Following the Leader – The Gratification in Opinion Forming

‘The blind men

Make the rules

For the wise men

And the fools

It’s alright ma, it’s life and life only’  (Bob Dylan)

Those who write up Press Releases do so for the sake of their company, industry, organisation or administration.  Few Press Releases claim to come from individuals as their publishers.

Being certain ‘safe pairs of hands’ in the entities which commission such Press Releases; they are commissioned to write on subjects like crime detection and crime prosecution for instance, or product news; and are entrusted by those entities whom they represent with presenting in the most favoured way those entities’ interests in and purposes for publishing these Releases.

There is a style peculiar to writing them, and it is largely formulaic: and it is so, so as for the Releases to keep safely on the beaten path. These formulae are adhered to generally.

Thus there are usually found several ‘bottom lines’ in any Press Release published.  These ‘bottom lines’ are couched often in the form of quotations from a person or persons in authority at the entity commisioning publication.  Sober sentences are preached so as to act to reinforce the general drift of the story content of a Release, as it were to point a moral from it; and to steer a reader into absorbing certain views upon this story content.

For a Press Release issued by Police there might be a bottom line from the Police Commissioner. It might often assure the public that the Police are good at doing their job. For a company its bottom line might come from the MD and might be a ‘bigging up’ of the company products mentioned in the Release. It might aim to assure readers of them getting a great deal and massive satisfaction should they buy any of them. And so on.

Often, even usually, a Police Commissioner or an MD never see what they are quoted to have said in these items. Their words are ‘ghosted’ by their trusty personnel who have been trained in ‘Opinion Forming’.

There’s a certain amount of vicarious power delegated to Press Release writers in this way; a power by which these writers get a sense of enjoying the writing and publication of them.  There is a (slightly juvenile) feeling that one is a trusted person in such high things; things which are so essential to one’s masters’ welfare; there is a vicarious but cheap delight in laying down bottom lines which one knows are there only to steer readerships and propagate hype.

In this way persons with ambitious spirits within a company or organisation are fed and nurtured up in toadyism; and so tamed to become pet rabbits of their superiors and pawns in their pockets.  It is then a double-edged, and back-handed power.  Opinion Formers willingly fulfil these propaganda roles for their social superiors; and so help them keep a grip on their vast turfs

Newspapers and other media dealing with current affairs (also there are ‘ordinary’ TV programmes like NCIS in USA, and A Touch of Frost in UK which indulge likewise) are employing the same kinds of ‘opinion forming’ in the content of their copy and scripts.

In part, behind this tactic lies a fear: that the mass of people will drift away from the norm and so become disaffected, they might end up defecting from the status quo and so begin causing problems (for the elites) in society.  And so, to support and reinforce the status quo (which is all hyped propaganda compiled by their lackey Opinion Formers) becomes a work of self-preservation for them.

Another aspect of this Opinion Forming are its ‘what we have we hold’ designs. The proprietors of newspapers together with their senior teams, plus the heads of news and current affairs on TV and Radio channels, have all of them vested interests in retaining an elevated, not to say privileged, position in the world.  Naturally they will be inclined to work others as their pet Opinon-formers so as for themselves to maintain this special status.  Thus it follows that the line of least resistance to these guys, for them to succeed in their aims, will be to keep things within a narrow orthodoxy and not allow any examination to press too hard and so unearth any blemishes or rocky places. Blemishes or rocky places being items off limits because these are the issues where their own unreported, unreportable, salacious goings-on of are able to occur unhampered.

This elevated section of society will come out and say that it does considerable work at the cutting-edge of social criticism and under-cover, investigative journalism. This may be true superficially, and selectively, but deep digging for real dirt is avoided in regard to matters of fundamental self-interest to this elite. This preserves its special status and privileges.  The matters which this elite chooses to pay lip service to, but which it avoids stirring up too far, are glozed over with palliative and soporific anodynes. Thus arise populist campaigns which go nowehere in fact. Issues are bandied about like having more equitable wealth distribution, wider access to education; better chances of opportunity. These apparently urge changes regarding quality of life and for higher life aspirations; but in actuality are precluded dead ducks.

This scandal remains a national indictment. Yet these poncy haves believe narcissically that they own just rights to exclusive use of and joy from such boons; and they usually presume under a title that they have ‘earned’ their opportunities, their educations, their elevated positions. Yet the mass of sociological data just does not support these fabrications of theirs.

These guys claim their places in life and employ their herds of opinion formers across society, using usurped social standings and arrogated privileges so as to manipulate the greater public; who are their avowed professional regard and whom they state they serve.

Everything is so very cosy.  So that even many of the persons abused by this state of affairs bristle up and rouse to offence and anger at a suggestion of the reality of such travesties.  It is as if there are many persons – some of the same mind as those who decry and vilify people in need as ‘benefits scroungers’ – who themselves have formed a habitual dependency upon and gratuitous income from their stereotyped professions. Professions of ‘steady as she goes’ and ‘all in this together’ vomitted by their endless streams of Opinion-Forming Press Releases and bottom lines.

The general drift of Opinion-Forming has been ostensibly to meet the concerns and insecurities of ordinary people. It has done this by its use of a bland and comfort-blanket assurance-after-assurance that things – like the way we organise ourselves and how look after one another – are done fundamentally as they ought to be and are running more or less as they should.  Much play is made by Opinion Formers on ‘push buttons’– by which they thrust down one’s throat phrases like ‘liberal democracy’, ‘meritocracy’,  ‘parliamentary debate’, and ‘social diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’ and so on.  Their assertions in their propagandas wherein these opinion formers pepper such terms here and there, hope to create Pavlovian conditioned responses in ordinary persons. These ‘push button’ phrases are reiterated by them so as for them to work on and so hold in thrall the feckless masses. It amounts to a conscious and insincere premeditated duplicity.

It is not as if the persons in the media are not conscious of what they are doing in their arts of opinion forming.  The effects of their cunnings are very like those derived from our extolled child-centred policies by which so much misguided education and educational theory goes on with children in our schools. This concept of child-centredness to much affects the charges on whom it is practiced, in the same ways as do the drones of opinion formers the ordinary person. The general effects act to delimit unnecessarily that range of experience which is possible and beneficial to the unlucky ones absorbed in their coils.

A sugared misguided and complacent sense of certainty and assurance is foisted by these stratagems; it is one which deprives people (including children) from enjoying actual engagement with, psychic rapport with, what Wordsworth appositely termed ‘the essential passions of the heart’.  Hence, just as our children are now used to refusing fresh wholesome hot loaves of bread because such bread is not cellophane wrapped but instead has come unwrapped fresh from an oven; so too, there are too many of our adult public who will not accept as fact, because they have been obfuscated from understanding, that their own states are ones of deprivation and unnecessary restriction – and that it is these things which are trivialising and demeaning their lives.

