.Cave dwelling and hunter-gathering might make a come back.
Dream Angus 7/02/18
The realisation of a large regional economic bloc encompassing Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda with a combined population of 120 million people, land area of 1.85 million sq kilometres and a combined gross domestic product of $ 41 billion, bears great strategic and geopolitical significance and prospects of a renewed and reinvigorated East African Community.
Its been in the planning stages from November 1999 when an inter-governmental treaty was signed.
East Africa’s economic growth is among the fastest in the world and its countries are becoming increasingly integrated and interdependent.
The EAC aims at widening and deepening co-operation among the partner states and other regional economic communities in, among others, political, economic and social fields for their mutual benefit.
Perceptions of East Africa among white Europeans are largely dictated by images of famine, drought and economic hardship. We regularly see weeping BBC celebrities outside Kibera,the largest slum in East Africa every year for Children in Need.Yet what the BBC do not tell us is the massive amount of self employment and resilience of local people.They do not want paternalistic handouts but merely a helping hand to be more self sufficient.
Despite past political corruption, countries in the region recognise that there is strength in unity and pulling together. The images we have of shanty towns has to sit beside images of vibrant cities and countries that are growing fast economically. Political engagement is at a high level and despite recent electoral problems voter turn out is high and there is an appetite for positive development to curb unemployment especially among young people.
In Kenya recent railway developments include fast and efficient rail travel from Nairobi to the coastal region of Mombassa.Supported by China this massive infrastructure project is set to revitalise the economy and put people to work in tourism and other important sectors.
In terms of telecommunications East Africa is already ahead of us. Kenya has had mobile phone banking since 2007 and it is used by 17 million Kenyans to do anything from pay for taxi’s , shopping, meals , anything. M-Pesa is a system launched by a telecoms company Safaricom
You don’t need an expensive smart phone to use M-pesa.The service does not require users to have bank accounts, an important aspect in a country like Kenya, where many people do not have bank accounts. With M-PESA, the user can buy digital funds at any M-PESA agent and send that electronic cash to any other mobile phone user in Kenya, who can then redeem it for conventional cash at any agent. An M-PESA-enabled mobile phone can also function as an electronic wallet and can hold up to 100,000 Kenyan Shillings (approx. US$1,000). Safaricom has announced that it intends to roll out M-PESA to other countries. M-PESA has enabled many start up companies to develop as it reduces their overhead costs and can help with paying wages and bills.
The use of mobile telecoms and internet in East Africa is on the increase and it is driving economic growth. Combined with political collaboration to create economic growth the future for the region is looking positive.Free travel for citizens of countries like Rwanda, and Burundi will benefit from the infrastructure improvements in neighbouring larger countries of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Coming back to the UK where we are on the cusp of leaving a large scale economic bloc and also changing our passports the contrast could not be more stark. Their future looks brighter while ours looks very uncertain. When we also hear about talk of new trade deals and turning to our friends in the Commonwealth I am afraid the Chinese have already beaten the UK to it. As East Africa looks forward to free movement and increased prosperity for its citizens car and lorry drivers in the UK this week learned that if no deals are properly concluded UK driving licences will be invalid for use on continental Europe.
A giraffe having a ‘safari’ of its own through Nairobi suburbs .
There have been a few articles this week relating to the corporate press and media.The worldwide media where Prime Ministers and Presidents consult with media moguls in the run up to general elections and presidential campaigns.At that level the media literally can make or break governments and change the outcome of democratic election processes.
Press Barons, magnates, call them what you will, they all seem to thrive on power, influence and an ability to control those around them. Citizen Kane (1941) was the famous Hollywood film that first explored this power.
The newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane, one of the richest and most powerful men in America if not the world, dies. A newspaperman digs into his past seeking the meaning of his enigmatic last word: “Rosebud.” He finds evidence of a child torn away from his family to serve Mammon. Grown into manhood, Charles Foster Kane becomes a newspaperman to indulge his idealism. He marries the niece of the man who will become President of the United States, and gradually assumes more and more power while losing more and more of his soul. Kane’s money and power does not bring him happiness, as he has lost his youthful idealism, as has the America he is a symbol for.
