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Analysis shows how the Greens have changed the language of economic debate in New Zealand

When Health Minister Chris Hipkins recently quipped that the Green Party is “to some extent the conscience of the Labour Party” he was not simply referring to polls suggesting Labour may need the Greens’ support to form a government.

Hipkins was also suggesting Green policies help keep Labour honest on environmental and social issues. So, what difference has the Green Party really made to New Zealand’s political debate?

Drawing on a study of 57 million words spoken in parliament between 2003 and 2016, our analysis shows the presence of a Green party has changed the political conversation on economics and environment.

In the recent Newshub leaders’ debate, both Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins agreed that “growing the economy” was the best way to respond to the economic crisis driven by COVID-19.

Their responses varied only on traditional left-right lines. Ardern argued that raising incomes and investing in training would grow the economy. Collins suggested economic growth should be advanced by increasing consumer spending through temporary tax cuts.

By contrast, Green parties in New Zealand and elsewhere have long questioned the impact of relentless growth on the natural resources of a finite planet. Green thinking is informed by ecological economics, which aims to achieve more sustainable forms of collective prosperity that meet social needs within the planet’s limits.

man and woman shaking hands
‘Labour’s conscience’: Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw sign the confidence and supply agreement that brought the Greens into coalition in 2017. GettyImages

The language of economic growth

The impact of this radically different view can be observed in New Zealand parliamentary debates. When MPs from National and Labour used the word “economy” they commonly talked about it in the context of “growth” (“grow”/“growing”/“growth”).

On average, National MPs said “growth” once every four mentions of “economy”. Labour MPs said “growth” once every six mentions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We Are Ruled By Wizards

We Are Ruled By Wizards

Bending reality is as simple as bending people’s perception of reality.

Throughout history, the mythology of civilizations around the world has been full of tales of men and women who mastered a mysterious, esoteric art which enabled them to use language in a way that bends reality to their will. They’ve been called wizards, witches, magicians, sorcerers, warlocks or enchanters, and the utterances they speak have been known as spells, magic, incantations, conjurations or enchantments, but the theme is always more or less the same: a member of a small elite group with the ability to voice special utterances which shape reality according to their will in a way that transcends the mundane mechanics of this world.

People have long held a general intuition that language holds a power far beyond what ordinary mortals use it for, especially since the advent of the written word which was long mysterious to all but the most elite classes in a given society. This intuition has been spot on, though perhaps not exactly in the way that ancient mythologies have envisioned.

When I say “Bending reality is as simple as bending people’s perception of reality,” I’m not making some sort of mystical or otherworldly claim; I’m just making a factual observation about the influence that narrative control has over events big and small which transpire in our world. Many people whose brains lack a healthy empathy center–i.e. sociopaths, psychopaths and other narcissists–already understand this on some level.

Humans are storytelling creatures; everything about our understanding of the world is made up of narratives that are made of language. “My name’s Alice and I was born in Detroit” is a narrative. “The universe is 13.772 billion years old” is a narrative. “If I drink that bottle of bleach I’ll probably die” is a narrative.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Climate Crisis’ Open Letter to Media: Who’s Responded (So Far)

‘Climate Crisis’ Open Letter to Media: Who’s Responded (So Far)

Five-point plan on Tyee finds allies in CWA union and top US journos.

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Journalism prof Sean Holman fired off to Canada’s news orgs a public challenge to better cover the climate crisis. Who got back? Photo by Laura Balanko-Dickson.

Now the responses are rolling in, some from beyond Canada’s borders. 

Here’s how Holman came to write the widely shared letter and what it’s helping to trigger.

As record wildfires raged out of control across B.C., spreading smoke into the Rockies and Alberta, Holman looked out the window of his Calgary home and thought about a book he’d read as a child. The World of the Future: Future Cities predicted “if drastic steps are not taken to control pollution and achieve some sort of ecological balance,” the city of the 21st century could become a “polluted pesthole.” 

The book’s image of gas-mask-wearing citizens in a dystopian streetscape choked by smog “always stuck with me,” Holman said. The view of smoke turning the sun into a sickly orange dot was strikingly similar. “That was really troubling.” The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Even more disturbing to Holman, though, was the failure of Canadian news media to accurately report the underlying reasons for this hellscape: the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming Canada twice as fast as the rest of the world.

Holman, an investigative reporter, associate professor of journalism at Mount Royal University and an occasional Tyee contributor, found that of the 182 media pieces produced about the wildfires last summer by outlets like the Calgary Herald and Vancouver Sun, only 14 of those pieces mentioned the scientific reality that global temperature rise caused by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities contributed to the fires’ unprecedented intensity and destruction.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Against ‘Sustainability’ and Other Plastic Words

Against ‘Sustainability’ and Other Plastic Words

How techno-speak is robbing us of our feelings and our future.

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Marine biologist Daniel Pauly of UBC: ‘Sustainability is a deceptive goal because human harvesting of fish leads to a progressive simplification of ecosystems in favour of… fish species that are adapted to withstand disturbance and habitat degradation.’ Photo source: Common Sense Canadian video interview.

