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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Is the situation in Catalonia a dress rehearsal for the future of the European Union?

Is the situation in Catalonia a dress rehearsal for the future of the European Union? Sadly the answer is probably yes! 

The Catalans argue for independence – many young people are evident! – on the grounds that their psychological and cultural identity is different from the rest of Spain. A well known 20th century tyrant – Joseph Stalin – in a pamphlet written in 1913, also highlighted this aspect as being one of the defining features of a nation: “… a common psychological make-up, which manifests itself in a common culture, is one of the characteristic features of a nation.”  Even knowing this, Stalin did not make a success of the multinational state that he created – the Soviet Union. The grim history of multinational states is a warning to take note of.

The European Union does not have a common psychological make-up, manifesting itself in a common culture. That is one of the lessons that I have learned from spending the past 30 years working with just about every nationality in the European Union, and spending much time in several Member States. Yet the blue flag waving European Unionists seem to be in denial about this. Many of these people are extremists, and European Unionists are just – nationalists!

In the European Parliament there is a place where citizens can be exposed to European Union propaganda. In this place there is a recording of a very deluded MEP stating that the problem of nationalism in Europe has been solved. Not so. The problems have been amplified and doubled, for not only do we now see peoples of the Member States reasserting their national identities as never before over the past 60 years, but we also see the creation of a new form of nationalism – European Union nationalism. Like the Spanish who tried to suppress Catalan cultural identity, the European Union nationalists, if they ever gain power, will suppress the national cultures of the Member States (actually they are already subtly trying to do this).

The conditions for conflict are being laid and if Junker gets his way, on March 30th 2019 continental Europe will begin the march down that old, well trodden road that leads to a very familiar, very European destination. And yet anyone who speaks out and warns is treated like ...  This is also an old well trodden road as well – the Nazis did this in their early days. Later they did more. Will the European Union nationalists do they same? Of course they will, for I have seen the wild empty stare in their eyes – it is frightening.

If we wish to preserve peace, harmony and prosperity in Europe, then it is time to take a stand against this European Union nationalism. It is time to tell these people that the age of grand overarching ideologies and utopian visions, is over. We have seen in the 20th century, where these fantasies lead. No more! It is also time to deal with the problem that the European Commission has become. Alas, we cannot look to the politicians for help here, because they are too preoccupied with matters economic and monetary. So what to do? Time to take up the pen and the brush and do what is necessary – ridicule and satire …

Being British, people might ask why I care about this, given that we will leave the European Union on March 29th 2019. They might say that it is not a British problem if the peoples of continental Europe once more end up living in a dictatorship – this time of technocrats – with a sham democracy that sends deputies to a parliament in Brussels that just rubber stamps decrees handed down by an elitist body – a parliament that can in any case be overridden.

It is a good question. Perhaps it is because I care. Perhaps it is because, when these things happen in continental Europe, people end up dying in numbers that defy comprehension. Perhaps it is because I have a conscience and cannot stand by and let the past become the future. Perhaps it is because I have seen too much over the past 30 years of my involvement in Brussels, and I do not want to see any more. Perhaps it is because I believe in the power of one …

Thursday, 31 August 2017

366 – A Scriptovisual Composition Unknown: An Artistic Investigation of the Spaces between Spaces in the Quest to Create a post-European Era, post-Enlightenment Science

366 – A Scriptovisual Composition Unknown is the result of several artistic processes. Founded in the artistic way of working called, not knowing, and the surrealist technique of writing described by AndrĂ© Breton in the First Manifesto of Surrealism, the work is simultaneously located in both the expressive and the cognitive. But the work is more than just a book, for it is also the product of working simultaneously in two forms of expression – descriptive and plastic. Thus the work is the product of a dual creative process, being scriptovisual in form: a painting and a book which together form the work with the title: 366 – A Scriptovisual Composition Unknown.

