Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Illusion of perfect control breaks down

I listened to the news headlines on the radio this morning. Three headlines tumbled across the airwaves one after the other: ‘Care home patients abused’ – ‘Refugee children abused’ – ‘Police unable to cope with tide of sexual abuse as 400 paedophiles arrested per month.’ This, the day after the supersize inquiry into childhood sexual abuse dating back to 1945, having foundered three times, begins its hearings with a regrettable information leak.

The same headlines will shout from the front pages of Newspapers no doubt demanding swift remedies to this state of affairs and for blame to be apportioned just as swiftly. Outrage is encouraged that the world is not perfect, although why anyone would expect it to be is not explained. Such indignation derives, perhaps, from a modern illusion of perfect control which, in turn, derives from the sense that, if only the right science is applied or enough inquiries are held everything that is wrong in the world can be ‘corrected’. If it isn’t, of course, we have every right to be up in arms because a kind of platonic ideal of heaven has not been installed on earth.

However, as it becomes apparent from unremitting streams of headlines like these, that perfect control is an illusion and that the moral entropy of the world always outstrips its correction, indeed, that the paradigm of perfect human rights will never be achieved in our lifetimes or our epoch we have to get real. Being realistic we will deal with what we can deal with on a daily basis not expecting perfection. This is not a prescription for complacency (the proponents of the correction model always offer a silly choice between two extremes of utter complacency and perfection) – simply the only alternative available to those subject to the human condition. The sooner we wise up to this the better for all concerned.

You may not be surprised to learn that, in my view, there are political resonances and implications to this. There are those who subscribe to the ‘whig version of history’ (an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment) or to a socialist idealism which aims to correct the world. Then there are those who don’t believe such correction will ever be possible and whose highest ambition is to govern the world as best we can, while we can, without an ideology.

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