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The latest from A.C Stark

Hi Friends,

Here’s the latest I’ve received through WordPress from A.C. Stark of the UK.  Worth reading, I suggest.

Richard

14/10/2018

The Greatest Gift that I Possess

Everywhere I look I see countless miniature empires. This makes sense when one considers the many necrophilous sectarians ostensibly populating Britain, as their morals seem to be founded (if Brexit is anything to go by) in the delusional glory of this little island’s historically imperial sovereignty. Small-man syndrome is a natural phenomenon, even at the state level. However, worryingly, even members of today’s ‘hipster’, left-wing subculture – cultural decedents of a cleaner living, hitchhiking, happy-go-lucky, hippy era – revel in the excesses of their individual realms. Today everyone is an emperor. Myopic, capitalistic narcissism is pervasive. It’s killing humanism and the planet with it.

Taken from his recent book, Happy (his recent and a fascinating serious prose on welfare philosophy), Derren Brown hits the nail on the head, when he says, “‘Get what you want’ remains a mantra of modern living, as if we each had the birthright to accumulate whatever we think will make us happy.” We’re programmed to desire, indoctrinated even. Society is set up to consume. Without our desires being quenched by consumption, we’re destined to be miserable. This is the message we’re sold.

As a result, we’re constantly seeking to expand our empires in the pursuit of something more addictive, more socially corrosive than crystal meth. Purchasing is the tool by which we seek our little hits of serotonin and dopamine, each dose a sparrows-step toward securing a peculiarly phantom mental state: happiness. Obsessively, most of us seek it, but in vain. The era of achieving happiness collaterally is long over. Now, we seek it as an end in itself. More fool us.

We’re so addicted to these minute hits of gratification that we don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of our attaining them. This is not a clean drug, its cut with numerous toxins. It kills. Collateral damages, in the form of physical (1, 2), mental, environmental (1, 2, 3, 4) and cultural sickness (1, 3, 2), have been normalised. It’s an unfortunate necessity but a necessity all the same; a small price to pay for “happiness”. Crucially, we reject that our pursuit of happiness is damningly self-defeating (perhaps through fear of self-loathing). Moreover, those that indiscriminately pursue happiness are often considered virtuous. This is despite their holding a complete disregard for traditional virtues such as moderation, wisdom, morality, or empathy and a sense of community.

Regretfully, and rather non-virtuously, Conspicuous and invidious consumption (purchasing goods to flaunt economic power and incite envy), the bread and butter of capitalism, affect us greatly (the recent #OOTD appeal is a hideous example). Products are designed and marketed specifically to create and then cure anxietynot to promote happiness – which stimulates us to indulge in further self-destructive retail therapy. Possessions are seen and brandished as symbols of identity, wealth and “happiness”. This is no conspiracy theory; it is advertising theory (1, 2). It’s business. As a result, western society has entered a mental health crisis (1, 2) as its free markets mass produce depression and narcissism, as we are all miss-sold happiness.

Social media compounds the issue, providing “short term, dopamine-driven feedback loops” (1, 2) which manipulate us into to further embellishing and flaunting our lively possessions – the flags of our empires – in the virtual world, as we unwittingly encourage one another to consume more still.

What is deeply disconcerting is that the means by which we might relearn the value of empathy, community and virtue, and consequently rediscover happiness as contentedness, is being dismantled. With central government stripping powers of discretionary spending from local councils and redirecting the cash to Whitehall, our communal infrastructure is rapidly disintegrating. With it go the remnants of a once humanistic, community-based Great British culture. Youth centres, libraries, care homes, parks and public gardens are being left to ruin, so that the state can financially compete on a global scale in order to recreate the illusion of a “Great British Empire”.

It’s difficult to decide which of Britain’s politico-economic ideologies are causing all this: sectarianism, capitalism or neo-liberalism? It could be any or all of them. However, all of them scream the same battle-cry, wealth and empire are all.


A.C. Stark

Recommended Reading
Happy; Out of the Wreckage; Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered;
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
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Response to Elizabeth Kolbert, psychologist, in her New Yorker article Feb, 2017.

“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” were all written (Elizabeth Kolbert), before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon (emphais ed.). Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring. ♦

“This is how a community of knowledge (emphasis ed.) can become dangerous,” Sloman and Fernbach observe.

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My response to Ms Kolbert:

Do you not see that this thought takes your discussion dangerously close to sociology and culture and sliding away from psychology? (“vast psychological experiment”)               It sounds like you do but how is the ‘academic psychology community’ taking this?


Response to Scoop article on public transport in Wellington.

Keep in mind that the GWRC has majority suburb (Hutt, Kapiti) membership.  Cr Donaldson is anathema to Wellington and should be sacked for the vandalism she has led, but she is representing the suburbs not Wellington.  The burbs are pressing their resentment at Wellington City being a hindrance to them getting to the airport easily.  Mayor Lester should take the lead in fighting back but seems to be acting more a regional mayor than a Wellington mayor.


Response on Scoop article by Infratil on bus tendering and driver wages and conditions in Wellington

One must always bring the Regional Council into the forefront of this type of discussion.  Note that the Regional Council is dominated by the suburbs, generally known as The Hutt and Kapiti, but most transport issues involve Wellington City which is in the minority at the Regional Council.  The Regional Council has been out to get the City for some time because – well, we all know why but it is a taboo subject to actually mention in polite political discussions.


Correspondence with my friend Mike in Columbus, Ohio

(from Mike) – I am anxious to hear about your elections and the new PM. She sounds like someone you would have supported. What is your perspective? Read the rest of this entry »


response to Lindsay Shelton on Scoop

Labour claims to be planet friendly, but what will be their policies and projects which get funded?  Good to remind them of that responsibility.

I notice a few comments on transfers.  Transfers would ideally be kept to a minimum and could be accomplished if routes were retained, looking at light rail as being an addition to the system and less as a replacement.


Response to Kathryn Ryan’s interview about criminal rehabilitation through environmental projects (04/10).

Hi Kathryn,

The use of environmental projects to assist in criminal rehabilitation is an interesting one. Read the rest of this entry »