Some opinion formers feel that they are doing their bests for the flock of the public; whom they presume are not up to such an understanding, or else are unable to withstand it were such an understanding forced upon them.  This is presumption of course and it means that this section of opinion formers considers in itself that it does understand, and it is itself is able to withstand. Thus this group must necessarily consider itself to be (part of) an elevated elite, and maybe sometimes considers itself a natural elite.

This jerrymandering, of course cuts to the root and bole of liberal democracy, and tarnishes its holy mantra of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. It seems that some of us are thought best to be held in chains for our own sakes.

 

 

 

Hype as the Baited Hook

‘UK creative industries are a tremendous contributor to economic growth, adding £8.8m per hour to the UK economy. The onset of the knowledge era has given way to what has been coined ‘The Creative Economy’, and this new economy is quickly beginning to outpace the once gargantuan industrial dependent economies of the West. According to John Howkins “America exports more value in terms of copyright, than food, soft drinks, cars, computers and planes, and Britain’s fashion industry employs more people and makes more money than do its steel or car industries.”

Click the download button to get your copy of: The Rise Of The Creative Economy Report’

Here we have what might be called a synthesis of strands of hype, neatly packaged up into a parcel; just like the dud bonds Bankers passed between themselves so as to ‘create value’ and which led straight to the 2008 crash

This is a blurb for a report on the creative economy. The blurb bigs up the report; but it does not say:

What makes John Howkins relevant and worth citing?

What is the authority behind this report?

The name of the author of the report

Any caveats about the large claims made

There is a scenario where the wife or husband snatches a repair job from a spouse’s fumbling hands whilst shouting: ‘Here! Let me do it!’  This is a familiar illustration of the results of mounting frustration. There are implicit assumptions behind such frustrations boiling within the snatcher’s temper, which risen to boiling point, then proceeds to boil over. The illustration of ‘Here! Let me do it!’ is interestingly relevant to the kind of assumption of authority made by organisations and by persons who feel blithely that they have a right to offer others advice and information.  As, lordly, they offer this information and advice from on high above, they inevitably feel free to colour it in the ways they see fit.

It is possible to train oneself to restrain oneself so as not to feed the demons of  this itch of ‘knowing best’ which is the fuel for ending-up boiling over with frustration.

The novelist Sir Walter Scott memorably said to a friend who asked him to endorse a book the friend has written; ‘Every herring should hang by its own head’. I think Sir Walter meant that he believed people should try to support their own ventures, make their own calls and judgements, bear with their own mistakes and approve their own successes.  And I might add – people should do this so as to learn from the experience of facing head-on the consequences of our life decisions in this way?  This is my take on life; I make no bones, although for anyone of us to keep to it is the great difficulty

With children mothers and fathers are there to shelter them and to nurture them and to be their guides as they are growing up. Classically parents can have difficulty ‘letting go’ when their children reach majority.  In part this is because it gives parents a sense of purpose to continue to tie their children to the apron strings even though the time has come when most parental purpose has in fact edged away. In part also it is because parents refuse to see that their babies are no longer in need of protective parental assistance.

Of course no parent would or should stand by and watch their grown children make horrendous mess-ups because of their lack of life experience. But ‘letting go’ is for parents an essential in the main, so that grown children are enabled to become fit to function as adults and able to look after themselves. And also it is important for them themselves to become responsible parents. Otherwise a person gets to thirty-something and turned into a couch potato who is unable to boil an egg.

These lines of consequence go very far towards justifying Sir Walter Scott in his opinion.

The central concern in these cases of ‘letting go’ is to do with freedom.  Freedom is always blank page, and is always going to be a blank page.  And for persons unused to writing down their thoughts, a blank page is often a very scary item, almost a brick wall, when they are being asked and expected to fill the page with words.

The blank page is a horror show; it is the future as an inexperienced person is unable to see it. Most young persons have a mountain of learning to cope with and to climb to the summit of.  Their futures as blank pages are like vast drops seen from cliff edges and themselves standing on the verge of the drop and staring into it. Vertigo is a commonplace response.

So, freedom for a person is not so much a God-given right, as it is something to be earned and maintained by their own efforts.  Freedom in the main is freedom to do things; and so it follows that not knowing how to do things is a restriction; a form of enslavement. Hence you hear people speak the ugly and grossly misused phrase: Knowledge (and experience) is Power.  It might be better said that: Knowledge and experience releases, frees from Enslavement.

The terrible need that we are born with to tussle amongst the crowd and so promote ourselves; for our security and for our safety, so that we might control as much scope and as many things and persons as we are able to; so that in our supremacy we might lord-it over whomsoever will allow us to push them aside and around. Once in such a position we soon learn to value ourselves above those we can push around, and to base our identity and our sense of our due place and rights, on this assumption of superiority; we learn soon to denigrate those who seem resigned only to serve;  we even view with an awe and respect the expansive guy with the big expensive limousine who cruises down the street; and contrariwise, we disparage in our hearts the little guy with the beat up run-around wreck because he accepts his apparent lack of status.  All these presumptuous airs and graces arise in us out of our sense of the primacy of the ego, and it is our sense of ourselves as contenders, and the pressures of our fears and anxieties about the possibility of coming well-behind in the race of life – which control us and the ways in which we see our lives.

This composite package of fears, hopes and perceptions create in us a complex of delusion. This complex of delusion is writ large and perceptible in the above-cited preamble to The Rise of the Creative Economy.  Now read it again, in the light of what you have absorbed from my words. Consider now whether you see in it its insane self-appointed auto-aggrandised preposterousness. The place that this preamble is coming from; the place whereabouts it is at; and whereabouts it is heading; are places all constrained and confronted by this anxiety complex to be somebody and not to be left behind trodden upon by the foremost madmen in the crowd. It is a misplaced bid for freedom, sought after by way of attempting assertion of dominion over others etc.

All of this hectic folly is why the God of Love, Jesus Christ, so potently hits the nail on the head when he talks of our need for ‘being reborn of the spirit’; of us needing to be ‘as a little child so as to be able to enter the Kingdom of God’; of us needing to realise that we are being ‘provided for in our every everyday need by our Father in Heaven’; of our coming to see that we need not be ‘asking for fine raiment and possessions as the gentiles seek for’; but that we can find real peace and truth by our modestly ‘trusting to God and leaving completely our desires, our safety, our security in his hands’. And by us merely trusting in him that ‘asking in prayer anything that is the will of Love, it shall be given liberally’.

To be able to handle the very frightening blank pages of life; and to an outsider one such blank page is often perceived to be Jesus’ unconditional offer of love and care to us; a person really only has to pledge to take a single giant leap for a woman or man; or as the poet TS Eliot put it:

….. to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.

