Posts Tagged ‘Courage’

Roll on midnight – or why the Doomsday Clock is an abdication to cowardice

August 10, 2014

August 6th is Hiroshima Day and it is now 69 years since the Enola Gay dropped its bomb and the nuclear weapons age began. In 2010, there were about 227,00 hibakusha (被爆者) still alive. In 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki met their Doom. But such is the resilience of man that, today, less than 4 generations later, both are thriving cities. Hiroshima has a population today of 1.2 million compared to the 340,000 before the bomb. For Hiroshima and Nagasaki their Doomsday Clocks reached midnight and moved on – into yet another day.

The Doomsday Clock was “invented” in 1947 and, of course is purely symbolic. It is “set” by a group of alarmists to represent the time left before a human induced catastrophe (nuclear war, global warming, genetic modification, disease …) strikes at the “symbolic” hour of midnight. But this symbolism is flawed, rather stupid and just plain wrong. They use midnight as a symbol of the end of things whereas – certainly for me and, I suspect, for most people – midnight is just the start of another day. And when that day ends there will be yet another one to come. When it was first set in 1947 the alarmists of the time reckoned that humanity was 7 minutes away from their “midnight”.  In 1953 the clock was set to 2 minutes to midnight. The time to catastrophe has gone up and down over the years and reached 17 minutes in 1991 when the Berlin Wall fell and optimism ran high – even among the professional pessimists. Currently pessimism has taken over again and we stand just 5 minutes from catastrophe.

Doomsday Clock - Wikipedia

Doomsday Clock – Wikipedia

The Doomsday Clock is nothing more than a subjective – and less than qualitative –  assessment of the state of the world by a group of alarmist pessimists.

Naom Chomsky has a new article in The Unz Review – “How many minutes to midnight”. I’m afraid I do not have the same high opinion of Chomsky – even on language which is his own field – that others seem to have . But on the concept of the Doomsday Clock and the time left for impending disaster, his article is little more than well written drivel. He looks down on most of humanity – apart from himself of course – with a great deal of contempt when he writes

…. August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but — so the evidence suggests — not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Chomsky’s article is not particularly insightful but it serves as an example of the cowardice that alarmists exhibit. Cowardice is the subjugation of actions to fear whereas courage is the subjugation of fears to actions for a purpose. Alarmism and the Doomsday Clock pander to fear. Catastrophe theories never – ever – come to pass. But raising false alarms gets headlines, gets funding and usually provides lucrative opportunities for some. Fending off Doomsday rather than working to some objective becomes the priority of the hour. Political action is diverted to avoidance rather than to achieve goals.

Roll on midnight – and the start of another day!

Intelligence Agencies have become a law unto themselves – by public consent

November 2, 2013

No politician wants to oppose anything said to be in the interests of National Security. Even politicians on oversight committees and the like would prefer not to know too much about the substance of what the Intelligence and Security Agencies get up to as long as proper form is observed. Very few politicians would have the courage to apply a moral or ethical judgement to what their charges get up to. They are quite ready to apply budget limitations or disapprove funding for a project but rarely to object to the substance of any program.

Invoking the spectre of “terrorism” or the “war on terrorism” appears to silence politicians with remarkable rapidity and to bypass any attempt to apply ethical standards. The end justifies any means whether it involves simple snooping or secret renditions, secret prisons or torture. If we judge by the level to which “fear of terrorism” governs our actions one could conclude that the terrorist attacks have mainly achieved their objective of getting their targets to operate in an atmosphere of fear.

The Snowden revelations are fascinating. It would seem that the Intelligence Community works across national boundaries – and it seems – behind the backs of their respective political masters. Almost as if these agencies in different countries apply their own code of ethics or morality. it seems they decide among themselves as to what level of transgressions of the integrity of private individuals  is acceptable and proper. US Agencies worked together with British, German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence agencies – probably on their own initiative and without feeling any need to inform their oversight politicians – about the details of their collaboration. After all, these politicians “do not need to know” and to help matters along, “they do not wish to know”.

But politicians only reflect the views of the general public.  Most of the security checking and scans at airports is of little use. The bans on electronic equipment during flights is totally pointless. But we, the general public, accept it since it panders to our fears. We accept the excesses of intelligence and security agencies for the same reason. So far the 21st century is characterised by actions being subservient to the “fear of terror”. And that I would define as cowardice. Courage consists of fears being subservient to actions.

Intelligence and Security Agencies have become a law unto themselves and our politicians have acquiesced on our behalf.

The Guardian: 

The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency.

The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies.

The German, French and Spanish governments have reacted angrily to reports based on National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Snowden since June, revealing the interception of communications by tens of millions of their citizens each month. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US.

The US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, suggested to Congress on Tuesday that European governments’ professed outrage at the reports was at least partly hypocritical. “Some of this reminds me of the classic movie Casablanca: ‘My God, there’s gambling going on here,’ ” he said.

Swedenwhich passed a law in 2008 allowing its intelligence agency to monitor cross-border email and phone communications without a court order, has been relatively muted in its response.


COP18 in Doha: A convention of the cowardly in the “theatre of the absurd”

December 3, 2012

COP18 in Doha enters its second week and politicians are now arriving in droves. A small fortune has already been spent during the first week. But this is a gathering of an alarmist movement built on unprovable fears. Inevitably the greedy “groupies” gather (some 17,000 of them). A convention of the cowardly in the “theatre of the absurd”.

