Dave Snowden

CASinGov 2: being & believing

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When I said that this series would be two or more posts I don't think I realised what I was getting myself into, so I have created a sort of hashtag aspect to the title that I will retrofit and use in future to aid search.  I have a paper from Peter Ho given at a Future of Government conference earlier this year to respond to, thoughts from discussions in Adelaide and elsewhere about how complexity theory should inform the electoral process and various other subjects to discuss.  My aim is to pick them all up over the holiday period so when I repeat the WAO event in January I have more supporting material.

These posts will meet or exceed my normal eclectic style by the way, as context is all!  So expect some anecdotal introductions and diversions starting with today, when I had a meeting with Peter about software development, and with Peter and Julia about a lot of interesting issues.  The location was equidistant from our homes, to-wit the Green Dragon; one of the best pubs in the Cotswolds and consistently so for two decades now. &nbnbsp;Aside from having good food, well kept beer and a wonderful ambiance its furniture has a link to my past with the mouse brand on all the bar stools.

On the drive up the pub , and the subsequent prolonged, but scenic drive to Swansea through the flooded valley of the River Severn I was listening the the the unabridged 41 hour long audiobook of Anna Karenina. I'm refreshing my memories before I see the film as I have a nasty feel that will focus on the anti-romanticism of Anna rather than the wider social aspects of the novel.  This refresh will inform my anticipated righteous indignation when I get to the film.  I had reached the stage where Konstantin, a proxy for Tolstoy is dealing with the various issues associated with attempt to move his former serfs into the use of modern agricultural techniques and starting to debate issues of democracy and ownership. So that started todays train of thought, namely the difference between where people are, and where, according to their leaders, agitators, idealists, ideologues etc. they should be.

Now back in the 70s when I was a student activist there was a simple tacit assumption in the Broad Left (the group to which I belonged) that the price of political influence was the provision of bread and circuses.  Something the Roman Emperors understood well.  If you looked after the basics of student welfare, social & sporting clubs and entertainment then in general people would go along with your politics.   Yes at times of great stress (the glorious occupation of Bailrigg in 1975 for example) the wider community would be politicised but on a day to day basis ideology was met with indifference or inertia.

We see aspects of this in modern elections.  Phrases such as its the economy stupid indicate the reality that we more often vote against something which dissatisfies us in the immediate past than for something that might satisfy others in the future.  Now I think there are consequences for this in the way we have come to believe that no one has a democratic mandate unless they were directly elected.  The US constitution originally saw the office of president to be subject to he demagogy of a popular ballot and proposed an (elected) group that would make the selection on more considered grounds.   Electoral indifference to European Elections in the UK means that extreme fascist groups can gain a foothold in the electoral process.  We also had an all time low turn out in the recent elections for police commissions – I voted but spoilt my ballot in protest against the politicisation of the British Police.

So where does this take us on the idea that complexity theory has something to say about Government?  I think, and here I move away from a political position that I have held for most of my life, and my family for longer; to an emphasis on self-organisating communities as a means to handle better cultural cohesion, more effective use of limited funds and above all more engagement with politics.   Now while it is a move away from a political position, I think it is more of an adaptation of a more important set of political principles to a modern context.   Complexity teaches us that connectivity determines emergence and that, along with a whole bunch of research on empathy, clearly demonstrates that we are social creatures not atomistic units of selfishness.  Social obligation within peer groups modifies behaviour and knowledge of a person acquired over time through multiple interactions has more value that reading a manifesto or (God help us) listening to a choreographed television date or the regurgitation of soundbites.

Ironically most members of the Tea Party are socialist in their community practice regardless of their national posturing.  People of good will co-operate across the political divide at a local level something that is not feasible at a national level.  All of that means that the level of constraint and clustering of social interaction is key.  So the questions, for a future post, is what sort of level of clustering do we seek and how to we link and connect the clusters?  How can we create a constrain structure which allows the right degrees of freedom, while providing for service provision that can only be achieved on a national or transnational basis? 

In effect, as the title of this post states their is a gap between the act of being and the nature of belief that is reflected in politics as well as in other aspects of our lives.  I want to argue in future posts that this is a dialectic not a dichotomy, a paradox not a dilemma.  Understanding and resolving that difference is a matter of changing process and also education, but that is for future posts.  One final thought, inspired by Tolstoy; what do we do when the serfs do not want the freedoms we thing they should desire?

 

 

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