 ………………………………

A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Jesus’ simple truths hold within them ample answers to everything: ‘whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it ‘- ‘I am come to give life; and to give life in abundance’

Crucially, it is the will to lose oneself, to forgo one’s ego and one’s pride, to surrender all completely and with full trust and commitment up to The Lord Jesus; and thereafter to honour his teachings, which are the keys to life, through a door of renunciation

Scientific Interpretation 1

The nature of scientific experiment, as part of scientific method, has been and continues to aim at making testing as ‘pure’ as is possible.  This is to say that when an experiment is to be carried out, then as many extraneous items of circumstance and presence surrounding the setting of it up are attempted to be eliminated.

Any condition or item extraneous to the composition and nature of the theory that is being tested is attempted to be taken away from it making interference with the course of the experiment.

When things are not able easily to be taken away, and they are extraneous and so not useful or pertinent to the testing of the theory in question, they are attempted to be neutralised or isolated in some way so that their effects of being present do not influence or alter inconveniently the results (expected) of a test.

When things are not able to be taken away and also are not able easily to be neutralised or else isolated, then their influences or interferences with the procedure of an experiment and so with its (expected) results are attempted to be allowed for in the anticipated results of a test.  This is done so that a result of a test is able to be re-evaluated by allowing for the disorder or the unbalancing of an initial result by the interference of extraneous items or conditions unable to be removed beforehand from the proceedings of a test.

And so the ‘ideal’ experiment is one which would take place making use only of the essential ingredients needed to run a bona fide authentic test – the sufficient and necessary items only, with all other items and conditions expelled from having an influence on the outcome.

The nearest scientists come to this ‘pure’ or ‘ideal’ situation for doing experiments is when they conduct what are known as ‘thought experiments’.  Thought experiments are done when scientists think-through a set of circumstances and the interactions of those circumstances, so as to try to find a logical or other valid outcome, but crucially without their using physical apparatus or materials.  Thought experimentation is done wholly in the head.

The general nature of doing experimentation in these ways then necessitates that tested and established theories of science are expected to align themselves most conformably with the outcomes of new experiments. They are to align as being the science and its precepts whose reliability supports the new tests’ probability and probity for success, as well as providing their likelihood in being selected for trial in the first place. But all new tests are attempted, as far as this is possible, within a pure and ‘sanitised vacuum’ so to speak.

There might be such things as complex theories to be tested, or experiments which involve more than one theory to be tried, or else one or more established theories might be included as a given part of the set up model which is to support the conditions for experiment on proposed theories to be tested.

But the basic proposal holds good always; that all else which is unnecessary and extraneous to a proposed test is to be removed, neutralised or taken account of so as to get a result from the test that is as far as possible a ‘pure’ result, unadulterated as if existing in an ‘sanitised vacuum’.

The first thing to make a note of about this methodology is that even in the most ‘pure’ environments of experimentation, in the ‘thought experiments’, there is much scope for interferences and for extraneous items to intervene in a ‘proper’ procedure.

A historical case of this happening was the postulation of a gas called phlogiston. This gas was assumed to be of negative mass, and being thought such was thought accountable for the loss of mass witnessed in burnt ashes when compared with the mass of the items which were burnt, before their burning. There was involved here a thought experiment which took the results of a physical experiment and misconstrued them by creating the concept of phlogiston. The findings were flawed, and were flawed for two reasons.

Firstly there was most likely insufficient circumstantial understanding of science available to and surrounding the creator of the concept of phlogiston. Such a lack in great part allowed opportunity for the creator of the concept to postulate a gas which had properties unlike any other comparable material then known or understood.

Secondly the reasoning of the creator of the concept of phlogiston seems to have opted for ‘the glass half empty’ choice over and above the ‘glass half full’ choice.

Like in solving x in a quadratic equation there might be a negative answer and a positive one; only the positive one being of actual use in a practical application, to say an engineering project.  The concept of phlogiston seems to have arisen as if an engineer was working to apply negative loads or stresses to an idea for a building he was planning.

The conceptualiser of phlogiston had not supposed that materials had left the ash, and they were at one time part of its mass, but at a time beforehand, when being part of the material before it burnt to ash.  Instead he had opted for the nearest best alternative; that a gas of negative mass had been added to the materials during combustion, thus making their ash measure less in mass.

The lack of basement scientific understanding was the open gate through which the conceptualiser of phlogiston was able to walk through into a fallacious belief.

The simple truth is that an experimenter hypothetically has to be able to have foreknowledge of the presence and the nature of all extraneous items and conditions which could be present themselves and so might have potential to interfere with an experiment he is proposing, so as for him to hope to obtain a ‘pure’ state for its performance.  And the case with phlogiston implies to us that even were this first obstacle overcome and a ‘pure’ state was made possible in which to test a theory, there might still remain pitfalls in the mind and in the reasoning of men and women which might intervene to cause an interpretation to be made wrongly from any perceived empirical result.

The misinterpretation of observed phenomena is an accidental and incidental occurrence however, and as such is harder to guard against than mistakes occuring becaus eof insuffiencet safeguards hiving been made by using one’s sound understanding of all one feels assured of.  So that before the case one has eliminated as far as is presently possible interferences from affecting any test. This latter demand requires only diligence and application; the former demand, for correct interpretation of observed results, might truly be wholly unluckily mistaken in certain unfortunate cases.

Why not Science?

I want to keep this one simple. I want to show as plainly as I am able to do, and to show to ordinary people, who have ordinary lives and aspirations, that the Truth – whatever it might be – is more than science; and more than science can deal with.

First ask yourself whether what you see is real. Do you believe your eyes?  Well electricity is real but isn’t visible; you can’t hear it, smell it, taste it; you can feel it – sort of – so you know it’s there when you get a shock!

You don’t actually see sunlight. It allows you to see. It sheds light on objects so you can see them.  In space sunlight is travelling from the sun to the earth all the time, but as it travels through space it doesn’t light up anything. There’s not much to light up except other planets and a few satellites we sent up.

So when it travels in space it travels in darkness.  But what is travelling? What is it?  What on earth is it – a wave, a set of particles, energy? These are the standard answers.  They give no clue to what it is, only how it travels – as a wave – or in what form it travels – as a set of particles – or as how we people use it – as a form of energy.  But what is it? Is it right to ask the question? Is there an answer? Should we expect an answer? And might any true answer be beyond science to discover?  And I mean beyond – you have to go further than science to get an answer.

What about our thoughts? Are they ‘just chemicals’?  What might this mean ‘just chemicals’?  Are we chemical machines – just a bunch of chemical reactions?  When I flick on a light switch the lights come on – is this how our thoughts work?  A chemical just arrives somewhere at a cell in your brain and hey presto! – you think a thought?   Seems to me like what you think drives the chemicals to your brain cells rather than the chemicals driving you and causing what thoughts you think.

