Connected – really???

If you counted the number of times the word connected was used in common communication you would almost reach the number of connections us human are supposed to have these days.

Thanks to the FAANGs we are all allegedly linked wherever we go and Dunbar’s number – the suggestion by the British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, that 150 is about the limit of stable relationships an individual can have with other people – has theoretically been rendered null.

But ALP Shadow Minister, Andrew Leigh, has produced figures which suggest that links with people are getting looser rather than stronger. A new poll, by OmniPoll (run by Martin O’Shannesy who used to be CEO of Newspoll), looked at social capital by asking people about the people they could turn to in differing situations. Leigh then compared it in his latest newsletter with some data he had used in his 2010 book Disconnected.

In 1984 people said they could turn to around five people in times of difficulty; by 2005 it was a bit over four; and by 2018 the figure had dropped to three. (The blog has rounded the figures).When asked in 1984 how many people are there living around here from who you can easily ask small favours the response was seven; in 2005 a bit over five; and, by 2018 just on four. In answer to the question as to how many friends you have in the area you could visit any time without invitation the 1984 figure was almost 10; in 2005 a bit over six; and in 2018 less than four.

It must be better with friends and family one would think even if we know that functional families is an oxymoron and dysfunctional families a truism. When asked whether among your family and friends how many people are there easily available who you can talk with frankly without having to watch what you say the 1984 result was nine, 2005 a bit over six and 2018 about five.

The OmniPoll found that 17% of all Australian had no friend they could visit without an invitation today compared with 7% in 1984. There is a lot of loneliness, friendlessness and alienation out there. And that explains a lot about our current political situation.

BTW the blog will be reviewing Leigh’s latest book, Randomistas, in the next month or so.

…… and for some odds and sods

Poetic insights

In the nothing is new field: in a poem by Alicia Sometimes, How We See Ourselves, she quotes Kierkegaard “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

And speaking of poetry the great Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole (see his Ship of Fools for the definitive version of the Irish financial crash) wrote in the Irish Times (28 July 2018) about the ‘Yeats Test’.

Speaking at the Yeats International Summer School he said that “there are many ways to measure the state of the world and economists, ecologists and anthropologists labour mightily over them.” O’Toole suggested an alternative – the Yeats Test –“The proposition is simple: the more quotable Yeats seems to commentators and politicians, the worse things are. As a counter example we might try the Heaney Test: If hope and history rhyme let the good times roll.”

But sadly the massive surge in online searches and comments is not for Heaney but “for….Yeats’s magnificent doom-laden Second Coming.”

The familiar quotes – The centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed on the world, The best lack all conviction while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity, Things fall apart and the rough beast – have been trending on Twitter and other formats since 2016 and Yeats’ phrases have been used by US conservatives, BBC business editors, comedians, an apocalyptic Zimbabwean preacher and about subjects as diverse as Trump, Brexit and the Paris and Brussels terror attacks.

“The problem, though, may be that with so much bad news, the Yeats images are becoming so overused that they are in great danger of sinking into the linguistic mire of cliché – a fate no great poet deserves. “ O’Toole said.

He concluded by suggesting we all need to “renew the store of Yeats images” and suggests a few such as Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen which says much about fake news and “the pre-fascist culture of hatred”; Coole Park and Ballylee’s references to that high horse riderless…..Where the swan drifts upon a darkening flood; old bellows full of wind (from A Prayer for My Daughter) for a Trump speech; and The Tower’s anticipation of “the trend for stupid hair among right-wing politicians (Trump, Boris Johnson, Geert Wilders).”

Reading Private Eye

Australian politicians and defence officials ought to read Private Eye before they embark on major defence purchases. With our latest multi-billion dollar outlay on some frigates – BAE Systems’ Type 26 which don’t exist yet – the Government might have thought to check on the performance of the six Type 45 destroyers BAE Systems have already built for the Royal Navy. All six have had major engine problems and had to limp back to their Portsmouth home on their auxiliary generators. A subscription to Private Eye might have been a cheaper form of tender evaluation than whatever process the Government adopted