Friday, 25 May 2007

The reasons behind Otoom

As the affair with Griffith University and its associated problems drag on year after year the question might be asked, why bother? Quite apart from the sheer tedium, an obstacle created by humans usually implies an intent and with it comes the story - the concocted picture painted by those of ill-will. An unhappy situation all around, to put it mildly. So why not move on?
The world faces a number of problems that in their sheer extent pose dangers unimagined only a generation ago. There is no need to go into hyperbole. When even scientists, not noted for their exaggerations, avail themselves of descriptions that go way beyond the usual kind of warnings, it is time to take stock in a serious way.
Much has been said about climate change and its effects. A summary of what the changes entail and what they can cost us can be found in the Stern Review. Some have criticised the findings as too pessimistic, others say they don't go far enough. Hardly anyone argues about the central premise however, and considering the inherent unpredictability of complex systems that should be an achievement in itself. But how can any initiative be successful unless there exists an understanding of how reality is perceived and interpreted by the various demographics on this planet?
Consider the state of the world as of now. Some sense of the problematic nature can be gained from the Worldmapper site. Territories are re-sized according to subject matter. Compare the sources of international food aid with a map of war deaths. Despite the infusion of US$2.5 billion in the year 2005 alone from developed countries it does seem as if such aid merely fuels the intent of so many demographics to continue destroying each other (the discrepancy in year numbers - 2002 vs 2005 - hardly detracts from the argument). It would make sense to understand why this is so. Now take a look at the GDP wealth map. Although the gross domestic product is not the sole arbiter of livability, as a comparative parameter it does have its purpose. Imagine what those differences mean in a global mix of communication, expectancy, and population flows and one gets some idea of the driving forces behind our ongoing conflicts, world-wide finances and immigration - all factors which have a considerable impact everywhere. At the bottom of it all is the system of mind.
Take the Iraq war. One would think with a situation precarious as it is the last thing we should do is create even more disruption. But no - estimates of its costs range from a best-case scenario of US$100 billion to a worst-case of US$2 trillion over a decade. Now keep in mind that the war is still ongoing and there is no price one can put on human suffering and the dead. Furthermore these sums apply to the United States only, they do not include the costs born by all the other countries. And in any case, they refer to those items that can be translated into a monetary equivalent; there is much else that is missed. Surely, a means to analyse what is actually going on here would have some use.
How many decision makers have seriously analysed the phenomenon of China? Here is a nation of a size and growth that already supports the economic basis of the major Western powers. And yet it is a hybrid system of a central command structure and market dynamics totally unproven in its ultimate effectiveness. What happens when its internal dynamics, for whatever reason, cease to fuel the traditional expectations of the West and start to constrain the latter's profligacy in terms of international affairs, administrative extravagance, and welfare? China also happens to be an old civilisation containing many layers of cultural perspectives, there to be studied.
How then does the Otoom mind model stack up?
The main work, "On the origin of Mind", comes in two parts. Part I represents a deconstruction of 21 philosophies down the ages where their thought structures are analysed and found to be consistent in type across the entire range. All in all there are 527 references taken directly from those texts.
Part II addresses the subject of mind from the bottom up, from the neuronal dynamics to the mind of an individual to society at large. It features 441 references from science and human events in general to support its arguments. They can be seen as pieces of a giant mosaic which are placed into a coherent whole. There are no inconsistencies, no tweaks to bend reality to suit some purpose.
Since the completion of that work in August 2003 over 150 instances from science, politics, and human affairs in general have been collected that confirm the validity of the model. For example, the interpretation of the nature of terrorists under Otoom is one gradually being adopted by security agencies after so many mistakes made by them; the ultimate futility of the Iraq war has been predicted from its very beginning; ditto the engagement in Afghanistan; the riots in France have been foreseen; so was the implosion of so many Pacific island states; or the effects of immigration in Western regions. As one British diplomat in Washington was quoted by Max Hastings, from The Guardian in London, as he was referring to the current US administration: "We must just somehow stagger through to the end".
And so here I sit, faced with an idiotic arrogance by some (there are no other words for it), which prevents such material from reaching a wider audience. Enough years have been spent in exile under virtual house arrest, and something just has to be done.
PS: In my previous post I mentioned that the response from Queensland Education was still outstanding. Not any more. To their credit it has to be said theirs was the most constructive reply of them all. While not acting directly, they nevertheless offered some advice about whom to contact next. We'll see.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

When in Rome...