And we just decide to do something and do it. We say to ourselves – I WILL do that – and we do it.  What motors this I WILL?  What chemical goes to your brain cells and suggests that you WILL do it.  Isn’t it instead that you decide to do something and then the chemicals kick in?  The chemicals follow what you decide, rather than make you decide to do it

And what is this weight thing? This kilo of sugar which is bagged and which every week we get the same – a kilo bag of sugar from the shop? Why is it always the same sized bag? And why does it always weigh exactly a kilo. And why do we always receive the same number of spoonfuls per bag and per kilo.   Why should it not change from week to week, so that one kilo fits a bigger bag one week and a smaller another week. Or that you get fifty spoonfuls out of one week’s bag and sixty out of your next week’s?

Seems to me there’s no reason why this shouldn’t happen – that sizes, weights and amounts of sugar bagged should not in the way of things vary from time to time.

But there is an order to our world. We know, by having learned, that a kilo will always be the same, and will always fill the same sized bag, with the same number of spoonfuls.  We learned this when we were so young we didn’t question it – we just accepted it – took it for granted – that is how it is.

But why is it just like this?

If we took our bag of sugar to the moon it would weigh less.  If we took it into space it would weigh nothing.  But it would still be something, and still be usable in our cups of tea.  What has it lost so as to weigh nothing now? Has it lost anything?  What’s going on?

You cleverer ones will talk about the forces of gravity and the quality of mass which material objects possess.  But these thought refinements just complicate the issues and so obscure the mysteries of our being, our life and existence.

Ask yourself the question – why is there anything at all and not nothing instead?  This question keeps being asked – what is going on?

No-one knew there were radio waves before the year 1850. As far as people before 1850 were concerned invisible waves which passed through you and were able to carry music and talk and moving pictures were just someone’s terrifying delusions for the madhouse, had they been able to be suggested at that time.

‘Tell me where is fancy bred – in the heart or in the head?’

‘The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, – and these are of them. Whither are they vanished?’

The solution to the overwhelming question: What is going on? – is to recognise it is a question and that it is going on.  Our not seeing the question is real and us not seeing that it is going on; is us living a fatigued unconsidered life, happy with what we have been told. This is life asleep.  This is life unlived. It is an existence not a life.

It is having been blinded by the trees and unable to see the woods.  There is nowhere further for you to adventure in your thoughts when you are not awoken, not alive, to the astonishing mystery of all things, in all things.

Joni Mitchell sang: ‘We are stardust’ – and literally we are indeed. Think about it. The earth’s crust is mostly crystalline – it’s a ball of crystal – literally.  This is the truth. Water – why is it tasteless? – colourless? – a liquid? – scientists can tell you the mechanics of why it is these things, but what makes it so?  What holds things all together, that they just are and remain just so?

‘Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again. And then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked

I cried to dream again.’

 

The clouds would open and show riches ready to drop on me – I guess that is what it is to wake up to life and seeing things more truly as they are – and so see that they go far over and above what science as our be-all and end-all blinkers us with.  It is waking up to the sheer unlikeliness, the couldn’t-be-imagined-ness, the whole humbling shooting match of astonishment that – here we are – yes – here we are.

 

Meritocracy

There are certain reactive buttons hit regularly by politicians and establishment figures most particularly in liberal democracies in The West, when they are on the stump or speaking publicly on communications media.  ‘Equal opportunities’ is one; ‘nurturing diversity’ is another – you know the kind of thing.

‘Meritocracy’ is one of these signifiers, and it is used chiefly as a self-justification for the public standing of the establishment figures who use and advocate the concept.

The first question springs vividly to mind: Would you take the word of a chief executive of say Microsoft that Microsoft hardware and software are always the best available on the market? You might, but life-experience teaches you quite quickly that this sentiment is probably, in part at least, a sales pitch, a personal loyalty to a corporation, a partial and biased assessment of the field of electronic communications products.

Now the meritocracy are our leaders; and they would have to allow, our betters, since our democracy is a ‘meritocracy’ and they are the top people in it. And we are often awed into prima facie belief in what they say and lay claim to, simply because they are our leaders.  Psychologically, the argument is circular.

Similarly their claims to their comprising the top people in a democratic meritocracy constitute a circular argument, but a logically circular one: they are the best because they are at the top and are at the top because they are the best.

They are though in the position of the Microsoft chief executive – what else would,should, could they say; what else should they lay claim to being?  Their acquiescence in their common presumption is self-evident.

How should we approach unpacking this idea of meritocracy so as to see it and to show it for its substance and constitution? Where might we begin that is solid ground on which to weigh and consider?

Let us try this. A great besetting sin in many if not most of us at some time or another in our lives has been our sense of pride and our self-love.  In states of mind like this we are most liable to attribute to ourselves qualities and successes which are in a cooler light of day, as much, if not more so, fortuitous, and the fruit of happenstance, than they are acquired or inherent.

Undoubtedly the most easy prey to these self-deceptions is the intelligent person.  Every day the experience of one person scoffing at another, ridiculing another, is a commonplace, even in public life.  It is one of the easiest routines is to ridicule and disdain a person, to impute him or her dim-witted is an epidemic and widespread below the belt blow.

‘I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.’

Yet what basis has a person to be impugned as a dimwit; and conversely, what basis is there for a smart guy to be lauded and made much of – for their brains or for their lack of them?

For the most part the brains we are equipped with we are dealt as our hand of cards by fate or chance or destiny.  There is only so much you can do with house wine; it will never taste like Brut or Soave. So why is the dim-witted guy the butt of so many of our schadenfreude digs and jibes? Are we really superior when we are being superior in this way? Are we not denigrating ourselves in the face of honest incapacity?  Should we not be a support, a helper to the person who finds brain work arduous and difficult?  Rather than lord it over her/him or kick her when she’s down?

The guys who lay claim to the top places in the world are almost exclusively those whose work or occupation is carried out by the use of their minds.  But why should these guys lay claim to that space as being the meritocracy, or a meritocracy, by virtue of their brainpower?

Undoubtedly many at the top do lay claim to their positions by way of extolling their own intellectual brilliance – this is evident again and again in their values and the airs they adopt.  Yet can they lay claim to their intelligence as being a character attribute; something they have achieved or created by their own efforts?  And besides, so many substitute in their apprehensions the character attribute of craftiness and skulduggery for intelligence without them realising they are doing so. Just look at our politicians.

No, there is no merit in being intelligent; nor no shame in being dim-witted.  There is only misplaced self-pride in the one and a vulnerability to be shouldered in the other.  And this is why The Lord places love at the centre of this world and of God’s creation; and does not concern himself at all in his teaching with brilliance of wit or with intellectual inability to grasp.

