Well, more time, anyway.
1. That modern democracy is the best way to govern.
Yes, it works, more or less; but is it the best design for effective decision-making? On the plus side it gives voters a sense of engagement with “government” and, if enough people are involved in the process, quells unrest to a large degree. But increasingly it appears to favour popularity and polling over substance and intellect. In some ways modern democracy works by seeking out the lowest common denominator rather than the best set of solutions. And if the popular vote rests in the wrong hands at the wrong time it can lead to poor decision making that is hard to unravel. And this seeming dive to the depths is exacerbated by the ease with which our connected society can now communicate, allowing an easily embraced and marketed notion, irrespective of substance or even veracity, to be repeated endlessly until it becomes “substantial” and majority-believed. Whereas less marketable, more complicated ideas fail to get across to the masses. (Look at the anthropogenic climate change debate!) Thus you end up with more support for the weaker, less effective notion rather than the stronger, more complete or complex one.
2. That Generations theory works.
Whilst demographics include the study of real and measurable cohorts of people, for example swelling birth numbers in a generation or two being labelled a “baby boom”; how substantial are the other labels we throw around with such ease? We have ‘Generation X’ largely because it is the demographic that comes on the tail end of the post-war ‘baby boom’, which is fair enough as a door-stop if you like. And after that a slew of labels that are tied not to changing birth numbers, wars, or clear, widely accepted changes in behaviour but, rather, sheer marketing convenience. Does it really matter what consumer goods were on the market when you were born, or whether you get driven to soccer practice by your mum every week? Does that overcome good schooling and parenting or even our inherited genetic material? The names are as fanciful as their statistical validity, which is often as profound as astrology, or perhaps even less so. Gen Y, Gen Why? Gen Next? And the point of these labels is to… simply label people, for marketing convenience. Haven’t we gotten over that yet?
3. That Religion and spirituality is an alternative to science.
Although people like to blur the lines sometimes, in truth science is open-ended and transparently mutable – that is to say that it’s open to question and can readily change. Whereas spirituality and associated beliefs survive uncontestably outside of logic and reason and are based on accepted “truths”. Which is not to say that religion and sprituality in general are “bad”, of course, nor that science is “good”. There is a place for each in our lives. They are just different things. New scientific “facts” arise from contestable theory and are open to intelligent, educated critique. Which is surely good. And, yes, religious beliefs can change, too, but the key thing about faith – or belief – is that you accept them. They are not presented as a “theory”. To question or deny them goes against the grain, at least for most people, most of the time. So why do so many religions see the need to fight or argue against science? Is it because they feel threatened by truths that conflict with their own unsupportable ideas? In which case the logical approach would be to accept the current science as the best truth we have and review instead the conflicted areas of your own beliefs, rather than rail against the science alone. Which, admittedly, sometimes – though too rarely – is the case.
4. Progress is speed, speed is progress.
We must always be moving forward – and to so we need faster cars, faster trains and faster planes. In essence, to slow down is to fight against progress. Why is it so? Why is speed the major determinant of ‘progress’ in so many minds? Surely less waste, more efficiency and a better overall environment matters more than velocity alone? It’s a narrowly focused mind that solely wants to speed things up, a mind that overlooks the whole picture. Discuss.
5. The Good Old Days, or today’s ‘nanny state’.
It was always better ‘back then’, and in some specific cases maybe it was. Usually it was riskier, less restricted, more “free” and unobserved, at least in some people’s minds. Often this is tied to criticism of the “nanny state”, an idea that has some validity, perhaps, but has become both a cliche and a lazy label. In truth the past is riddled with avoidable injury, unfairness, distress, pain and disease. What we have now may be more cosseting and less risky but it’s a calculated trade off as well, a deal where we get a better, safer life and lose some of our riskier behaviours. We have certainly tended towards overprotection and over-evaluated some risks, especially with regard to our children, but we have also measurably reduced needless injury and death. If the trade-off needs adjustment, do so. But don’t just label everything you disagree with as part of the ‘nanny state’. Take personal responsibility instead and live your life on the edge, or as close as you wish. See what happens. And don’t neglect your medical insurance!
6. Consumerism and materialism.
Need I explain? Consumerism is great at driving economic benefit but it also drives waste and inefficiency. You’d imagine the opposite would be true, that it would drive efficiency and effectiveness too, except that we fail to account for what economists call “externalities”: those things that are affected by or are generated as a result of our activity. Like waste, pollution, loss of habitat and species diversity. And so on. We not only hide these things and fail to price them into our products and activities, we distort the market by actually subsidising wasteful practices. Every government does it. Especially democracies, where the popular vote, money and marketing speaks loudest.
7. Vested interests and entrenched power.
Oh yes, the popular vote, money and marketing at work – again. This is really coming back to “modern democracy”, where the loudest, most cashed-up voices often prevail. You’d hope that democracy would’ve toppled the old dictators, but no, they have simply adapted. Simple ideas gain support over the more complex, harder to explain ones. Like anthropogenic climate change is buried under the shouting of coal miners and other vested interests. And cashed-up voices with a personal stake in the argument can use their resources to shout down the common good. Like running TV ads against a resources tax. Not everyome can do that, only the rich, and usually those with, yes, vested interests. You know who you are.
8. Self-interest vs the community interest.
Ditto. It’s a battle that has been going on forever. You own a waterfront property that is affected by climate change, of course it’s going to affect your personal wealth at some point. It’s a trade off, like living on the edge of a cliff. ‘Great view, pity about the erosion.’ Your local council has a duty to the greater community to prepare for inundation and erosion and take action to alert the public by appropriate land zoning or other regulation. So do you fight against your probable loss of property value or accept that it’s unfair to sustain your wealth at the expense of a future buyer who will have to bear the future loss? That’s just one example, of course, but it illustrates the concept.
9. Persuasion, opinion and fact.
If there’s one thing I’m confident of, it’s that I’ve made mistakes. More likely than not I’ve made mistakes of fact, logic or judgement today, right here on this virtual page. I can only do what I can do and be authentic to myself in doing so. It’s what I am thinking right now, translated into words; nothing more, nothing less. I’m equally certain that everyone makes mistakes, sometimes serious ones, more likely or more commonly less so. Now if I were a confident or persuasive person I’d probably tout my views publicly and push them out to other people. And in some ways I am and I’m doing exactly that, right here. But in other ways I’m not promoting or marketing these ideas much at all. I’m just making them available. The alternative is to do speaking tours, get on the radio or TV, write and promote a book or join an organisation that pushes a set of ideas, like religious zealots or professional politicians may do. It’s important to reflect upon their intentions, to ask whether they are being authentic to their own beliefs, and to recognise that they may be using tricks of the trade – or their wealth or power – to amplify their opinion over others. And to remember that everyone makes mistakes.
10. List-making and list-makers.
Don’t you hate ‘em?