All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Narrowing Of Collective Will

Collective bargaining on the part of unions and capitalists makes it possible for employers to know just what the workers think on matters of mutual interest. So, whether you spend your working life in mines or pharmaceuticals --or both, digging deep underground for aspirin-ore -- and want some government by discussion, you're screwed without a union.

Without opportunity to discuss bad policy, management is untroubled in its inequities, disparities and draconian injustices. It knows nothing because it brooks no discussion. After all, when you don't know anything there's no point in changing your mind.

You're likewise screwed without a cohesive, cooperative assembly of nations. If we enlarge our mine to include the finite, fossil-resources of earth, we find them not renewable, only inheritable from current and prior exploitations. When we lose discussion we lose inclusion. We also lose innovation. Powerful heirs close ranks. They become a tontine, armed against each other, a deathwatch circled to guard a donkey-engine chugging in a hole.

Outside this hopeless, humorless, belligerent inner crowd there forms a wide margin of disenfranchised populace. Theirs is a world of tumbled walls, disused doors, their infirm dying in wheelbarrows and, because they have no aspirin, suffering constant headaches. A dismal realm, but historically one from which discussion reemerges. Innovation struggles from want and eventually human progress flourishes anew.

In stamping mills where ore is crushed and in sweatshops where it is fashioned into aspirin tablets by children chained to their anvils, opinions are born. The unwashed, downtrodden peon asks, 'If I have this one opinion, might I not have another as well, and another and another?'

It is happening right now in internet discussion groups. What confuses me is why some group moderators expel members whose opinions or styles fall outside the narrow norm. Clearly, if discussion is prerequisite to liberty, throwing out its most hopeful extremes is counterproductive. There is a tyrannical element, I suspect, that senses threat in discussion.

Moderators may quite honestly reject those comments they are unable to appreciate or understand, but doing so suppresses in themselves an important human quality, the will to expand appreciation and understanding. The will to discover has many obstacles, ignorance certainly, but the greatest obstacle of all is the illusion of knowledge.

Too often, opinions and people are discarded because they conflict with what another believes he or she knows. The group decides discovery is not worth the effort of disabusing itself and tightens around illusion. In internet, unions, government and life it is poor policy to throw chances away. When moderators, chairpersons, public officials do this the chugging echo from the hole can heard more and more clearly.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Boccherini Enigma

Over the course of long association, marked by near complete absence of argument, a dear friend and I have seldom agreed on anything. We do, however, both like music, its bearing upon history and the world at large. For instance, I am listening to Boccherini music right now. My friend probably isn't, and if he was, he wouldn't draw the same inferences as I.

Bach invented the Boccherini, a type of Italian Kazoo, hence the similarity of names. So I must challenge custom by inferring another favorite composer, Offenbach, was not only a convincing Bach impersonator but was often Milton as well. Milton was a poet, not a musician, but the Mirliton --a flute with a paper reed, yes, a kind of Kazoo-- was named for him. Or was it? Could it be a ruse by Offenbach who was also Offenmilton? A French composer born in Germany might easily wake up in Italy and not be quite himself.

Italy, in turn, was invented by Romans, from whose language comes the word Vocaphone. The Vocaphone is yet another kazoo that has trombone features. It is still used in high-class music everywhere --unlike its sibling, the Eunuch Flute, a predictably unproductive invention. But these are the building blocks of the symphony, which, while important, do not further our investigation.

We need to examine the opposite of symphony, cacophony. The Cacaphone was created in Portugal by flushing a bag of kazoos down a commode which made a noise that was heard in Spain. Queen Isabella, a monarch of refined sensibilities, was so repulsed she financed a mission, in 1492, to export this art farther away than could be imagined at the time. In the New World the Kazoo was enlarged and sealed at both ends to where it issued not music but Eskimos, and was called a Kayak.

While this investigation brings us no closer to the real identity of the genius who was so offenmistaken for other geniuses, it has given me the fun of expressing the sort of opinion my friend can't stand any more, which brings us to another rare point of agreement. Even though he and I must maintain it in different ways, we both value our sanity.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sense And Census

Census is people and, having been one since childhood and a bigger one later, I believe any consultation of reference works on the subject would only serve to dilute personal experience. I did read, however, that we are heading into a census year. They happen every decade because nobody knows why but sort of remembers the last one. I sort of remember the last one too and will address it later on, but first a general history is in order.

Confucius advised, "If we're going ahead with this civilization thing it's going to involve people and we really ought to keep track of them." Thus the earliest cogent comment on the subject came from China and they devised a workable system, by which --because it involved math-- I confess myself baffled. But there are other countries.

Other countries have their own peculiarities and problems. The population of Italy underwent confusing fluctuations under the Borgias. The Portuguese --my own ethnic locus-- suffer an overly complex diversity. We were invaded by everybody. Romans got us bathing to where we couldn't recognize each other. Moors set us on a permanent genetic struggle with ulotrichy. Northern countries bred us for our wool and descended periodically to shear us. Even now, unshorn Portuguese are oft mistaken for bears or large moths and impounded --there are lawyers who subsist entirely upon such cases.

North has its own problems, as we shall see, but it is there, toward Germany, that I will direct this history. Renaissance Germans were a fairly untroubled population but we must begin somewhere. They were mainly stable agrarians whose number was only disturbed by boys wandering away after Rhine maidens and by guileless girls exported to sinister cabarets. Census began in a small town composed entirely of people named Geiger.

The census-taker hiked up its single, linden-lined, thoroughfare registering each person in sight on an ingenious device called a Geiger-counter. The whole process consumed, according to public record, about fifteen minutes. The method was so successful, in fact, the neighboring town of Roentgen --named after its most prominent and prolific family-- purchased all the tabulating machines soon as the Geigers were done. Recalibration was so complete and reliable that, to this day, Geiger counters will only detect and respond to Roentgens.

So, we are heading into another census year. I remember the last one being somewhat personal in its inquiries, and some people resent the government gathering overmuch information. There are laws and punishments attached to citizens who withhold it. I was able to regulate this presumption by demonstrating an astonishing degree of ignorance. I got very vague about who lived in my house and what their incomes might be if they existed. No question was simple enough for me and finally the census-taker marked a special form, under all the others on her clipboard, indicating the resident is an idiot best left undisturbed.

It is my sincere hope that this essay will allay any fears the reader might have regarding census --allay them or confound them into insignificance.