Astronomy, Catholicism & Plumbing.

Astronomers are mapping the stars, and the galaxies beyond them. Although it may become utilisable in the distant future, or may discover points of escalating interest (ex. Armageddon asteroids, aliens) in the short term, it is not practical nor essential like plumbing or farming. A lack of practical purpose however, does not mean it is unworthy of pursuit. It indicates to the community which supports this pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake, to rank the expenditure with other potentially useless investments, such as the military. Some researchers find it personally purposeful to inch precise instruments across the night sky, they find some pleasure witnessing the magnitude of the visible universe. Such pleasurable pursuits are extended beyond the community of researchers to the broader public via the mass media by shows like Cosmos, with much slower time-frames than sporting activities.

Mapping of the stars, supernova & other astronomical debris is no equivalent to practical industry from the perspective of democratic citizenry. Headlines, such as 40 000 000 Stars Mapped, are intended to loosen public purse strings but emphasize progress over pursuit. Farmers, plumbers and emergency services have a value which outstrips what is offered by astronomy (or the military). It may one day produce great value, as put forth with clarity by Mr. Stuhlinger. The link is to a piece of correspondence between a NASA director and a Christian sister.

That missive to the world, which is a contest for the faith of the multitude between two members of secular and sacred communities, keeps the ball rolling. If the ball, or to say it differently how we value our objectives, were to be the abolition of suffering, a Nietzschean perspective looms. Can the good can only be so, when there is suffering to mitigate? The affirmative answer is more Catholic than Christian, and has an equivalence in the Buddhist dogma of dukkha. Catholicism, which has an often wild and despicable history, has been a powerful ideology for millennia. Change was slow and suffering was a common thread to bind together a community (& to induce serfs to embrace their lot in life). How should this inform efforts to structure an understanding of modernity? Is the international community of tomorrow better united by the importance of suffering, or stargazing (or soldiering or shitting)?

Professional stargazers have reached a certain threshold in public awareness, the public figures of Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Brian Cox demonstrate this. As much as they champion values of the Enlightenment (tradition of criticism, egalitarianism) and the significance of their academic domain, they have been unable to challenge the supremacy of the public dollar. They, and less prestigious members of their faculty, produce headlines as steps in the paper chase.

When progress is measured by percentages of mapped sky, for an activity which is communally, although not personally, worthless in the immediate future, I would suggest astronomy is serving an ideological purpose. It is a mental support for Western citizens to conceive, secure & justify the international situation. So to say, our moral elitism (science & secularism) is why our nations are leading the world (by non-faith based measures), why they will continue to do so and validation of the global economic system which is the best measure & explanation of differences in life quality. Does anyone know how often religious-social elitism justified suppression of lower classes in the past? To justify the relative standards of material existence, signs of progress are need to alleviate guilt by reassurances that change is coming. This justification is emptying the inner worth of pursuing knowledge for it’s own sake.

A quote from Mr. Deutsch from the book ‘The Beginning of Infinity’;

“But then there is the philosophical magnitude of a cluster of galaxies. As I moved the cross-hairs to one nondescript galaxy after another, clicking at what I guessed to be the centre of each, some whimsical thoughts occurred to me. I wondered whether I would be the first and last human being ever to pay conscious attention to a particular galaxy. I was looking at the blurry object for only a few seconds, yet it might be laden with meaning for all I knew. It contains billions of planets. Each planet is a world. Each has its own unique history – sunrises and sunsets; storms, seasons; in some cases continents, oceans, earthquakes, rivers. Were any of those worlds inhabited? Were there astronomers there? Unless they were an exceedingly ancient, and advanced, civilization, those people would never have travelled outside their galaxy. So they would never have seen what it looked like from my perspective – though they might know from theory. Were any of them at that moment staring at the Milky Way, asking the same questions about us as I was about them? If so, then they were looking at our galaxy as it was when the most advanced forms of life on Earth were fish.”

These days, mathematical algorithms become computerised and a machine is substituted for the man (or woman), all to produce signs of progress. What’s the rush?

Community Supports Cash.

*The quote above is precisely my impression of Ayn Rand’s approach to economics, that wealth is to be torn from the context, the community, which generated it and proper context would refute calls for generic free-market reforms from that school of thought.
Money works because the society it exists within guarantees the practically worthless banknote is figuratively valued. This community guarantee entails an expectation of community circulation, mainly but not exclusively in the form of taxation. Since the earliest times, when farmhands were paid in tokens representing a share in the final harvest, an trade-able tokens of abstract value have been consistently produced in various epochs and areas.

Theoretical economic systems understate the role of the community in the creation, circulation and valuation of currency. Ayn Randism, or Objectivism, as well as other schools of thought, reject an obligation between a currency and the community in which it circulates. Sweat off the brow is represented by the value token, and any coercive attempt at seizure is unjust. A fairer approach than that taken by Russian communism, where everything belongs to the community but nothing belongs to the individual, or an aristocracy, where everything is a gift from the Divine via the royalty. Nonetheless, there has got to be a better way.