It is not Citizen Kane we want to discuss, but Citizen Journalism and a free local press. Why is that important? You only have to look as far as Spain to see how the actions of a paranoid central government prioritised the gagging of the local state media following the referendum in Catalonia recently. Or indeed the imprisonment of journalists in countries like Iran and Turkey to name just a few. Governments and large media outlets work together and if we are not careful can exert undue influence on us.
Cognitive psychologist Robert Sylwester, Ph.D explains–
Mass media (MM) play an important role in democratic societies and competitive markets that function through the efficient persuasion of large widespread audiences. It’s no surprise then that governments seek to control MM output, and that many who use MM distort the truth when seeking support for their cause. Mass media have now evolved to the point where conflicting media messages constantly bombard us. How do we select what to attend to and what to believe?
Our brain has to constantly differentiate between what’s currently important (foreground) and what is peripheral and not important (background or context). It does this through an attentional buffer (commonly called our working brain) that allows us to focus on only a few units of information for a short period of time while we figure out their importance within the larger perceptual field. Mass media often relentlessly focus on what’s within the frame and ignore its context — and in the process distort its meaning and significance. The result is that repeated replays of a rare or isolated event that’s emotionally charged come across as being common in the minds of those who can’t get beyond their personal emotion into the event’s context. For example after the 9/11 World Trade Centre explosions waves of people took to driving 500 miles rather than flying by plane and people stopped sending Christmas Cards because of associated anthrax scares. It was statistically less safe to drive than fly. In psychological terms mass media moves us from gaining our attention to persuasion in the same way advertising does.
In some countries journalism is seen as a crime if it is not sanctioned and controlled. A free press is good thing for any democratic country but just how free is the press?
This week we observed an intriguing story on how the BBC were going to set up a school based programme to teach pupils how to spot ‘fake news’. The BBC is not without criticism itself as a media outlet.Its reputation was badly damaged in its handling of celebrity sex scandals where it was seen to brush away any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour among its stable of celebrities from Rolf Harris to Jimmy Saville. It was as we know now, proven that the ‘culture’ of the organisation helped paedophiles to cover up their activities. The BBC also has a poor track record in reporting political news.From the Scottish Independence referendum, the EU referendum and general elections, journalists like Nick Robinson, Laura Kuenssberg and most recently Andrew Neil have all been shown to be distorting the news usually in favour of the Westminster Government.
The antidote to all of this state/press mass media manipulation is Citizen Journalism.
From the Arab Spring in 2011 to Barcelona in 2017 people have used smart phones to Observe,Listen and Reveal the stories important to their communities and their countries. In a world where global corporate media sets out to manipulate whole populations, citizen journalism provides a more objective reality.
On-line news reporting citizen journalists presents alternative viewpoints, context and ideas to news reports.
On-line reporting empowers people by giving them a voice.
Citizen journalism encourages human to human connection and social media facilitates debate and discussion and its possible to do it for very little money.
While some citizen journalism can be spontaneous such this guy here, much of it can be on regular blogging on platforms like the one I am using now.
Many people can work on their own, and some people are extremely good at it. Celebrity George Takei was named the most influential person on Facebook in 2010 but has since become mired in social media financial promotion/endorsement scandals. Word press is a very user friendly platform and you can be up and running very quickly.
Individual citizen journalists would do better by linking up with existing local news organisation or creating their own. There is a problem with some existing local press outlets however. This article from 2014 talks about the encroachment of the big corporate press mass media onto small local press outlets. Full article here.
A central plank of journalism is that papers should serve both rich and poor within a community. Yet owners push journalists to appeal to a predominantly affluent audience in order to attract advertisers. This tendency is reinforced by those entering the profession. Journalists used to get trained on the job. Those with writing ability could get taken on as a trainee and learn while receiving a wage. Would-be journalists now have to shell out about £7,000 in fees to get on one of the top courses. ‘What is really shameful is that ordinary kids have been priced out of journalism because who can afford to fund themselves on a journalism course?’
This certainly rings true today as we see many local papers are swallowed up by bigger companies or simply used as a means of gathering news to feed the bigger titles. Small independent news outlets have started up and are making headway. Orkney News is one such outlet which prides itself on being a community press outlet.
Wherever you live try and find out where your nearest local community press organisation is, or start your own and say bye, bye to traditional journalism. Bye-Bye,Bye-Bye,Bye-Bye.What are you waiting for?
