Red Cliffs Of Dawlish

Red Cliffs Of Dawlish
Red Cliffs Of Dawlish

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

How about a nice game of chess?

[SPOILER!] At the end of the movie "Wargames", the principle actors attempt to teach a computer about the concept of "futility" or "no-win" contests to feed this into the simulations the computer runs on a Nuclear War and learn the result of "Mutually Assured Destruction" is "not to play" when a win or loss condition are effectively the same result. What this demonstrates is that how we argue or frame our arguments or rules itself shapes the sort of answers we therefore derive and hence interpret.

Before discussing the full relevance of the above, a reminder that when the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) via European Communities Act 1972 and then held a Post-Legislative Referendum in 1975 on membership with the wording of the Referendum Question:
"Do you think that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (The Common Market)?"

We come back to our concept of Can We Have Our Cake And Eat It Too? Using the historic evidence that hindsight of recording and reporting allows: We now know that the cake was much less a "Common Market" cake than a "Supranational Cake" with "Ever More Layers" or as per the Treaty of Rome:-
  • RESOLVED to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity,
  • This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen
  • DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,
  • The peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them,
 The wording of the above question therefore can be simply seen as very misleading in leading people to ask and answer a very different question and hence believe in a very different concept of "What is the EU?" This can be further demonstrated as pointed out via reviewing the reporting recorded at the time. Peter Hitchens provides a scan of the Campaign Documents in the 1975 Referendum here: The 1975 Common Market Referendum Campaign Documents

Again the same forces in the News-Media of the time framed the debate using the inevitable "Heroes vs Villains" narrative tropes:

Again this "vilification characterization of arguments process" was described previously: I've been expecting you...

What can we learn from these examples? I would suggest:-
"How we structure our arguments and hence how we classify the quality of the arguments themselves determines both the outcome and the quality of answers to the posed questions."
 And indeed this is highly relevant to how we approach Democracy. We must think about  how to argue before we then learn how to use the tools to argue before we then choose which arguments to make and with whom. The current form specifically concerns Referendums. It is probably a fair argument to make that the 1975 Referendum could be termed a "Top-Down" Referendum as opposed to a "Bottom-Up" Referendum from the people themselves. This categorization of the characteristics of a given referendum is well made: A Tale of Two Referendums: Elite Manipulation or Civic Engagement?

A useful summary beyond the technical details of regulation and running back towards the principles: EU politics: Germany in stasis :-
"The new movement, "Direct Democracy for Europe", Patzelt speaks about favourably. It certainly has "a chance", he says, a man who is demonstrably no great fan of representative democracy.

Those who want more democracy must resort to other means - referendums initiated by citizens, regardless of elections. The problem with representative democracy is that, after the vote, the citizen has no voice. "The most important instrument of political influence between elections", he says, "is the referendum".

However, not all referendums have the same value. If they are top down, they are a tool in the hands of professional politicians. The must work from the bottom up, with citizens deciding on the topics. He who fails to make this distinction will miss the opportunity of making a truly democratic system of government, Patzelt says."

Coming back to the idea of "learning how to argue" as per the movie reference above in "Wargames", then we can reshape how we think about the upcoming 2017 EU Referendum question:-
 "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
If we think of the question like the supercomputer in "Wargames" (WOPR) (War Operation Plan Response) only in terms of victory or defeat, Win or Lose, In or Out, Yes or No, Leave or Remain... then we are limiting ourselves to very narrow outcomes and hence a more limited future than is possible (in the film's case: Mutually Assured Destruction!).

What we have to do is "learn how to argue" in such a way that we ask more useful questions:  
"How about a nice game of chess?"

Monday, 28 September 2015

Can we have our cake and eat it too?

To sum up how the EU has been sold for so long to the British public, we can think of the analogy of it being a cake. The argument begins that if we joined the EEC 'cake' we could all bake a bigger and better cake together; with each nation contributing it's own unique ingredients to the 'cake mix', at the time called the "Common Market". Of course reassurances were provided that each nation would still retain "property rights" over it's own contribution of national ingredients, and hence the additional EU layers above these were necessary to administrate this.