St Matthew tells of Jesus effusing a hymnal paean of praise to God about this dispensation:

“O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike’

 The whole order of creation is turned over and reversed in this teaching: The last become the first;  it is foolish to count oneself wise; and wise to be a fool for God; the humble shall be exalted and the exalted humbled; the least shall be the greatest; the Prince of Heaven becomes The Servant of all.

But chasing the dream of position and place, of consequence and consideration, is the delusion of the ambitious; their label of attainment through merit pinned to their lapel as a badge of honour is their Scarecrow diploma and their Lion medal.  So why should we be obeisant and so recede to allow them gangway?

And what should be credited with merit, if it is not brains and intelligence? To whom do we do honour?  We do honour to the man and woman of good character; she who has engaged, learned, regarded;  and so instructed herself with the aim of better conducting herself as a human being among human beings.  One who has foregone gains and the putting of oneself forward, who makes no self-recommendations and is indifferent to the prizes of pomp and ceremony. She who like her Master acknowledges that at bottom there are to be no respecters of persons other than for their behaviour, character and conduct before God and man.

‘Wherefore I say unto you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little’

There is a lot of illusion to the world. From the hype of TV drama and advertising, to the aura surrounding movie stars and sports personalities, and the lure of designer branding and products, precious metals, money and jewellery; faraway exotic places and art and artists, music, bands, magnates: all idols with feet of clay and hands of lead.  In some sense, with regard to the people engaged in the meritocracy event, they are the victims of their own imaginations. They are those who lack and are in need of a sure foundation and secure place from which to see and weigh things as they are in truth, without the glamour of bewitchment coming before their eyes and prerforming shadow shows and lantern slides of antic absurdities before them.

Prising out the Detail

How many times must – no it’s not Bob Dylan – how many times must a developer have to prise the information s/he needs out of clients – just so as to be able to offer a reasonably ballpark estimate for the works required?

There is the sort of client who writes an opening correspondence to you, possibly in reply to your approaching him in a bid for a job he has on offer; who appears open and accommodating, chatty and sociable, but who leaves ‘elephants in the room’ within his writing.

He will be very approachable but will gloze over those very parts which ought to give you substantive information about the work he is offering you and how much work it might be.  He might omit what goods or services he is trading in.  Or whether he wants an old site to have a makeover or instead wants a new site built from scratch.  What functionality he expects. And so on, so that when he ends with ‘please give me an exact price for this work’ you feel like throwing your hands in the air and calling upon the cloud to envelope you.

Another kind of stalling happens when a correspondent takes a very distant and formal stance in his writing. His writing might be in the third person usually, and he uses passive tenses a lot ‘there shall be…’ and ‘parties can expect to…’ and so on? Or his writing is mean, very short on warmth and showing signs of suspicion and doubt about his correspondent; yourself.

Of course when a prospective client is all at sea and is not a technical person then a lack of a reasonable requirement missing from his approach is not surprising nor is it culpable.  And when this type of client ‘comes clean’ and so throws himself on your expertise, and admits he knows little about what he wants; one can warm to his sense of self which is honest and even trusting.

The guys who know a bit about developing are sometimes cagy and like an oyster or a clam difficult to open up about their needs. I have known guys send six or seven exchanges of mail before they have proposed that they send an NDA and Confidentiality Agreement so that you can sign and they might begin saying exactly what it is they are wanting from you. It’s part of building the trust, the relationship, between you; only there seem to be quite a few guys out there whose instinct is to fear the worst and to prepare themselves for a long siege.

The classic case of this kind are the guys like those who insist the moon landings never took place; or those who insist that the earth is flat; or those who fear science because it appears to them to be a threat to their beliefs.  Once one has entrenched oneself so deeply in one of these positions, so that one cannot see over the top of the parapet, and so you do not know whether the enemy might or might not be there in front of you, but you are too deep in and too cautious to peep over the top and see for yourself; when this is your mental outlook, your default mode, upon the other guys (the enemy?) who share in the business sector you yourself are in; or provide services used by it; then most often you will fulfil your own worst fears because your distrust and withholding of data allowing gaping omissions, will generate wariness and suspicion wherever it is received.

Of course these guys holding back stuff are scared you are going to run off with their baby. But it would always be better for them, and us, to be up front about this fear and let it come to life and into presence, so that one’s honesty and straightforwardness cannot be placed in doubt.

And thus in addition any initial exchanges between you and a client retain their integrity, and the correspondence remains full open with parties knowing exactly the situation, and whereabouts they stand within it.

Likewise there is another side to this kind of coin, when a client in a different kind of hidden agenda appears to be seeking professional help and advice but not offering you any work or payment for it. I guess you can call it fishing or angling.  The usual strategy is to creep. That is to begin innocuously with a reasonable query and a tentative work offer; but thereafter to add detail and pose queries about a project, and bit by bit a developer’s return correspondence carries on getting more and more like a specification or a requirement document.

The upshot is, when you get sucked in and offer too much; the guy usually walks.

Now both these type of guys; those who want to do their best to hide uncomfortable facts from you; and also those who want to pump you for as much information as they can get without paying; both types of guy are messing the pitch for the more open and honest guys, who, if deception happens too often, all get tarred with the same brush of suspicion. And so business trust, so important for making money for all of us, deteriorates.

Both these types of guys are also not usually out-and-out villains; they are not scheming underhand dogs. Most often they are scaredycats – afraid someone is going to rob them usually – either of their intellectual property (a business idea or a patentable scheme) or of their money (who fear developers are like those stalls and stores which do not display price lists and so are hiding their prices so as to land a haymaker of a bill on a guy after the fact of purchase) – they fear being overcharged and so want the info to be able to do it themselves on the cheap.

There’s also a certain amount of parsimony and insidious intent with these guys as well, but usually they don’t consciously realise this is the case and would probably try to justify their lack of openness to themselves by way of placing blame on some past bad experiences or on their having a general and ingrown distrust of business people.

And of course, there are guys out there who would steal their IP and who would fleece them of money had they half a chance; but it is a matter of faith in general in the majority of humanity which is the basic question here.  There was a great moralist who lived during the 18th century, Dr Samuel Johnson, who was heard to say once that it was his opinion that;

Most people are not wicked; but they only need reminding now and again of their social and behavioural duties towards others, and of the legitimate expectations others are entitled to assume from them.

This seems to me to be a good and useful general rule.  So speak as you find. When a correspondence is good, say so; when bad; say so. There are ways of letting a person know without offending that you do not feel they are being open enough. Call a spade a spade – but gently.