And the reason for the above, it transpired, was to undertake an artistic investigation of the spaces between spaces as part of the author’s life-long quest to create a post-European era, post-Enlightenment science and technology. Now is the time to bring this search to fruition, for it is surely the case that a move beyond a science and technology – a culture – that is based on conquest and domination is much needed. Many people in the modern world are weighed down with baggage from the past that comes in the form of functionalism, determinism, positivism, mechanism, scientism, technocracy, materialism, historicism, … The list is quite long! It is a baggage that is destroying humanity and the planet!

The supremacy of the fragmented, reductive, and overly rational mind, heroised in the European world, is leading humanity to the edge of doom, to the creation of a dysfunctional – dystopian – world in which no sane person would want to live. Yet the very nature of the problem – the fragmented, reductive, and overly rational mind – which craves the one best way of knowing, the sole truth, and unambiguousness, even though the complexity of human existence point towards there been many ways of knowing, many truths, and a state of ambiguity as the norm, is preventing the step forward that humanity must now take. Mix the fragmented, reductive, and overly rational mind, with mind-sets that value and prioritise data, numbers, mathematics, and computations, above other ways of knowing, as well as softer thinking based on intuitions, feelings, etc., then one has a recipe for a disaster on a scale never before been seen in human history.

Provided in this work therefore, are the reasons, presented in a way that is highly unusual, why the development of a different type of science and technology is now needed. The reader will also discover pointers towards the creation of this new form of science and technology, the development of which, the reader will learn, is far more advanced than people realise. Raised also as a consequence is an issue called Unity of Knowledge, for which so-called consilience, the author has concluded, is an irrelevance. The author proposes that what is required is the development of a new Theory of Knowledge; one that is built on a different perception of the universe and humanity to that which dominates in the European world.

The book is also a demonstration of the value of artistic thinking and practices, which contrasts sharply with the obsession that some in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have, which in many cases is nothing more than an appropriation of the arts for the furthering of an old vision of STEM, which is – to borrow from Ancient Greek mythology and the story of Prometheus – just entrails (more of that baggage referred to above), dressed up with a little good meat (art).





Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Experts, Polymaths, and the Liberal Arts – Outdated Concepts for an Outdated Western World

Given the (often tedious) discussion (not dialogue) often found in the very conventional world of academia and other such failing institutions (like the European Commission and its DG CONNECT), and the endless (mostly empty and sometimes almost fraudulent) talk about STEM to STEAM; here are some standard and (not so standard) alternative definitions of three overused words which just illustrate why the above are failing institutions, doing what all failing institutions do – retreating into the past, that place of security where everything seems fine:


Expert: a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area.

Alternative

Expert: A person who knows a lot about very little.


Polymath: A person of wide knowledge or learning.

Alternative

Polymath: A person who knows very little about a lot.


Liberal Arts: arts subjects such as literature and history, as distinct from science and technology.

Alternative

Liberal Arts: subjects still defined according to an archaic division of knowledge.


Liberal arts subjects are those that an educated person should know in order to participate in the life of the community. Hence in the real world the liberal arts include all the subjects that the archaic division of knowledge excludes …

For the most able of people, it takes about two years of full time effort to cross a disciplinary boundary such as they are able to operate in that discipline. Few people, polymath or otherwise, have time for such, and no degree course can provide sufficient knowledge in the limited time available. Yet increasingly it seems that what is needed, are for people to cross disciplinary boundaries and to operate in those second (or third) disciplines!

Is the fad for Liberal Arts (standard definition) just another fruitless debate about liberal arts education versus specialist education? A repeat of debates already held in the past. Debates that most (including polymaths - standard definition) seem not to know took place. Likewise for the so called T-shaped person – this concept dates back to the 1970s at least, possibly earlier. The polymaths seem to have missed that point too! All this somewhat undermines the argument for – liberal arts education and polymaths (standard definitions)!

So Prometheus sits on his rock, wearing his invisible and silent chains that keep him bound there, and everyday he reinvents himself in exactly the same form he was yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that …

The Vainglorious Enlightened Ones are, indeed, in serious trouble. May you live in interesting times! You are living in interesting times …

Sunday, 21 May 2017

STARTS VERTIGO’s Surrealist Tales of Faustian Pacts with the Devil that is DG CONNECT

I heard from afar a great din, and on moving to investigate found many noisy artists, all lined up, passing through a gate above which was cast, in now rusting iron, adapted words from a long forgotten imperial decree: No Restriction to Artistic Freedom Will Here be Found.