Over time more layers were added, more nations joined and more policies powers were or "cake ingredients" were added. Each major layer was added with the signing of each of the Major New Treaties:-

  • Treaty of Lisbon (2007) 
  • EU Constitution Treaty (2005)
  • Treaty of Nice (2001)
  • Treaty of Amsterdam. (1997)
  • Treaty on European Union - Maastricht Treaty. (1992)
  • Single European Act. 1986
  • Schengen Agreement (1985)
  • Merger Treaty (1965) - Brussels Treaty
  • Treaties of Rome (1957): EEC and EURATOM treaties
  • Treaty of Paris (1951) - Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community.
Quoting the above source:-

The European Union is based on the rule of law. This means that every action taken by the EU is founded on treaties that have been approved voluntarily and democratically by all EU member countries. For example, if a policy area is not cited in a treaty, the Commission cannot propose a law in that area.
A treaty is a binding agreement between EU member countries. It sets out EU objectives, rules for EU institutions, how decisions are made and the relationship between the EU and its member countries.
Treaties are amended to make the EU more efficient and transparent, to prepare for new member countries and to introduce new areas of cooperation – such as the single currency.
Under the treaties, EU institutions can adopt legislation, which the member countries then implement.

This is a very succinct summary of how our "Cake" is sold to us. As you can see our cake was always designed to add ever more layers to it.

 However in the combination of ingredients, the mixing, baking and designing of our cake, the question of the actual nature of the cake, what sort of cake are we actually trying to make, seems so simply to have been overlooked! What is a better cake? Is a bigger cake better? How much of each nation's ingredients actually contributes to making it better and do all of them agree on the sort of cake they would like to eat? Quoting the above introduction to The Great Deception by Christopher Booker and Richard North:-

"The  purpose  of  this  book  is  to  tell  for  the  first  time  the  real  story  of  how, through  what  had  come  to  be  known  to  its insiders  as  ‘the  project’,  the continent’s  politicians  had  for  half  a  century  been  seeking  gradually  to construct and to impose on  their peoples a unique system of government. Not the  least  remarkable feature  of  this  political  experiment  had  been  how few people really understood its real nature, aims and origins.

The  form  of  government  it  created  was  unique  because  it  was  designed  to place the nation states which belonged to it under a ‘supranational’ power, unaccountable to any electorate, ruling its citizens through the agency of each country’s  own  national  authorities.  Although  the  nation  states  and  their institutions  of  government  remained  outwardly  intact,  all  these  institutions, from  heads  of  state  and  parliaments  to  civil  services  and  judicial  systems,  in reality became increasingly subject to the decisions and laws of the new power that was above them all."

However, bringing the past up to the present in 2015, our cake is much nearer to it's completion of being fully-baked and "ready to eat". And now people across Europe are beginning to see what sort of cake they are getting, the above "selling the idea of the cake" is no longer possible. We're moving from Pro-EU/"Let Them Eat Cake!" sales pitches to "How much of the cake is each nation getting or being charged for"!

This is how our "EU Reform Cake" is now being sold to us today:-

 We are being told that we can change the cake or get a bigger and better slice with "less icing or nuts" on it or more "chocolate and sponge". But the actual cake has not really changed at all. And to understand why we have to understand how the cake is made in the first place. If we argue over the above ingredients, taste preferences we're being distracted from whether or not we ourselves can make and then bake our own cake to our own tastes and preferences! In my opinion that's what counts the most.

And to illustrate this is the modern arguments on the EU aka "Cameron's Reform Fudge" in the style and spin of "The Middle Way Fallacy" argument:-

We're now being sold "a slice of the EU Cake" as "EU Reform". But coming back to those layers and how the EU cake is made: The Treaty Of Rome (1957)

  • DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe, 
  • RESOLVED to ensure the economic and social progress of their countries by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe,
The "Ever Closer Union" is as fundamental as the the self-raising flour in mixing the core ingredients when making a cake. It cannot be taken out. And if that you don't like that taste or it makes you feel ill or you think it's simply unhealthy then you have to decide to choose another cake.

