I will protest.

As long as men and women look to medieval texts for guidance, as long as men who hold the keys to nuclear weapons and pray to god for guidance, as long as women are considered second class citizens in public and social and church life, as long as gay men and women suffer abuse discrimination and sometimes death, as long as religions hold onto their wealth, as long as church leaders promulgate their way as the only one true faith, as long as evolution is seen as equal to creationism instead of it’s superior, as long as faith is placed in god to put right the wrongs of the world instead of looking to our own part in inequalities, war and inhumanity, I will protest.

We can accommodate difference in belief, we can work out universal values and universal goals around which we can rally. As long as look to ourselves and not abrogate our moral responsibilities to supernatural beings, beings whose nature is not even agreed by those who claim belief.

meet christians online ?

See:http://tinyurl.com/onlinechristians    Of course, christians have a right like anybody else to set up a dating website for like minded individuals. And yes I am being pedantic now with this comment. However, on the one hand they state that ‘delighting in the Lord’ results in your desires being met:

 

“Psalms 37:4 states: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the Desires of your Heart.” Meet Christians was created in order to fulfill this promise”

…and on the other hand tacitly admit that the Lord is pretty useless in this regard and needs the help of geeks.

So which is it? ‘Delighting in the Lord and he will do it’ or use a website so that you do it like the rest of mere mortals.? Is that psalm mere metaphor then,  and not to be taken literally, coz if it is literal why put faith in a website when delighting in the Lord will do? if it is not literal and is mere metaphor what else in the Bible can be taken to be metaphor and what is literal? Who decides which is which?

Just a thought. Maybe the Bible is a pick and mix text, choose the bits you like as ‘gospel’ and those you don’t as ‘metaphor’ and not to be taken literally. God’s word or mans’s, then?

On Intellectual Craftsmanship (Mills 1959)

On Intellectual Craftsmanship  (Mills 1959)

In the appendix to ‘The Sociological Imagination’ Mills outlines his view on ‘doing’ social science in which he suggests that ‘Scholarship’ (scholarship is writing) is more important for the social scientist than empirical research (the ‘mere sorting out of facts and disagreements about facts’). Mills’ critique of abstract empricism contained in ‘The Sociological Imagination’ is that argument made manifest. Rules of method and arguments on methodological procedures and validity are just so much navel gazing which Mills wished to avoid if he could possibly do so, (“Now I do not like to do empirical work if I can possibly avoid it” p205). The task of social science is thus to critically engage in the real world, joining personal experience and intellectual life through critical reflective reason as the ‘advance guard in any field of learning’ (p205).

Justification for the ‘discovery of facts’ may be founded on its usefulness for policy. However, empirical research does not take place within a political vacuum and it would be a mistake to see the relationship of research to policy as a simple linear relationship. The purist model of ‘research-policy relationships’ (Booth 1988) which takes for granted that research informs policy action by generating knowledge or the problem solving model whereby research is driven by the need for a policy answer do not adequately describe the process and in Mills’ understanding would be  far too narrow a focus for scholarship. An enlightenment model emphasises the role research plays in framing ideas while acknowledging that the relationship between research and policy is nuanced, and that research creeps into action through ‘osmosis’ over time. Research merges with other forms of knowledge as policy action accretes. This however under acknowledges the political dimensions of research-policy whereby ideology shapes research questions, methods and interpretations, application and what types of evidence is accepted (Carlisle 2001). Research and policy then is a political activity. Mills in arguing for craftsmanship in intellectual life implicitly acknowledges (in the Sociological Imagination) the need to go beyond simple empirical knowledge in forming policy action when he enjoins social scientists in a political and intellectual task to clarify the contemporary causes of uneasiness and indifference (p13) to personal troubles and public issues. The social scientist is not to merely describe the contemporary elements of social life but to engage. 

