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Mahatma Gandhi once said:

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why is the Sky Blue?

Hello Polly,

That bit at the end about 'willing to accept responsibility for (our) actions'....was that a dig? I must admit 'going out to play on my own' in Cardiff was indeed a big learning curve....not least in life skills. It wasn't my intention to part company with the rest of you....but after a few too many celebratory ales everyone started to look like Max Boyce....even you! My apologies are sincere and to make appropriate reparation I have not been idle. I donated the small contribution I made from my antics to Aunty Gladys' knitting charity...and they were so overwhelmed that they've offered us a little favour in return.

Back to more serious matters...I am not hiding in my shed. I've been deep in research at my old stomping ground of C.A.T. Whilst getting on the train at Machynlleth Station I'm sure I spotted George Monbiot on the platform, and was overzealous in conveying my impromptu appreciation of his recent article on domestic extremism. In demonstrating my fervant adulation I think I may have trespassed into subversive behaviour yet again? George took it in good spirits luckily...and I don't think this would have been the case had I asked him to accompany me to 'The Kissing Zone'!!

Paranoia is setting in. Am I an extremist Polly? Are we subversive? I'm all for free speech, expressing ideologies on society, exploring differences in political views, making paper aeroplanes for Geoff Hoon's garden, membership of Greenpeace, morris dancing on village greens, leek growing/wearing, running naked through the streets of Cardiff in jubilant patriotism....does that mean I've qualified for entry onto a database for A.peaceful protest, B.violent extremism or C. simply dappy? What exactly are the credentials required to be categorized as a fully-fledged extremist? Now there's a question....

I have been drowning deep in academia well beyond my grasp so I had better give credit to the great minds whose work I have stolen and no doubt misrepresented in my own simple way. Extremism involves dissent and demonstration against the existing situation. Cass R. Sunstein from Harvard University (now I've got your attention Polly) claims that societies need dissent:
''nations are far more likely to prosper if they welcome dissent and promote openness''
''presidents are likely to blunder if they do not cultivate a culture of candor and disclosure''
''understanding the need for dissent illuminates countless social debates....because diversity is indispensable to learning''
''dissenters.... perform valuable social functions, often at their own expense.''
From this, I am left wondering, that if you and I blog our disapproval of accepted government policy might we be accused of tinkering on the brink of extremism? Yet, if Gordon Brown encouraged open discussion he might learn something...hmmmmm? Interesting.
Further reading of ''Political Extremism and Rationality'' written by...well, lots of people, (including Ronald Wintrobe, professor of Economics at The University of Western Ontario) lead me on a voyage of discovery. One premise of the book review proposes that:
''Extremism may be viewed as a rational reaction of the individuals when they face...a 'social hole'....''
Enlightened after hours digesting Ron's illuminating paper, I have amateurishly cobbled together the following ten point simpleton's guide to extremism:
1. Rational Extremism involves dissent against the existing situation.
2. Extremist movements are seen as the vehicle for excluded people to gain access to influence within our established political system.
3. Extremists are rational. They try to achieve their goals as much as possible by choosing the best method to achieve them.
4. Solidarity in belonging to a likeminded group brings satisfaction.
5. One should look at the goals of extremists to understand their actions.
6. Collective 'rationality' can provide an incentive for revolution.
7. The basic condition under which revolution can occur is if the state has been weakened.
8. Group action is necessary to secure human rights.
9. If one regime is overthrown, the replacement regime will only be more successful if it results in more democracy.
10.In dealing with extremism, it is crucial that we understand where it comes from, how it works and how a rational person might also be 'extreme'.
Now that I've bored the pants off myself...I am even more confused. Are we promoting open discussion thereby performing a valuable social function, or are we indeed rational 'extremists' when we dissent about bankers bonuses, third runway agreements, climate change inaction, state education, and numerous other incomprehensibles. But when it emerges that half the thinking public shares that view are we all extremists? And how do we collectively hammer home our dissent in a politically acceptable way? We know Hazel Blears thinks bloggers are subversive. Yet, there is little doubt that the blogospere presents a vehicle for venting political voice and a chance to gain access and influence. When normal political channels such as writing to your MP or signing a petition fall on deaf ears, those who have strong beliefs in their goals are driven to other actions out of sheer frustration and moral conviction.
Extremism in Action?
We are vehemently against the building of a third runway at Heathrow.
We believe the war on climate change should be the singular most important issue for our government.
We have written to Ed Milliband and several other 'VIPoliticians', we have blogged to death environmental journalists, we are members of Greenpeace, we've made paper aeroplanes to launch into Geoff Hoon's garden, we have campaigned in support of NoTRAG and Plane Stupid....is there any surprise that since it MAKES NO BLOODY DIFFERENCE, everyday rational people like you, me, Elvis, Robin, even Aunty Gladys consider resorting to revolution?
What is the powerless individual to do Gordon...if you don't listen and learn? These are important issues that matter to us all, yet democracy is not working. Putting names on databases will achieve nothing except create more resentment. Time to create a platform for open discourse, even if the views are not to your liking. (There's a lesson there for Professor Smith too. Why has this all gone quiet?) Time to show a real understanding of dissenting views and and re-establish an all embracing democractic system that actually works effectively. Quashing unpopular opinion is not the way forward...unless of course you want to incite riot and revolution.
I'm too knackered to check this over Polly.....this rational extremism is exhausting. Don't forget Thursday....extremists unite! Is Emma Thompson one too? Is she on a database?
Ivor X

PS In case you were wondering about the loose connection of the title....I was being covert....you know MI5 and all that...no one will ever find us now!

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