Bells and Whistles

There are old sayings I like to refer back to and which do illustrate well the topics I have been choosing lately. The adages for today are:

‘Don’t spoil the ship for a hap’orth of tar’

‘Do less; achieve more’

‘Don’t fiddle while Rome burns’

‘Know when to call it quits’

The first saying is about cutting corners and saving a few cents here and there, and thereby scuppering in the process the whole deal.  I’ve talked before about the master masons who built the English and French Cathedrals in an age without electricity and smart technology; when everything was done by hand and assisted by simple lifting and shaping engines – The rope pulley and the steel chisel, and a lot of hard and finely-concentrated work.

These guys, the master masons, even though every stone to carve or to shape was a day’s work; yet still you can today climb to the clerestory of Exeter or Lincoln, or Chartres or Amiens, and take with you your battery torch so that you can shine it in places which have not seen light since the twelfth or thirteenth century up there in the gods.  There will be revealed carvings and workmanship every bit as astonishing and beautiful as that which grabs the limelight far below in the aisles and the chantries where the tourists flow and flock.

These guys knew God’s eye was on them wherever whatever they were doing; but not as a Giant Thunderer ready to strike them down for doing shoddy work; rather as a God of love and mercy for whom all work in His service deserved the same devotion to be sent back to Him regardless whether men and women we able to see its splendid majesty.  Thus as for the Romans so for the masons: ‘laborare est orare’ – work is prayer. And even their names have been lost to us.

And who is to say one is not rewarded for paying such minute dedication and care to one’s service?  The guy with a good conscience towards his/her clients sleeps well.

There are riders to impounding too much work into a task though.  There is in the study of economics a term known as ‘The Law of Diminishing Returns’.  This law says that upon the optimum of a goods or service being made available on the marketplace, the very next item of goods or service made and offered loses value and thereafter the curve of value descends on the graph as and when more and more items hit the marketplace.  The lesson is that once you have achieved your optimum level, then to carry on adjusting and adding and tinkering, trying too hard generally is to lose one’s efficiency and efficacy; and the end product begins to deteriorate.   The guys who say ‘Give up whilst you’re winning’ and ‘Leave them wanting more’ do not offer their wisdom for no reason.

There’s a variation on overmuch tinkering goes on now and then. This oddity occurs when you find a person caught in a cul-de-sac and hammering hard at it all day on a trifle; a thing of no consequence, so that all his/her energies are absorbed and concentrated on the wrong focus.  Who can tell why this happens to us?  Sometimes we just won’t be beaten; sometimes it’s a mater of silly personal false pride; sometimes it’s just what Freud calls ‘repetition compulsion’ in us; or sometimes its just a mind block and the dawning on us that we are squandering time and resources needlessly has yet to happen.  Matthew Arnold a scholar of the Victorian Age in Britain – had a good tip to help us asses the situation when we get caught up like this.

He felt that we should ‘stand back to see the whole clearly and as it really is’.  He suggests then that we mentally withdraw ourselves from our mundane task we are caught up in, and take stock; in order to consolidate in our thoughts exactly whereabouts we are with our work or our situation.

The vital thing to be able to master in all of these pitfalls is the knowing when the moment to stop digging deeper the hole we are in has arrived. Like the sound of a buzz saw in the distance as you sit at your desk busy working, it fills your ear but you are not aware it is doing so, and it grates and niggles but you still don’t realise the cause. Then it suddenly shuts down and stops. The air seems to clear and freshen and you look up from the keyboard with anew sense of relief as you realise the full mind trap you were in because of that saw.  Another example of the same is depression.  One does not generally understand one has been in a depression until one has come out of it. Only persons who are practiced depressives have learnt the knack of being able to identify a depression whilst still in one.

The fact remains that realising the moment has come for one to halt, to take stock, to move on, to have a think, to clear your head, but of a certainty to stop – this moment goes past us so easily, and the lesson is that we have to teach ourselves how to pick it out and identify it as it arrives. Then we do not surface from the deeps two days later having lost that two days and some of our morale as well –  at the realisation of having lost them.

Like all trigger moments and handy pointers – like clock alarms and shift whistles which blast out at the right times daily monthly yearly – a person is able to train him/her self to act like a clock or a shift whistle – able to employ habitual routines to good advantage.

We all have our bad habits – ask your partner. How did we accrue them? – subliminally, by unnoticed repetition of them way back.  So we can use this against the demon possession in us that drives us onwards even when it is a hopeless cause to go on or when the ship has sailed.  Getting the first hook to hang the habit on is the hardest – it can be a strenuous act of will to accomplish. But like after the first week of not smoking things become easier each day henceforth once the wagon has begun to roll.

It won’t be too long before Dr Kawasaki’s Brain Training is riding sweet as a nut and your self-coerced and new good habit is functional and providing results.  And it’s a buzz to know that you have achieved the self-discipline required to accomplish such a feat. Not too much of a buzz though, because Augustine tells us ‘Do not presume; one thief was damned; do not despair; one thief was saved’. What I mean is that one should not crow over oneself; nor should one belittle oneself, but a middle way, in media re, is ever the place to aim for. Like Alice and the cake; she took too big a bite and grew too big for the doorway; then took too little and was too small to reach the key on the table.

Then, and lastly, although this subject deserves a page or a chapter or two to itself, do try always to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. When you’re writing anything to anyone is especially the time when always this is the best advice to heed.  The great Robert Burns wrote:

‘Ah, would some god the giftie give us

To see ourselves as others see us’

And Alexander Pope:

‘The perfect judge will read each work of wit

With that same spirit which its author writ’

And the Master of All

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Standing One’s Ground

There is ever a temptation, especially when work is coming in too slowly, at times of the year like January when Christmas is spent out and clients’ resolutions to be more prudent are still in force, and potential clients are nursing hangovers and servicing debts incurred last year; for a guy or a gal to consider lowering standards to make doing business more attractive to would-be to clients.

One searches around looking for those places whereabouts corners can be cut and quick fixes will do; in fact looking to expunge the very items on which a self-respecting developer rests his true satisfaction and good repute.

The advice here is then: hold the line and persevere.

Of course when one is starving and the creditors are knocking at the house door this seems, and probably is, next to impossible advice to accept.  Like King Richard III on the field of Bosworth, one in this situation is likely to agree that ‘a horse; a horse; my kingdom for a horse!’ is the right kind of tactic.  The old adage says: ‘Needs must when the devil drives’; and again ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.

Though if you have some means yet to keep the wolf from the door it is better, I would argue, to retain your normal fixed rates per hour and your pricing standards per job; to keep ploughing at those little significant but unheralded niceties and lubricants to the projects you do; making them run sweetly and quietly impressing your clients to boot.

