Lazy Luddite Log

31.5.08

Convergence

A while back I knocked my alarm clock off my desk and it smashed. Since then however I have never replaced it but rather have been using my mobile phone as my alarm clock. This has reminded me of the notion of technological convergence and my suggestion (made as part of a long discussion here ages ago) that it may be one way of curbing overconsumption.

Because my phone is now my alarm clock, that is now one less thing I need to buy. And my mobile is a pretty primitive one. Many others have mobiles that are also cameras or also personal music players. With such devices that serve several functions (because the technology involved in these functionally different devices is in fact very similar technology) we may find that we all start owning fewer separate sole-purpose devices. I notice for instance that a lot of us nowadays use our mobiles to tell the time, elliminating the need for a watch. And it can go further.

I know some friends who lacked a TV and VCR but that was okay as they rarely watched free TV and would simply watch DVDs on their home computer. Likewise a computer with the right software and attachments serves as a perfectly good home stereo. Here are more ways in which such multi-function devices may allow us to own fewer items while still feeling as if we have all those mod-cons (does anyone use that word these days other than me?).

Of course we tend to own several of these things. I still have an old film camera and I will keep using it till such time as its usefulness ends. Likewise I have a lovely iPod that keeps me company while PTing (I have had this longer than a mobile and got it for a song second-hand). Eventually however I may replace all of these with one rather than three things. And as time pases the functionality of these devices will improve - they will get better and better at several things rather than just one thing.

And finally we come to the Internet. I rarely buy a newspaper now because I can simply see news on-line. I rarely buy CDs now as my desire for particular tracks is well-served by things such as the iTunes Store. All in all if what I want is information then I can get that directly rather than need it to be printed onto paper or laser disc or whatever (let alone the petrol needed to transport such things to shops). Will these trends reduce the overall level of resources consumed by the modern person? Or will there be other factors I am overlooking which will also come into play?

One consequence of these developments for me is that I can potentially be spending less while feeling as if I have a better quality-of-life in the form of more convenience and less clutter. Or I may just spend the extra dosh on more Transformers...

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21.5.08

Scary Scarab

In my recent wanderings I have stumbled upon one of the strangest things in Melbourne. In Canterbury is something that looks like a Masonic hall from the railway line. But at closer inspection it is much stranger. The usual compass and set-square is absent but there is a scarab beetle holding a golden sun-disc. Emulation Hall is one peculiar bit of architecture. Take a look at my photos of it - now that is some crazy shit right there!

What am I supposed to think on seeing such an ostentatious representation of ancient paganism on a prominent historic structure? The more eccentric aspects of Freemasonry are supposed to be all hush-hush. Needless to say I was intrigued. And like any occult investigator worth his salt I immediately started googling. I discovered that there is info online regarding 'Emulation' as some strand or aspect of Freemasonry but I have been too busy to look into it yet. Others are welcome to help me in my detective work.

One more thing I can say - there was an advertisement outside the hall for some kind of Chess association. Now it is commonplace for all sorts of organisations to hire the halls of other organisations for meeting purposes. But what if there is some link between Chess geeks and Freemasons steeped in the Occult? I never trusted those Chess geeks! Possibly I am just tired from having started a new job. Possibly I am excited at the prospect of seeing the new Indiana Jones movie this weekend and am imagining all sorts of ancient hidden magical nonsense. Or possibly there is something very secret and sinister happening in the calm and stately side streets of Canterbury...

Postscript

Since writing this I have had the oportunity to explore a former Masonic hall and got to go into the forbidden meeting chamber hidden in a wardrobe. I even got to sit in a throne!

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15.5.08

Blogging Still Alive?

I have for a while been noticing that I spend less time looking at blogs and likewise that others spend less time looking at mine. In its first six months (November 2005 to April 2006) this blog got an average of between 2 and 3 comments per blog entry. Now in the last six months (November 2007 to April 2008) it has averaged less than 1 comment per entry.

My most recent post on parenting licences concept has broken the mould with some vigorous discussion. But I can hardly post on something controversial and outlandish every week now can I? I never aspired to be one of those deliberately provocative bastard political bloggers anyway!

