Category Archives: Change

It’s a contentious issue, but I can’t help feeling the powers that be have missed a trick with their immigration policies…

It’s bows and arrows against the lightning

They ‘aven’t seen that fire-beam yet…

Herbert George Wells, War of the Worlds

394934_10150749353871041_1787771566_nIn the Telegraph today, Douglas Carswell writes:

“For years, the debate about immigration has been dominated by “experts”.

“Complex and inaccessible data was used by remote academics. They crunched the numbers and were left to draw the conclusions. The rest of us had to take it on trust that the facts sustained what they told us.”

The Guardian’s Mary Dejevsky agrees somewhat and tells us [the] immigration debate is not just about numbers … We have to consider people’s daily experience too:

“[The] Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at University College London, found arrivals from the European economic area (EEA) since 1995 to have been even more of an asset to the UK economy than previously thought. They had, it calculated, contributed £8.8bn over the 15 years between 1995 and 2011, and if you considered only the past 10 years, the balance was even more positive.”

However Steve Doughty from The Daily Mail, read the same report and interpreted it slightly differently, claiming that :

“Immigrants from outside Europe have taken £100billion more in benefits and services than they paid back in taxes, a major study revealed yesterday.

“Over a 16-year period, the bill to the taxpayer of providing them with welfare, health and education was 14 per cent higher than the money they put in the national purse.”

This is a problem— when our source material is provided by unimpeachable sources but the conclusions drawn from it are wildly disparate, I’m afraid either the nature of the data or the conclusions must be rendered as lacking validity. At least in a usable, practicable way. Studies ought to inform, not divide in such a binary manner.

This is not a new problem. In an article in Scientific American, Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise, Michael Shermer writes about the mechanisms that allow us to see such differences; it also alows us to see bunny rabbits in fluffy clouds— the same mechanism which results in ‘complex and inaccessible data’ being summarised and presented as fact, while ignoring that:

Unfortunately, we did not evolve a Baloney Detection Network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns.”

It is describing a form of apophenia: the ability we have to see what we want to see; or more simply, the ability to make sense when there is none.  In fact, the irony is, I too could be doing just that, but I’ll be describing how I perceive the opinion process in another post, I just wanted to get the Baloney Detection Network out there because I love it, just as much as Hemmingway’s bullshit detector. It’s more or less the same thing.

Anyway, no amount of numbers can alter the fact that immigration is simply someone moving from one place to another. So I ask you, simply

Why not just employ nightclub doormen as immigration officials?

Have you ever tried getting into a club if your name wasn’t on the list?

It’s just a thought…

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I can’t decide sometimes, whether or not my mother thinks she’s living in a sitcom…

The secret to humour is surprise.

Aristotle

27977_450287781040_191932_nA moot point perhaps, but oblivious in this case to the signifiers that make the ‘everyday’ flow seamlessly from one interaction to the other; if they weren’t, you’d find yourself hopping madly all day. Whatever it may be, obvious, deliberate, debatable, moot? A couple of years ago my mother discovered a reservoir of previously untapped ‘ridiculous’. It’d become, after a fractious few years— a pleasure spending time with her, if not for the first time— but the first time in a long time. She’d seemed to be a little more understanding and accepting of my foibles, and I of them, which makes all the difference in the world. It helps relieve a little of the ‘complicated’. The fact that my mother’d discovered comedy and was making me snort on a regular basis was merely a bonus.

But this is irrelevant, a long-winded introduction and steady build up leading to a crescendo of noise— which is not entirely bunkum as it happens. It’s a story involving balloons…

My nephew loves balloons, especially the kind that when released, fly around exulting a harrowing scream, flitter then drop excitedly with one good spasm before expiring. Louis and I had been synchronising the take-offs of them all morning, much to the delight of the little man and thought what a wonderful idea it would be to release even more. Amz was on her laptop, but my mother was hands-free…

So Louis and I filled some balloons, gave them to her and instructed her that under no circumstances was she to release them. Even now, I feel as though I should’ve added something.

Anyway, Louis and I expended what little breath we had left into the remaining balloons and poised at the ready. The scene was to be spectacular; six whirling tubes of shrill screech, dancing unpredictably towards an enthusiastic death-knell. However, I failed to entertain the one element of unpredictability.

‘Ready,’ I said, ‘on one . Three… two… one… release…release…release!’

Louis and I had a successful launches. But my mother held firm. Even upon the final release! Even though the room was filled with the sound of screaming babies Even though the launch command had become a desperate, personal plea for her to relinquish her grip…

‘Why the bloody hell didn’t you launch? We’ve just done this ten times … at what point did you not think I was talking to you?’ A reasonable question in the circumstances I thought.

‘Because,’ she said, ‘you told me that under no circumstances was I to release them.’

Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled…

Horace

Not unlike those sodding balloons!

A couple of weeks of reading and writing; writing and reading— commenting and what-have-you

I thought I’d just take a day today;

Such a lazy day…

marley mummyIt’s been fabulous; just spent it drinking tea and reading— watched a film on the other screen; managed a few emails; brushed the cat, twice; considered the weather with an eye on cutting the lawns. I thought about eating a chocolate bar at one point but decided against it. I did take a phone-call though— it’s been like a month of those irritating social-media status updates all rolled into one lazy day— I’ve really enjoyed it too. It’s given me the chance digest my first couple of weeks on this site.

It’s been a few years since I blogged regularly. Some things have changed, some haven’t— there’s a far greater seriousness in the tone of the average blogger than I remember, there are certainly many, many more than there ever were. I’ve certainly found some gems— some just bewildering, but in my experience that’s how most things appear to me: like gems or just bewildering.

One thing that hasn’t changed and I doubt is likely to in the immediate future, is that there are still smart people who cannot write and the not-so-smart who are just delicious to read. It’s the way it ought to be— ought, is— it doesn’t matter: writing isn’t a competition, like thinking isn’t exclusive to those who do it best. The two are separate animals thank goodness.

Perhaps we should all just check the egos at the door, because everyone’s doing exactly the same thing: having thoughts, making meaning, stringing-words— trying to make something happen, to inspire, react, create. Some are just trying to learn, to teach— but for a lot of guys it’s just about trying to understand themselves and the world around them. And it’s hard for them to find the words, but they try and you can read how difficult it is for them to do— but they do it anyway. There’s something wonderful in that.

For all the perfectly clipped and presented prose and essays and advice blogs and experts; there are a hundred of these guys; a hundred experiences, a hundred opinions and thoughts and expressions and feelings that’ve been agonised over just that little more than the rest.

I’m glad that not everything has changed.

Image: my nephew winning 1st prize for his creation…