Arguing about how many chocolate buttons we get given on our slice or how thick it is, are completely missing this central point about our membership of the EU Supranational Organization. This cake analogy is a crude simplification, but for the complex and very fascinating full story then read The Great Deception from cover to cover.

Effectively when it comes to answering the EU Referendum question we're not talking about a slice from one cake, we're talking about two very different cakes:-

  • Remain = Eating and paying for a small slice of the EU Cake
  • Leave = Baking our own full and complete Cake

The Greatest Political Problem of Our Time

Harrison's final triumph - the compact chronometer

The author Dava Sobel, in her famous book "Longitude", recounts the story of John Harrison, who created the first reliable chronometer with which to accurately gauge longitude at sea and hence solve the serious problems that failure to navigate and chart the positions of ships at sea invariably led to at the time, which was so serious it was a question of National Interest to the very future success of Great Britain, leading to:-

British government established the Board of Longitude in 1714:-

"The Discovery of the Longitude is of such Consequence to Great Britain for the safety of the Navy and Merchant Ships as well as for the improvement of Trade that for want thereof many Ships have been retarded in their voyages, and many lost..."

This historic problem parallels todays Proposed Rerendum on membership of the European Union, in my opinion. A simple question to start with: What happens if we do not understand first of all what the EU actually is? If we do not define it we cannot then understand either our position within it or indeed our future direction with it or without it either. To Remain or to Leave, effectively we are in both cases "all at sea" :-

This is an extension of the nautical phrase 'at sea'. It dates from the days of sail when accurate navigational aids weren't available. Any ship that was out of sight of land was in an uncertain position and in danger of becoming lost.
Until we solve the problem of how to get our bearings and then use these tools to chart our future path we persist with Political Uncertainty irrespective of the changing winds of fortune and chance: "Fair Winds and Following Seas."

Hence if we do not "begin at the beginning" then it's useful to show the results of this and how ubiquitous they are and how easy it is to demonstrate how lost most of the arguments and debate on the EU currently are.

A modest sample from various online commentary systems illustrates this. Here is a comments section on the website reddit in the subreddit "europe" on a Daily Telegraph article questioning the "democracy" of the EU (though interestingly not the UK). The results are the disintegration of discussion as if a classroom of school-children are all allowed to talk at once in answer to the debate question on the board after the teacher says: "Go!"

To transform the above word form into a picture form:-

To illustrate another example: A small group have arrived at London Charing Cross Station are are planning on walking to the London Palladium theatre. They bump into you randomly outside the Station, on The Strand and ask you for directions. You pause, rack your brains and then give it your best shot from memory:-

1. Go Left until you come to Trafalgar Square.
2. Turn up the road to Haymarket, past the Portrait Gallery and the building with the Texas Flag on it.
3. Turn up the next street (I forget it's name) then turn right left at the top.
4. You should be looking towards Piccadilly Circus.
5. From here walk up Regent's Street.
6. Curve all the way up past Hamley's on your right and you are looking for Great Marlborough Street. Turn right here.
7. On your left 1st or 2nd turning you should see the road leading up to The London Palladium Theatre.
8. Keep asking for directions at any stage if you get lost and try to remember all of this too!


The directions with the fixed context creates a complete map which is far easier to use and far more reliable and requires less need for the group of theatre goers to ask more people for more directions much of which will be incorrect, contradictory, stressful possibly and generally fill the whole experience of walking to the destination with an atmosphere of Uncertainty.

 Before we ask such questions as the Referendum Question as per the Electoral Commission:-

"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

perhaps we might do a lot better asking a prior question:-

"What is the European Union?"
And if we ask this question it also follows that we should ask another question:-

"Who is working on answering that question and do we have a political equivalent of a "chronometer" or "map" as tools from which we can personally use to help us navigate towards answering the question?"

