Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The first confrontation at Griffith

Went to the Vice Chancellor's office at Griffith University yesterday, as planned.

Since taking the university to court is out of my reach, the other option is for them to take me to court. The idea was to cause some minor damage to their property which presumably would lead to legal action.

There are precedents, if not in terms of actual intent then certainly as far as the results were concerned.

Last year rioters on Palm Island burned down a police station and damaged other buildings triggering a series of court actions during which the events leading up to the riot were closely examined. In that case it involved the death of an Aboriginal man after he was taken into custody for drunkenness. Still, the scrutiny would not have happened had it not been for the violent aftermath. By the way, all the costs were born by the tax payer.

When it became clear to the Vice Chancellor's personal assistant (the VC was not in at the time) that I was going to scratch one of the computer screens in the foyer she became rather agitated and did her best to persuade me otherwise. There followed some exchange, with the result that I made a compromise.

If Ian O'Connor would assemble a panel consisting of someone who both parties could be satisfied with being objective and qualified to go over the events surrounding the evaluation of the honours thesis we could proceed from there. If such a decision was not made by the following Monday, the 3rd of March, I would return and scratch that screen after all. On that note I left (no doubt to her great relief).

What ridiculous lengths one has to go to. Here is a bunch of people, the examiners, the lecturer who was meant to evaluate the thesis in the first place, the deputy head of the school, and the Vice Chancellor, all of whom should know at least something about that case but refuse to open up. In any other circumstances outside a university the sheer incompetence of the assessment would have given rise to responses in order to set things right. What company, what private or public entity, could allow itself to harbour people whose actions could almost be described as hallucinatory?

Yet here we have an entire body that does its level best not only to escape scrutiny but to safeguard their private stupidity.

It remains to be seen what actually happens at court (I doubt it would come to the assessment by outsiders). Will the judge simply concentrate on the event on that day and leave it at that? Back to square one in other words?

Another question concerns Kevin Rudd, currently our prime minister. Back in August last year, before his election and when still being only my local federal member, his office was approached with the request to shed some light on the affair. Nothing was heard since. Perhaps I should write a follow-up letter.

It is hard to imagine that when someone is especially committed to their studies there follows punishment that destroys their career and continues for years afterwards.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

When in Rome...

Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi (When you are in Rome live in the Roman style; when you are elsewhere live as they live elsewhere).

Exiles can be such a nuisance.

The very word evokes the idea of coercion, banishment, brutishness, barbarism.

To be in exile means to forego so much - which is of course the very reason for having it imposed in the first place. Whether caused directly or indirectly, the effects are the same.

Being constrained however does not necessarily imply complete inaction. The difference lies in the nature of the environment, however unbidden. "Know your audience", the speaker is told, and this goes beyond mere words. Hence the saying, "When in Rome do as the Romans do", in its original attributed to Saint Ambrose (c.340-397) giving advice to Saint Augustine.

As the past eight years (!) have shown, the callousness, immaturity, and naiveté demonstrated by certain people at Griffith University cannot be countered by civilised discourse. More needs to be done.

Since the opportunity to take them to court eludes me (one of the effects of exile) it has to be the other way around. As the texts here and on the Otoom website should have shown by now, there is more to all this than one's personal disposition.

Ask yourself: say you had discovered the cure for a disease, would you simply give up as soon as you encountered some opposition? Would it not be a matter of duty to persist, given what is at stake?

And if barbarians block your path you have to descend to their level, however unpleasant that may be.

Well, so be it then.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Why this blog

From the very beginning only two reasons brought this blog into existence. At this point in time they may be worth mentioning.

One relates to events or situations where the Otoom mind model has something to say. Not so much in the more technical sense (the pages on the Otoom website are reserved for that), but as the index page there states, to put the flesh on Otoom.

The other is quite different.

There may come a time when these posts are subjected to scrutiny. Like the critiques of essays, novels, or tracts in general serve those who want to build a picture of the person behind, the writings on this blog could equally become the source of similar uses.

Except here the steps leading up to such interest are somewhat reversed. Usually some essays or a novel have made their mark first, then comes the curiosity.

In this case there was no impact; in fact, the very obscurity of the writings has been a result of a scenario which is in the process of coming to a head.

