The Only Thing I Can Be Certain of is that I am Not Sure – Boxed Cat Politics

Warning: as usual, no proof reading has occurred. Written rapidly on the train from Carlisle. 

I don’t know much about politics, but the one thing I know for sure is, I don’t know much about politics. I have my biases and my prejudices and, without any deliberate intention, I mainly read the bulletins, blog posts and paperbacks that confirm my position of suspicion for most politicians, parties and corporations. I like the idea of evidence based thinking, so on numerous issues it is getting harder to tick the Yes/No box when the Don’t Know box sits beneath. The confusion increases as the reading goes on.(here is good example of people really putting the effort in to be as ignorant as possible)

It is getting harder to find the time and inclination for research once I have found a position that fits my temperament and personality traits, even if in a document somewhere lie the facts that make my position preposterous. It is getting easier to secure your bigotry and harder to justify it with objectivity. Whatever I want to believe in, I will find the group that confirms superior thinking and right-mindedness.

I felt the tug of my biases recently on a panel with Stuart Ritchie. We talked of the genetic component of intelligence. As a left leaner, I want to believe that, with good education and passionate parenting, each child has similar potential, with a few excesses on either side for the natural idiot or genius. Ritchie’s research points towards a vast contribution of nature over nurture with intelligence and errs towards Francis Galton’s Hereditary Genius and similar theories. I have only read enough to ask questions, I can argue from curiosity not learning, but the moment the subject came up, I could feel my left leaning mind tugging me to a position of dispute. It is interesting and disconcerting when you become aware of your bias.

This is the danger of curiosity and education as an adult, it keeps throwing knives at your cherished beliefs and sometimes you hear them pop and splutter. I like the idea of democracy but then find myself lost in the labyrinth of issues – what to think of the European Union, foreign wars, education policy, prison reforms or deformations – once our society goes above Dunbar’s number of 150 people it gets harder to know what is for the best. At dusk sometimes, I ponder on the possibilities of a benevolent dictator imbued with empathy and lacking venality, but I am not sure that Alan Moore would be happy to take on the job. (though writing a novel, Jerusalem, that is currently longer than The Bible and still unfinished, is a good start).

I have tweeted a little bit about UKIP, and this usually leads to affronting some people. My main gut instinct beef with them is the idea that they are an alternative to the mainstream parties, when they seem from the limited prodding I have done, to be a party whose chief concern will be the interests of business not people. I may well be wrong, but they seem to fit snugly into the broadening gathering of parties who will assist the bulging treasure chests of an increasingly limited group of robber barons who defend themselves by calling themselves “job providers”. The jobs may offer less security, fewer pensions, and contribute to an increase in the landscape of uncertainty in a multitude of precarious lives, but in an act of declared altruism, though actually necessity, these oligarchs and corporate scoundrels smile benevolently and wealthily.

Also, I find myself wary of any political party that has a manifesto that its leader knows nothing about. “now I am in government, I better look at what we are going to do. Ooh crikey, I don’t know anything about this. I thought it was just “leave Europe, have a pint of bitter and a fag. Live in a new Utopia with a bigger wall around this sceptered isle. Have another pint”. Not that a manifesto makes much difference. If I buy a flat screen TV from a reputable shop, and when I open the box, it turns out to be a steam iron, I am allowed to complain and demand a refund or replacement. If I vote for party that promises no massive reform of the NHS, then goes right ahead and does that, I am told, “that’s politics.

Surely you know we sell you a thing that bears no resemblance to the actual product?” While I may fear I am too ignorant for democracy, the gangrene doesn’t end there, most politicians are as limited by what they want to believe in, whatever the evidence may be. Cognitive dissonance is not limited to the underlings. At 45, shouldn’t I have grown into a human whose views are protected by a thick shellac carapace, but the child keeps asking, “but why?..but why?..but why?” I want to ask everyone, including myself, but why do you believe that, but it is a lot of bother.

Oh well, what the heck do I know. I just want an allotment and a shed to hide in, armed with a tobacco pipe and a sharpened trowel for when they come for me.