The word sustainability, were it up to me, would be extinct, wiped out, kaput.

It is hard to escape the word’s tyranny. 

Economists promise “sustainable economies” while business types explore “sustainability accounting.” 

Greens promise a “sustainable future,” and even greener pundits swear that technology will deliver “global sustainability.”

Miners promise to dig more sustainable holes and foresters propose to mow down old growth trees more sustainably. 

The United Nations champions “sustainable development goals” as though SDGs were a delightful venereal disease. 

But apparently every nation must set some SDGs, and go for it. 

Why, there are even research chairs in sustainable development at universities. And I suppose, somewhere, there are people proposing to be sustainable journalists.

We have forgotten the original meaning of sustain, which stems from the Old French sostenir, meaning “hold up bear; suffer, endure.” In the 14th century — a period of pestilence and famine, it meant endure without failing or yielding.”

As civilization collapses we are going to need that old word again. 

But well-intentioned greens took a word with historic meaning and turned it into plastic soup with the Brundtland report published by the United Nations in 1987. 

That document let the word loose on the world like feral cats in Australia’s outback by defining “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Language: The Indispensable Fundamental Actuator of False Orthodoxy

Language: The Indispensable Fundamental Actuator of False Orthodoxy

In Ayn Rand’s penultimate magnum opus, “The Fountainhead”, there was a minor antagonist by the name of Ellsworth Toohey whose raison d’etre was to undermine Rand’s ideal man and protagonist, Howard Roark.

Although Toohey considered his parasitical power as having a major stifling effect on capitalistic society, in reality, all his cumulative efforts ended up as a mere minor footnote in the long march of Man; as evidenced in the story’s denouement and ensuing towering city skylines.

Of course, much of Rand’s life consisted of excoriating the parasitical aspect of the Collectivists and their government, as both defined by dependency; in stark contrast to the rugged self-reliance of the men who moved the world.

In The Fountainhead, a discussion took place whereby Toohey said he wanted to make the “ideological soil” infertile to the point where young heads would explode prior to expressing any individuality (or similar to that).  Then, later, near the end, Toohey asked Roark what Roark thought of him, and the egoistic, self-reliant architect replied: “But I don’t think of you.”

In reality, is it possible today to ignore the Collective? Or, has it propagated sufficiently to where it can be ignored no longer?

Acceptance of reality requires honesty.  And the author Ayn Rand identified reason as the means for Man’s thriving existence on this blue marble. Therefore, if we are to examine reality with honesty, then we must by all means factor logic and time as follows:

If (this), then (that)

Stated another way, either the decisions we make now will improve our reality in the days ahead –  or, we will be worse off than we are at present.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Some Confusions of Language in Economic Thought

Fifty years ago, in 1968, Austrian (and Austrian school) economist Friedrich A. Hayek published a monograph called The Confusion of Language in Political Thought [4]. Hayek argued that the words we use and the meanings we give to them greatly influence how we think about the political system and the wider social order in which we live. This is no less so, I would suggest, in the language and the meanings of words used in economics.

Hayek’s focus was on the misunderstanding created by the false notion that society is the product of design. He emphasized that many, if not most, of the institutions of the social order are not the result of human design, but are the cumulative results of multitudes of people interacting over many generations.

Social Order Without Political Design

This is a theme in social analysis that has been a part of Austrian economics since the founding of the Austrian school by Carl Menger. He explained that markets and money, language and much of the legal system, social customs and cultural traditions, and polite manners are all the evolved outcomes of a vast number of individuals, each pursing their own personal self-interest for the most part. Their interactions and associations with each other slowly form into behavioral patterns, informal rules, and interactive procedures by which and through which human beings come to arrange and adapt their conduct with one another in a wide variety of social settings.

It is not that human beings do not consciously guide their actions according to a plan. Indeed, all meaningful human action is pursuit of a chosen set of ends with selected means the use of which is believed most likely to bring about the desired ends.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The 10 Habits of Logical People

The 10 Habits of Logical People

The authentically logical person keeps his logic rooted in truth and never lets it devolve into mere verbal trickery.

Becoming a logical person is not just a matter of memorizing and applying formulas, or learning how to tell the difference between a valid and an invalid syllogism. Rather, it involves cultivating intellectual habits and skills that, though they may seem simple and obvious, are only achieved after years of struggle and education.

In his book Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking, venerable philosophy professor D.Q. McInerny lays out the following 10 habits that people must cultivate if they are to think clearly and effectively:

1) They’re Attentive.

“Many mistakes in reasoning are explained by the fact that we are not paying sufficient attention to the situation in which we find ourselves,” writes McInerny. The logical person has thus trained himself to always pay attention to the details—even in situations that are familiar—lest he make a careless judgment.

2) They Get the Facts Straight.

“If a given fact is an actually existing thing to which we have access, then the surest way to establish its factualness is to put ourselves in its presence. We then have direct evidence of it. If we cannot establish factualness by direct evidence, we must rigorously test the authenticity and reliability of whatever indirect evidence we appeal to so that, on the basis of that evidence, we can confidently establish the factualness of the thing.”