This weeks revelations of Kezia Dugdale jetting off to Australia to join Ant and Dec in ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ has taken up a lot of newspaper headlines. The sour grapes surrounding the timing of this ‘announcement’ which aligned with the announcement of the new Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard was ‘bad’ or ‘good’ timing whichever way you look at it. It also followed hard on the heels of Scottish Labour’s interim leader Alex Rowley’s demise following stalking and harassment claims from a former partner. Many people might not support Kezia Dugdale for her politics and some would question her judgement at taking part in the media circus that ‘Get me out of here’ is. However the way Scottish Labour has lined up to attack her since she made the decision is a demonstration of the same culture of harassment and misuse of power we have heard of reported recently. They say they are not going to suspend her, for now?
It does Labour no good, in fact looking behind the headlines we wonder what Scottish Labour and UK Labour stands for? Last night in Westminster Labour MP’s took part in a vote to take the UK out of the customs union. One late amendment by a Scottish Labour MP led to Labour issuing instructions through the whip, not to support the amendment. In fact instructions had been issued that ‘no important business’ was going to be discussed and many MP’s went home before the vote took place. The amendment was defeated by 311 votes to 76, and saw the unusual spectacle of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell voting with the government. Tory ‘remainer’ Anna Soubry claimed her government was being controlled by 30-35 hard line Brexiteers. But why are Labour so willing to help them?
We hear a lot about Jeremy Corbyn’s left wing credentials but voting with the Tories and abstaining on vital votes and not forming alliances with the SNP ,Greens and anyone else who could weaken the Government is hardly the sign of a party fighting for the working class?
With the Tory majority being a slim one any party capable of fostering alliances with other parties would have worried the Tories.The instability over Northern Ireland and the DUP deal and nervousness over BREXIT means the Tories are vulnerable. Instead of forming parliamentary alliances what does Labour do? They vote with the Tories.
An opposition should be that, not acquiescence.
Parliamentary opposition is a form of political opposition to a designated government, particularly in a Westminster-based parliamentary system. … The title of “Official Opposition” usually goes to the largest of the parties sitting in opposition with its leader being given the title “Leader of the Opposition“.
Lets not get too carried away with our sympathy for Kezia however.Remember she was the Scottish Labour leader who publicly called for tactical voting to defeat the SNP in Scotland in the last General Election and this contributed to a reduction in the number of SNP MP’s. Ironically given the Corbyn ‘bounce’ Kezia’s media efforts may have just given the Tories the extra Scottish seats they were looking for to keep Jeremy Corbyn at bay.
What is it with politicians and the media? Like moths round a flame they always want more publicity even when they seem to be on the way out. Alex Salmond’s foray into chat show land is another example. It was well trailed though following a sell-out Edinburgh Fringe show. His Russia Today chat show raised all sorts of hypocritical comments from jealous politicians that secretly wish it was them in charge. To be honest the format is refreshing and the lack of negative, hostile interviewing we are familiar with on the BBC is to many people a breath of fresh air.
So we will leave Kezia to her trials in the jungle.We do not know what will happen out there.To be honest I for one will not be watching it. I would rather keep an eye on the failings of the real Labour Party and its fake stance as ‘for the many not the few’. Who are they kidding? They are no different from the Tories they profess to be in opposition to. There are not doing what an opposition should be doing, picking a fight with the Tories at every opportunity. They could not fight their way out of a wet paper bag.
Do androids dream of electric sheep was written in 1968 by American author Phillip . K. Dick. It has recently been re-published having achieved cult status. The novel is set in San Francisco following a global nuclear war, where Earth’s life has been greatly damaged. Most animal species are very rare or extinct from extremes of radiation, so much so that owning an animal is now a sign of status and empathy. Some people will remember the story better as the movie by director Ridley Scott called ‘Blade runner’, recently re-booted in the sequel , Blade runner 2049. This science fiction ‘film noir’ is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler with lots of rain washing down on pavements lit by flickering neon lights. The world of the super corporations has become merged with the state and law and order and those unable to afford to get ‘off world’ to a better future wait out their lives in the over populated and polluted city.
The stark truth is that this very dark world view could be our own future if we do not deal with some key challenges facing us now. Some are outlined below. Science fiction has a habit of becoming science fact in an increasingly short space of time. A new sequel to the movie and a re-published book shows there is a strong resonance today to a book written nearly 50 years ago.
