MQ-4: Whoever You Voted For… (‘Mythquake’ series)

More on the Mythquake book-project. As mentioned in previous posts, this is a book that I’ve been trying to write for more than ten years, but it’s time to accept it ain’t gonna happen – not from me, anyway. So I’m placing these ideas up in the blogosphere in the hope that someone else can use them: attribution would be nice, but it’s not essential. 🙂

In the previous chapter, ‘MQ-3: I am what I do‘, we’ve started to move beyond mythquakes that have only a small localised impacts, and into contexts where the mythic breakdown hits a lot more people – and hurts a lot more, too. So when we get to the next level, MQ-4, people in general will definitely begin to notice when this kind of mythquake comes to town – and will often complain about it as a group rather than solely as individuals. Which brings us into the realm of politics – or rather, what is most commonly described as ‘politics’, because in a sense everything is political.

(Note for Brits at this time: yes, this happens to be posted in the midst of the aftermath of a particularly mythquake-full general election – a ‘hung parliament’ and all that. [There are some who would say that all parliaments should be hung, in one sense or another, but given the inanity of the times, the detail of that is perhaps best left unsaid. 🙂 ] Consider this juxtaposition to be no more than an amusing coincidence: there’s always somewhere in the world that’s dealing with this specific type of mythquake at any given time.)

This chapter contains the following sections [all notes-only]:

  • …the government got in
  • Tweedledum and Tweedledee
  • The structure of power

Book-development notes are shown in italics inside square-brackets, [like this]. Further commentary on the development-notes is in ordinary type inside curly-braces, {like this}.

MQ-4: Whoever you voted for…

Richter 4: Light earthquake. Noticeable shaking of indoor items; rattling noises; significant damage unlikely. Equivalent to one kiloton of TNT (smallest nuclear bombs). Around fifteen to twenty per day.

Mercalli IV: Dishes, windows and doors rattle; parked cars rock; trees may shake; most people indoors feel movement, as do some outdoors.

…the government got in

[Politics made out to be a big deal, some real changes and real damage caused, but…]

{For most people, politics will sit somewhere between football and religion: it’s something we have to put up with, that means very little in practice, and the only thing that’s certain is that the rich will get richer, whilst for the rest of us the taxes will continue to rise fast and the real standard of living will continue to slowly fall. Politics may actually matter quite a lot in some countries, in the short-term at least; but in the longer term even a major event like the fall of the Berlin Wall has made surprisingly little difference to people’s lives. In the mainstream so-called-democracies, the people in the middle are mostly shielded from the most severe mythquakes of politics – for now, at any rate – though out on the edges, for those struggling to survive on a meagre pension or non-existent medical benefits, a change of government can likewise matter a lot. Overall, though, the old anarchist slogan has it just about right: “whoever you voted for, the government got in”.}

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

[…at present it’s just Tweedledum vs Tweedledee – despite all the surface arguments, there’s really not that much difference between any of the political parties]

{There’s a nice quote in Martin Gardner’s ‘The Annotated Alice’ that explains the original story of Tweedledum and Tweedledee:}

Lewis Carroll’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee have their origin in an 18th-century verse about the furious arguments between music aficionados in London as to the relative merits of the composer Handel and his Italian rival, Bononcini:

Some say, compared to Bononcini,
Signor Handel’s but a ninny,
whilst others aver that he to Handel
is scarcely fit to hold a candle.
Strange that all this fuss should be
’twixt tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee!

[most current mainstream politics is just ‘rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic’ (or, to continue Carroll, a ‘caucus race’, chasing each other round and round and getting nowhere and then all expecting ‘prizes’ – all following the same basic principles, just arguing about who gets what without ever looking at where the ‘what’ comes from)]

{All of the mainstream political parties follow much the same assumptions – and they have to, not least because doing otherwise would seem to threaten too much of a mythquake for middle-class comfort, which would then render the party ‘unelectable’. In Britain, the differences between the main parties are so small that it’s best described as an argument about the position of one deckchair on the Titanic; the smaller parties might perhaps argue about the position of other deckchairs within the same small group, but that’s about it. Even capitalists and communists still assume the same basic property-model: their arguments in essence are only about who gets to sit in which chair, not about the existence of the chairs themselves, or the overall state of the ship. Lewis Carroll parodied this pointlessness brilliantly in ‘Alice In Wonderland’, in his parable of the ‘caucus-race’, the drying-off exercise after Alice’s tears almost drown a motley collection of assorted animal-characters. British folks again would note the irony that every one of these ‘elected representatives’ expects a special prize at the end of the race: only Alice – the ‘ordinary voter’ – is left without one.}

[need to look at the stories beneath present politics to see where the potential damage lies, and where we can build more flexibility into the stories we build.]

{Note that this kind of mythquake is typically only around level-4 or so: big enough to be noticed and to perhaps shake things up a bit for a short while, but not much more than that. Despite what politicians and their supporters might think, it’s certainly not a level-9 – which gives us a good idea of just how severe the more serious mythquakes can be. But even here we do get a few hints of where those greater shake-ups might arise: they’re in the policy-topics that are in every ‘election-manifesto’. But none of these topics are ever actually tackled in any real depth at all: instead, it’s the same lame arguments about the positions of the same set of deckchairs, which is why the deeper myth-stress – the mismatch between assumptions and reality – continues to build.}

The structure of power

[Introduce theme of power as ‘the ability to do work’ vs delusion of power as ‘the ability to avoid work’.]

{This is a theme I’ve explored in more depth in several of my previous books, such as SEMPER and SCORE: enhancing enterprise effectiveness and Power and Response-ability: the human side of systems – see also the summary-sheet here. The key point is that whilst the physics definition of ‘power’ is, in essence, ‘the ability to do work’, most social definitions of power are more like ‘the ability to avoid work’, usually by offloading it onto others via blame and the like, and often manipulating ‘the law’ to attempt to ensure that that avoided-work does not come back. In effect, there is a purported ‘possession’ of the ‘right’ to avoid the work – whatever that ‘work’ may be. Because the means to release the resultant social and other stresses is explicitly blocked here, the stresses will inevitably continue to build until catastrophic failure eventually occurs, in a mythquake of much higher intensity – as we’ll see later.}

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