As The Economist puts it

NEVER let it be said that climate-change negotiators lack a sense of the absurd. Thousands of politicians, tree-huggers and journalists descended on Doha this week, adding their mite of hot air to the country that already has the world’s highest level of carbon emissions per head. The feeling of unreality is apt.  ……. The jamboree in Doha is the 18th UN climate-change summit, but the third since a landmark one at Copenhagen in 2009.

We shall see – and are seeing — new alarmist articles and press releases every day till the end of this week. But the fundamental problem is not so much the politics of alarmism connected with this one non-issue of climate change, but the fact that the once laudable environmental movement now resorts to the politics of fear. Courage is singularly lacking.

Courage is the subordination of fear to purpose. Today however with the politics of alarmism, fears dominate purpose. Inevitably these are fears which can never be disproved because they are forecasts of what lies a long way in the future. And the politics of fear generates its own greedy “groupies”

Once upon a time, the environmentalists were a courageous lot and were surely instrumental in the cleaning up of many areas from the effects of real pollution … But the simple virtues of keeping things clean and preventing disease and improving the standard of living for humans has given way to the more pompous and pretentious goals of preventing global warming (an unbridled arrogance), of maintaining bio-diversity (and why is this important?) and of preserving “scarce resources due to the “limits to growth”…  

… Inevitably the politics of alarmism are accompanied by the opportunists whose greed leads to all the scams surrounding environmental subsidies for renewable power or for carbon trading.

On courage and foolhardiness

December 30, 2011

A young friend recently faced a number of less than easy options regarding his employment and his career and our discussion turned to behaviour in the face of uncertainty and fears:

The fundamental characteristic of courage in actions is that the action remains central and fear is then the constraint or barrier to action which must be subordinated. I have heard it said that courage lies in confronting fear or defeating fear but this, I think, misses the central point. The focus of courage is on the actions not on the fears. Whatever purposeful action has been decided proceeds even though fear exists. Defeating the fear is not the focus where the action then becomes secondary or merely a by-product.


A lack of courage in environmentalism today

April 20, 2011
Blue Marble composite images generated by NASA...

Image via Wikipedia

In the style of E Belfort Bax in his book “Courage” from 1890 I take courage to be “the subordination of fear to purpose”.  On this line connecting fear and actions then cowardice is when fears dominate the actions and “purpose” is subordinated.

Once upon a time, the environmentalists were a courageous lot and were surely instrumental in the cleaning up of many areas from the effects of real pollution (smoke, dust, wastes, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, food additives …..). But the simple virtues of keeping things clean and preventing disease and improving the standard of living for humans has given way to the more pompous and pretentious goals of preventing global warming (an unbridled arrogance), of maintaining bio-diversity (and why is this important?) and of preserving “scarce resources due to the “limits to growth” (with scare scenarios of “peak” oil, “peak” coal, food shortages, water shortages, metal shortages  and so on). The environmental movement has become a mish-mash of “do-gooders”, amateur scientists and cult members whose primary weapon has become an imposition of draconian measures for uncertain goals. A sort of eco-fascism.

These goals have even become an acceptable political line and have led to what can only be called the politics of alarmism where fears – and most are imaginary fears – dominate all actions. These fears can never be disproved because they always lie a few generation in the future. But they lead to a world where the emphasis has shifted to telling people what not to do (ostensibly for their own good) because of some fear or the other  rather than to having goals for the uplifting of living standards and the actions to be taken in spite of the fears that may exist.

Inevitably the politics of alarmism are accompanied by the opportunists whose greed leads to all the scams surrounding environmental subsidies for renewable power or for carbon trading. But similar scams would appear with any line of politics and I don’t think that the environmental scamsters are any worse than the real estate bubble developers or the sub-prime mortgage supporters or the inside traders or the operators of Ponzi schemes. These scams just reflect the state of ethics that prevail and are not particularly tied to any specific politics.

But I find it a pity that the simple goals of cleaning up the world we live in has given way to the environmentalism of today which generates the politics of alarmism – which is not just a political line without courage – but actually becomes a line of cowardice when it seeks to impose limitations on what others  may not do.

Related: “The Red Badge of Courage” in Essence of a Manager

A “Culture of Courage” in management — from “Essence of a Manager”

March 31, 2011

“Without fear being present, bravery and courage do not appear on stage.”

From Chapter 7,  Essence of a Manager

Courage is the subordination of fear to purpose.

A manager is perforce required to take risk. Every judgment or selection or decision he takes results in actions with an uncertain outcome. The presence of risk and the uncertainty about results inevitably give rise to apprehensions and fears. It is a manager’s task to subordinate such fears and continue with judiciously chosen actions towards his objectives. Extending his capability for taking actions and stretching the envelope of actions available to him are key elements of his core competence. It is his courage which enables him to operate in new and untried areas which are outside his comfort zone and thereby generate a steady stream of brave actions.

A manager can create a “courage space” around himself and as this expands and grows and meets other spaces of courage a “culture of courage” can develop within an organisation. ……

It has always struck me that super-heroes must be particularly devoid of courage since their fantastic abilities must mean that they have little opportunity to feel any fear. ….

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