Archive for May, 2011

Energy Supply Weekly Hi-Lo Lights

Well, last weekend was apparently my second annual destruction limit test. I actually got slightly more sleep than I did the last time I moved house – or, at least, I slept in bigger chunks – but I’m still feeling it. On the one hand, my knees still don’t hurt, because every other damn joint that moved is still complaining, and I seem to have developed a perpetual headache somewhere inside my right eye, but on the other hand I’m more or less functioning normally.

One of these days, I will get more than six hours sleep, and I can start buying back some of the debt I racked up this time round. In the meantime I’m in the minute-at-a-time equivalent of Zimmerman’s Valley. At least it hasn’t been all-nighters, this time (although the amount of heavy lifting there was, it might as well have been), and I’ve not done anything spectacularly stupid or dangerous, unless you count forgetting which side of the road I was supposed to drive on whilst returning a van on Monday morning.

The weirdest effect this time round has been a strange sort of short-term memory loss, not on the scale Dan managed, but still distinctly sub-normal: my job is pretty much ‘Electronic Blurb,’ and it involves a lot of careful study of books in order to describe them into a laughably antiquated fixed-field system, which is doing wonders for my ability to condense monographs into a little under 200 columns of data. Except for the past few days I reach the afternoon and find that I’m finishing the profiling of books that my boss has checked for me, and have no recollection of having seen them ever before. I must have, because my signifier number is in the right place, and the notes look like my style, and my boss isn’t the sort of person to throw completely random books at me (in case I get ’em wrong and we lose a sale, I suspect), so I must have done the damn things, but I’m not remembering doing them, or even thinking about them. That’s a bit alarming.

The coolest thing* so far, however, has been waking up on Sunday morning in the exact same position that I fell asleep in five and a half hours earlier. Not sure I’ve ever done that before. Now that I’ve unlocked the achievement, however, I’m pretty sure I never want to move house again. Except possibly to somewhere where the top floor is the Library out of Name of the Rose, which I just finished re-reading. I totally want one of those.

* At least, until I moved and discovered that all of me had pins & needles.

A genuine question

Does granting people the freedom of choice amount to giving them permission to make bad choices?

I ask this because I got involved in a discussion on my sister’s Faceboke page last week. I’d asked her to re-share the video I linked to from here, and it generated a certain amount of discussion.  I’ve got to say, much of that discussion had rather an air of third-form PSE about it, with people pulling assertions out of thin air, and then getting huffy when people questioned them, so it was nice to see national political standards being upheld.

Since this was an Internet discussion – and about politics to boot – it wasn’t long before Nazis came up, although, in this particular instance, the sleek menace of fascism was rather cleverly disguised behind the quaggy jowls of Nick Griffin and the British National Party.

One of my sister’s friends decided that a political system that requires candidate to be elected with a majority would be a boon to the BNP. My sister argued that it wasn’t, and observed that Nick Griffin was himself opposed to electoral reform for just that reason. However, she pointed out, as long as a BNP candidate was elected with a majority vote, at least that would be what most people wanted.

Later on, another of her friends took exception to this, and I ended up trying to argue it out with him. In essence, his argument was that, 1) The BNP are a racist party, and would, if elected, act to remove the rights of minorities. 2) Therefore people should be prohibited from voting for the BNP, in order to protect their democratic rights.

I think I’m doing justice to the guy in my representation of his point above, but just to be sure I’m going to violate Facebook’s copyright to his words and reprint the crux of his argument here:

You really shouldn’t be willing to concede that in a ‘liberal democracy’ the BNP should be allowed to contest and potentially win elections. Is this not like extending sexual freedom to encompass the ability to rape? To say people have the right to vote to strip others of their rights seems to be an inherent inconsistency. It would take some amount of work to justify democracy taking a form where it can destroy itself.

I honestly do not know if it is just me that feels that train of thought makes no sense. I believe that either people are free, or they are not, and that people can either vote as they believe they should, or they cannot. The notion that people should be deprived of the right to vote according to their conscience in order to safeguard their rights is one of those ideas which absolutely will not fit into my head.

We didn’t actually get things sorted out – partly because we got predictably hung up arguing over whether it was fair to say that an act that causes immediate harm on the scale of rape is equal to an act that causes the potential for the potential for harm subject to due parliamentary process (I, uh, think it isn’t, by the way) – so in the end we called a truce.

Practically speaking, of course, we’ve got the latter, but I wondered if other people thought that we should, or if it was just me. Is it possible to have freedom in a digital form, where you can be free to do what you like except make a decision that might impede your freedom? Or is freedom an analogue state, which you either have, with all the potential to enact its own destruction, or have not?

I cling to the hope that it’s the latter, but that could just be gut paranoia of a slippery slope, where one day you can’t vote BNP, and the next you can’t vote UKIP*, and the week after that it turns out we’ve been fighting Eastasia all along.

Still, I thought that would be an interesting question, and would help to take minds off the fact that last week was a moderate let down. Although I notice that nearly a third of the voters went yes, which I don’t account a bad thing, in such a conservative place as Britain (and even less of a bad one in the face of the negative campaigning by the No guys, which at points reached an almost Teabagging level of craziness). And I was pleased to see that Oxford was one of the places that went Yes.

So onward and forward. I’d even stand to Phonebank again, I think, but I’d be grateful if the massed populations of Southwark and Grenwich would take the time to invest in Ansaphones first**, because apparently such things aren’t permitted in the Capital, and waiting for one to kick in when it isn’t there is pretty weird.

* I’d just like to make it clear that, obviously, I wouldn’t vote UKIP even for a new pair of knees. Some principles are worth hurting twenty-seven days each month.

** Excluding, obviously, the people who picked up, and the super-apologetic forgetful guy whose work got interrupted when I chivvied him off to the polling station.

Anybody for a sprig of lilac?*

Here is a lovely video which I hope you’re already seeing all over the place:

What with the referendum coming up, I’m actually having quite a busy time (hence the re-reduced blogging frequency!) I’m glad of these past few long weekends, at least: I now have a first draft of my Literature Review away and awaiting comments from my tutor, which is very exciting, and I have also been out leafleting. A couple of weeks back, we were in Whitney, which was rather fun, and then on Saturday I invested a couple of hours handing out AV leaflets on Cornmarket, and occasionally explaining how it worked to people. Then I rounded things off by door-to-door leafleting Barton, just over the ring road, which was hot and tiring, but actually quite good fun. I haven’t leafleted for years, and even then it was only for Betta Bedrooms (Who appear, surprisingly, to still be in business. Assuming they’ve changed their logo a bit, anyway…) Then I’m lined up to do a bit of phonebanking on Thursday evening.

Generally speaking, I have to say, the results I’m hearing are fairly positive. There are a few “No” people out there, but I’ve not found that many, even in Whitney. And I suspect the media line that people are apathetic is just wrong; from what I’ve seen, people are very interested and very geared up, and it’s just the media that can’t be bothered to cover that. Still, it’s encouraging.

I honestly have no idea which way things will go on Thursday, I’ve not got enough of a sense of a national picture, but I’m actually pretty proud in the knowledge that if this referendum somehow turns into the Serenity Valley of modern political reform, it ain’t going to be because I was scared of a few blisters. Apart from anything else, I’m nicely buoyed up with genuine political activism, and I thought I’d lost my faith in that back in 2003. And it’s a buzzier feeling than I remembered, which is just awesome.