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Category Archives: News and politics

It has become fashionable recently for political leaders to apologise – on behalf of their nation, or their party – for deeds done in past generations, now considered unjust in our more enlightened times. It is not simply cynicism which leads me to doubt the sincerity of the contrition and remorse of these apologies, but that I consider it is not justifiable to call the descendants of long dead people to account for their misdeeds.

 

It is just and fair, undeniably, to seek restitution if the descendants are still enjoying advantages gained by their ancestors, if they are continuing to disadvantage the living descendants of those originally wronged. For example: It is hard to advance any moral argument against the return of artworks and other property looted throughout Europe during the Second World War to the survivors who would have inherited them. The indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand, and of both North and South America – and of many other countries colonised still by others who took land by force – have the moral high ground in seeking either the return of the land which was theirs, or compensation, based on the principle that the descendant colonists still profit from the benefits of the misdeeds of their ancestors.

 

It is unlikely that the Government of the USA would – or could – return the land to the survivors of the Native Americans who formerly populated it, and, given that the population of Native Americans is now very much smaller than it might have been, had so many not been killed by the colonists whose descendants now own the wealth of the country, any award of compensation is likely to be an inadequate gesture in the light of genocide.

 

In the glitter of publicity accompanying the Oscar success of the movie; “Twelve Years a Slave”, the descendants of slaves are calling for compensation. Slavery continues in countries worldwide, but by the end of the nineteenth century, it had been abolished in most developed western countries.

 

It is possible that our great great grandfathers may have been connected by oppression to the extent that yours owned mine, or vice versa. Personally, I would not visit the sins of the father on the son, nor – if he was neither guilty nor complicit in the sin, the brother, sister, wife or mother. Moral precepts change. Benjamin Franklin, who became an abolitionist, was formerly a slave-owner. I would not doubt the remorse and contrition underlying an apology made by Franklin for having owned slaves. It’s likely that he used his wealth to benefit his former slaves, offering them education, employment, and – so far as he was able – social freedom.

 

If my brother, wife, mother, son or any other relative murders someone, I do not believe that I should suffer retribution for their crime, nor would I owe you an apology or compensation. This does not mean that I would not feel regret or compassion. If a driver killed my wife accidentally with his car, I do not believe that an apology would be of any use whatsoever to me or my family. Nor would any amount of money paid to us by his insurers compensate for our loss. There are circumstances in which compensation is of practical value – where someone is faced with extra costs and reduced potential in life due to such things as medical accidents or even incompetence, and in some cases of incompetence it is just to prevent future incidents by dismissing the person responsible. Apologies have little value. Even when grounded in genuine contrition and remorse.

 

If someone is culpable for a loss, then it is just that they restore that loss to the victim. Stolen property returned – or replaced. There is another fashion for arranging meetings between offenders and their victims. Apparently it reduces the incidence of re-offending, and victims ‘feel better’ through forgiving the offender. It is supposed to engender feelings of contrition and remorse in offenders. I’m not sure there is great benefit for victims who have lost something irreplaceable – the life of a family member; their family albums or items of sentimental value; a laptop, computer or even a smartphone with the only records of their work, or their treasured contacts. In many cases, the loss will lead to further – perhaps even greater – losses, especially where fraud has stolen a pension fund, or documents to enable identity theft.

 

A third fashion is the Compensation Culture, partially driven by the numerous calls and texts offering to win large sums ‘because you had an accident which was not your fault’ from which nobody with a telephone seems immune. The recession has spawned a growing number of people for whom the only hope of a brief escape from poverty is to win a TV ‘reality’ show, the lottery, or a bonanza compensation payout.

 

A friend who specialises in representing people with valid claims for compensation tells me that his waiting room is filled, every Monday morning, with people wishing to make claims against the local authorities for injuries which, they assert, they received due to tripping on uneven flagstones. He says that he turns away many, whose injuries bear strong evidence that they were caused by knuckles, some of them with the clear imprint of a signet-ring.

 

Advocacy on behalf of others is an interesting phenomenon. Lawyers earn by doing so, although they may also have a strong moral commitment to justice. Politicians do so as part of their role in representing particular constituencies. It would be ungenerous to suggest that they sometimes do this without conviction, other than the belief that it will secure their re-election.

