Saturday, 24 September 2016

Scribblings VI: Old lags, metaphysics, arts funding, pubs and public health

Trying to keep up with assorted Scribblers is challenging and this is a selection that tries to avoid stuff about the US Presidential Elections, Brexit and the leadership of the Labour Party. Not that these things are unimportant but that they've a tendency to crowd out other stuff that's just as interesting (and maybe important).

On the latter point, this post from Anna Raccoon is definitely important - what do we do with elderly and ill (even terminally ill) prisoners?
The number of older prisoners in the UK has more than doubled in the last decade, with the greatest increases amongst those over 70. Around 40% of older prisoners are sex offenders, many of whom are in prison for the first time due to historic abuse. Longer sentences and more stringent release criteria mean that increasing numbers of ‘anticipated deaths’ in prison are predicted.
Fascinating - especially the issues with painkilling drugs (most of which are, from a different angle, narcotics).

Meanwhile the Flaxen Saxon is getting all metaphysical:

Philosophers as far back as Plato (see the allegory of the cave) have reasoned that what we perceive is not reality. With the advent of computers and especially the stupendous increase in computing power, we have to ask ourselves- are we part of a huge computer simulation? Sounds ludicrous, doesn't it? Perhaps, but there are serious professional physicists and philosophers out there who consider the concept not only plausible, but likely. And no, these folk are not inmates of a secure mental health facility, they are, in the main, tenured academics.

As I commented on the blog - all reminds me of Brian Aldiss's 'Report on Probability A'. Which rather takes us to that age old question as to whether we can, in the manner of Azimov's 'psychohistory' break everything down into equations, algorithms and metrics. As Demetrius asks in talking about arts funding:
So many of us ask for the arts to have some funding and support to ensure their survival and continuance in a difficult world. Now it seems that this can only be if extensive management is applied to the distribution and assessment of those which are being assisted.
Having just re-read Yevgeny Zamyatin's 'We' (written in 1921 as a critique of Taylorism but banned by the Soviets as it applies as well to Scientific Marxism) it's clear that this breaking down of everything into numbers and measurements remains a challenge to civilisation.

Indeed there's a part of this problem displayed in the endeavours of public health to use science to promote their rather joyless ideology of wellbeing. And both Frank Davis and Paul Barnes pick up on this. First Paul on Stop Smoking Services (SSS) and e-cigs:
This is where I begin to have a niggly problem with SSS. I don’t knock the work they do, but nine times out of ten when a positive article appears in the press there is always this cessation approach – the “they can help you quit smoking” – type line. Broadly speaking that statement is true, but e-cigarettes are substantially more than just a bloody quit aid.
And Frank on 'junk food':
My conclusion is that “junk food” is perfectly good food, but “disapproved food”. It’s food that’s been labelled as “junk”, and most likely libelled as “junk”. And there is no rhyme or reason for this disapproval, much like there is no rhyme or reason for the disapproval of everything else the disapprovers disapprove.
Only approved pleasures are allowed, citizen!

But we like pubs, of course. Pubs are about community - wholesome, clean, caring community. And we should save them. Old Mudgie takes issue with this simple mantra as promoted by Greg Mulholland MP:
Now, I recognise that pubs can have a value as community resources that transcends narrow financial considerations, and that ACV listings, if properly applied, can give them a valuable stay of execution if they are threatened. I’d also support pubs being given protection from being turned into shops or offices without needing planning permission, subject to a reasonable minimum time limit of trading as pub.

But it has to be accepted that society changes and moves on over time, and that most of the current issues around planning and redevelopment are symptoms of the general decline in the demand for pubs, not its cause.
The idea - as Mulholland has promoted in Otley - that every single pub (there are over 20 in Otley) merits protection is hard to defend. Helping locals save the only village pub is a great idea but using planning and regulation as a stick to beat PubCos really won't work if the pub isn't viable in the first place.

Perhaps, if we're concerned about community, we need to ask about how councils, police and fire services are stopping local events unless they pay up or provide their own security (at great cost). Here's Julia:
So....what's happened here is the council get to shrug their shoulders and say 'Toree cutz, mate, innit?' Because that's easier than changing the event into something more manageable.

1 comment:

James Higham said...

Trying to keep up with assorted Scribblers is challenging and this is a selection that tries to avoid stuff about the US Presidential Elections, Brexit and the leadership of the Labour Party.

Your own pace, Simon. I can't keep up with things as it is. The good thing is it stays in print and doesn't go away.