There is the lingering problem, the build-up of pressure, the release. Then there is the interest.

At this point the information contained in these posts will be one of the references from which the picture is constructed by the observer. Therefore the content matters, and it has to be truthful.

Not only must it be true to the source, it must also be true to the particular subject matter. Even if it should be controversial then sooner or later its validity must be confirmed.

Because no matter how probing the investigation, in the end the result has to be free of errors. There is a risk therefore, but it is worth it.

To fully understand the value of that risk requires engagement, my own as well as the reader's.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

So show me!

Nothing quite wakens the beast within the ideologue like a confrontation with reality. The steady glow of conviction splutters into a spitting flame, the quiet face of false certainty contorts, and mellifluous mews turn into daggers.

As a traveller to countries where phantasies abound you begin to tread warily once you get close to the nerve. A mercurial debate dons the straightjacket as soon as the other ego feels challenged. It helps to be informed beforehand.

The fates of Galileo, of Giordano Bruno, of Martin Luther attest to the sheer ferocity we can expect from the owners of beliefs whose cherished monsters are exposed to the light.

Nor does it help if the usurpers have their own foibles. Even thieves practise a certain collegiality but not here. From the purveyors of religion to the officials of authoritarian governments, the instruments of coercion are brought to bear upon those who threaten. Even the mere perception of a threat evokes the hatred.

Think of the security forces during the French Revolution, the police under the tsars and the communists, the watchers of the Reich, the spies in Islamic countries.

The only calming influence - and really the only one - comes from the culture of the times. The sheer size of the state lends a certain inertia to the fever of individuals provided it is their environment which is more measured by comparison. Turn it around and the opposite is true.

Nothing has changed. For the present the stake may be relegated to history, but every age has its own dungeons hidden from the common view.

Those who find themselves in the Family Court will know what it means to question the tenets of feminism; those who are untouched by heated moralism discover the perils of the human eros; and so many agendas in the name of peace are anything but when put to the test.

"So show me!" - the mere asking for evidence - is enough to loosen the hounds.

Indigenous tribes the reservoir of wisdom and harmony - where is the evidence? No collective character of a people - where is the evidence? The wide range of sexuality determining the life and death of society - where? The wrath of some god - really?

True democracy is for those who don't mind loosing. So far our houses of parliaments are still only shells.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Of gangs and book clubs

One of the more intriguing exercises is predicting behaviour under stress. "What will they do now?" has been asked by many, from philosophers to politicians to planners. It goes with the intellectual territory our minds colonise.

The main stumbling block has been to guess what actions people perform when there is less, particularly much less, of something.

Concentrating on functionalities however - the functional properties of minds - at least prepares the stage for the moment when the object-related content starts to come into focus.

We can begin by conceptualising the mind as a general attractor, with one's identity at the core. Moving outwards we meet thought structures - thoughts that form associations with others - which exist further away from the centre the less attractive they are in relation to the core. What they are precisely depends on the person's history and their cultural and social environment, together with the mind's processing capacity and emotional intensity. There are no absolute rules, but there are patterns of dynamics to be found.

A generic definition of 'pressure' would be 'anything perceived as a potential modification to one's current identity'; which means 'pressure' can be positive or negative.

Pressure can also be asserted as a constraint on resources, and under that perspective the analogy with money serves quite well. Clamp down on the funds available and suddenly formerly common items turn into luxuries one can do without. Essentially it is a matter of energy and the same goes for mental associations, right down to the events at the synapses.

The result is that under pressure thought processes become more compact, in direct proportion to its degree.

Suppose alternative energy sources (including the nuclear kind) do not fulfill the civilisational equation as expected. The consequences will be dramatic.

Whether Christmas lights go or a revolving restaurant is a matter for object-related predictions, precarious at best. Cognitively speaking however more compact, because more constrained, mental dynamics are a realistic scenario.

The activities of many interest groups at any level will turn into peccadilloes society can no longer afford. What sort of activities? A good rule of thumb is to find out which ones have emerged over the last couple of generations or so - we can safely tick those off the list.

The behaviour of individuals will show a commensurate shrinkage. Here's a question: with whom would you rather associate - a member of a gang or someone from a book club?

If you prefer talking about books you might have to readjust your values.