 

But there are those great amateurs, who claim to be allies of groups of which they are not members, whose advocacy is done ‘for the public good’. They have a good store of righteous indignation, which exalts their moral superiority over anyone they identify as offenders or merely complacent with respect to their cause. With evangelical zeal they apportion culpability to those who have not seen the light. Sometimes they are a source of great irritation to those they claim to represent.

 

By and large, most people would prefer that misdeeds were prevented or avoided, rather than enjoy the spurious and often vacuous apologies (with or without genuine contrition or remorse) with which genuine attempts at compensation are fended off or mitigated. If something wrong can be ‘put right’, it should be so.

 

I would rather that the leaders would not apologise on my behalf for misdeeds in which I was not culpable, feel no contrition nor remorse, and for which I owe no-one compensation. They do it with the blithe arrogance of the people you can observe any day on our city streets. They hurry along, full of their own importance, bumping into other people ever few yards, and turning their heads to say, “sorry…” – some of them even say “sorry…” before they push others out of their way.

 

And, you and I know: they are not sorry.  

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I used to be a Marketing Director.  I used to be interested in finding out what people wanted and needed, getting something done to meet their needs, wants and desires, then communicating the message that we had the best answer to our target market’s needs.

Since I had cancer at the beginning of our brave new millennium, I have been quietly devoting life to art, music and thought.  Haven’t marketed in anger for about a decade!

Because I had time, and had also worked in TV production, I decided that Tania and I would take part in the GFK ‘Media appreciation poll’, to contribute something of use to fellow marketeers and – hopefully – to programme makers. 

Recently we’ve responded less to the GFK Poll because we’ve found less and less worth watching on TV.  Nowadays we tend to watch previously recorded stuff, or programmes from the various channel catch-up sites available via the internet. Our radio listening is also likely to include catch-up stuff from Radio 4 occasionally.  We aren’t alone in finding ourselves choosing to watch content at times other than when first broadcast, and apart from listening daily to Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, we find that consistent consumption of broadcast media  is becoming less a part of our lives. 

Because we might not watch anything listed under live broadcast times on the Poll, we cannot record usage which is probably known only to the sites in question through their site traffic analysis data. So GFK don’t really see what we are doing.

Declining advertising revenue for the ‘conventional’ and ‘traditional’  live broadcast media is likely to speed up the further decline of the importance of these delivery routes, as more people migrate to internet access as the most common means of media uptake, particularly via mobile devices.

Unfortunately this also signals a decline in the ability of independent agencies such as GFK NOP to track audience response to media output, because the media owners will be monitoring audience data directly ‘in house’.  There may be some opportunity for NOP to carry out a ‘media omnibus audit’ based upon submission of data by media owners across the industry and ‘independent analysis’ by GFK NOP of the data received, but the pattern of audience fragmentation and the phenomenon of media diversification means that the size of  audience attained by any individual programme product will continue to fall, with segments and sectors becoming more diverse and, in mass-terms, culturally less significant. National opinion polls will reflect this, because there will be an increase in the number of distinctly differentiated segments according to particular ‘cultural’ signifiers. In other words, there will be no identifiable, majority mass-market.

In the medium to long term, the assumption that the majority of UK citizens have a common cultural media-based consumption of programming output will cease to be valid.  Only a small segment of the population will follow the ‘soap-operas’ and even viral advertising campaigns will find themselves hitting smaller target markets. 

It will become less and less possible to identify any particularly ‘national’ target market as cultural diversity will tend to create distinct and separate sub-cultures, aligned by factors such as ethnic adherence and possibly educational attainment. 

The inhabitants of the Island of Britain will begin to resemble ‘tribes’ and the notions of a ‘classless’ society will cease to be relevant – if only because there will be no overriding common set of values which can be identified which link a single majority of the inhabitants. 

This will present problems in governing the population.  Already a diversity of opinion exists concerning the desirability of national involvement in conflicts in other countries, the policies of economic alignment with other states and trading blocs – particularly with respect to the EU, the USA and the ‘developing world’.

Increasingly, minority opinions concerning the reliability of the police, the legal system and the sanctions of sentencing of criminals, the educational system and the effectiveness of policies which have been devised to create citizens to fulfill roles within the purpose of maximising Gross Domestic Productivity, and the health policies of the state, are attaining the mythological status of becoming the opinion of a notional ‘silent majority’ who, if apathy was not one of the few remaining characteristics of the populace, might be encouraged to call for an anarchistic revolution.

