Friday, 11 December 2009

Pruning flowers, appeasing deadheads

Keeping this blog is a bit like gardening. No, really.
When I started the thing my attitude was, leave it all untouched. If, a year later, something I wrote proves to be stupid, or a prediction way off, it shouldn’t matter. It’s supposed, after all, to be a record of what I observed on a particular day, so in the fullness of time it might turn out not to be the full picture.
Sadly, though I’m prepared to be that open and honest, let my mistakes stand along with the best stuff, allow anyone the freedom to comment or correct me and I will leave their comments intact, the world won’t let me. Not the Manx one anyway.
The thing is, this is an island where some folk have what William Burroughs used to call ‘The Right Virus’. It doesn’t matter about the evidence, it doesn’t matter about the civilised process whereby all ideas and things are constantly questioned in order that that which is faulty or no longer useful is stripped away and replaced by better ideas and things (at least until they, in turn, reveal faults and are revised, rebuilt or replaced).
No, you see, people with the Right Virus have faith. And furthermore, they have always run things, and have always been right, while you or I are wrong and are impertinent to ask questions. And that is that.
And people with the Right Virus also do not debate, or invite comment, or in any way engage with democracy, or science, and especially not things of the mind. Because, being Right Minded, they can never be wrong and subsequently do not need to.
The difficulty with all this is that if you are involved in a civic minded group, and invite someone with the Right Virus to come and speak to it on a topic of public concern, they won’t. Or more exactly, they expect to come along and give the same set talk they give to a few senile churchgoers who never read newspapers, then ask for contributions to their ‘good cause’, and finally leave, cash in hand, having said their piece but explained nothing.
They will not explain apparent anomalies in the things they do. In fact some will not answer questions at all, and none will entertain debate or helpful suggestions about possibly better ways to do things, even from those with decades of practical experience.
The point is, discussion of moral and social issues on the Isle of Man is based on a one way communication process, the sermon. Not even the lecture, following which the lecturer expects to take questions, or the seminar, at which the leader tries to get everyone talking, or just plain and open discussion based on the sensible notion that, individually, none of us can solve a social problem but, collectively, we might all contribute a little and get something good done.
And those with the Right Virus take something else from religious culture too. They brook no dissent, to the extent of informing the organisers of civic groups that, in order to have the dubious privilege of their presence, those organisers should first announce the Righteous’s appearance in terms which clearly indicate Divine Wisdom will be passed down, not social issues discussed, also refrain from all possible criticism of the Righteous, even to the extent of withdrawing past criticism, and finally ensure that all who might now, then or in future be possibly associated with the host civic group do the same. If you think I am joking you have obviously never met a Manx politician, civil servant or charity worker.
So, from time to time, I quietly prune a couple of the older items on the website. Not because my opinion has changed, not because the information proved inaccurate, not because of a legal threat, but to ensure that those prepared to at least try and hold together Manx civic society here have a slim chance of doing so.
It’s sad. It’s silly. But on an island run by superstitious village idiots, it’s just the way things are.

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