Jan. 13th, 2011

humbleminion: (Default)
I love Terry Pratchett, and probably like everyone else in the world who's ever read 'Jingo' I like to believe I'm substitious.

Terry's definition:
'Superstitious' means believing in stuff which everyone believes in but which isn't true.
'Substitious' means believing in stuff which everybody knows is true, but nobody really believes in. Terry's examples are "it'll get better if you don't pick at it" and "some things just happen."

The floods in Queensland are just horrendous at the moment. I've got some relations of sorts up there, but it's so far so good on that count. They're in nursing homes in an area which hasn't been subject to flooding yet, so I've got a reasonable level of confidence that they and their carers have had sufficient warning so they'll be able to get out if things get bad. But an area the size of France and Germany combined has flooded over the last three days, so you never quite know.

What I am hearing a lot of is 'we need dams for flood mitigation' etc etc etc. The usual screaming about governmental incompetence, unpreparedness, 'someone should do something about it' etc etc. And sure, after the crisis has calmed down and the cleanup under way, we should have a good hard look at what we could have done better. But that's only because that's what you should ALWAYS do.

The sad (and possibly substitious) fact is that no matter what individuals, governments or anyone else does, they can't make life a perfectly safe, risk-free activity. Bad things are going to happen, and often to people who don't deserve them. Miserable but true. Brisbane as far as I know did have a dam for flood mitigation. This time last year it was 5% full and water supplies were in jeopardy, yesterday it was 185% of recommended capacity and was undergoing continual controlled discharge of water so it didn't overflow or rupture. Australia is a place 'Of droughts and flooding rains', as McKellar described it. Always has been. A place of extremes. You can prepare for, and mitigate extremes, but people seem to want to completely organise them out of existence, which just isn't going to happen. The dam, over the course of the drough, prevented the entire population of Brisbane from running out of drinking water (just). Over the past couple of days, it's prevented the floods from being much, much worse than they were.

We are relatively small creatures that live in a world that operates on a scale very much bigger than us. We cannot (and should not) ever hope to completely control every facet of the environment we live in. The price is too high, just as it was after the bushfires here in Victoria two years ago when the knee-jerk reaction was to basically require that no tree over knee level be left standing within 100m of a house. Mother nature can be a bitch sometimes. It's just one of those things.

Other related rant for the day: the whole business with the US congresswoman getting shot in Arizona. I'm sure that a million people have written a zillion words on LJ (well, probably mostly on other blogging platforms given how dead this place seems to be these days) about it, but something that particularly grabbed my attention was the little rant by the comic book shop owner (don't laugh, really) entitled '1 down, 534 to go' which basically argued that all US politicians should be shot because they're oppressing the people, requiring them to pay tax, and all that sort of stuff.

Jesus FUCK grow up will you, kid? Yeah, you're probably older than me, but you're still a kid. Know why? Because you never matured sufficiently to realise that you're never going to get all the people to believe the same thing all of the time, and therefore that compromise is necessary. Because you seem to somehow believe that the implementation of anarchy in the modern age would NOT inevitably result in a tyranny of the best-armed in very short order, and so most of us a are reasonably to accept representative democracy (with all its flaws) instead. Because you spout words like 'freedom' and 'liberty' and 'fighting oppression' and 'principle' and hold them up as bright and shining ideals, without realising that the hundreds of years of thought which underpin these concepts philosophically grew from revulsion about the treatment of actual real people, and that you're utterly losing sight of the reality of actual real people in chasing your wonderfully sparkling principled illusions.

The same guy said that he never voted as a matter of principle. Riiiiight. Here, voting is compulsory, which I reckon is a wonderful idea, because it means that you can't dodge responsibility for participating in democracy. However little effort you put into it, even if you make your decision on election morning based on whichever party's pamphlet you read most recently, you DO have to make a decision and bear the consequences. I've heard people claim that they never vote out of principle because there's nobody that fully represents their views. Well, jeez, poor diddums, let me wipe those tears. Imagine being forced to actually make a decision between a number of less-than-ideal options! It's not like actual real governments have to do that every damn day, is it? Prioritise what's important. Make some judgement calls. Balance idealism against pragmatism. Or (gasp!) run for office or campaign for someone or try to change policy your damn self! Opting out of democracy and into firepower-based law because things aren't going 100% your way at the moment and therefore democracy isn't real democracy is childish on the 'i'm taking my bat and ball and going home' level. The world is an imperfect place. Deal.

Mind you, the same guy said that he considered himself to be in a state of war with the US government (and if you understand how that is even remotely consistent with working in a comic shop and living in a modern, heavily-taxpayer-funded society then you're doing better than I am). But it really begs the question (and [livejournal.com profile] slacktivist recently asked it much better than I'll be able to) - if you really believe that, what the hell are you doing? What aren't you out there, recruiting a militia and shooting at soldiers and attacking infrastructure and otherwise acting in a way which would actually require commitment? If you really believe that the government is so unspeakable and that all congresspeople should be shot, why aren't you doing it? If you are remotely a man of principle or conviction, and if you genuinely believe what you say, your own morality would have long ago demanded that you act, wouldn't it? But instead you work in your comic shop, benefiting from the security derived from contract, business, zoning, and corporate law that the government wrote and enforces, before driving home on the roads the government paid for and which are made usably safe by government-imposed and -enforced road laws, before firing up your computer, connecting to the government-designed internet, and posting on your blog (the software for which wouldn't exist were it not for government IP licensing laws and non-profit organisation regulations) a screed in support of some wacko who shot a politician. Stupid bastard. Undergraduate anarchism and libertarianism is great when you're an undergraduate, but surely once you hit the real world you've got to temper your love of the pretty idea with just the tiniest bit of compassion for the real life breathing eating sleeping bleeding people the idea is meant to benefit?

But instead, you'd rather break the world because a few bits of it are a slightly different colour to what you'd prefer, and it's just too damn bad anyone who gets hurt in the meantime.

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