Over half a century ago it was possible to influence a great majority of the population through the media.  Both ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’ and ‘The Archers’ were intended to educate the nation and to reflect a general cultural and moral ‘tone’, which was identifiably ‘British’.  As a nation we assumed that teachers, doctors, lawyers, the police and politicians were worthy of respect.  None of these groups can be expected to enjoy the universal respect of a majority of the population today. Indeed, it is actually difficult to identify any group of people who might be considered the cultural, moral and esteemed leaders of the nation.  Those who come closest to widespread adulation, such as Geldof and Bono, were celebrities created before media began to lose the power to influence mass audiences.

The cult of the individual, and the tendency of citizens to see it as their right to do as they wish, providing they intend no direct harm to others, has paradoxically resulted in a proliferation of surveillance methods used by those who wish to control mass behaviour.  The generality of ‘mass observation’ which is familiar to those conducting social and market research under the usually anonymous data gathering activities of organisations conforming to MRS rules is ceasing to be as useful as the particular methods available to commercial organisations in tracking purchasing behaviours of individuals through EPOS data, their communication habits through ISPs and telecomms providers, and even their everyday movements through CCTV surveillance, and travel waypoint information such as Oystercard, passport controls, online travel and accommodation bookings and so on. The addition of Identity cards and a DNA database is only a very small step away.

Citizens seem to respond most to the motivation created through the fear that others will threaten them, and submission to some form of state ‘big brother’ capability will be seen as acceptable on the basis of protection. Because individual self interest is more powerful than any of the media for social persuasion which are currently losing their effectiveness, it will become easier for those in power to foster acceptance of principles which were once considered anathema to liberal ideals of human interaction.

Under the guise of creating greater freedom, voluntary euthanasia will become increasingly acceptable, under the guise of creating greater safety, it will be possible for any state to use DNA profiling to identify individuals with particular behavioural tendencies.  If, for example, the state was to declare that – as has already been the case for certain cancers – the gene potentiating paedophilia had been identified, the majority of citizens might readily accept that measures should be undertaken to ensure that those individuals would never have the opportunity to act upon their tendencies.  Perhaps they might be offered gene therapy, or alternatively they might be allowed to opt for voluntary euthanasia.  Those who readily call for the castration of sex offenders might prefer the alternative of compulsory euthanasia, as there cannot be any possible mistake in identifying a gene in the DNA, so it has none of the problems of carrying out the death penalty upon an individual who had been wrongly convicted.

There is some debate currently concerning whether or not it might be morally permissible to torture terrorists, because they do not observe the Geneva Conventions in their activities.  What people accept as being civilised behaviour has changed throughout history.  It is not a very long time since slavery was abolished in the West. Some countries in Europe did not allow women to vote in democratic elections until the latter half of the last century.  Is there a point at which progress becomes decadence?

Might we see the acceptance of other measures for the greater good? People identified as failing to contribute to state economic prosperity being offered exile or compulsory euthanasia?  Perhaps there is a gene for social non-compliance?  Wouldn’t it be safer for all concerned; those who have the power to protect the citizen-consumers and those who are themselves the producers and consumers within the economy, to prevent any individual from conflicting with the interests of the majority?

There are far too many people on this planet.  Now that we have nearly developed the technology to ensure that only those with the best qualities should be preserved, isn’t it perfectly logical that we should weed out the people who might be a burden and a challenge to the greater good?  And isn’t it why those in power are quickly preparing to make such measures possible, before communication and persuasion media can no longer win the cooperation of the majority? 

Surely we can all see that we are headed for our own destruction? Would we rather starve and die as population increase and Global Warming make it impossible to feed everyone? Or would we be better to allow those who know best to take totalitarian control and, for our own protection, use eugenics to prevent any undesirable people being born in the future?

After all, those who know best have already thought of all this. Why else are they trying to shape public opinion?  Why are they so happy to see the media losing the ability to influence the masses?  Wasn’t it their own policies which made it possible for everybody to shout their own message to anyone who will listen?  Even the best of the Bloggers, the biggest of the Twitterers will never have the power to persuade the majority, to threaten those with the real power. And if they do, it will be a simple matter to silence them. Start by preventing them from gaining access to the communication channels.  Then see if they have an identifiable non-compliant gene. If they are guilty, then they can be euthanased.  Simplz!  Easy as Comparethemeerkat.com!