The Guardian’s Oliver Milman has written that Trump is to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’. It is an ironic title. His politicised science framed as cracking down on politicised science. Orwellian. Corporate science is truth. My science is truth. Tell me what I want to hear.
This seems so incredibly crass and ignorant that it needs confirmation. Is this rumour, speculation, or for real? Trump ‘choosing’ his science is a complete shift from the Elizabethan public service code – “I want your free and frank advice without fear or favour.”
If it is true, it represents the loss of a fundamental social institution (kaupapa is a far better word – the principles, connections and processes of how we engage and act etc.). In this case, the principle that we make the best decisions by being informed instead of surrounding ourselves with those who are far more interested in currying favour or presenting the world as it seems through their eyes. The quiet road to Hitler’s bunker anyone? A return to the Court of Henry VIII and massive social upheaval and debt? (Lucky they had the Channel.)
Jane Jacob’s Dark Age Ahead warns of this loss of fundamentals. I think we have lost so many since the rise of Neoliberalism and the mega-corporates. The world has become a good place for con artists. Our judiciary, academia, independent science (i.e. untainted by money and power), and public intellectuals are the last bastions. The public service is long gone. Many departments and councils have become toxic autocracies of nightmare action. And there are those that are after those bastions. They represent inconvenient truths if your focus is some variant of totalitarian command and control rather than life and lives with meaning into the future beyond.
Is Trump one of them? Are the corporates so short sighted that they do not see the potential disasters they are unfurling that will eventually engulf themselves? Actually, the second is easy. They are the least wise.
Jacobs was interested in why otherwise successful civilisations have failed because of – in her analysis – the breakdown in fundamental institutions. From there, the unravelling begins – interconnected, deeply social such that any attempt to measure it within quantitative ‘resource’ based models completely misses the point. You lose your kaupapa – your connections and treatment of truth and others – and you can very easily lose the meaning of life.
Our blind neoliberals again, with their empty eyes shining bright with deluded faith, and trancelike enigmatic smiles reflecting nothing except the screen.
Jacobs sums up the danger thus: “Losers are confronted with such radical jolts in circumstances that their institutions cannot adapt adequately, become irrelevant, and are dropped” (p. 20). The jolt – or a series of incremental dismantlings – leads at some point to a cascade effect – which to understand you need a little systems background – the complex adaptive systems of socio-ecological things. The straw that breaks the camels back, the threshold over the edge of which the unravelling begins, the ball that flips out of the bowl to some new attractor point and system state that absolutely no one can predict with any certainty. Likely the closest one to predict that new state (if they survive) will have been considered slightly batty.
Jacobs writes specifically about the vulnerability of democracies when certain types of people get into power ….
“powerful persons and groups that find it in their interest to prevent adaptive corrections have many ways of thwarting self-organising stabilisers — through deliberately contrived subsidies and monopolies, for example.” (p. 21)
And by suppressing these “self-organising stabilisers” in our society, we risk it all. I really don’t think the technocrats get this. They don’t get the critical importance of key social institutions in the functioning of our people and our land – good science without the taint of big money and narrow goals; open dialogue; channeling a corporate money, money, money message of meritocracy and other myths; reforming the public sector into a corporate autocratic functionary state for the reward of group-think and train-scheduling technocracy, where conceptual thinking is banned.
We have, since the 1980s and the “Revolt of the Elite”, changed our institutions away from truth and open dialogue, and compassion for others and the earth. And it is those institutions, those principles, that kaupapa of truth and open dialogue and compassion, that are fundamental to our future success or failure.
None of them will you find in an economist’s model. None of them will be relevant within the technocratic quantitatively obsessed minds who cannot see the world through wider senses. We presume such people are wise only because we have been brainwashed to see wealth and an expensive suit as symbols of wisdom and merit. Look to the other side.
But the onus is really on us, not them. To never stop speaking on the side of truth and compassion. To think for ourselves and never be afraid of seeing things differently. To make choices based on our hopes, never our fears.
And that has relevance for whom we choose to govern. Do they care? Do they dialogue? Do they tell the truth or hide behind glibness and spin? Do they love the machinations of deals and “gotcha!” moments. Do they reflect our hopes? Do they, in any way, work on our fears?
Search into their hearts. If they do not have hearts, then look for those who do. They are the future we deserve.