Back in John Harrison's day the British government opened up the problem of solving Longitude to the general public with a prize to motivate their participation. Once again the British government has been unable to solve a problem of the greatest national interest for the future success of Great Britain. There are people working on developing these tools; however as voters the only question we have to ask ourselves honestly is:-

"Am I going to find and make good use of them?"
 And contribute to solving "the greatest political problem of our time".

Sunday, 27 September 2015

I've Been Expecting You...

A simple admission: I've never had any interest in politics for almost all my life. I know I would be much, much happier and content sitting on a couch, stroking "Domino" the black and white rescue rabbit, perched on my lap; watching a good film or reading a well-written book. Some friends asked me with that puzzled look on their faces: "Why the sudden interest in politics?" And they were quick to point out last Christmas and New Year that "further discussion of politics is now banned."

One reason is perhaps because we can't help but simplify how we think about politics: We need our villains vs our heroes stories. This is where the News-Media generates a great deal of it's trade in my opinion:

  • Controversy generating to drive commercial sales via increasing the emotional pitch.
  • Personality Politics instead of Policy Detail.
  • Legacy Media reports discretely, isolated from wider context.
  • Source material is reported from Prestigious sources as opposed to analytically rigorous sources and research.
None of these would be surprising in the latest Hollywood Blockbuster Movie release. There would be an exciting premise, A-list actors, condensed scenes pumped full of instant significance and "poetic license" with reality to spin a good and gripping tale. Usually the audience would be gratified to see the "White-Cat Stroking Blofeld" meet rightful justice while "the good guys" once again save the world. Unfortunately in politics this is really poor both in entertainment and in political pedagogy. The News-Media seem to do neither well.

History however tends to point to different versions of stories and at much greater scale, too. Yet even in the writing of these stories the same tendency for the above tropes to replace the actual emphasis of the real events applies. For example only today in The Daily Telegraph, It’s not just the Few we must honour but the Many

Concerning the EU, such a complex and large subject this simplifying narrative-shaping tendency is a very poor fit. But I would argue it has resulted in as above, a preference when things get serious to close down debate, to switch to another subject with less concerning repercussions or indeed for discussion to become bogged down in arcane and boring details. For this reason the arguments of EU Membership have remained very static for most of the 40+ years of our membership.

Identifying the accurate historic record is an example of "beginning at the beginning" or as per scientific process, asking "What?" questions: "What is the EU?" In my opinion a very strong history of the EU is free to read online and once again with Christopher Booker's contribution: The Great Deception. In fact it's one of those rare books where the "title earns it's book" as opposed to over-exaggeration of most titles to appear eye-catching: This title sounds sensational, and yet the title is much less sensational than the actual full record researched by the authors.

The Legacy Media will continue to flood the news channels with their stories on the Uncertainty of the EU Referendum to Britain/UK for the next few years but from knowing such a history, then where we are with an EU Referendum on our current membership, it is far from surprising. Many people will exclaim all sorts and forms of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) and confusion will prevail. But if you choose to know the history of the EU, then like Blofeld, stroking his white cat, in the face of the media maelstrom; you too can say:-

"I've Been Expecting You..."

Friday, 25 September 2015

How do you become a "eurosceptic"?

On Wednesday 24th September, 2014, at Dawlish in Devon, The Campaign For An Independent Britain organized and funded a Workshop on such subjects as:-

It was free to the public to attend. In answer to the title question, all the information you could ever need is contained above. However if answers were so easily assimilated by people, then there never would have existed much to the question in the first place. I hope this blog therefore attends to that reality and steadily invites more questions and more interest on this subject. Because that's how questions and answer truthfully do behave; like ever expanding horizons: the more you know the more there is to know.

