Saturday, 21 August 2010

We are all heroes

Logically speaking, I've always been a fan of Mr. Spock. You SciFi fans will know who I mean, of course - the pointy-eared, green-blooded Vulcan of Star Trek's starship Enterprise fame.

I was a fan of logic before I really knew what logic was. Now, it strikes me that logic could be the answer to many of the world's woes.

Think of all the trouble caused by Mr. Badman and his ever-changing round of statistics last year. Think of the - sigh - late, late nights and strained eyeballs as you pondered his nifty use of the median because it gave a better and more damning result than the usual measure the mean. His choices of rotten-looking half-quoted comments. His pushing of the glories of schools. His telling us that we over-ride our children's rights of decision-making by forcing them into home education (a stupendous case of the pot calling the kettle black since no one I've ever heard of has given a child a choice about going to school).

Yes, statistics can be mean and they often don't mean what they say but can be employed to say what you mean and support your position in a meaningless way.

"I'm just being honest about the fact that few of us have the time, energy, need, or capacity to carry out to carry out Socratic missions. This is not to say we don't need more people like Socrates (or the child who declared the emperor naked). As the last six chapters have illustrated, the world is rife with charlatans, cheats, flim-flam artists, incompetents, unscrupulous careerists, and fools in high places (often with big egos). In addition, the intellectual world is not immune to politics or fashion. At times, it stampedes and at times it circles the wagons. As a result, bad things happen. We've seen plenty of examples."

Other people stampeded and circled by the enemies of your personal state would have cracked, broken, bowed down, cried and given up, said it was inevitable, muttered that you can't fight city hall, drunk some bottles of wine and whinged or otherwise ignored what seemed to be an unstoppable charge of unscrupulous careerists and fools in high place (with their big egos).

Home educators did not. They rose magnificently to the challenge. They will never be fooled again; they'll always be alert, on the scent, on the mosey down often sweet-looking paths snuffling out the bad, the threats to their children's intellectual rights of self-ownership, the springing colonies of mould that tarnish liberty.

We are, indeed, then a lazy motley lot who don't care about their children. Don't alert them to the arrows piercing freedom. Don't bother with their minds' development. What a bunch of people doing nothing at all to ensure that their children get the best of the best of everything available of what their children desire!

"So we need our skeptics and iconoclasts, our unmaskers and our sticklers for the truth. We should build monuments to these whistle-blowers in the fields of knowledge and create an annual holiday in their honour. Above all, we should listen to what they say (without losing sight of how often our trusted sources also get things right)."

I'd like a statue in our honour. I would. Perhaps a replica of Rodin's The Thinker, and a whole bunch of thinkers all thinking in different poses. One group would be doing statistical analyses, another would be blogging truth, another would be researching and writing, another would be organising events...

It would be a big statue.

We're not likely to get one, though.

"But most of us are ill-equipped to walk in Socrates' sandals, and most of the rest don't want to.
As we learned from Socrates, unmasking false experts can be hazardous to one's health. It usually involves speaking truth to (or about) power, and power didn't become power by turning the other cheek. What happened to Socrates is extreme by today's Western democratic standards, but, with the exception of stand-up comics, serious iconoclasts and unmaskers have a harder life than the rest of us (unless they are extraordinarily gifted like Richard Feynman). As the old saw says you have to go along to get along, and they don't."

Socrates died, of course. He was done to death, but he had the last laugh because he was true to himself. He didn't go along to get along. He went on his own terms. As we did. Not that we went, but we lost a lot, we suffered a lot, we surrendered so many hours of time we could have spent more agreeably with our dear ones. We gave up our time and energy to fight and pitch battle against unscrupulous careerists and fools in high places who would rob our young of their rights to form their own opinions and be their own people.

"The fact that our unmaskers and debunkers risk all that is precisely what makes them heroes."

All quotations above were taken from 'The Undercover Philosopher: A guide to detecting, shams, lies and delusions' by Michael Philips.

"In fact, Socrates once said, "I know you won't believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others."

"No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race. "


  1. Great post. I'll have to get that book.

  2. That books sounds great.
    Lovely post that says so much.
    I had someone comment on my blog recently who thinks we should send our children to school to mend the broken system from the inside. I don't want to ment the system. The system is built on a sandy premise so it couldn't stand anyway.
    I want a revolution; home education as the norm.
    Children happy and learning with parents who want to be with them and want them to learn.
    Communities would grow and there would be more genuine love and surely less petty crime and nastiness. A sense of belonging would grow.
    What are schools for anyway?