…his lack of any self-limiting principle. If the problem is limits, then this is a problem without an easy solution, because we too have learnt to be limitlessly acquisitive: Christopher Caldwell

by Julia Evans on April 27, 2012

Power and limits.

I suggest, following the theologian René Girard[i], that there are two foundations for the way in which we choose to relate to others.  I will be developing this further in future posts.

The quote in the title and the article, further text and its availability below, poses the problem of limits in these two areas.

1) The top-down absolute use of power seems accompanied by no limits. So the UK Government can guarantee its subjects, unlimited access to ‘Happiness’ or ‘Wellbeing’ with the application of Government-approved treatments via NICE clinical guidelines or IAPT – Government’s Happiness Factories.  They are so confident that this can be provided, they evaluate whether the (happiness or wellbeing) practitioner has given the suffering human being the Government-standard amount of economic happiness[ii]. Now read the case study below of an application of this form of power which forecloses on the other’s subjectivity and lacks any self-limiting principle.

From the case-study, below: ‘The corporation, in Mr Berry’s view, is “limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far ahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies”.’ Exactly the way the UK Government proceeds. They destroy working systems of training, developing and supporting practitioners and put their own ‘high-risk health industry’ (look up Lord Donaldson in the LW search engine) in place to protect….. or more likely so that they can CONTROL

2) ‘ If the problem is limits, then this is a problem without an easy solution….’  Well yes.  If the Government stops using the illusory certainty of top-down power, then limits come into play.  It is impossible, especially for a Government, to offer the acquisition of happiness or wellbeing.  It is impossible, especially for a Government, to patrol the relationship which happens between two human beings behind a closed door.  Once the existence of a relationship is postulated, the application of top-down power does not work.  People are willing to risk their life to rescue colleagues, in China, from being falsely imprisoned by the state. In the UK, a choice is emerging of trying to behave ethically within the Government’s pernicious framework of rules, regulations and guidelines (all of which are backed with Privy Council power – your head gets chopped off, if you cross the line) or refusing and being called charlatans and, by the Government, automatically high-risk and abusive, because you refuse to comply.

Points for you to consider:

a) Do please send in your response to the CHRE CON-sultation, with copies into Parliament.

b) I have been made aware today, of a third University, who has measured and evaluated their staff against their tick-box framework, and is kicking staff out as they are not up to standard.  I refer you to Freud’s text on the impossibility of Education (available here ) – certainly if you objectify human-ness  and remove relationships from the equation, as does this Government.

Case study

Quoted from: ‘Venture capitalists are no longer the true conservatives by Christopher Caldwell April 27th 2012, Financial Times. Full copy available here

The annual Jefferson Lecture of the National Endowment for the Humanities may be the highest scholarly honour the US government bestows. On Monday, this year’s lecture was given by a bald and drawling 77-year-old Christian farmer from the Kentucky tobacco belt, …

The lecturer was Wendell Berry, the man of letters who, on top of his farming duties, has written 50 books of poetry, fiction and philosophy. …

Mr Berry used his address to attack plutocracy in all forms. He built his argument around the heartbreaking story of his grandfather, who in 1907 took his tobacco crop to market and was offered barely enough for it to cover his transport home.

On one level, Mr Berry’s grandfather’s problem was simple. James Duke of the American Tobacco Company had acquired a monopoly and could name his price. Mr Berry recalls seeing a statue of Duke at the university that now bears his name. It hailed him as an “industrialist” and a “philanthropist”. What linked the two words were Mr Berry grandparents and people like them. “If you can appropriate for little or nothing the work and hope of enough such farmers, “ Mr Berry said on Monday night, “then you may dispense the grand charity of ‘philanthropy’.”

There is still a mystery about someone such as Duke, however. You would think American Tobacco would have an interest in maintaining what Mr Berry calls a “stable, reasonably thriving population of farmers” – that it would stop short of ruining the people who grew its product. But you would be wrong. The corporation, in Mr Berry’s view, is “limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far ahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies”. What is monstrous about Duke is his lack of any self-limiting principle.

If the problem is limits, then this is a problem without an easy solution, because we too have learnt to be limitlessly acquisitive. “We consumer-citizens are more like James B. Duke than we are like my grandfather,” Mr Berry confessed on Monday.

 


[i] ‘Things hidden since the foundation of the world’: 1978: René Girard.  Giles Fraser, then of St Paul’s Institute, St Paul’s Cathedral first drew my attention to this work on 1st May 2011 during one of his talks.

[ii] ‘Economic happiness’ is a term invented by Lord Layard in about 2005. (Put Lord Layard or happiness in LW’s search engine – top of right hand column) It means that the outcome measure of receiving the Government’s prescription of treatment is whether the suffering human being has a job.