Monopolies naturally occur, and laissez-faire economics do not address the problems monopolies cause, such as unfair prices and unequal competition. The Objectivist conception of the heroic person pursuing their own productive, noble agenda under the auspice of reason is better fulfilled by a system which lessens difficulties of competition. Putting aside serious discussion of how to correctly dispense taxation, I reckon that the Objectivist conception of the meaning of life is better supported by a State with purview beyond the prevention of coercion.

This is my current perspective on the economic system, founded on the concept of an abstract, trade-able value token or object. Communal recognition of the token is an essential feature. Precisely what is then entailed is in constant flux as theory and reality shift with time. Community is an essential aspect of currency.

Some Ideas…

Road lights should have a triggering mechanism, which might act on the 1 kilmetre of road ahead. Especially remote and rural roads where there is little large wildlife, no strong winds (trees on the road), no flooding, no rockslides and similar. In Australia, and I imagine many, many other places, there are a lot of roads like that. It would reduce energy consumption and light pollution, which hurts insect biodiversity. If it is expensive to install, then it could be done when other roadworks are done. The technology already exists, pressure sensors at traffic lights or motion sensors, and would be simple to modify for this purpose.

 

Social support can be provided by a prison with the doors open. The security would protect the vulnerable. It would make it simpler to concentrate social support. It would provide a safe place for homeless to shower. It would be entirely ineffective at providing social support to remote & rural areas, there the tyranny of distance reigns. It could create a core for a secular community, as religious buildings are to religions. It would equalise social support somewhat, no special groups garnering greater goods, and could integrate into public transport.

 

There should be a government register which marks down politicians promises. If online, it could be extended to petitions. A media employee would be in regular contact with various media outlets, so that the public is regularly informed about the consistency of politicians.

Public Opinion, Soft Drink & Spectacle.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
Edward Bernays

Public opinion is the most popular opinion if a survey were administered and the top results collected. It does not require a logical explanation, a position held may be arrived at by different approachs. It is this public opinion which democratic institutions should define and apply. It is this public opinion which advertising firms seek to manipulate for private gain.

Public opinion is not entirely free, nor entirely national. Restrictions on free speech vary from false advertising, to inciting riots, to threats. International opinions are beyond any single nation, and Earth Day is a demonstration of public opinion unrestricted by national boundaries. Attention given to dissent varies in quality and quantity, and this feeds back into public attitudes about the current state of affairs.

This ‘invisible government’ is not as coherent as it may soiund. Public health government  departments and Coca-Cola advertisers both influence public behaviour and opinion in effectively opposite directions. It is an scary world where the best & brightest in this field are more likely found in a private company than public service. That is where they are though, for good or ill.

The competition for the public attention is where the Spectacle proper begins. NYC regulations of soft drinks began a Spectacle which reached Australian shores and for good cause, obesity is a major health problem here & there. A major public health problem, treated with socially supported medicine, the cost of which can be assisted by taxation on the billions of profits of soft drink companies.

The then mayor of  NYC, a city 50%+ obese, sought to regulate and moderate soft drink consumption. The anti-soft drink aspect of the Spectacle expressed itself in forms of newspaper stories, talk show segments and billboards displaying health messages. The pro-soft drink aspect of the Spectacle manifested in the same forms but also could draw on the Spectacle of the brand. Brands which advertise as though a tropical getaway were taken with each sip, or at least when you feel like a holiday, sip that feeling away. Truly there are soft drink brands which are international, and these brands won (by constitutional appeal that government exceeded it’s authority).

Ability to influence public opinion is found much more in the private pursuit of profit than in public service. This dynamic, of pursuing a fantastic representation for a wage, elevates the Spectacle beyond reality. A company is better known by advertising than by the real conditions, and in pursuit of a sale companies (Fair Trade Coffee) advertise the real conditions, as though your purchase is needed to validate decent working conditions. Coca-Cola is not the company which supplied a cocaine infused tonic to the public, it is not the company which drained drinking water in poor, rural India, Coca-Cola is the Spectacle manufactured by the marketing department. It is global. It is not going away soon. There has got to be a better way.

“The Indian parliament has banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in its cafeteria. Indian parliamentarians should take the logical next step, and ban the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in the entire country.

The ban came as the result of tests, including those by the Indian government, which found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos, in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. Some samples tested showed the presence of these toxins to be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union. Tests of samples taken from the US of the same drinks were found to be safe.” – source

Wages Contained.

This has been written about before, very succinctly with more technical data, and no doubt will again. But I do hope I do a better job than the wiki.