Standing now close by, I watched as this motley crew shuffled past, and spied within the camp, a man, a guard, whose name was oft spoken, and from the speaking of, I learned this man’s name – and the name was Jury. And while each of them, the artists that is, approached this Jury, he divided them; some he sent to his left, and others to his right.

Of those who to the left did go, they disappeared from view, and I never saw them again. At later time, having enquired in another place of their fate, I discovered that through a portal they had been despatched, to find themselves – having already being put to much inconvenience – deposited unceremoniously by the side of a road in some far away and remote place, from which they then had to, with much trouble, find their way home, at no cost to the devil known as DG CONNECT.

Of those who to the right did march, a much worse fate did unfold! First each, on passing by rubbish bins, had to deposit there in the first, something that is known as artistic integrity, and in a second one, their critical independence. Each then was told to strip, and to don a special uniform, upon which was written in stripes, many times over: artist to be exploited in any way that takes your whim.

Then into a hellish chamber, full of fire and smoke they did proceed to have their nostrils filled with a technocratic sulphurous reek along with the rotting smell of evil corruption – of the City of the Golden Stars kind. And to a table, behind which stood the all powerful VERTIGO – demigod of art-science beliefs – each one was then led, to sign, in their own blood, an irreversible pack with the devil known as DG CONNECT. And once thus tied, no escape was discovered to be possible, for they had to their new masters now been bound – including their lives for ever more, for the brand of the devil that is DG CONNECT was indelibly, on their foreheads, burned.

No sooner was the signature complete – while the blood was still wet – did, from it seems out of thin air, a ball and chain appear, which by some unseen force, locked itself upon the ankles of these poor unfortunate new handmaidens. Then the hand of VERTIGO did point towards strange holes in the walls, which looked very much like prison cells, above which strange and meaningless names there were carved: AMORE, CUPIDO, Magic Shoes, and other quite ridiculous words created by STEM, another demigod of the very peculiar, art-science secular religion, and the even stranger, new, extremist and fundamentalist sect that had styled itself – STARTS. Then VERTIGO did speak these words to each of his victims: “go inside and design.”

Each of the poor shackled prisoners then towards the holes did make their way, and when within a metre or so of the entrance, a chain did miraculously shoot forth and attach itself to the approaching artist’s neck, dragging the poor creature into the cell to face whatever tortures and torment were there waiting for them to endure. And from within came cries such as: “you will do this” and “you will do that” and “you’re here as a slave to serve the project so you do what we want”, and “you must disseminate and communicate”, and “you’re here to make us more creative” and “what rights are those, you signed the pact; your art belongs to you, but your ideas do not, and we will use your art how we think fit, and you have no control over this.”

From some cells the sounds of great arguments did it occasionally issue forth, as a few artists struggled to regain their independence and dignity, but then I noticed that the demigod VERTIGO had, to absolute power evolved, and when the heat of such arguments did grow, VERTIGO intervened and silenced the dissident artists, transporting them into exile to a place called Void, where they did then become entangled in complex and distressful legal matters requiring expertise that no normal artist could afford. And when they tried to speak out, to condemn, to warn, no sounds came forth from their mouths, for into these had been inserted a strange device called a Confidentiality Clause. Thus did DG CONNECT once again silence the voices of artists and punish those who dissented, in a manner in keeping with very European traditions and past European Unions. And in the doing of DG CONNECT’s dirty work, VERTIGO – DG CONNECT’s faithful handmaiden – did demonstrate that reassuring siren words such as sympathetic and sensitive treatment of the arts are but empty promises, especially when arrogant and elitist bureaucrats take charge. Reality is indeed a hard and cruel beast, as indeed is DG CONNECT!