One not only retains one’s will to live; and one’s will to live to one’s own standards; but there is no regret; nor no hill to climb back up to for you, from where you descended to so as to barter away quality for quick cash.

What my friend and colleague does in the event of austere times is to retrieve his full list of known and trustworthy contacts; friends, business people, family, well-wishers; all – and then he circulates amongst them a round robin mail explaining that need presses him and asking whether they, or else anybody among their acquaintance, and whom they can refer him to, is in need of work being done.

Now this might look like, or even faintly taste of throwing oneself upon charity; or worse; begging.  There are some major things to say about this concern.

The request in the round robin is for procuring work; and ever ‘the labourer is worthy of his hire’ – always.  Remember there is no cut-price cut-corners offers involved of your asking to do works for clients – at this stage.   You retain all your appurtenances and business regimen. You have changed your tack and approach just a little- from a more passive absorption of work and clients as they arrive on your desktop; to a more active seeking for work. It may be less of a wrench to change tack in this way for some rather than for others.  If you are one of the ones it is a wrench for, then it is to you I need to put the following narrative most clearly.

The great national bard of Scotland, Robert Burns, was dying, at the age of 37, of the physiological after-effects on his heart of him having contracted rheumatic fever as a boy, possibly from the necessity of his family causing him to have to go out and plough the fields on his father’s farm, with a horse and team, and at an age when his strength was not fitted to this arduous work.  He was in is last days taking the icy waters of the Firth of Forth on the North Sea coast, in January, at which time in Scotland, temperatures are well bellow freezing. This was on his doctor’s advice.

Burns was hoping that the waters would cure him, or at least preserve his life for a time. He was in fact days away from his death day and his taking the waters was in fact hastening that day.

During these final days he was broke, and in debt to quite a few and belligerent creditors.  He twice in these final days had received threats of imprisonment for debt from two separate persons he owed to; and twice he had found himself compelled, for the sake of his family and his own survival, to write letters to friends asking for a ten pound note each time, so that he was not thrown into prison to die in squalor.

Prisons in those days: well, San Quentin and Guantanamo are parties compared to them.  Many persons imprisoned for debt did not see daylight again but spent their lives incarcerated.  Many died prematurely because unless one’s relatives and friends brought in food to you daily, you starved.  Cells were not heated, exposed to the elements, never cleaned; there were no public conveniences (bathroom facilities); it was a waking nightmare and few survived.

Added to this Burns was a man who owned a seriously proud an extremely upright sense of honour; as gentlemen of the time did as a matter of course.  One is able to read his final letters asking for the £10 notes; they are extant.  As one reads them one feels so very acutely how hard and humiliating it was for him to have to write them. They are short and to the point, and full of sorrow and reluctance about the situation he has been forced into by circumstances. They are pitiful.

£10 was a good sum in those days (1786).

Here was a man like whom no person in Scotland at the time, and maybe since, has produced, or could produce, such fine quality works produced in such abundance, and such as have lasted, and will continue to last, as long at Lowland Scots English can be read and spoken.

Ask any Scots woman or man living today whether had they had £10 and they could have sent it by return post to Burns upon his request; if they would not have been willing to send £100, or £1000, or £10,000; and some people among them more; just to give him some succour, some comfort, at that terrible time.  And if they would have been able to send him a doctor; or otherwise to assist in prolonging his life a little; they would have found the best doctor their money could afford, or used any means remotely plausible, the save or prolong his life.

200 years have passed since then; and time passing and history emerging offers us all hindsight and focus.  Burns might have been abominably humiliated by his, what I would judge, misplaced strong sense of pride and respectability, at having to ask for money from friends; but his friends knew him; knew his humiliation and pain; and gladly gave him what he asked. No more; because more displays the unwanted condescension of superior pity; no less; because he had asked for that specific £10 amount exactly.  They respected his plight and his sense of honour.

Although I say Burns’ pride was misplaced in my opinion; the extreme opposite; showing no sense of pride at all and abjectly cravenly to beg and plead unbeseeemingly, no-one admires nor can tolerate, unless danger is very immediate and powerful; and the abjection is thus caused by the severe heat of a moment.

But generally persons who continually come across to us as ever exploiting their ‘neediness’ are difficult to like and hard to help with a goodwill.

So, strike that balance. Remember: ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire.’ Always

You don’t have to take shit simply because you are on your uppers; and you don’t need to invite it by you throwing away, casting to the wind, that self-esteem you can always fall back; on knowing in yourself that you have given your best shot; so that your sense of self-worth tells you that, for better or for worse, you did not let down at any time your nearest and dearest, nor even yourself.

Climbing back up the hill after opting for such a descent is arduous and can be cruelly difficult.

Proving Oneself in Business

In business one of the hardest things to establish – and it is also one of the easiest things to be destroyed – is one’s reputation.

The old funny applies with reputation:

‘Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you’

No-one goes through life without displeasing some people.  The old song applies here:

‘You can’t please everyone so you’d better please yourself’

The rider here is that pleasing oneself is to be synonymous with taking a modest pride in doing the best quality work you can offer your clients.

You will generate discords along the way nonetheless. These might arise from simple misunderstandings, or worse, from jealousies and rivalries, or worse from downright lies and malevolence.  A prevalent root cause for these bad vibes being generated is nailed by the Apostle Timothy:

‘The love of money is the root of all evil’

If business people are going to fall out it is most likely they will fall out over money; even when money is not the issue it will often be used as a pretext for what is the issue to be used against one.

And so business reputation is a fragile thing. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel, so the proverb goes.  A guy or girl with an attitude firmly against you, and who is in a position to do you much harm, once let loose with motive, means and opportunity will work the works of idle hands upon you.  And to an extent your reputation will be in tatters.

If this happens, or has happened to you: take hope from it.  Those whom the well-poisoners are unable to infect; those who have resistance and some amount of immunity from their bad medicines, are those who will and who have stuck by you; and they and you have been tried and come through the fire.

Of Our Lord himself it is said in John’s Gospel that after He offered this followers some hard condition to accept that: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.’

So look upon a partial loss of your goodwill towards you from others, lost through noises of unjustified rancour and ill will spread about concerning you; look upon it as a providential refining away of extraneous things to reveal better metals remaining.

In these times there are many online helps where business persons are able to seek and make connections and networks among similarly interested and disposed communities.  Quite often the connections will be made for only expedient reasons. To get business or to assist a friend in getting business; returning favours and reciprocal arrangements.

But life is larger than our plans and expedients, and has a way of doing the housekeeping and tidying things up in our lives of its own accord as we adventure ever into our futures.

In so far that any endorsement of one’s reputation is genuine; then it is useful and of value. It may be genuine in various ways. It may be heartfelt and so sincere. It may be accurate in fact, and so authentic. It may be positive or maybe less so; offering say a backhanded compliment or a damnation with faint praise – as the idioms go.  It may be glowing through and through but marred by a single – trivial or maybe more significant – detail of adverse criticism.  But when a positive endorsement is sincere and authentic it is at its best.

