Friday, February 25, 2011

a tilt in global tumult

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 24, 2011
It is a mantra in introductory statistics that association doesn’t imply causation. In criminology and social science generally, a methodological response has been to partially correlate data so as to isolate, for example, a statistically significant association between the part of “criminality” that has nothing to do with class, race, gender and age, and getting busted, as in reporting trends in juvenile as authoritative trends in juvenile crime itself. This represents one social science method, one methodological choice, to inform our personal social choices by the central tendency of demographic data we disaggregate.
As Gregory Bateson put it in his Mind and Nature, tautology is the only rational proof of anything. Two plus two equals four because that is how I define 2 and 4 in my language of choice. Hence, social data can never prove anything, except by arbitrary definition. As US sociologist W.I. Thomas put it after WWI, “things that are defined as real are real in their consequences.” Call students’ standardized test scores proof of teachers’ educational competence, and marginal students will be pushed to drop out or expelled, and in social science, students who best regurgitate the mantra what US founding fathers created a nation that is closest to god the best government that humans have ever created, odds are on the children of relative wealth who hang on to private schooling where their well fed children damn well do their homework and pass their tests, to carry on the perhaps untaxed legacy of wealth.
I take the methodological stance that parsimony trumps specific claims to human knowledge. When a whole bunch of stuff is happening in different places, I infer SOCIAL significance to my data. Let’s start with the coincidence that youth unemployment leads protest worldwide. When the president of Egypt is driven out of office, strikes break out particularly of public workers who take payoffs at work in order to feed their families. At least soldiers there are conscripts rather than scabs hired in privatized security. They refuse orders to kill. In all cases, “national security” forces are chronically underpaid, and set off to control a civil populace in which youth unemployment is growing, and in which pressure mounts to kick out older generations in power to open opportunity to younger unemployed people.
Aren’t the same forces at work in US states where the American Legislative Exchange Council has drafted legislation magically appearing now in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to repeal public employees’ rights to binding arbitration in contract disputes? In this case the right to strike is a smokescreen. And as in the Southern Mediterranean area, public workers are pitted off against marginal private workers—all the more forceful because those who hold public/private wealth and power want public/private and foreign/native impoverished people to pick each other off.
A global explosion in accumulation of familial/government/private wealth has crashed. On the bright side, young people, many with degrees and credentials who have no jobs or risk losing livelihoods, including children of the elite, are asserting themselves. When I hear stories as about how Egyptians are flooding supplies and personal support into Eastern Libya, when I hear such heart and courage both in Libya and in Madison and Columbus to resist nonviolently, with such discipline, I am heartened. Of course lopping off political heads does not indicate how to transform entrenched political/economic/familial structures. Different places will suffer and respond in their own ways, but as Greek public workers protest, as Wisconsin and Ohio public workers protest, as Egyptian public workers protest, as governors use private youth discontent to identify foreign influences like drugs and alcohol among youth or youth indiscipline as primary threats to stability, I see connection. I infer that the political tumult now surrounding is has common cause, with varying manifestations. Love and peace--hal

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