American anti-communist propaganda during the early days of the ‘cold war’.
While we are not living in a post nuclear apocalypse yet thankfully, the twitter sphere has been full of threats of starting all out nuclear war between Washington and Pyong Yang as this New Yorker article outlines, Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been goading each other to start one.With the Trump Presidency the world is in a precarious position unlike the Cold War years of US and Soviet nuclear arms escalation.
Nuclear standoffs happen, but each side has always understood where the brink lies and was careful not to overstep it. That means, especially, understanding the need not to say anything that the other side might misinterpret as a cue for war.
But the question hanging over the world today is one that has never had to be asked before: does the US president understand this most essential point, one on which the fate of the world depends?
Lets hope ‘the Donald’ gets this important point!
2.Global warming and food insecurity
Even without a nuclear apocalypse the world has faced an onslaught of unfettered resource exploitation that threatens our existence on the planet and has led to climate change despite what Jim Sillars and other climate change deniers would have us think. The frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms which hit communities from the US Florida coast, the Caribbean Islands and now as far as Ireland and Scotland has increased. As names go, so far we are up to ‘Ophelia’ which made it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to cause deaths in Ireland. They will go all the way up to ‘Whitney’ during 2017.
We also heard further evidence this week about a more insidious ecological catastrophe.The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists. The loss of habitats and the use of pesticides look to be the likely causes.Insect abundance has fallen by 75% over 27 years according to a study cited here.
This is a staggering decline in ecological terms and does not bode well for our future food security. In fact it is fair to say that it over shadows the current Brexit shambles of squabbling about ‘divorce’ bills and trades deals because we may have nothing to trade with if the ecology of our farming systems is threatened by a loss of insect life.
We need a rapid acceleration of renewable energy investment and we are fortunate in Scotland already to be leading in this field and can be poised to be a world leader in this technology. This week saw the opening of the first floating wind farm off the Aberdeenshire coast here is how it works. Agriculture is another question.We need to grow to more food locally and not rely on food transported half way around the world as we are now. We also need to do it as environmentally friendly as possible.
3. Control of the population through media manipulation.
This is where the robots come in. Or should we say ‘bots’. The populations of any country are to some degree placated and have their opinions influenced by what is on the media in many forms, printed press, TV and social media. More evidence has come to light to emphasise the ways in which this is possible on media such as Facebook and Twitter through the existence of bots and algorithms ( maybe not actual robots yet but they are running hotels in Japan and are coming here soon, maybe to pick our fruit as well)
A social bot (also: socialbot or socbot) is a particular type of chatterbot that is employed in social media networks to automatically generate messages (e.g. tweets) or in general advocate certain ideas, support campaigns, and public relations either by acting as a “follower” or even as a fake account that gathers …
“There is a potential distortion of public communications and we want to get to the bottom of that. This amplification is of concern as it gives us a false sense of momentum behind certain ideas… If there is false amplification, how do we know if someone is genuine?”
The new evidence of botnet activity in the EU referendum raises serious questions. Not least did Twitter have any evidence as to who was behind the bots and were they aware of it at the time? Rather than creating outright fake news, the researchers said, the accounts worked to “amplify” existing memes, hyperpartisan news, and supportive media stories.Reassuringly they noted that the bots were often not as effective as real users at spreading messages – often dampening their impact by talking to and retweeting other bots, rather than reaching real users.
The new evidence of bot activity comes at a time of mounting concerns in the UK and US around campaigns of election interference. Possible influences have been quoted as Russia or so-called ‘dark money’ interests.i.e. other states or rich corporate backers influencing democratic processes for a specific aim such as lucrative contracts following electoral success.
Separately others have commented on the possible role such ‘dark money’ can bring an influence to bear on the EU referendum outcome. Other articles have revealed how the DUP took £435,000 to campaign for Brexit but refuse to reveal who gave them the cash. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of pounds are funnelled to political parties through loopholes which allow donor anonymity. We do not really know who is bankrolling British politics. The research findings also highlight similarities in the behaviour of suspected bots influencing Brexit with some of those noticed by US researchers and authorities in the run-up to Donald Trump’s election in 2016. These include amplifying messages from similar accounts connected to the alt-right, and even the pattern of deletion and removals.