The place from which such an endorsement comes is of course crucial. From a substance abuser praise of heroin is not useful.  From a freshman praise of a prizewinning professor carries little weight or benefit.  These are examples taken from the view of the things of the world – that is by appearances – which is perhaps nine tenths of what the world relies on for its assessments of issues.

To get an authentic and sincere and positive endorsement from a person of calibre is good in the world – but to get such from a person of calibre and of good character is far, far better.  A glowing notice from the Dalai Lama is far more sound than a glowing notice from say Donald Trump. The old saying applies:

‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’

And so there are those clients who will follow where the world will lead them and so mostly judge upon appearances; and there are those clients, who are the best sort, and those most likely to return to you again and again, who will see that far further and consider you as an artisan; as a character; and as a sure and capable pair of hands. This then is the bedrock of reputation.

The dramatist contemporary of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson says in his inimitable way a few things akin to these my personal judgements on what makes good reputation. He writes:

‘To The Reader: If thou beest more, thou art an understander, and then I trust thee. If thou art one that takest up, and but a pretender, beware of what hands thou receivest thy commodity; for thou wert never more fair in the way to be cozened…’

An old British Army saying acts to explicate and to act as commentary on Ben Jonson’s prophesy that the person who is without judgement is s/he most likely to be swindled. It runs:

‘Bullshit baffles brains’

So don’t use the bullshit, use the solid grit, and like the guy in Matthew’s Gospel, build your house on rock, and the storm which comes will not wash you away like it does the guy who builds his house on sands.  Then your reputation will stand and withstand. Make sure your work and your earnest matches it.

Certainty and Scientific Method

The nature of scientific experiment, as part of scientific method, has been and continues to aim at making testing as ‘pure’ as is possible.  This is to say that when an experiment is to be carried out, then as many extraneous items of circumstance and presence surrounding the setting of it up are attempted to be eliminated.

Any condition or item extraneous to the composition and nature of the theory that is being tested is attempted to be taken away from it making interference with the course of the experiment.

When things are not able easily to be taken away, and they are extraneous and so not useful or pertinent to the testing of the theory in question, they are attempted to be neutralised or isolated in some way so that their effects of being present do not influence or alter inconveniently the results (expected) of a test.

When such things are not able to be taken away and also are not able easily to be neutralised or else isolated, then their influences or interferences with the procedure of an experiment and so with its (expected) results is attempted to be allowed for in the anticipated results of a test.  This is done so that a result of a test is able to be evaluated and then adjusted by allowing for the disorder or the unbalancing of an initial result by the interference of extraneous items or conditions unable to be removed beforehand from the proceedings of a test.

And so the ‘ideal’ experiment is one which would take place making use only of the essential ingredients needed to run a bona fide authentic test – the sufficient and necessary items only, with all other items and conditions expelled from having an influence on the outcome.

The nearest scientists come to this ‘pure’ or ‘ideal’ situation for doing experiments is when they conduct what are known as ‘thought experiments’.  Thought experiments are done when scientists think-through a set of circumstances and the interactions of those circumstances, so as to try to find a logical or other valid outcome, but crucially without their using physical apparatus or materials.  Thought experimentation is done wholly in the head.

The general nature of doing experimentations in these ways then necessitates that tested and established theories of science are expected to align themselves most conformably with the results and outcomes of new experiments. They are to align as being the science and its precepts whose reliability supports the new tests’ probability and probity for success, as well as providing their likelihood in being selected for trial in the first place. But all new tests are attempted, as far as this is possible, within a pure and ‘sanitised vacuum’ so to speak.

There might be such things as complex theories to be tested, or experiments which involve more than one theory to be tried, or else one or more established theories might be included as given parts of the set up model so as to support the conditions for experiment on proposed theory to be tested.

But the basic proposal holds good always; that all else which is unnecessary and extraneous to a proposed test is to be removed, neutralised or taken account of so as to get a result from the test that is as far as possible a ‘pure’ result, unadulterated as if existing in an ‘sanitised vacuum’.

The first thing to make a note of about this methodology is that even in the most ‘pure’ environments of experimentation, in the ‘thought experiments’, there is much scope for interferences and for extraneous items to intervene regardless in a ‘proper’ procedure.

The historical case of is the postulation of a gas called phlogiston. This gas was assumed to be of negative mass, and being thought such was thought accountable for the loss of mass witnessed in burnt ashes when compared with the mass of the items which were burnt, before their burning. There was involved in this supposed solution phlogiston a thought experiment which took the results of a physical experiment and misconstrued them by creating the concept of phlogiston. The interpretation of the findings was flawed, and was flawed for two reasons.

Firstly there was most likely insufficient circumstantial understanding of science available to and surrounding the creator of the concept of phlogiston. Such a lack in great part allowed opportunity for the creator of that concept to postulate a gas which had properties unlike any other comparable material then known or understood.

Secondly the reasoning of the creator of the concept of phlogiston seems to have opted for ‘the glass half empty’ choice over and above the ‘glass half full’ choice.

Like in solving x in a quadratic equation there can be a negative answer and a positive one; only the positive one being of actual use in a practical application, to say an engineering project.  The concept of phlogiston seems to have arisen as if an engineer was working to apply negative loads or stresses to an idea for a building he was planning.

The conceptualiser of phlogiston had not supposed that materials had left the ash, and they were at one time part of its mass, but at a time beforehand, when they were part of the material before it burnt to ash.  Instead he had opted for the nearest best alternative; that a gas of negative mass had been added to the materials during combustion, thus making their ash measure less in mass.

The lack of sufficient basement scientific understanding was the open gate through which the conceptualiser of phlogiston was able to walk though into a fallacious belief.

The simple truth is that an experimenter has to be able to have foreknowledge of the presence and the nature of all extraneous items and conditions which could present themselves and so might have potential to interfere with an experiment he is proposing. In this way he hopes to obtain a ‘pure’ state for the test’s performance.  And the case with phlogiston implies to us that even were this first obstacle overcome and a ‘pure’ state was made possible in which to test a theory, there might still remain pitfalls in the mind and in the reasoning of men and women which might intervene to cause an interpretation made wrongly from any perceived empirical result.

The misinterpretation of observed phenomena is an accidental and incidental occurrence however, and as such is harder to guard against than safeguards made by using one’s sound basement understanding of all the science one feels assured of, and so before the case eliminate as far as possible from a test interferences . This second demand requires only diligence and application; the first demand, for correct interpretation of observed results, might truly be wholly unluckily mistaken in certain unfortunate cases.