I am off to Chorley, Reading, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Swindon and a town near you with my surprisingly jolly and hyperkinetic new tour show. Dates HERE

I am playing my only London date of this tour on Wednesday HERE

Our science app with plenty go Brian Cox, Alice Roberts, Richard Wiseman, Helen Czerski and the like is HERE

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13 Responses to The Only Thing I Can Be Certain of is that I am Not Sure – Boxed Cat Politics

  1. Do you think Alan might take the dictator job if he’s promised unlimited cups of tea?

  2. Isabella says:

    Thanks for making it feel as though I am not alone wanting to ask ‘but why?’ and feeling like it is too much trouble because, in my case, their answer will make absolutely no sense.

  3. Adam Pain says:

    An interesting post again – and one which touches upon the problems of confirmation bias, a subject I’ve blogged about recently too.

    Politicians don’t do enough to both engage and explain their ideas to the populace, but I suspect the populace doesn’t really want to engage with politics. I am worried about UKIP’s rise (they are a party whose policies seem depressingly regressive) but think their ‘strength’ is to be found in the anodyne bleating of the other parties, too concerned with PR than with communicating with people.

  4. a “steam iron” is a far too generous an analogy – try an empty box

  5. Gimme says:

    you wrote “At 45, shouldn’t I have grown into a human whose views are protected by a thick shellac carapace, but the child keeps asking, “but why?..but why?..but why?” I want to ask everyone, including myself, but why do you believe that, but it is a lot of bother.”

    “The key to any progress is to ask the question why? All the time. Why is that child poor? Why was there a war? Why was he killed? Why is he in power? And of course questions can get you into a lot of trouble, because society is trained by those who run it, to accept what goes on. Without questions we won’t make any progress at all.” ~ Tony Benn

  6. Kev Page says:

    “The only thing I’m sure of is that everything is unsure.” -Steven Dorff as ‘Cliff Spab’ in “S.F.W,” 1994

  7. Reblogged this on Liam's Random Ramblings and commented:
    Sadly he’s right.

  8. Paul Chandler says:

    I can’t believe that you voted: ‘for party that promises no massive reform of the NHS, then goes right ahead’ (Please correct me if I am wrong).I am sure you could have thought of broken promises from the party you did vote for. If you think about what a manifesto is and how it is generated maybe you can accept that it is a snapshot of opinion within the party hierarchy in the run-up to an election. The shelf life is limited. Famously Tony Blair stood in Beaconsfield in 1982 on an anti-EU and pro-CND platform!
    All governments are coalitions – in the past usually formed before the election but in the present case formed after the election, Coalition = compromise. I take comfort from the hoary old truism: Democracy – terrible system – just the better than the alternatives.

  9. Dave says:

    it doesn’t really matter much who you vote for or why – democracy works regardless…

    You can take it as read that any human organisation of more than 10,000 or so people will be led by someone who is basically “power mad”. The rest of their qualities, crucially competence at doing the job, are irrelevant.

    The reason is simple, any group that large will contain at least one of these people, and by definition they will, unlike everyone else, do “anything” to get there.

    In any large group, such as a country, there will be a large number of these, and the inner group of those who are most power mad will select one of themselves to run the whole group.

    The clue to how countries are run is to look at what other qualities the person selected by this inner group will have – power mad is no longer relevant as they all meet this.

    The reason a functioning democracy leads to a relatively well run country is then simple – it has multiple inner groups, who then choose to prioritise competence at obtaining votes (and incidentally running the country) over features such as total ruthlessness or ability to steal large sums of money.

  10. Chris says:

    Our voting card was hideous this year. More than 50% anti-Europe parties. What will an anti-European do if asked to represent us in Europe? Not turn up? Vote against everything, even things that are really useful? Or just try to resist Europe ‘taking more powers’ and otherwise agree with sensible things?
    Should we have more or less integration/contact with Europe is a valid discussion, but shouldn’t be related to who represents our interests there.

  11. DominicTristram says:

    I always recommend people having such thoughts go to voteforpolicies.org.uk for a fair, free of prejudice and scientific help to how to vote.

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