So, bots and algorithms really do really exist outside the world of science fiction and are shaping public opinion. Add in to the mix teams of human operatives to interact with social media and ‘nudge’ public opinion then you have a powerful set of tools at your disposal in controlling opinions and possibly carrying out bigger processes like regime change and winning elections.
4. All out State repression of the population.
If media manipulation isn’t working the state can always fall back on sending in physical force. In the 80’s we saw this on a massive scale during the miners strike. Large numbers of police and some would argue soldiers too were mobilised and the usual protocols of officers wearing police numbers on the their uniforms was suspended.Notably at Orgreave where there are still calls for a proper enquiry of events there. Like all meaningful social history for the communities involved, the media tries to re-write it and make it go away.This analysis of the literature of the miners strike tells a different story.
Most recently though we see the Spanish State Police, the Guardia Civil, which is the oldest law enforcement agency in Spain used to repress a popular movement to vote to achieve independence in Catalonia. It is organised as a military force charged with police duties under the authority of both the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defence and on the 2nd October they lined up on the streets of Barcelona to attack Catalan Fire and rescue officers who were trying to protect voters.
The answer to state violence can only ever be non violent resistance.People in Catalonia provide a modern-day example of how to do this extremely effectively. Martin Luther King was arguably the greatest advocate of non violent resistance after Ghandi in India. The civil rights movement in the USA ‘faced down the man’ over many years and won against apparently impossible odds. The tactic in Catalonia has always been to flood the streets with people even to the extent of immobilizing the Guardia Civil headquarters by sheer numbers of people.
Behind this however lies a more fundamental level of people power.Not just weight of numbers but meticulous organisation at a grassroots level.The smartphone and mobile technology became a tool for non-violent resistance in a very new way enabling the co-ordination of opening polling stations amidst a very hostile environment. In Catalonia’s case resistance was not futile in the face of state violence it was very effective.
We need not accept the bleak dystopic future of science fiction films and novels. The future is unwritten and there are many ways to change it.-
Motivation is an impulse that causes people to act. Its an internal process that makes us move towards a goal. Trouble is we have to set that goal first and believe in it strongly.The eye has to be firmly on the prize or the goal will not be realised. We can’t observe motivation we can only infer it from someone’s behaviour. In Scotland we can be said to suffer from a ‘cringe’ not universally but there is a cultural norm that pulls us back. Looking at the optimist /pessimist divide how are we placed? When you see this image what do you see?
OPPORTUNITY IS NOWHERE
A postive attitude ( more on that another time perhaps) does make all the difference.Our perceptions lock on to some things then they cannot be unseen.Thinking outside of the box it reads ‘Opportunity is now here’ for me. I must be an optimist!
Back to motivation. Theories of motivation describe how people react to reduce their needs and maintain a constant physiological state such as eating to stay in a state of balance or homeostasis.These theories fail to make sense of why some people can starve themselves for political causes despite extreme hunger, so there is more going on in terms of what motivates us.
In 1939 Mahatma Ghandi went on a fast for peace for 5 days and brought about a reconciliation during the process of Indian and Pakistani independence.His motivation was affecting peoples behaviour and stopping political violence. The opposite is also true, people who have eaten enough often continue eating when they are no longer hungry! As human beings we are often motivated by external factors not just basic drives like hunger. If you are trying to diet you might be hungry but will eat a salad instead of a full Scottish breakfast if your motivation is strong.If your motivation is weak you will be in a Macdonald’s drive in before you even get home from work.
Motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic is when you are motivated to act for the sake of it. I write these blogs because I enjoy writing and get pleasure from thinking them through to a conclusion.Intrinsic motivation can be very powerful. Like Ghandi’s fast, he did it for himself and to achieve a higher purpose of bringing about peace.
Extrinsic motivation on the other hand is the motivation to work for external rewards.If I was writing this blog for payment , fame, a competition or other award. This is where ‘incentives’ come in.
Austerity is preventing people, families and children achieving self actualisation. Put simply, people are being stopped from being all they can be. Living in such a divided society where there is a growing gap in educational attainment the poor really do stay poor and the rich really do get more rich.
So how does austerity and government welfare reform activity affect our motivation and our ability to interact with the world we live in? In the 70’s psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that people were motivated by a hierarchy of needs. There were 4 levels in his theory and achieving each level dependent on achieving and sustaining each successive layer.