The use of the word ‘craft’ (undefined by Mills) appears here to differentiate the activity from that of (mere?) mastery of elaborate discussions of research method and ‘theory-in-general’, which would quickly make one “impatient and weary” (p195). A craft suggests development of skill by diligent constant practice, honing one’s technique by reference to finished products and products in the process of being to evaluate their flaws and strengths and then adjust accordingly. This is reflexive practice in that the work as it continues is being constantly worked and reworked as required. It suggests leaps of imagination and intuitive thinking and practice in the creation of a project. It calls for a departure from strict adherence to a rigid structure of routines, methods and frameworks. It also suggests a measure of artistry in thinking.

The (scholarly) craftsman is his work as his craft develops alongside who he is. Scholarly craftsmanship then is a state of being not only doing,  “Scholarship is a choice of how to live as well as a choice of career” (p196). When Mills states that “admirable thinkers…do not split their work from their lives” (p195), he preconceives notions of lifelong learning that are to follow. Nursing practice (if it were to take this concept on board) may then have to consider a break away from a  wage based employee model (where a nurse works for 37.5 hours per week) to a salaried professional/intellectual model whereupon the nurse would continue to critically reflect on issues pertinent to speciality and patient group outside of NHS contracted hours. Given the current context of the NHS and clinical practice this seems highly unlikely for clinically based nurses.

To undertake this craft he asks students and social scientists to keep a journal to enable the development of the intellectual life, of the craftsmanship of social science. This should consist of ideas, personal notes, excerpts from books, bibliographical items and outlines of projects. He suggests that journals should record ‘fringe thoughts’, snatches of conversation and even dreams. This will also include the taking of copious notes from books and this needs developing into a habit. However the reading of whole books is not necessary but the reading of parts of many books is.

Since Mills outlined notes on journal keeping there has been the explosion onto the scene of information technologies, elearning and web 2.0. These are now new tools that were unavailable to Mills. However the essential nature of scholarly activity should not be lost in any infatuation with new technologies, rather these gateway technologies (for example the ipad) could facilitate critical enquiry and journal keeping.

Mills’ work thus calls for the development of scholarship as a core intellectual activity. Scholarship within nursing is under threat both in practice and in Universities (Morrall 2010, Goodman 2011, Shields et al 2011). There is a need to rediscover it.

I am my own God, thank you.

As much as I hesitate to prick phantasmagorical bubbles, and as much as I accept that metaphor and myth provide emotional comfort, I prefer to see the world as it probably is and thus am forced to look inside for any influences.

Feeling that something is watching over us with a benevolent eye is psycho-physiologically based delusion, is logically and empirically misguided. You’d be better off ditching the someone watching over me myth and looking to your own inner strengths that are the real reasons for success (and failures). The natural world is capricious and does not give a stuff about any of its life forms that momentarily transit the earth’s surface. If we survive at all it is down to a huge slice of luck (try being born in India where the under 5 mortality rate means getting to your first birthday is an achievement) as well as our own petty judgments.
‘Feeling’ something cares (almost a theist position) probably results from the interplay between our psycho-social conditioning and physiology. Under times of emotional and physical stress (I dont mean just worry) a rush of chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters flush around the system): Dopamine, Seratonin, Oxytocin, Corticsoteriods…these not only have physical (flight or fight responses) effects but psycho-dynamic effects. They make you feel different and you actually may hear and see things as well. Try taking LSD for a similar effect.
This is one reason many cultures take entheogens (chemicals) that enhance spritual experiences. It is very possible that during a ‘spiritual’ experience a combination of blood chemisty and our state of mind combined to give us these feelings. That is one plausable reason rather than there actually being a powerful force up there watching. Further, if this watcher is up there and acted benevolently this time, why not all the other myriad times and why not to all the other humans on the planet? This force is a bit picky to say the least, in fact if this was a man doing the choosing whom to support, you would call him a capricious, callous bastard for playing with our emotions like this while letting billions suffer and die while they are feeling no emotional support whatsoever. So to accept that this force has any benevolence is stretching it a bit to say the least.
To feel that the universe is at all interested in the affairs of any particular biped who, lets face it, has been around in cosmological time not very long at all (and that as you know is a serious understatement) is a comforting myth. Erich Fromm postulated that humanity has 5 essential needs, one of which is the need for transcendence. Because we have self awareness, imagination and reason we know of our existence and of our death, so there is a need to transcend this knowledge in order to deal with the fact of existence. He also postulated that we have need for a frame of orientation and devotion. In our infantile stages of human development (pre scientific) we looked to myths and gods to supply us with that frame of orientation and devotion. We have grown up and past that now, and we have the wonders of scientific discovery and the knowledge of the cosmos to provide that sense of devotion and orientation to the world. So, art is part of science as well!