To begin at the beginning, I remember vaguely as a young child my father complaining that "Europe" as an economic idea might work but that for political reasons it was impossible. Many years later, I came across an article that confirmed a very large mismatch between what the politicians who were Pro-EU had promised, what had transpired and how they were explaining this "gap" presently between: observed, actual results and expected, predicted results: It's Not That the Euro Will Fail, It's That It Should Fail 

In modern political language this "performance gap" is obscured by "Spin". It seems to me in life in general, that people are very tolerant of their immediate friends and family's faults. But even within these social circles there comes a point when someone has taken our trust for granted and abused it's generosity of spirit too many times, for too long and we almost U-turn in our reaction from tolerance to defiance. Dr. Anthony Seldon writes on this subject of a loss of Trust in British Politics; which like "fresh air" is only missed by it's absence.

I would posit therefore, that this particular discussion is not about the details of the EU or Brexit, it's not about the principles or politics of these subjects. It's about "the thinking required for the subject in question". This is where beginning at the beginning really takes place or to use the more modern technical phrase: "Metacognition" required for discussion and to which Trust is such a vital precondition with which to ask questions and find useful answers; and why "Spin" prevents progress in our politics: Our politician's performance gap remains as wide as ever.

Dr. Richard A. E. North writes the blog and one of his core phrases is "the intellectual architecture" required to understand the subjects of the EU and hence by implication "Brexit" and furthermore any "Popular Referendum" if it is to be shining light of enhanced democracy. In the Western Civilization tradition much is made of Democracy, and by contrast lack of democracy elsewhere in the world is considered an inferior condition; possibly one to which we allow ourselves to feel a sense of superiority? And yet there is an odd little fact concerning any EU Referendum the UK will hold on our current membership. The "first and only" Referendum we had was in 1975; fully 40 years ago in 2015, to which you would have had to have been 18 years of age to have voted on, meaning anyone under the age of about 58yro has never voted on this.

To return to that day in September on the coast at Dawlish and quoting Dr. North: Brexit: the Dawlish experience

On the day - reflecting much of the online feedback and the experience of earlier meetings - what I found necessary to emphasise is that the exit plan is complicated. Furthermore, there is a limit to the extent that one can simplify it, before you are misrepresenting the entire process.

If we look at a telephone from 40 years ago, and look at the latest devices, there is a huge leap in the degree of complexity – matched of course by a massive increase in capability. What has happened with telephones has also happened with government and we could no more go back to the simple Bakelite telephone than we could go back to the far more simple style of government which prevailed in pre-EEC days.
The parallel or echo or reflection is fascinating: In the time from that "first and only" vote over 40yrs ago, the complexity of our membership has changed in orders of magnitude without a single vote on it. If you want to consider the value of all the preceding, it is possibly encapsulated in this curious fact of our membership that abstracts most of the above themes so far discussed.

Suffice to say, I came across lots of different materials and opinions and proponents of Brexit and variations in "eusceptic" options, before finding and then attending this talk and workshop in Dawlish. Now I would borrow a coined word from White Wednesday (see blog list) and say that this long journey from becoming a "eurosceptic" has finished and I am more accurately now a "Brexiteer"!

Finally, on the central idea of this blog post, imparting one idea whatever your own beliefs and understanding and effort invested into "seeking the truth" of matters: This blog is named: "Red Cliffs Of Dawlish". Why? Is a question not with a single answer but with many answers:-

  1. I attended a free talk that was as high quality as speeches from Steven Pinker or Jared Diamond that I once attended at The Royal Society in London; where both Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton propounded their own theories in their own knowledge domains.
  2. The phrase is a play on the more famous: "White Cliffs Of Dover"; indicating different versions exist of common concepts for different people.
  3. I spent many of my formative years growing up on or near this coastline and to revisit it in a capacity I could never have imagined; there's something lyrical about life in that to my mind.
  4. The symbol of Britain/UK's coasts and hence boarders imparts the same concepts as "brexit" or "global britain" and indeed the UK's particular relationship with Europe!
In answer to the title question: There's many answers: But do any of them belong to you? That's a question I would ask of any interested readers to this blog and towards any potential vote in the UK's Referendum on the EU: To Leave or To Remain: That is the question, afterall. But do you understand it? And hence can you give YOUR answer and not someone else's?