In a society where significant numbers of people struggle to keep their families fed it is clear that people are not going to ‘self actualise’. Families in work on tax credits have been struggling to get enough money to pay for school uniforms. 6 weeks of school holidays will have put a strain on family budgets because children do not get get school meals out of term time. If you have very little money you cannot afford proper holidays or outings for your children. Failing to achieve all of these things will prevent you from having feelings of belonging. The Child Poverty Action Group have been around for a number of years and have studied the steady growth in child poverty .
More than one in four (260,000) of Scotland’s children are officially recognised as living in poverty, compared to 22% (220,000) in 2014/15. This is a level significantly higher than in many other European countries . The recent increase in child poverty is in-keeping with independent modelling by the Institute for Fiscal studies (IFS) which forecasts an increase of more than 50% in the proportion of children living in poverty in the UK by 2020/21.This would reverse most of the fall in child poverty observed in the UK since the late 1990’s.
Maslow believed that people only pay attention to higher needs when all of the lower needs are satisfied.On that basis we can deduce that austerity is a deliberate policy of keeping people ‘in their place’. As well as being poorly thought out public policy it can also be seen as a kind of deliberate form of democratic exclusion. Keep people on the lowest rung of the ladder and they will never achieve the motivation to challenge the state for putting them there in the first place.
This is why must oppose austerity, not simply because of the human misery it causes but because of the human development it prevents. When there are elections and we have had a few recently, people have to work very hard to engage voters in the most disadvantaged areas.Voting turnout is often very low. Maslow’s theory turns out to be a good indicator of voter turn out.
It is only by motivating people on the intrinsic level that for a time we can short circuit this. One of the biggest social problems in society is social isolation. People are not as connected as they once were.It is so bad some GP surgeries are buckling under the pressure of people going to the Doctor with nothing wrong with them but loneliness.
In his novel Slapstick or Lonesome No More the author proposed a world where loneliness would be eradicated. It is a science fiction novel by American author Kurt Vonnegut. Written in 1976, it depicts Vonnegut’s views of loneliness, both on an individual and social scale.
Everyone would have a family in every city and never be lonely wherever they travelled. Loneliness is a big factor in ill health in Scotland and many places across the world. This lack of ‘connection’ is killing people and austerity holding back hundreds of thousands of people from being all they can be.
Developing Maslow’s theory people looked at what happens if you achieve self actualisation. What if you achieve self fulfilment and personal growth. This is a luxury many of us take for granted. It is proposed that a stage beyond this is ‘transcendence’ or helping others to achieve self actualisation. We can ‘think differently’ if we become more aware of the way our own psychology affects us. Literally not being aware causes us to hold ourselves back. That my friends is why I write these blogs and support people to question what is wrong in the world and raise awareness of what is ahead of us.
I have never hugged a tree in my life in case you get any ideas.
We all know of the very obvious examples of media manipulation or getting people to believe something that just is not true. Political history is full of examples of this, some written into political history like Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ which coined the phrase-
‘the ends justify the means’.
Or in more recent history, Joseph Goebells in Nazi Germany who stated ,
‘ A lie told once remains a lie but lie told a thousand times becomes the truth’.
The role of the mass media in perpetuating untruths has also been apparent for years and powerful in influencing popular belief.
For example many people believe that lemmings, the small vole like rodents ,were prone to mass suicide by jumping from cliff tops. Nothing could be further from the truth but Walt Disney portrayed their behaviour that way in an oscar winning documentary “White Wilderness’ made in 1958.
So enduring was the myth that many people still believe it to be true and ‘like lemmings off a cliff’ has entered our language .
In the same vein TV has become a powerful force in shaping beliefs. Each year we endure a ‘April Fool’s day’, when the press and TV try to very publicly pull a prank on the public.
Back in 1957, Richard Dimbleby no less, pulled a hoax BBC Panorama programme about the ‘spaghetti harvests’ in Italy where people were seen pulling strings of spaghetti from trees. At that time if you asked where you could buy olive oil, you would be told to go to the chemist, so you can imagine how some people may have been taken in by it.
Why do we fall for it?
What is less known is what makes us believe wrong information or believe propaganda and lies? What goes in inside our brain when we choose one side of an argument over another? In this article we hope to explore this and try to gain a greater understanding of the unconscious influence over our own thought process and how this can be manipulated.
