Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009.02-22 - MP Election by Lot - Secondary Rumination Pt 2.

Re-reading and editing my submission on electoral reform to the BC Citizens' Assembly for this blog brought back memories of typical media misleading editorials — an example of which I will elaborate later.

And it renewed my inner ear's editorial concern that my
necessary elaboration fell into boring pedantic counterproductive preaching. This concern raises interesting philosophical and pragmatic issues around learning and teaching, and the problem of expressing contrarian thinking in society. I will elaborate on that, too.

And thirdly, with hindsight, it provides a great cautionary example of how ignorance helps inflate egoistic intellectual imagination. I learned that if I want to think I know everything about something, all I have to do is keep myself ignorant enough so that my little snot of knowledge will appear expansively erudite and infinitely wise. At least to me and those who rise to at best my level of ignorance. And this is where I'll begin today's blog, prostrating — or maybe just genuflecting — myself before the gods of humility and ask for their forgiveness.

So, I have three items I would like to explore. However, prudence has directed me to separate the items into separate entries so as to give the appearance of less verbosity. And so "Rumination Pt 2" is going to expand to at least two more parts beyond Part 2, with Part 2 being "Ignorance Inflates Egoistic Delusion." Part 3 is to be "Philosophical Issues Around Learning and Teaching," and Part 4 "A Misleading Media Editorial."

Ignorance Inflates Egoistic Delusion
I wrote a preliminary draft of the election of government by lottery essay in the mid-1980s. I wrote it to explore my feelings about what I saw as an increasingly corrupt electoral process. Writing helped me think about those feelings, and in the process I discovered that the corruption wasn't just money — even though that is the biggest problem. I concluded that the corruption included the media's role in legally manufacturing election results.

I was not content with just griping, and elaborated
a solution, my idea of (s)election of MPs by lot. And until recently I thought I'd come up with a novel, perhaps even unique, approach to creating a government. I was proud of that ideation, too! When a friend asked me from where or whom I'd got the idea, I snapped back a little testily "I thought it!" as if I had created something new. Well, it was new — new to me. And so I did think it, but... sigh. Thus it is that via these kinds of easy mental baubles are gassy inflated fat heads verbosely made manifest. Sigh. And yet how blissful it was, the joy I found in my perceived originality, bounded as it was inside the cramped hallways of my vast ignorance! It was so delightfully egoistic to think that if I thought it, it must be new! So when I got a chance to foist it upon the world, via the BC's Citizens Assembly, I leapt at the chance.

And there it is. My confession on how, in one easy synaptic burst of neuronal creativity, I became a fat head. And yes, I do love Peter Gabriel's
Big Time and also Big Head by Spirit of the West.

It wasn't until 20 years later that that gem of delusion was found to be made of glass. Thank you, Aristotle and
The Politics, where Aristotle comments on electoral lot systems many times. The amazing thing is that his comments are mostly matter-of-fact passing references to lots, as if the option to use lottery systems were a completely normal electoral option. For example:
Once more, the appointment to offices without salary, the election by vote and not by lot, and the practice of having all suits tried by certain magistrates, and not some by one and some by another, are characteristic of aristocracy (Introduction par 107).
... or although the appointment of them by lot from among those who have been already selected combines both elements, the way in which the rich are compelled by law to attend the assembly and vote for magistrates or discharge other political duties, while the rest may do as they like, and the endeavour to have the greater number of the magistrates appointed out of the richest classes and the highest officers selected from those who have the greatest incomes, both these are oligarchical features (VI Book II par 419).
      The Politics of Aristotle, trans. into English with introduction, marginal analysis, essays, notes and indices by B. Jowett. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1885. 2 vols.
      (Aristotle makes many other references to choice by lot in The Politics.)
And thus was re-confirmed that with rare exception it is only the delusional who think that they have stumbled into creating a 'new idea'. It is with some guilt that I find myself now quoting my self from a letter I wrote to a friend about this idea of whether or not there are new ideas in the realm of our civilized human experience or not: 'the historical evidence is that human nature hasn't changed much, even while its toys and tools of production, distraction and destruction have. ... And, typically, that kind of truth comes from our creators of poetry and fiction. Why? Because much of our non-fiction is fixated on the superficial changes of political borders, weaponry, and encomiums to the powerful and the wealthy whereas good fiction looks at the nature of being human' ('Dear Thomas,' August 27th, 2008 10:19 p.m.).

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