Laissez-faire capitalism has no link between people. Communism has no distinction between people. To apply the Buddhist principle of the middle path, the best economic system will not regard all people as identical nor as infinitely different in value. By the logic outlined above, I found an economic perspective.

Job droughts, mechanisation, computerisation, distribution of responsibility or wealth hidden by international organisations and other factors are of great concern to anyone with both a social conscience and an economic interest. These processes tend to percolate profit to the peak of the company. If a job can be automated or outsourced cheaply, it is done, then the profit is pocketed by those able to do so. It’s financially sensible, and it produces inequality in the global & domestic communities. Some discussion of this dynamic tends to reductio ad absurdum (no that’s not a spell from Hogwarts), the dynamic it is real and it does matter.

Global industry is the new norm, the cotton to garment production line is illustrative here. Perhaps picked in the land between the Middle East, Asia, Russia & Europe (Turkmenistan / Uzbekistan), shipped to Bangladesh for processing into garments, from there sent to the sale point, before finally being purchased by a consumer, who’s payment is the ultimate justification of the whole process. The fundamental underpinning of the global production & distribution process is the almighty dollary-doo (in various national representations), which shows the truth the old adage, ‘money makes the world go round’.

Upper management of the cotton industry is not united in organisation of the process, but it is the upper management who link the meta-process together. They do contribute value by this organisation. However, if one imagines removing various classes of worker from the cotton industry; picker, weaver, shipper, sales, CEO, etcetera, the removal of the uppermost management would see the organisation stagnate and make no changes, and many companies would ultimately fail, although would McDonalds fail without a CEO? The removal of other roles from the industry, from sewing or sales, would see no cotton clothing produced and no final sale. By this logic it is unreasonable that the profits are focussed upwards when considered from a perspective of functional worth.

A link between the wages of each class of worker in a single organisation, industry or nation, would act to restrict this dynamic. A CEO and the board of executives, in search of higher wages for themselves, couldn’t vote on it, but would be forced to improve the business as a whole. Large corporations naturally produce greater wage inequality than small business, and so this economic policy is an impediment to the powers of mega-bucks and a small boon to entrepreneurs. The same restriction across an industry would mean each purchase could be made with confidence about the quality of life of the people in the supply chain, by so doing universally distribute the moral value commercialised in such forms as Fair Trade Coffee. CEO & executive board pay should be limited by the dollar a day workers.

Finally the national limit, which is outside the linear processes outlined previously. Necessities come before luxuries, surely those who provide our vaccines, lunch and plumbing are more valuable to, and more relied upon by, the community. So if each dollar represents one value token to be honoured by any sale within that community, then with a national pay limit, the community will know those who provide the bare necessities will earn will even if others earn more despite less socially worthy work. Also, a national limit would see greater consistency in earnings, which in turn immediately leads to the Tax Office seeing a slim increase from each worker, enabling easier budgets and in turn, social projects. It must be stated clearly, that without global change, a nation which pursues this alone also encourages job flight to nations without such measures, and creation of shell companies to secrete any wage paid in excess of the limit. That’s only financial sense after all.

A Society of Sub-Cultures.

*I’d rather be wearing white in desert sunlight!

Consider the dynamic between proletariat and bourgeois, from the communist framework of course. It strikes one as reasonable that members of the proletariat would seek to become bourgeois, and so this class would criticise the revolution if it restricts their dreams o private property. There are castles for sale (bloody aristocrats eat cake whilst citizens of DPRK eat grass). If they were all to become culture centres and tourist traps, what effect would be seen in those with secret, selfish wishes? On their motivation? Their social engagement?

This type of selfish desire is harnessed in an effective manner in our society, by the form of monetary value and taxation. Not to say there is no room for improvement. This acceptance of selfish desire, and this method of harnessing it for the greater good, enhance some aspects of community, although if private property is the problem these dynamics only repeat the problem. Anyway, there is no need for all citizens to go to a mosque, church or stupa, to be taught a spirituality which encourages selflessness and kindness. How else can the plethora of cultures and sub-cultures coexist?

Secularism is another facet of pre-existing ideology which holds influence over this state of affairs. Some communities desire to be the supreme social power, and have all state affairs organised and developed by their principles. So, for example, an Islamist and a Apostolic Christian may agree about peace on earth, but would they do agree about the prayers which should be said before class? Secularism, although it does diminish the dream of overwhelming religion / culture, means that only the secular code shall be placed above the divine code and then mostly in matters in the public domain. Proslytising and preaching can occur in personal domains, which appears to give breathing room to the dream of religious dominance.

As a certain form of economic structure (capitalism) and a certain form of governance (secular) spreads and deepens around the globe, individuals (born in the right place to the right parents, more than ever before) are free to pursue their own ends, and by so doing inch the larger community forwards. Value systems and individual projects are not uniform and do not have to be. However, limits of what can be selfishly pursued (monopoly control of all high fructose corn syrup or mangos) and which value systems must be excluded (WWII Japanese rape culture, WWII USA nuclear weapons usage) are exceeding a certain boundary, one most deserving of respect.