We human beings don’t always make good decisions. Our rational judgment is influenced not only by our passions and emotions but also by built-in biases such as overconfidence in our own abilities. Another big factor in the quality of decisions is whether a decision involves a group.
Group dynamics can lead otherwise sensible individuals to make (or agree to) decisions they might not come to on their own. By conforming to a group many people will go along with the group view regardless of what they themselves might think as individuals.
Psychologist Solomon Asch showed how powerful this could be asking people to pick which of three lines was the same as another line. Nearly every subject chose correctly when choosing alone but when subjects were put into groups, with planted ‘confederates’ instructed to pick the wrong lines, people chose the wrong line through conformity with the group.
So what happens when we make a choice and get confronted with contradictory information?
To answer questions about how we make and live with decisions we need to go deeper into the world of cognitive psychology.
We need to think of our minds like a giant iceberg.
This field of psychology tells us that only about 10% of the tip is out of the water so to speak. This conscious mind has information that is always available to us. It is our day to day decision making and it is where we think logically.
Going deeper,below the surface another 50% is made up of the subconscious mind where our habits, beliefs and feelings and recent memories are stored. Although we have our recurring thoughts, here we have to ‘dig’ to retrieve or access the information.
Deeper still is our unconscious mind where the remaining 40% of what makes up our mind exists. As well as being made up of the functions that occur automatically like breathing, we also have deeper memories stored here. These may be about traumatic events, it could be about phobias that we have but the point is that all of this information is ‘hidden’ from us and is very resistant to change.
However it is important to know that people can ‘re-learn’ about phobias and past trauma and store ‘over-riding’ information in the other two areas of the mind. This is how people can bring about positive change in their lives. We in effect can re-write past trauma.
When we make a decision like a consumer choice our minds creates a new ‘significance’ and parts of our minds without us being aware of it seeks out supporting information.
For example if you bought a car that had a certain make and colour you really liked you will start to notice immediately all the other cars on the road with similar make and colour almost overnight. Your brain will have sought out information to support your choice and you didn’t even have to think about it. Alternatively you can ask yourself how many red cars did you see today on the way to work? Then ask the same question tomorrow, your brain will have noticed a whole lot more red cars.
What else can our brains do we do not realise?
We have all seen those posts on social media with only the first and last letters of words in a sentence being correct. Somehow we are all able to read it and understand. Like this:
I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.
Our minds are indeed powerful and can do thousands of different tasks without us being aware of what is making us tick.
The act of picking up your mug of tea or coffee involves thousands of cues and calculations involving feedback from sensors in our fingers and hands, our arm movements, our eyes and our nose. Is it going to burn my lips?
We do it effortlessly and without thought. We make a choice to make the cup of tea but our mind takes over and our behaviour kicks in.
How this information about how we think is applied by corporations selling us goods and media oultlets providing us news becomes very significant.
We like to think we are all free agents and are constantly making rational decisions but are we? Marketing and advertising companies use an understanding of brain functioning to sell us everything from sweet fizzy drinks to motor cars.
In the world of media marketing the repetition of information like familiar brand names gets a range of messages across. Some of the longest tuning adverts in history have been from the biggest corporations who spend millions of dollars creating and maintaining their brands.Coca-Cola can even claim to have shaped the worlds view of Santa Claus.
The same is true in the world of news and mass communication. How can improving our understanding of basic psychology improve our understanding of complex mass media in our day to day living? Since the days Joseph Goebells made his comments ; ‘ A lie told once remains a lie but lie told a thousand times becomes the truth’. There have been many attempts by novelists and film makers to capture this sense of manipulation of our free will. George Orwell’s 1984 gave us a dystopian view of a possible future now past and some might say has come true in parts. In the novel the media and the state are one in the same. Citizens were encouraged to engage in a daily ‘5 minutes hate’ of the enemies of Big Brother, aka the state.
Alduos Huxley’s Brave New World was conceived at a time when Psychology was obsessed with behavioural conditioning and his Brave New World portrayed a world of reproductive technology, sleep-learning and the calming of human emotions through state controlled drugs ( soma) therapy. All of this was probably a result of the fear of Communism and Fascism in equal measure on the part of the authors. But it is a recurring theme for writers with such similar dystopian literary efforts such as the Hunger Games.