How the cosmos actually operates is still a wonder and it is certainly true that not all phenomenon can be measured, described and conceptualised adequately. Subjective human experience is often down to the body’s physiological response and natural entheogens. This experience has been happening across cultures, across time, it is none the less real for all that. In any case, spiritual experience is very real, empirically existing for the one experiencing it and thus has inner meaning.  Spiritual experiences do not have to go on to onto make outlandish claims about a theist ‘God’ In philosophical terms, deism is enough, something quite quite different to theism as deism is not incompoatable at all with scientific reasoning or philosophical discourse. Theism on the other hand, with its bastard son religion, is a throw back to earlier infantile, partial, myopic, ignorant world views indulged in by the philosophically insane.
“I am not the messiah, I am a very naughty boy”

Mad? Me?

A sane society?

 

The Economist (see below) reports a study which suggests that a sizeable minority of Europeans experienced a form of mental disorder in 2010. The most common complaint was depression (30m people or 6.9%). Notwithstanding difficulties with diagnosis (when is depression just rational ‘sadness’?), or the observation that the majority (62%)  did not report/get diagnosed with any mental disorder, this phenomenon is worth considering. If we add to that figure the number of suicides, homocides, and deaths due to road traffic accidents (i.e. deaths not related to biological causes) then we have a mounting toll of human misery. Lets also put aside for a moment the mounting burden of the physiological diseases of affluence (diabetes for example) which are of course social in origin. 

 

The experience of mental disorder for individuals can be extremely painful, even causing death. ‘Madness’ for them is not a social construct, it is experienced within themselves as individuals, it is very real. This fact has to be acknowledged. Empirically there is a congruence between traditional ideas of locating madness within individuals and the individuals experience of it. The point here however is that we need to go beyond this conception of madness to confront the issue of social madness – the ‘pathology of normalcy’. It may be that individuals struggle to maintain sanity in the midst of insane societies, and that the ‘normal’ functioning of society is actually pathological.

Again we return to a paradox oft mentioned. Life expectancy has never been higher and GDP has increased enormously (notwithstanding the recent dip following the financial crash of 2008), infant mortality and maternal mortality is largely under control (in the Rich world) and we have defeated (but not eradicated) many infectious diseases. Yet many of us are unhappy and unhealthy. 

 

Why?

 

Psychiatrists and psychologists often seek answers in the individual. Either the cause of mental disturbance is biologically based (chemical imbalances, tumors) or there is a cognitive or affective dysfunction. The answer is to discover what is the cause within the individual and then with the use of surgery, drugs or a talking therapy, correct the dysfunction. Not all locate causes with individuals, occasionally dysfunctional relationships (usually family relationships) are addressed as if not directly causative then at least as antecedents. However this view and that of the ‘Radical Psychiatrists’ such as Thomas Szasz were outliers to the dominant paradigm of psychiatry. 

 

While this is still a reasonable approach to those experiencing very real suffering, it is a partial understanding of sanity.

 

It is reasonable to ask the question who is actually “mad” here?  ‘Normal’ men were responsible for killing probably over 100,000,000 of their ‘normal’ brethren in the last century. ‘Normal’ men planned mutually assured destruction of millions in nuclear war, ‘normal’ men recently sent armies into foreign countries resulting in many thousands of civilian deaths. And yes, it is usually men who plan, send others, and carry out the killing and maiming. ‘Normal’ men in testosterone fuelled frenzies, armed with clever mathematics, and a disregard for the welfare of society, gambled on financial markets and lost. Correction, civil society lost, many of these ‘masters of the universe’ simply (oliver like) asked for ‘more’ as they held out their begging bowls. ‘Normal’ men are sanguine (if not happy) to allow unemployment to rise, houses to be repossessed, healthcare to be inaccessible, health inequalities to continue, because to do otherwise would upset the market and the demands of the bottom line. ‘Normal’ men have prostituted themselves to the idea of the sovereignty of economics, practicing an economics as if people did not matter. ‘Normal’ men design ever more sophisticated means to persuade other ‘normal’ men to buy stuff they did not know they needed, with money they have not got, to impress people they do not know. ‘Normal’ men designed, marketed and sold credit systems to people who would have difficulty paying the sums back in an attempt to correct insufficiency of demand as a result of the flatlining of wages across the developed world. 