An accident is bad enough, but when a situation grinds on because some people are too arrogant or stupid or both to do anything about it then one's mind drifts towards the idea of action. The question is, what kind of action? If such brutishness is part of a system, the considerations go beyond the personal and concern the local culture.
Several posts dealt with the saga around Griffith University and its denial about the issue. The assessment of an honours thesis was either conducted by dilettantes or there was a higher agenda at work. I was criticised for things I had not said, criticised for leaving others out when they were not, ridiculed for my interdisciplinary approach, and held up for including a profile of Queensland society that in the years to come proved entirely true - even a state election was based on those shortcomings and their effects are still with us.
A general overview of the situation is on a page of the Otoom website, more details are on another page, and the possible role of staff from Griffith are questioned in an open letter.
Seven entities had been contacted under the naive assumption their official nature would cause them to show at least some interest. Actually, sometimes not even that was the case. Out of the seven, two noted the information for their records, one merely acknowledged receipt of the letter, and one remained silent, as noted on an update.
Since then the Federal Ombudsman's office declared the matter is not for them to deal with, the Federal Education Department won't touch an autonomous institution, and its Queensland counterpart is still looking at the issue (I assume).
Out of thirty-two heads of Griffith schools and departments only two replied with one showing more than a passing interest, and even he won't continue the conversation.
Or take the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law, purportedly interested in researching forms of appropriate governance in wider society. One would think its director, Professor Charles Sampford, would at least have the civility to respond to someone who has something to say about how the mind works, which after all is the system underpinning human affairs.
Or Professor Geoff Dromey, from the Software Quality Institute, who commented in a Courier Mail article about the standards of language as a prerequisite to quality of communication ("Clarity of language signals success", 16 Apr 07). When I pointed out to him that such ideals are not always put into practice only silence ensued. I wonder if he sees the irony of the situation.
On the other hand, did they receive instructions not to engage with a 'renegade', are they fearful their bosses make life uncomfortable for them? It wouldn't be the first time such a pressure had been applied and Queensland is renowned for political interference dished out at will (see Parallels > Dysfunctional demographics > quoted article dated 17 May 07). As a matter of fact, the grapevine tells me that Griffith University itself is not immune to that affliction. The information comes from lawyers and academic staff, no less (and no, their names will not be disclosed).
While such reluctance is understandable, there comes a time when not speaking out carries consequences more serious than the alternative. In a wider sense a number of issues today require those in the know to be heard, notably scientists and researchers who would be able to inject a measure of reason into often emotional debates. Their silence affects society. But more to the point, the times when academics could cloister themselves within their rarified atmosphere away from the stink have well and truly gone. Easy street no more...
Meanwhile those responsible for the destruction of others fatten themselves on their status, their money, and the kudos a seemingly unassailable position gives them before the rest of the world. This includes the vice-chancellor, Professor Ian O'Connor, surely one of the more generously remunerated bureaucrats in the land. But what does a destroyed career here or there mean when the cheeks are a-blush with fine wine, when the room glitters from the presence of a well-shod elite, and mellifluous words toast each other with sweet decorum.
The university does have staff who are dedicated and care about their role and responsibility. Without them I would not have been prepared for my own research for instance; its successful closure is partly due to them. The more insidious then are the actions by an arrogant clique more interested in its own pleasures than the duties their positions require.
In a culture of civility any problems are dealt with convivially. In a barbarous one however the civilised approach becomes useless.
I wonder if I should contact the Queensland Police. Surely they would have experience with people who decided enough is enough. Maybe they can offer a range of options that have been effective here. When exiled among barbarians adapt to the local ways.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Behind the curtains

Our actions are often two-fold. One part is performed in the open, for everyone to see. The other is hidden, not so visible at all. It's as if there is a curtain drawn before them, a veil that shields their intent.

The circumstances around the evaluation of an honours thesis have been presented at length, here and on the Otoom website. On one hand they represent the judgment of examiners who perceived certain flaws in its text. But not until one examines the examiners begins another picture to emerge. References made to remarks that simply do not exist, other remarks that are treated as if they have never been made, facts from real life dismissed outright, and features which are criticised regardless of their inherent value... are those the actions they seem to be, or is there another agenda at work?

Take our attitudes towards drugs. On the surface they are moulded by our desire to remain healthy, to help the addict. But do they? By now over a century worth of policies and their results brings to the fore a trend. Substances are getting stronger, the finances richer, the groups behind them more and more powerful. Entire countries stand or fall on the production of illicit drugs, armies are equipped from their sales and sent into the field against us, and the addicts are more helpless then ever. All this is supposed to make for a healthy society - so we are told.