Observing the nightmare that is STARTS unfolding before my eyes, feeling sickened and saddened by what I had seen, I could no more watch, so I turned away to depart, thankful that, from these Detrimental Research Practices (as the National Academy of Sciences in the US calls them), I did, long ago, DISCONNECT. It was then I noticed a European Commission Commissar from the devil that is DG CONNECT, observing smugly all that transpired, being somewhat pleased that to the service of this devil, artists and their art had been corrupted in the name of another demigod – neoliberalism. Farwell l’exception culturelle!

On this leaving I did also recall, a phrase that to Google was once applied, for they too did artistic freedoms restrict, in that which they called DevArt: the exploitation of artists is evil! It is indeed! But when Faustian Packs with DG CONNECT people do make, that they should have been tricked, should surely come as no surprise at all, for DG CONNECT are the most corrupted technocrats of all, and as STARTS reveals, and DG CONNECT’s very public domain comments prove, they are also technocrats of the most ignorant kind. On the other hand, as our extensive researches have revealed, some artists, ardent disciples of the art-science secular religion, engage in fabrications too – as a matter of course – so good bedfellows such will make, for DG CONNECT is the most highly skilled deceiver of them all. Thus do both parties in this sad tale get what they deserve – each other! Thus too does that term Research Integrity in the City of the Golden Stars, become as meaningless as the empty-headed whims upon which STARTS is based. We are back to the matter of art-science fakes once again!

------


This I could see and did predict, writing such, long before STARTS did START. Thus the world now begins to see the European Commission, and DG CONNECT, for what they are, and thus does the world learn how not to bring art into research and innovation processes. Interested observers in China take note, for here is the worst practice case study that is STARTS from which you can, at European Union Taxpayer’s expense, learn, and in doing so, also add to DG CONNECT’s humiliation. Here too learn about the factors which render technocracy, and Global Systems Science, yet more of those dangerous fantasies for which past European Unions are renowned! Time to stop them in their tracks, before embryonic monsters seeking human flesh, consume us all, for in the City of the Golden Stars the conditions for their nourishment and growth have now come into existence once again. And it STARTS with STARTS – first take control of art and restrict artistic freedoms!

When will Europeans learn, that their time is done, that the future will not be European? Now is the Age of the Tao. But Prometheus just sits on his rock, to which he is forever, it seems, bound, by chains of the invisible and silent kind. His artist in residence wears those very same chains too. Thus does the past become the future! Time is a singularity.

STARTS weaving the art-science tangled web …

Sunday, 23 April 2017

STEM to STEAM we STARTS to wonder, STEM to STEAM what do you mean?

And to the matter of 366 I now turn! Below an extract, reformatted for the purpose at hand:

Act 1, Scene 1

Enter Sir Eric Ashby FRS, with Julia, an artist.

Julia:     Speak Eric. Speak!

Eric:     I will. By the 1870s Oxford and Cambridge were ready to accept experimental science as an ingredient in education; but they were not prepared to jettison their cherished ideals of a liberal education in favour of the ideal of the university as a research institution. The vague but none the less attractive idea of the scholar-gentleman is still alive. Liberal education is still the aim of the Oxford tutor, and it has become the aim of the civic university lecturer; for the centripetal attraction of Oxford and Cambridge and their ideas remain a tremendous force in the provincial universities of Britain. British universities have never quite surrendered the idea of Renaissance Man to the idea of the Research Worker. These two powerful social forces – the influence of the utilitarian and the cult of the practical man on the one hand, and the influence of the classical humanists and the cult of the scholar-gentleman on the other – profoundly affected the manner in which British universities adapted themselves to the scientific revolution. Oxford did not respond as Göttingen had responded; Sheffield did not regard science as Munich had regarded it. Wissenschaft won its way into British Universities, but it never quite came to terms with the tough pragmatism of lay governors in civic universities or with the tenacious ideals of classical dons in Oxford and Cambridge. To this day the new has not become altogether assimilated into the old; adaptation is not yet complete: and here lies the cause of some of our present problems in universities.

Julia:    STEM to STEAM we wonder. What do you think?