 

Society is not sane. Perhaps in the face of this insanity it is normal to be mad? 

 

Erich Fromm presaged these issues in ‘The Sane Society’ (1956), in which he set forth universal criteria by which societies could be judged as sane or otherwise. His conclusion is that both communism and capitalism stifle the human essence and are thus insane societies. For Fromm the human situation stems from the nature of humanities existence in the world, he suggested that their is a universal ‘essence’ which could function as a yardstick for social progress, unlike Foucault who announced the ‘death of man’ (i.e. that there is no human ‘essence’). If we could identify a human essence this could be used as a criterion for mental health across all societies. 

Fromm suggested that this essence arises within a tension in the human condition between biological instincts and the non biological characteristics of self awareness, reason and imagination. These last three arise as humans are ‘freaks of nature’ aware (unlike animals) of their separation from nature and of their impending death. 

“The problem of man’s existence, then, is unique in the whole of nature: he has fallen out of nature, as it were, and is still in it; he is partly divine, partly animal; partly infinite, partly finite. The necessity to find ever new solutions for the contradictions in his existence, to find ever higher forms of unity with nature, his fellow men and himself, is the source of all psychic forces which motivate man, all of his passions, affects and anxieties.” (p24).

The essential needs of man, which characterise his essence are:

  1. The need for relatedness with other living beings
  2. The need for transcendence, to rise above mere existence. 
  3. The need for rootedness, the ties between and within generations.
  4. The need for self identity.
  5. The need for a frame of orientation and devotion (religion is an infantile answer to this need that we have now outgrown. Well, some have).

Fromm is a visionary moralist, outlining the ideal essence of man and arguing that psychic tensions arise as a matter of the fact of his existence. Modern societies thwart the above 5 needs of human essence and thus divert physical and psychic energy required for the pacification of the struggle for existence,  and thus are sources for madness. 

From this perspective, mental health depends to some degree on individual factors (e.g. absence of brain tumours, functional families, healthy cognitive structures), but it is largely a question of what society makes possible. Mental health cannot be defined as the adjustment of the individual to society, rather it has to be defined in terms of the adjustment of society to the (above) needs of man:

‘mental health is characterized by the ability to love and create, by the emergence of incestuous ties to clan and soil, by a sense of identity based on one’s experience of self as the subject of one’s powers, by the grasp of reality inside and outside of ourselves, that is by the development of objectivity and reason’. (p67).

The depressed may experience ‘black dog’ days, however even those who go around grinning may be ‘mad’.

30m melancholics

Sep 7th 2011, 14:06 by The Economist online http://tinyurl.com/EUmentalhealth

A new study estimates the number of people with mental disorders in Europe

OVER 38% of all Europeans, or 165m people, suffered from a mental disorder in 2010, according to a new study published this week in European Neuropsychopharmacology. The authors, led by Professor Hans-Ullrich Wittchen of Technische Universität Dresden, analysed 27 conditions using data, studies and surveys for the 27 countries of the European Union, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The most common condition is depression. Over 30m people were affected by it, or 6.9% of the population. The second most frequent diagnosis is of specific phobias—such as of spiders. Those suffering from alcohol dependence are conservatively estimated at 14.6m, a considerably larger number than the 2.4m people with drug dependency issues (though some may suffer from both).

have they not seen “life of brian?”

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/874693-phones4u-jesus-advert-banned-for-mocking-christianity

Follow the above link to see the advert. Phones4U featured an advertisment featuring a cartoon jesus, winking giving a thumbs up with the tag line “Miraculous deals on samsung galaxy android phones”. According to the Metro, there were 100 complaints. Apparantly the ad was ‘direspectful’. Phones 4U apologised. The Advertising Standards Authority says the ad cannot be shown again. It is banned. yes, banned. After 100 complaints that is was disrepectful, yes, disrespectful.

