Reading the Cluetrain

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Who gives us permission to explore our world?

‘The question implies that the world in fact belongs to someone else. Who gives us permission to communicate what we’ve experienced, what we believe, what we discovered of the world for ourselves? The question betokens a history of voice suppressed, of whole cultures that have come to believe only power is sanctioned to speak. Because the ability to speak does involve power. It entails ownership and the control conferred by ownership. ‘

Okay so I am finally back on the Cluetrain after too long a hiatus. Today I came across the above paragraph and my first thought was – good point. Who the hell is the government, the church, my employer to tell me what I can and can’t look at?  Unless you are God (and I have suspicions about the existence of that particular landlord) then frankly the world, terra friggin firma, our planet is not theirs, it’s ours.

However, I believe that the majority of punters (and I include myself in this) don’t need to know everything. I loved the X-Files and Independence Day (leading to my  film degree dissertation on Religious Motifs in Science Fiction which I still think I should have got a 1st  for) it was cool to look into the world of those ‘in the know’ but I have to say I agreed with those fictional characters strategy of ‘plausible deniability’  

“God damn it Mulder, if we told the little people that aliens were regularly visiting the Kentucky state mini mall there would be anarchy!”

I did a personality test once while enrolled in Executive Job Club, (yes that is a real club, it’s where the Job Centre send you when you get made redundant from your first PR job and they don’t know what to do with you, there was me and a bunch of 50 year old men who were lovely but it was a bit like take your daughter work day) anyway, I did this test and I came out Submissive 9/Confirmist 10.

If you know me you wouldn’t think that I would be like this. My ex boyfriend once said I was the least conformist person he had ever met (bless him he went to boarding school) but fundamentally I think that people do need structure. They want to feel safe and they want someone else to take responsibility for their lives, they want to listen to a commanding voice and trust that someone or something else is going to take care of the big things while they decide whether to get their chicken tikka masala from Tesco or Sainsbury.

 As I write I am questioning myself again, do people want someone/thing in charge so society doesn’t go off on one Lord of the Flies stylee or are we, am I just scared?

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March 14, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. We don’t need to know everything individually, but we need each need to be able to know anything we choose.

    I mentioned the other day I’ve been tracing the history of compulsory schooling, which is a big chunk of this stuff. Far bigger than the PR part 🙂

    Here’s part of the introduction to the book:

    “The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the millions of careers devoted to tending them will seem incredible to you. Yet that is my central proposition: the mass dumbness which justifies official schooling first had to be dreamed of; it isn’t real.

    Our official assumptions about the nature of modern childhood are dead wrong. Children allowed to take responsibility and given a serious part in the larger world are always superior to those merely permitted to play and be passive. At the age of twelve, Admiral Farragut got his first command. I was in fifth grade when I learned of this. Had Farragut gone to my school he would have been in seventh.

    The secret of American schooling is that it doesn’t teach the way children learn and it isn’t supposed to. It took seven years of reading and reflection to finally figure out that mass schooling of the young by force was a creation of the four great coal powers of the nineteenth century. Nearly one hundred years later, on April 11, 1933, Max Mason, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, announced to insiders that a comprehensive national program was underway to allow, in Mason’s words, “the control of human behavior.”

    Presumably humane utopian interventions like compulsion schooling aren’t always the blessing they appear to be. For instance, Sir Humphrey Davy’s safety lamp saved thousands of coalminers from gruesome death, but it wasted many more lives than it rescued. That lamp alone allowed the coal industry to grow rapidly, exposing miners to mortal danger for which there is no protection. What Davy did for coal producers, forced schooling has done for the corporate economy.

    Mass production could not be rationalized unless the population accepted massification. In a democratic republic, school was the only reliable long-range instrument available to accomplish this. Older American forms of schooling would not have been equal to the responsibility which coal, steam, steel, and machinery laid upon the national leadership. Coal demanded the schools we have and so we got them—as an ultimate act of rationality.

    Spare yourself the anxiety of thinking of this school thing as a conspiracy, even though the project is indeed riddled with petty conspirators. It was and is a fully rational transaction in which all of us play a part. We trade the liberty of our kids and our free will for a secure social order and a very prosperous economy. It’s a bargain in which most of us agree to become as children ourselves, under the same tutelage which holds the young, in exchange for food, entertainment, and safety. The difficulty is that the contract fixes the goal of human life so low that students go mad trying to escape it.

    At the heart of the durability of mass schooling is a brilliantly designed power fragmentation system which distributes decision-making so widely among so many warring interests that large-scale change is impossible without a guidebook. Few insiders understand how to steer this ship and the few who do may have lost the will to control it.

    The only conceivable way to break out of this trap is to repudiate any further centralization of schooling in the form of national goals, national tests, national teaching licenses, school-to-work plans, and the rest of the utopian package which accompanies these. Schooling must be desystematized, the system must be put to death. Adam Smith has correctly instructed us for more than two centuries now that the wealth of nations is the product of freedom, not of tutelage. The connection between the corporate economy, national politics, and schooling is a disease of collectivism which must be broken if children are to become sovereign, creative adults, capable of lifting a free society to unimaginable heights. The rational manage- ment model has damaged the roots of a free society and the free market it claims to defend.”

    I thought this quote was brilliant:

    “The thesis I venture to submit to you is as follows: That during the past forty or fifty years those who are responsible for education have progressively removed from the curriculum of studies the Western culture which produced the modern democratic state; That the schools and colleges have, therefore, been sending out into the world men who no longer understand the creative principle of the society in which they must live; That deprived of their cultural tradition, the newly educated Western men no longer possess in the form and substance of their own minds and spirits and ideas, the premises, the rationale, the logic, the method, the values of the deposited wisdom which are the genius of the development of Western civilization; That the prevailing education is destined, if it continues, to destroy Western civilization and is in fact destroying it.

    I realize quite well that this thesis constitutes a sweeping indictment of modern education. But I believe the indictment is justified and here is a prima facie case for entering this indictment.”

    — Walter Lippmann, speaking before the Association for the Advancement of Science, December 29, 1940

    Comment by dave | March 26, 2008 | Reply


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