Given what we know about our minds to unconsciously ‘seek out’ information ,there is one more important psychological concept which is key to explaining our decision making behaviour and how mass media organisations can manipulate our decision making behaviours.
When we decide on something like continuing to smoke cigarettes we are confronted with contradictory information saying smoking is bad for us. This creates a ‘dissonance’ or imbalance that we will strive to put back into balance.
So as a smoker you would probably try to rationalise by putting counter information against this ‘bad’ information you are confronted with. Such as: ‘everyone is going to die sometime’ or ‘ I can stop anytime I want but just not now’ etc. We make the ‘dissonance’ less uncomfortable.
There is an environmentalist conflict here-
A more common example of cognitive dissonance occurs in the purchasing decisions we make on a regular basis. Most people want to hold the belief that they make good choices. That is where advertising comes in. Companies actively use this information safe in the knowledge that when we make a consumer choice our minds are actively searching for information to support that choice. Advertising campaigns are only too happy to provide it.
The same is also true about modern day mass media, press and television. Let’s look at two big choices people made in the last 3-4 years.One of these was over Scottish Independence in 2014 and the other was the EU referendum on leaving or remaining the European Union in 2016.The thing about a refurendum is that they polarise results in terms of Yes or No , Leave or Remain. As such they are a perfect example of ‘dissonance’ creation and resisting change to a core belief.
Depending on your viewpoint the role of the media and the state,( Mr Rupert Murdoch does regularly meet successive Prime ministers) has been to support the result of both plebiscites. Following the Independence vote in Scotland there has been a steady stream of press and television media stories to support voters decisions to vote No and thus reduce their dissonance when confronted with any contradictory information. Parties favouring independence do not hold much sway in controlling media outlets so the flow of ‘dissonance’ reducing information is pretty much one-way.So stories that undermined the parties that stood for a Yes vote and stories that played down or actively undermined any successful Scottish Government initiatives would help to sustain and consolidate future No voters in other subsequent referendum despite any contradictory information. If you were a Yes voter the impact of this might also be to place doubts in your mind about the ability of Scotland being able to govern itself for example. All of this is perhaps more of a moot point in terms of an independence referendum as the whole process seems to be a holding pattern since 2014 and it’s looking to be landed again around 2019.
When you apply the same thinking to the Brexit vote the psychological principles look much more challenging for the mass media. It is looking increasing like the ideas sold to the public during the campaign are unravelling on a daily basis; the likely impact on the fishing industry; the huge cost of Brexit which the government seems to willing to pay not holding to the promise to pay money directly into the NHS; the length of time the whole process will take and the daily stories that just seem to pop up everywhere raising doubts about the value of Brexit and way the whole process has been handled by senior politicians. By contrast the media seems confused by the process and while it is still trying desperately to stick with the line ‘the UK is leaving the EU’ the contradictory information is really stacking up against such a move. Those people who voted to leave included people who were going up to EU citizens the day after the vote saying to them ‘have you not left yet?’ Not every ‘leave’ voter had such extreme views but the ‘dissonance’ they all must be collectively feeling just now must be very difficult to rationalise and ‘get back into harmony’.
A healthy mind is an open mind.
Media manipulation is not inevitable. We do not have to accept the diet of ‘fake news’ we are being fed and more and more people across the world are actively doing something about it.
The new millennium has seen the rise and rapid global spread of what can fairly be called a new democratic institution, the independent political fact-checker. The first organisations dedicated to publicly evaluating the truth of political claims appeared in the United States in the early 2000s, anchoring what would become a staple of political reporting practised by nearly every major US news outlet. Over the past decade, meanwhile, independent fact-checkers have emerged in more than 50 countries spanning every continent. According to the most reliable global count, 113 such groups are active today. More than 90% were established since 2010; about 50 launched in the past two years alone.
Just like when we buy a new car and wake up the next day and suddenly notice all those similar cars we get a warm feeling of comfort in having made the right choice.We can also make a new ‘significance’ for any of our hopes and dreams by having a strong picture and feeling about what we aspire to in our minds.We can put it there ourselves and it can become our ‘prize’ that we strive to achieve.Our minds will dutifully assist by gathering up all the worthwhile information we need to achieve it if we make it strong enough. So whatever your ‘prize’ is, keep your minds eye on it.
This was ‘Wee Geordie’s prize‘ hope you get yours.
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