Since when is ‘disrespect’ grounds for censorship? Since when does religion claim a right not to be disrespected? This is dangerous stuff. Are we so wary of causing any form of offence that we will now ban and kowtow to those minorities who have imaginary friends written about in medieval texts? Not that the number of complaints alone should be the sole criterion which necessarily results in censorship.

If one swapped Jesus for the Mohammed, the same level of disrespect would be turned into ‘grave offence’ no doubt, resulting in some fanatical imams threatening fatwahs. That however does still not give them the right ‘not to be offended’. I shall not here rehearse the arguments for freedom of expression in free societies. I shall merely point this out as an example perhaps of the direction we are heading.

Poverty in Cornwall

The Bishop of Truro is asking 9 supermarkets for boxes to be placed in their stores so that customers can donate food. This is supported by the county’s foodbank scheme.

According to Professor Townsend, poverty is defined as:

“Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities, and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or are at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies in which they belong”.

The government defines poverty as a family with two children living on less than £300 a week (BBC 2011). The Child Poverty Action group state that a measure of poverty is where household income is below 60 per cent of the median UK income after housing costs have been paid.

In June 2011 Cornwall council’s  Deprivation and Child Poverty report showed 19% (16,650) of under-16s living in poverty. Levels ranged from 2% in some areas to 58% on the Pengegon estate in Camborne.

Poverty therefore does not explain rioting, where are the street protests at this level of deprivation which equals that found elsewhere in the UK? This shows that simple cause-effect explanations for human behaviour are not adequate. Instead we must look to fuzzy analyses and solutions and come to understand that certain behaviours have different antecedents and require different tipping points. Poverty needs other variables which are not always measureable. Camborne as far as I know does not have a history of racial tension, police stop and search or gang culture. Neither does it have conspicious consumption and ostentatious privilege on show, the poorer areas do not sit cheek by jowl with Mansions. We would have to ask residents why they have not kicked up at this continuing level of disparity. Do they expect less? Have they internalised failure, are they ‘all in this together’?

Townsends definition perhaps illuminates. If poverty is experienced in relation to the ‘societies in which they belong’ then it may be posited that camborne society is sufficiently poor and cut off from privilege that residents do not feel excluded as they have little experience (apart from media projections) of social wealth? What protects camborne from looting? Poverty is certainly there but what is missing to turn this experience into social unrest?

Oh, by the way…donating food? In the UK ? Are we mad? What is it about society and people that we may think it necessary to donate food? Before you answer that, have you experienced living on 60% the median wage with two children for, say a year?

wish I had written this about the riots….