3) They Ensure That Their Ideas Are Clear.

Our ideas are the means by which our minds understand the objective world. Clear ideas faithfully reflect that world, whereas unclear ideas give us a distorted view of the world. The logical person is constantly testing his ideas to make sure that they accurately depict their objects.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Governments Try to Control Language to Hilarious Results

Governments Try to Control Language to Hilarious Results

In the region formerly known as Yugoslavia, everyone speaks the same basic language, despite the individual countries’ governments insisting that they don’t.

It is quite interesting to see how widespread some languages are, with some having over a billion speakers while others are spoken by a single tribe. Languages have evolved due to the need for people to communicate and have likewise undergone changes over time.

The differences between are as little as the differences between English in Britain and in the US.

There is a rather peculiar case of languages in the former Yugoslavia, where governments have created four supposedly different languages out of one single language. The people of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro all speak the same language, the Serbo-Croatian language, yet their respective governments claim that they speak Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. This would be the equivalent of Australians claiming that they speak Australian, Americans claiming that they speak American, and the British claiming that they speak British, despite all of them speaking English and perfectly understanding each other.

In reality, the differences between how people speak in the former Yugoslavia are as little as the differences between English in Britain and the United States. The only notable thing to mention is that Serbia and Montenegro have, in addition to the Latin alphabet, also the Cyrillic one, but apart from this, these four countries speak the same exact language. Nonetheless, their respective governments sought to courageously protect their people from not speaking a language named after their national identity.

The Origin Language and Its Subsequent Divisions

Serbo-Croatian was created in 1850 in Vienna by mutual agreement from several scholars.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Emergence of Orwellian Newspeak and the Death of Free Speech

The Emergence of Orwellian Newspeak and the Death of Free Speech

“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it…. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

How do you change the way people think? You start by changing the words they use.

In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used. In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.

Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned—discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred—inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.

It’s political correctness disguised as tolerance, civility and love, but what it really amounts to is the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.

 

– See more at: https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_emergence_of_orwellian_newspeak_and_the_death_of_free_speech#sthash.cDulZM82.dpuf

 

More Probable Than Not

More Probable Than Not

My father was a doctor who spent his entire career in a small hospital built by the Tennessee Coal and Iron company in Fairfield, Alabama. He was an ER doc way before emergency medicine was its own thing, which meant that he saw a wide gamut of cases, from knife fights to car wrecks to heart attacks. But it also meant that he saw a lot of ordinary colds and various infectious diseases, as the emergency clinic then – as now – was the only on-demand medical facility available for people who couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to private physician practices. Now one of my father’s great joys in life was watching sports on our grainy black and white TV, miraculously upgraded to a grainy color TV when I was 12. I’m sure he spent hundreds, if not thousands, of happy hours watching sports. Unless, of course, the hapless TV commentator made the mistake of excusing the absence of, say, Larry Bird from a Celtics game by saying that Bird “had a touch of the flu” and so was too sick to play, which was guaranteed to send my father into a 10-minute tirade.

“A touch of the flu? A touch of the flu? You mean he has contracted the influenza virus? Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea what it means to have the flu? Do you have any idea how sick you are if you have the flu? People DIE from the flu, you moron! What does that even mean … a touch of the flu? Is Larry Bird in the hospital? Because if he has influenza, you sure better get him to the hospital! I hope you’ve got a saline IV hooked up to Larry Bird’s arm right now! No, he’s not in the hospital. Do you know why? Because he has a COLD. That’s right, you idiot, he has a COLD! Not the flu!”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Terms of debate: Destroying vs altering nature, the fragile vs the resilient Earth

Terms of debate: Destroying vs altering nature, the fragile vs the resilient Earth

Last week’s piece drew responses that throw into relief how much the language we use depends on our most basic assumptions about how the world works. If left unexamined, that language leads to further conclusions that go unchallenged because the underlying assumptions are never scrutinized.

I challenged the Breakthrough Institute’s notion that humans are in one category and nature in another. If one views humans as merely a part of nature or the universe or the web of existence–however one chooses to name that which includes everything–then our role becomes distinctly different.

Under my assumption humans are embedded in the natural world. They are not the sole actors or agents in it, only one of countless actors, most of which we probably know nothing about. We cannot get one up on nature. We can only cooperate with its workings.

When we put nature in one category and humans in another, we make humans an outside and preeminent force over nature. We (falsely) imbue ourselves with god-like power to “control” nature. In this case, “control” means we get what we want without self-annihilating effects. For who could say that they are in “control” of a plummeting airliner headed for a crash just because they still have the ability to move the throttle.

Now, if humans are one with nature, then the only thing they can do to it is alter it. They cannot “destroy” nature. Only if we conceive of ourselves as living on a different plane from nature can we “destroy” it. And, only if we conceive of nature as immutable can we “destroy” it. But nature is always in flux including any flux that results from human action. There is no immutable nature to “destroy” or to “restore.” We cannot run entropy in reverse and reassemble the universe into exactly a state that existed in the past, not anywhere.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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