A minimum (prison) standard should be guaranteed, all else is competition. I believe it is better to share some standards of capitalism and secularism than it is to raise them. This leads me again to the question of whether current leading communities can remain so only as long as the global order remains stable. So to say it differently, if all people everywhere were given the wealth of the average Qatari on their 18th birthday, would inflation collapse the global networks of markets, the networks of production and distribution?

Institutional Discrimination.

Why should minority supporting quotas and incentives be accepted? If a job has two objectively equal applicants, why should subjective value be over-ridden by a quotas? Or objective value tilted by incentive?
A lot of discrimination occurs without organisation. A passive form of discrimination, of preferential treatment of those most comfortable to an authority figure, becomes a serious issue as it emerges from a community of millions.

Kim Davis, as an individual, refused to do the paperwork for a homosexual marriage, on religious grounds (an inconsistent personal standard, due to her divorces). This is an example of the category of discrimination which occurs without collusion. She did not act as a result of scheming between the USA government and Apostolic Christians.

Studies which found resumés with popular American-African* names require more applications to achieve the same number of respones, as those with popular generic American names. This is not due to the Aryan Brotherhood infiltrating business networks to influence hiring trends but instead evidence of an ideology without clear organisation & intent. A media which circulates more stories of American-African crime is an organised distribution which feeds the dynamic of discrimination, it is not done with the intent to disadvantage but to scandalise and sell.
*I hold that the first nationality is the place of residence and the second a heritage, so here an American with African heritage.

If TV news station has a segment for flattery of an individual, should an individual from the class which receives the most negativity elsewhere in the news, be chosen?

If two job applicants are objectively equal, in terms of education, experience etc., is it natural that subjective value (i.e. interviewer & interviewee share a hobby) becomes decisive?
Of course it is, and this aspect of humanity would see institutional dominance of the rich, white man maintained, but without intentional, organised ill-will. Mandatory quotas, alongside tax breaks & other incentives, act against this passive discrimination. However it means that the state enacting them is discriminating against the rich, white male, by legally de-valuing them or over-valuing the non-rich, non-white, non-male. Quotas and incentives then, become a systemic and intentional discrimination against the dominant class. What a strange inversion of the original state of affairs.

Much talk of discrimination frames the problem as though there were a conspiratorial group creating it, to the detriment of the minorities. Historically this has been true, and remains true of myriad situations. Also, that this is a realistic foundation subsumed into conspiracies of liberal perversion of government and public community promoted by right wing communities. Yet despite disorganised, unintentional discrimination against minorities, it should be seen that Western cultures which have systemic, intentional discrimination in favour of minorities are developing beyond a historic limit of equality.

Between Political & Economic Value.

Quickly, my own definitions. Political value is primarily the vote which a citizen of a democracy can cast as freely as they themselves are able. Political value beyond this must be recognised, freedom to publicly dissent and persuade are first to mind. Economic value is primarily the value of a dollar, which may be collected and lost with luck and pluck. Economic value beyond this must be recognised, value of experience and connections. These two things are uneven, there is a restrictive / motivational dynamic to them, one is idealistic and the next realistic.

Economic growth, subsistence and collapse can be manipulated by political means. The first example is of direct political structure, taxation and regulation. 2nd, malicious gossip can sink stock prices and positive propaganda can raise the same.

Political growth, subsistence and collapse can be manipulated by economic means. Direct campaign contributions, costs of advert. propaganda or wine & dining political lynch-pins. Lobby groups clearly function with political experience and connections and could not maintain form without those qualities. Lobby groups are a conflux of these two forms of value.

Basic Democratic political theory gives each citizen a vote. Contemporary democracy gives each citizen of adult age a vote, where in a multitude of places past, votes where limited. Perhaps a point could be made that this increase in votes decreased the worth of each vote, and this diffusion of political value is necessary. Regardless, the modern ideal of one vote represents a deeper social perspective, one that enforces a minimum value to all people. We are all human.

Economics, although not a zero sum game, allows one to rise at the expense of another. This must be clearly contrasted against UN created, inalienable human rights. Maybe a point can be explored that money flows more freely than quality of life guaranteed by human rights. We are not all equal.

Irrespectively, it must be preached that, although we share a minimum standard, this standard is not inherent but desired. So to say it a little peculiarly, some of us work hard and receive more. This is a justice of the marketplace. Some work the same hours, jet set CEO <-> 12-hour tradie, but one gets paid more by luck of position. This is an injustice of the marketplace. Between those moments of reality, none should starve, all should have food & water, bed & blanket, a roof to keep the rain away and medicine to keep pain at bay.