Friday, 19 November 2010

To Uncle Bob

I'm not claiming any special expertise or originality of thought here. Anybody reading this blog who wants to dismiss me on the grounds that it's been said before or that I have missed some crucial argument or item of evidence, will have missed the point. I'm not an academic or a journalist, paid to do the research. I don't have that luxury. I'm just an ordinary bloke trying to make sense of what I see. If I've missed something genuinely crucial to the argument I'm making, feel free to let me know (politely and concisely please) and I'll do my best to include it.

Why then do I expect my views to be read and taken seriously?
Well I don't expect them to. I don't expect anything.
A) I just like writing. It's not a waste of time for me. It's what I do.
B) I have all this stuff going around in my head with no outlet. Writing a blog, although probably unread, puts it 'out there'. All this 'wisdom' I've accumulated (ha ha) need not go entirely to waste.
C) The main accusation of the question though is why do I imagine I might have anything worthwhile to add to the debate?

The answer to that is, keeping up as well as I can with current debates, I note that there are points of view, ways of thinking, strands of argument, that are never or almost never aired. I'm not talking about bizarre cultish or extremist views that are supposedly repressed or dismissed by the mainstream. I'm talking about fairly ordinary propositions that simply fall outside the received wisdom of the time, and which journalists in particular don't seem interested in pursuing. Does capitalism for instance really promote choice and diversity? Does competition really result in the best rising to the top? Does hard work and talent lead, in general, to success? How do you define success? Is popularity a sign of quality?
Some of these questions have been unfashionable since the '80s, associated as they were with the more extremist or unworldly strands of left wing politics, but, as will become obvious, I am not interested in being fashionable (or in being left wing for that matter.)

It may also be objected that much of what I propose requires changes that are considered impractical. I am not being 'realistic' they say. This leads into my fourth reason for writing:
D) I think these questions matter - not because I think they are straightforward prescriptions for action but because they might cause some of us to change our minds (or to challenge our assumptions.) In most cases I have no clear idea whatsoever how to bring about the changes that I want in how the world is run, but what I do know is that nothing can ever change until enough people believe that something should change. Everything else follows from that (think women's rights, democracy, war crimes courts, the abolition of slavery - all unthinkable before their times.) Once the moral will (or the pressure) is there, somehow, practical steps emerge, but not before. Too often powerful moral arguments are shouted down by vested interests (and the journalists reporting them unfortunately), demanding to know exactly how we propose putting our ideas into practice. The question is premature.

Finally (E) these essays (for that's what they are) are a lifelong repost to all my (mostly male) relatives who I tried to discuss with as a child and a teenager, but who, instead of enjoying the intellectual stimulation, considered me a misguided dreamer and set about 'putting me right' with their 'common sense' notions of the 'ways of the world'. Their incurious, narrow minded spirits lurk in the margins of all my writing.

This is what I'd like to have said to them but was too young to articulate at the time.
Thanks Bob.

1 comment:

Vincent said...

Go for it, Steve!