A more interesting angle would be to ask why, most of the time, people don’t riot and what’s changed now.
Poverty, absolute or relative, has existed ever since agrarian societies first created storable food surpluses and gained a hereditary structure of leadership. The second event probably being dependent on the first. Inequality is equally as old; I understand(?) that Britain currently has greater social inequality than at any time since the Edwardian period, but a comment referred to food riots of the 19th century, and the gulf between peasantry and nobility in the medieval period would have been unimaginable.
So if poverty isn’t necessarily the trigger, and nor is inequality, what’s left? The author’s focus on the emotions aroused by not having possessions so fetishised by society, and the driving impulse being to gratify such a longing, is a huge over simplification. The trigger is in fact the perception of legitimacy. It is insufficient that I don’t have stuff, or that I am conditioned to want the stuff I can’t have, or even that other people do have the stuff I want. The tipping point comes with the perception that not only do the wealthy not deserve their wealth, but firstly that they are lording it over others as if it were the only measure of their worth (and therefore other’s lack of worth); secondly that they generally have not earned it; and thirdly that they are employing deliberate tactics to maintain their relative advantage by engineering social, political and economic conditions whereby their wealth is made and protected not just at the expense of others, but also at the expense of any opportunity others might have to improve their situation.
Again some historical comparisons: throughout much of history the wealthy and powerful gained and maintained their wealth through direct force or threat thereof. Without the impartial rule of law the powerful could take what they wanted and keep it by preventing others from accumulating wealth, or from becoming powerful enough to present a threat to the established order. Under these circumstances, wealth is a zero-sum game, and in order to become rich, others must be made (and kept) poor. Alternatively, another “justification” for inequality was that the rich and powerful were just better people; in many cases anointed by God, made powerful by direct Divine intervention in the way of pre-revolutionary monarchs. More recently, inequality has been justified by the claim that wealth is just reward for talent and effort, and that the deserving and hard working will in turn be rewarded. This last undermines the resentment of the poor, and is an incredibly powerful force in the USA, if not Britain. Finally, in times of crisis it is possible to temporarily put aside the problem of unfair inequality with a rallying “were all in this together” attitude.
So do any these possible mechanisms of control still hold sway now? Clearly not, as evidenced by the wave of rioting. Social mobility is at it’s lowest for decades, the global financial crisis has adversely affected many people’s savings/job/pension/education and with it any hope of a better future. At the same time a ruling elite drawn almost exclusively from the nation’s top public schools; the cosy relationships between the political, financial and media sectors, and the rewards dished out to and the favours traded amongst them, clearly demonstrate that concepts of meritocracy and financial probity (not to mention legality) do not apply to those in power.
The masses have long since been disabused of the myth that the rich and powerful are better people. Merely in the last few years we have seen an MP’s expenses scandal; a major banking crisis triggered by development of financial instruments almost guaranteed directly to harm the poor, and a crisis in the print media which has highlighted the highly dubious nature of relationships between politicians, police and the press.
Additionally, the rescue of the financial system using taxpayer’s money without any reform of the system or indeed sanction against those that created the crisis. Which lead in turn to a destructive recession which, like all recessions, hit the poorest hardest, and increased social inequality. Whether one assumes that the people in charge were incompetent, corrupt or actually evil; it looks suspiciously as if the western capitalist system has been corrupted to the point that it has returned to a zero-sum game and the best way to make money is to take it from someone else.
Having undermined any sense of the “deserving” rich; finally destroyed the illusion of opportunity; clearly demonstrated that we aren’t all in this together; and made it impossible, in a world of imbecilic football millionaires, vacuous celebrities and the discovery that a surprising number of the great and good have their hand in the till at every opportunity, to argue that many of the wealthy are in any way worthy people. The only remaining means of justifying the economic subjugation of the majority is through the deployment of force, either physical or legal.
There have never been sufficient police to enforce authority against the will of the people, and in a democracy there never should be. The police exercise their authority through an accepted sense of shared legitimacy. Recent examples of incitement and entrapment to undermine legitimate protest, kettling and violence to the point of murder towards peaceful demonstrations, the continued racial issues associated with stop and search powers targeting young ethnic minority men, a huge increase in the number of criminal offences, and the exposure of bribe taking, corruption and collusion with the media powers have all served to undermine the legitimacy of the police and the law.
Without respect for law and the police, without a belief in opportunity, without an expectation that hard work will be rewarded, with an economic and political system which has strayed from democratic capitalism to kleptocracy, in a society where everything has been undermined except the value of money, and with clear evidence that those in power are not just in it for themselves, but are actively colluding against the majority with anti-competitive financial systems, economic exploitation and crony capitalism, is it any wonder that there are riots on the streets?
It is not that people are poor or disenfranchised and cannot participate in the commoditisation of existence; it is that they are being actively excluded from the only game in town. If there was a coherent political argument behind it there would be revolution on the streets, as it is there disorder and rioting without any political agenda. This has been used as a means to criticise the rioters, but any appreciation of all the above would leave the clear impression that the political game was fixed. In which case it’s hardly surprising that the rioters are refusing to play that game, and have retreated to the only course of action left to them; a (self)destructive nihilism. http://www.social-europe.eu/2011/08/the-london-riots-on-consumerism-coming-home-to-roost/

Back to Bush

Just when you thought it was safe in Obama’s hands, the climate science ball is being kicked into touch by most of the republican candidates for US president. Evan Bush (no relation) has outlined the candidate’s views recently stating that “of the front-runners, only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has gone on the record as accepting climate change; he stresses the importance of reducing pollution that contributes to global warming. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry take the opposite view, criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency, which Bachmann vows to shut down except for overseeing conservation”.