Eric:     Not sure! But it is evident that the antitheses between science and humanism has almost vanished, but it has been replaced by another antithesis, equally mischievous. The future historian will record that the unprofitable debates of the 1860s on the humanities versus science were followed in the 1950s by equally unprofitable debates on specialisation versus a liberal education. There is an assumption that specialisation and a liberal education are antithetic. What is needed is to challenge the assumption itself. The Oxford Dictionary defines liberal education as education fit for a gentleman. That is still an acceptable definition; it is the idea of a gentleman which has changed. A century ago when Britain awoke to the need for technological education, a gentleman belonged to the leisured class. Modern gentlemen do not belong to the leisured class. Many of them work something like a seventy-hour week, and more and more of them are finding that their business requires expert knowledge. A case could be made therefore for including technology among the ingredients of a liberal education. What then is missing in a scientific or technological education? It is not a smattering of art or architecture which is missing, nor is it an acquaintance with history or literature. Indeed it is not a primary lack of subject-matter at all: the fault lies with what Alfred Whitehead called a celibacy of the intellect which is divorced from the concrete contemplation of the complete facts. It is a preoccupation with abstractions from reality, an escape from the whole of reality. In his book, Science and the Modern World, Whitehead warned us that this would become the great danger of professional education. Each profession, he said, makes progress in its own groove of abstractions, but there is no groove of abstractions which is adequate for the comprehension of human life.

Enter Alfred Whitehead FRS

Julia:    Eric speaks of Whitehead and Alfred Whitehead appears. Strange coincidence! Perhaps not! The magic works. Pray speak, Alfred.

Alfred:  I will. There is something between the gross specialised values of the mere practical man, and the thin specialised values of the mere scholar. Both types have missed something; and if you add together the two sets of values, you do not obtain the missing elements. When you understand all about the sun and all about the atmosphere and all about the rotation of the earth, you may still miss the radiance of the sunset. There is no substitute for the direct perception of the concrete achievement of a thing in its actuality. A factory, with its machinery, its community of operatives, its social service to the general population, its dependence upon organising and designing genius, its potentialities as a source of wealth to the holders of its stock, is an organism exhibiting a variety of vivid values. What we want to train is the habit of apprehending such an organism in its completeness.

Exit Alfred Whitehead, Enter John Dewey

John:    Progress in science ought to manifest itself as an emancipation of the mind enabling it to pursue new ends and new ideals; but in fact, progress due to science has been confined to more efficient means of satisfying old ends and old ideals.

Julia:    This criticism is still valid.

Exit John Dewey

Eric:     Adaptations needed to bring British universities into equilibrium with the age of technology are changes of curriculum; they could be accomplished through the normal channels of university administration and legislation. But they would not be successful unless accompanied by subtle adaptations in academic thought: professors of technology need to be persuaded that the pattern of curriculum under which they themselves were trained is inadequate for their students. Professors of arts subjects need to be persuaded that the presence of technology in universities puts them under an obligation to reconsider the emphasis in their own humanistic studies. It is at this point that universities look to their faculties of arts for help; and it is at this point that they are often disappointed. For faculties of arts have themselves become so deeply influenced by science that they seem unable to offer help towards the assimilation of technologists. Instead of contributing to the university what the Victorians understood by a liberal education, some of them are doing with grammar and documents what scientists and technologists can already do with formulae and instruments. This is doubtless profitable for the progress of scholarship in the humanities, but one cannot escape the consequences that humanities cease to be humanising when they are treated that way. It is a sort of treatment which leads to a celibacy of the intellect as inimical to a liberal education in arts as it is in science.

Exit Eric Ashby

Julia:    The involvement of artists in science and technology, so much discussed among those who live in the echo chamber that is art-science and art-technology, do the same – signs of humanisation are difficult to find! Often one cannot tell who is an artist, because they are as much caught-up in the ideologies of science and technology as the scientists and technologists themselves. Which is one of the reasons why we do not engage with this noisy lot – and they are noisy. Very noisy!