What has changed? Can it be that the development of blogging, which seemed to cut into the activity of discussion groups, has itself taken a hit from the newer phenemenon of networking sites like Facebook? Or have my friends just got more busy lives? What other factors may there be? Comments from fellow bloggers welcome...

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9.5.08

Parenting Licence

I got involved in a vigorous debate over a few drinks this week on associated topics of parenting and population. As is frequently the case the conversations started with the personal then became political. We were sharing anecdotes of some of the rudeness one finds in society. From the lack of respect for teachers shown by some students to the shitty behaviour some parents model for their children. We are all aware of the existance of pockets of intergenerational welfare dependence and (associated with that) the perpetuation of forms of conduct that are at best barely socialised and at worst borderline criminal. In such a discussion it is natural then to seek solutions...

From time-to-time conservatives will declare that there has been a massive loss of manners in society. The former Prime Minister Howard catered to this sentiment with calls for a renewal in manners (never mind that many pronouncements of his ministers were wildly offensive to many in our society). I wonder how much of a delcine there truly has been however. It is something we cannot quantify so anecodatal evidence must be resorted to.

One useful way of 'sampling' society I think is to take public transport. One witnesses many shades of behaviour and frequently what I observe contradicts received wisdom. Schoolkids en masse can be rather obnoxious but I have also frequently noticed teenages very politely thanking busdrivers. At the same time I have seen more than a few elderly commuters behaving in very offensive ways and acting as if age gives them licence to do so. It all depends on the specific person of course.

Another thing I am tempted to note is that some of the best behaviour seems to come from those of recent migrant backgrounds while some of the worst comes from those who in the US they call 'white trash'. There may be something in this in that migrants tend to adhere more to norms of traditional family values. I think many of these values are problematic in a permissive society but am all for instilling in members of society conduct which demonstrates a respect for others. Ironically conservatives may get what they want by fostering more multiculturalism!

But back to the 'white trash' or what we here fondly call 'bogans'. This demographic is associated with (and I am overgeneralising) intergenerational welfare dependence and tends to concentrate in particular areas. It makes life particularly difficult for those involved in the caring professions in those areas. Or just for anyone who runs into them on the street. It produces teenage parties that end in massive police operations. With this kind of thing in mind some of my friends proposed the concept of 'parenting licences'. I can understand the sentiment behind this. I have come across this same proposal in past conversations with other friends. And then as now I have to object.

I object on philosophical grounds. Having children is a human right - see Artile 16 (1) of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. To have this right transferred to some government body to then decide who is entitled to have children is offensive to this philosophy of natural rights. It is also dangerous - what government experts or vested interests get to decide what constitutes proper parenting or proper parents? I would object to this form of interference even if those interfering agreed entirely with my vision of how one should behave.

This is all I need to say but I also object on practical grounds. How the heck would something like parenting licences ever be enforced? And what happens to those who defy the new law or indeed to those who are a product of that defiance? If backyard abortions are a problem then imagine backyard births. There are ways in which it could be enforced like artificial sterilisation. But we come now to my final objection...

And with it we return from the political to the personal: Sometimes ones political perspectives are shaped by those one hates as much as by those one loves and I hate fascists and it is fascist regimes that have utilised sterilisation as a part of eugenics programs. The association of this alone is sufficient for me to respond strongly to the suggestion of parenting licences. That is my own historical perspective and it may help others understand why I may stand apart on this one so firmly.

But we still have a problem. Some parents are negligent. Some parents model some very nasty behaviours. Some children take such behaviours into adulthood and so it persists. I think my take on this is similar to my take on the issue of the stupid citizenship test. Rather than test someone to see if they are fit to be a citizen we should provide them with services and guidance to allow them to become worthy of citizenship. We should assume that an adult can manage themselves and children and only intervene if it is apparent that they are neglecting the responsibility they have freely taken on. My preference is for an array of government and societal responses that work together to promote the behaviour society expects. This is moreorless what we have now anyway. Improvements can always be made. Yet there will always be problems that persist despite the best of intentions. But for me a complex response is better than a drastic and simplistic solution like that of the parenting licence.

And Another Thing

We also discussed population control which is another issue deserving its own space that I may come back to at sometime...

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