Religion - a curtain par excellence. Values such as helping others, team work, a sense for love and beauty; all of them noble and all of them found anywhere, yet they are assigned to one's spiritual tribe as if the others never heard of them. And so we go to war. Has not the commonality become obvious by now? Apparently not, or so it seems.

There are those who favour unfettered immigration. They point to human rights, to an equitable society, to tolerance and fairness. But the side effects are violence, the emergence of ghettos, and hate towards the hosts. Those results are known, they play themselves out almost daily, but still the chant for more persists. What are the real values shown here?

In France many responded to the election of Nicolas Sarkozy with an unbridled sense of desolation. We are meant to believe that an inefficient economy and rioting gangs require more of the same. What do the mourners really wish for?

An old joke goes something like this. If you get mugged in a dark lane it's an accident; if it happens in the same lane again, it's bad luck; but if you get mugged there a third time, it's stupidity.

When it comes to the decision makers who attract a considerable status it would be simplistic to talk of stupidity. Nor are sizable movements, created through a process of debate and feedback, a mere matter of coincidence. There is planning at work, design and intent - although they may not be of the overt, conscious kind.

There are curtains that shield our actions. They are made of invisible strands of wishful thinking that show our acceptable side, while at the same time allowing us to pursue our dark instincts of destruction behind the veil. Not only do they keep out the light, they serve to protect a sinister land where age-old monsters survive.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Those inconvenient truths

Reports are released that focus on climate change and its effects. They trigger conferences around the world which even politicians find now inadvisable to miss. The findings filter into the mass media in the form of articles and documentaries. Industry is gearing up for a change to alternative energy sources.

Does that mean we are getting prepared for the tasks ahead? Well, yes and no.

Let's look at the issue under the sociological perspective. The increasing complexity of Western society has given us science and technology and its products. Those products are the cause of the current problems, but they are also the result of an evolving sophistication of our behaviour. Science cannot prosper unless the people involved have the opportunity to research and present their findings. Industry cannot make use of their findings unless there exist the skill base and infrastructure to implement the necessary processes. And pervading all this is the general atmosphere of convivial standards, from a democratic governance with its separation of powers, church and state, to a judiciary that presumes innocence until proven guilty, and to a general acceptance of human rights regardless of one's personal background. This means if you're gay you are not imprisoned or are given electric shocks, it means as a woman you are not judged by the number of children you have or by your matrimonial status, and you can walk down the street without being attacked for your choice of clothes.

Every level of achievement carries its own costs, but it is a measure of maturity whether those costs can be addressed rationally or under a cloud of superstition and fear.

The prospects of such issues as climate change, peak oil, and pandemics confront us with a scale and profundity that surpass anything our past has presented so far. We cannot refer to practise runs in our history. If the combinatorial effect of all those features mentioned earlier has made our current quality of life possible, then any flaws (and they do exist) were not sufficient to prevent the obvious rise. But as in any system that is less than ideal, its shortcomings are sure to show once the pressure builds. It is at that stage that its true quality becomes apparent.

An issue of global proportion invites, no, necessitates the recognition of those demographics which are best suited for coming up with the solution. We are back at the overall standards that either allow or not allow the required actions to be taken.

It stands to reason therefore that a culture - meant in the widest possible sense - has the duty not only to preserve its current quality but to engage in measures that correct any shortcomings so that it may be that much better positioned for what is to come.

Although in the West we are becoming aware of the looming dangers, we are less open to the prerequisites for being adequately prepared. For example, how does the rise of Christian fundamentalism enable our collective minds to think rationally about our fate? How does the infusion of Islam with its medieval morals preserve our current human rights, achieved with so much pain? How does the transfusion of so many energies into inadequate demographics, bordering almost on obsession, secure our own readiness for the future - a transfusion which is often undertaken without the slightest regard for the societal conditions at the target?

Suppose in due course the West suffers a resource shortfall so that its present standards become untenable - which demographic can take its place? Such an event does not make the crisis disappear, it makes it worse.

No matter who we are, our actions are never completely bereft of emotion. But these celebrated commitments are only given the opportunity to be celebrated eventually had the accompanying actions been the correct ones to begin with. Unguarded emotion let loose with knee-jerk reactions destroys, and there is no happy ending where history gets duly inscribed. Libraries are not made of ruins.

There are more inconvenient truths than meet the moist eye.