Enter George Orwell

George: Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Exit George Orwell

Julia:    STEM to STEAM we STARTS to wonder, STEM to STEAM what do you mean? It STARTS to become a nightmarish dream. Awake. Awake. See what thou art doing! The European Commission, DG CONNECT, are fakes! What do I mean? Only those with knowledge will understand. Already that which STARTS becomes an example, an indicator, a signpost towards what not to do – a worst practice case study. And we will use it as such over the coming years to help those outside the European world. This is the Age of Tao! Goodbye Vainglorious Enlightened Ones – your time, your age, your world, is done.

Exit

Sunday, 16 April 2017

At the Parting of the Ways


At the Parting of the Ways

By dusty road, that oft I walked, do not stand,
Arching bridge, now crossed, no longer supports.
I am gone away – there is no way back for me.
On golden sands, gazing out to sea, do not stand,
Sailing ship, on far distant shore, now lies beached.
I am gone away – there is no way back for me.
On lonely hill, thinking of me, do not stand,
No roads, paths, or byways, lead me to thee.
I am gone away – there is no way back for me.
Remember me; forget you, I shall not,
For by your side, I will always be,
As together, to slippery edge of doom, we walk.
I am gone away – fair lady with beautiful soul,
Farewell to thee, our ways now do part.



It’s a work in progress, an experiment, part of 366. I have already changed it since first published. It may change again. The original version is below. Now you ask why do I keep changing it? I say in answer – what is a pentiment? More of my ambiguity! Why should I answer thee? Between that which lies below, and that which sits above, is a vast complexity that lies beyond your machine-like way of seeing an eternity. Then you ask: what is 366? Wait and see, I say by way of return.

Do not stand by dusty road that oft I walked,
For arching bridge, I destroyed as I went,
There is no way back for me – I am gone.
Do not stand on golden sands, gazing out to sea,
For my ship now lies burnt, on far distant shore,
There is no way back for me – I am gone.
Do not stand on lonely hill, thinking of me,
For no roads, paths, or byways lead me to thee,
There is no way back for me – I am gone.
Do not forget me; know that I shall never forget you,
And know too I shall always be, by your side, as together,
We walk, slowly, silently, to slippery edge of doom.
Farewell fair lady with the beautiful soul – I am gone.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Fostering Integrity in Research, STARTS, and Art-Science Fakes

The National Academies in the USA have published a new report on Fostering Integrity in Research. Although data on the scale of the problem is missing, the report highlights new Detrimental Research Practices which are damaging to public confidence in research and its outcomes. We though, in the years we spent in Brussels, saw many examples of these Detrimental Research Practices, on both sides – researchers and the European Commission itself.

Fostering Integrity in Research is a hard call, given the obsession with fortune and glory that now dominates the research system both at institutional and individual levels. Fostering Integrity in Research becomes even harder to put into practice though, when the research funding agency itself, is not fostering integrity in its own operations, like for example in its dealings with so-called independent experts. This is why we have started to withdraw from all engagement with the European Commission. The problems are endemic and systemic. On the one side you have people who want fortune, glory and power, and on the other side you have technocrats with power and money who want glory. Of course not all are like this. But the culture of the organisation is such that it leads to these Detrimental Research Practices.

So we are back to the matter of the European Commission, DG CONNECT, STARTS, and art-science fakes! We have not finished with this matter. We will soon offer some web links by way of a STARTS unconventional and compelling product. In this case the product is a game – the aesthetics of play. We provide some web links, and you have to spot what is wrong with the material at the other end of the links. No prizes of course, just the fun of participating (the aesthetics of participation) and wondering – it is a game full of ambiguity. Nevertheless it may help you to see the world differently by encouraging you not to accept at face value what people say, especially those with vested interests and conflicts of interest, as they go about constructing the artificial reality that is STARTS – the emperor’s new clothes. Human delusions know no bounds. Now they START to have a boundary, beyond which there is pure fantasy – DG CONNECT technocratic fantasy.

Surreal! Yes indeed it is, partly – in the sense of allowing the subconscious to speak.