It has to be said that much of this is posturing (perhaps!) as the candidates have to appeal to an American public sceptical of big government (which the EPA represents), sceptical of evolution and of human induced (anthropogenic) climate change. It appears that far too many Americans would rather put their trust in God rather than climate science.

The candidates include Michele Bachmann who has called the science behind climate change “manufactured.” Evan Bush states that ‘she has vowed to lock the doors and shut the lights off at the EPA, except on conservation issues’. As iWatch News has reported, Rick Perry is no friend of the EPA. In an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, Perry said he prays for the President every day to “ask that his EPA back down these regulations that are causing businesses to hesitate to spend money.” Perry has also stated that he does not believe in manmade global warming (in this video) “there are substantial number of scientists that have been manipulating data,”

The other candidates are Ron Paul , Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. It is too early to say who is emerging as the presidential front runner but whoever runs they are probably going to give Obama a real challenge. This means we could see a White House occupant repeating the Bush approach of scepticism to climate science and government intervention on environmental issues.

Meanwhile in the UK the BMJ are hosting a conference in October (17th) on ‘The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change – How to secure our future wellbeing’.  This conference is borne of an unlikely alliance – between health leaders and military experts. Frustration at the slow progress in tackling the causes of climate change at national and international level led to a series of discussions and an editorial in the BMJ. An International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) report highlighted that the effects of climate change will present a threat to collective security and global order in the first half of the 21st century.

So while informed, scientifically literate professionals from various fields gather to address the very real and threatening issues, those who wish to see themselves as leaders of the free world are talking as if the work of Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking do not exist. Christopher Hitchins has argued that religion poisons everything’, well this may be a case of pandering to illiterate faith beliefs which are poisoning the ability to reason.

The end of democracy now!

No, this is not a call to end democratic politics but to acknowledge it’s demise. We must acknowledge our inability to control our affairs, our politics and our social policy. We have sleep walked into a situation whereby we have ceded power to unelected and barely accountable corporations and markets. The neoliberal state has become the bedfellow for undemocratic power. This is now happening across the globe. The triumph of corporate power exists despite the financial crash of 2008. Rather than pulling the edifice down, corporate power has succeeded in harnessing the resources of the state for it’s own purposes. Civil society has been silenced or ignored in the process.

The paradox is that while espousing ‘Free’ Market ideology (neoliberalism) which calls for the withering away of the state, corporate power has entailed state intervention on a scale that might make a Marxist blush. Resources and power have been transferred from individuals and civil society to a global elite whose only interest is profit and monopoly capital.

They peddle a false dichotomy of private sector = good, public sector = bad. This is ideology. There is no homogenous private sector, an examination of non government private sector organisations reveals a huge diversity: some highly efficient global corporations, SME’s close to their customers, financial institutions that nearly brought the economic house down, firms using sweatshops, exploiting child labour, firms making shoddy goods, down market cafes and restaurants serving unhealthy and unhygienic foods, building firms that never complete on time, media and satellite companies fighting to monopolise, polluting mineral extracting companies which have had little regard to environmental concerns…there is no such things as ‘the’ private sector about which generalisations about efficiency, quality and customer relations can be made.

In addition the line between the private and public sector is blurred as Corporations are now involved in the running of public services to such an extent that they are now involved in social policy with little involvement of the publics they serve.

So, the state, the Market and corporations form a triumvirate of power usurping the democratic power. The fourth voice of civil society is now urgently needed. We need to call to account, to harass and to investigate the misdeeds and greed of the other three voices. This is to thus acknowledge that in becoming consumers we have abrogated our responsibilities as citizens, and thus we will get the social and political policy we deserve unless we exercise our voices loudly. We must speak truth to power and do so before we are further impoverished and diminished as subject rather than sovereign citizens.

(Crouch, C. 2011. The strange non death of neoliberalism. Polity Press)