Be Careful What You Wish For


It has been an interesting day. The garden has been roughly two weeks ahead of where it was last year. Even the Brandywine tomatoes have fruit on them — and the garlic was definately ready. I cheerfully harvested 116 heads of garlic, a wonderful bounty.

Looking at the political situation in Canada and the presidential ‘race’ in the US has made me thoughtful. Personally, I think the current guy has done amazingly well considering both the totally broken situation he inherited and the nonstop, country be damned, opposition he has encountered. I find it depressing that the best the Republicans could field was Romney the rambler. First stop in London was a disaster, then Israel… don’t need another Bush shoot first, shoot some more kind of diplomat. And I am surprised that there has been little play given to his scorched earth approach — changing out the computers of his staff and shredding files. What ever was he hiding?

Makes me wonder if an unfettered democracy with its opportunities for corruption is really the best way to direct 7 billion people. There may be much to be said for a meritocracy based on an impartial process — say a set of staged exams. The folks at the top may as well be hereditary — given the choice between Romney (or Harper) and HRH Elizabeth II, I know where my confidence would be for the long haul.

But a government, any government, needs people to establish policy and do the real work. Having seen decades of elections picking which guy will steal the least, I really wonder about a meritocracy established by impartial exams. The literary China  in the Judge Dee stories had one (don’t know about the real China under the emperors), parts of the existing US government does the same — qualification exams to determine who is ready for the next step up.  In the film ‘the Day the Earth Stood Still’ the idea of an impartial arbiter was mentioned — who can do their job and never show partiality or corruption?

Problem is that as  a species we have no common frame of reference to hang onto when trying to make decisions that affect people. A dear friend of mine did some research with lizards in the Caribbean — what he found was that the divided the physical world up into non-overlapping domains so each could hunt but conflict was avoided. I realized that people tend to do just this — we all live in the same physical world. But the conceptual worlds we inhabit are different, conditioned by our personal backgrounds, experience and socioeconomic status — in effect we live in a conceptual world that may not necessarily overlap with the one our neighbor inhabits.  Conflict and misunderstanding seem almost inevitable. And let us not forget that because our perceptions are filtered through memory, we are what we have become — and the world of the pampered rich (and its possibilities) is very different from someone who has clawed their way out of the ghetto — either as drug lord or commander in chief.

I suspect that the true miracle is that anything works at all.

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One thought on “Be Careful What You Wish For

  1. When I wrote firmware for point-of-sale devices, we’d find the most glaring bugs months after testing and release. My favourite phrase was, “It’s a miracle that your car starts in the morning.”

    I worked in the federal civil service for a while. They had elaborate accreditation schemes for entry into jobs that relied on credentials and strictly enforced tests. It was the most outrageous form of nepotism ever derived. You could hire whoever you wanted and the process would stand up to anyone’s scrutiny as transparent, according to the rules set up for determining transparency.

    Arbiters of merit? Perish the thought. Random chance is better.

    Luckily now and then you encounter someone who knows what they are doing. You might enjoy this: “http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/08/speakers-part-ii.html”

    As for the situation in the U.S. regarding their over-the-top soundbite-centred public debates, my hope is this. We see the world filtered through the various media, web sites, TV, blogs, magazines, etc. I am praying that those sources of information are so incestuous and corrupt that they don’t reflect reality, they see what they’ve decided to see and the politicos respond in kind, because, well, they’ll say anything. Somewhere else, just beyond our vision, there is a real world and it’s not so nuts. Am I dreaming?

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