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I watched Empire Records last night, and it took me back to a very different time..

It would have been early 2002, and life was very different.. I still believed in the sort of world that exists in movies like Empire Records, and thought that there was some sort of choice that one could make which would determine which world one ends up in - the evil corporate world, or the cool indie world.

When I started my job, I still believed that too.. Quotes like the following give it away:

"Um, I've worked out what I want to do with my life. I think I'll tell you all later. For now, I'm stuck in this job, and so I'll concentrate on that."

"Hmm, I'm slightly worried about this "getting a job" thing... I'm not sure how happy I am entering a system that survives by crushing the desire to change it. The only way to change the game is to play the game, and in order to play the game you have to be good at it, and like the game. And by the time you've played it enough to make a difference, you've probably lost all the will to change it because you're happy with how it works. I'm actually scared that I'll stop wanting to make a difference as soon as I become a part of the 'real world', and as far as I'm concerned, that's the worst thing that could happen to me..."

Ah, bless.. Still with the belief that a single person can make a significant difference to the entire way the world works. I don't entirely disagree with anything I wrote, but it was based on the assumption that you were either 'in' the system or 'out' of it, and that in either case the system is something that can be or should be changed.

Moving forward in time a bit, and I've reached the conclusion that economics (and the world that's built around it) is an implementation of darwinism, with environmental constraints set out by legislation and morality (where it exists). It's not so much that I like the system, but I recognise that the system exists because it's meant to exist. It arose as an evolutionarily stable state in response to the way the world works, which in itself is a pretty amazing feat.. To complain about the economic system is to complain about the food chain in biology - they're both naturally occurring in their environments, and there's no reason why either has less of a right to exist.

I suppose the shift of perspective I've experienced is that before I thought the system was responsible for how people are. Now I realise that it's exactly how people are that has shaped the system, which only remains while it's fit for purpose. Capitalism isn't responsible for inequality - greed among people is responsible for capitalism. So rather than wanting to break the system, surely the goal should be to want to change the people around you so that they too agree that the system is no longer fit for purpose.

That's harder than it sounds.. convincing people that higher taxation is a positive force for the community and for society in general meets with strong resistance. People are no longer willing to pay to make sure that class sizes are closer to 25 than they are to 40. And nobody wants to pay a bit more to better subsidise public transport. And therein lies the true problem - people would rather keep their own money than contribute it to a more socialist system of redistribution.

It's odd, because I've never minded taxation.. I think that there are a few issues with the way in which it's collected - for example, I favour a local means-based income tax rather than the somewhat arbitrary council tax bandings we have at the minute, and I'd prefer a higher level of tax for the rich over inheritance tax, which I think brings an additional element of stress to what is already quite a difficult time. If you tax them more while they're alive, you don't need to claw stuff back when they die and come up with convoluted rules on when it does and doesn't apply.

VAT is okay too.. some people say "But I'm being taxed on my purchases after I've been taxed on my salary", but it's no different to just getting more of the tax from the income. The advantage of VAT and duty taxes is that you can specifically target behaviours rather than a person's means. Really, it could do with being much more targeted and tiered.. For example, no VAT on fresh food, but some on frozen ready-meals. No VAT on consumer electronics below a certain threshold, but above that high VAT (because these are luxury items after all). Eventually you'll be financially rewarding people for spending their money wisely, and taxing those who buy nothing but ready meals, expensive consumer electronics, and other negative by-products of this era's obsession with consumerism..

I guess the job thing is like wanting to swat a wasp, because you don't like it.. I used to feel really negative, because I didn't really understand the wasp, and thought the wasp was a problem for the rest of the ecosystem. Upon getting down to the wasp's level, it's like realising that it has an important role to play, and is itself an interesting and complex thing that has a right to exist so long as there's a place for it in the world.

So anyway, Empire Records.. it's funny, because it reminds me of a time when I thought very differently, but I really did still enjoy it.. And just because that world doesn't exist, that's not to say that it wouldn't be nice if it did.. :o)

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(Deleted comment)
How economically right wing of you :o\

Comprehensive free medical care for all? Education? Mass transit? Local services? Benefits for those who cannot work? Basically all those things that should exist in a civilised society, irrespective of whether it makes financial sense for them to be there.

I dunno.. I like taxation, and government in general.. It's the only thing that stands in the way of a truly Darwinian society, which I think would be a really mercenary and uncivilised way to be.

"uncivilised" eh? Someone's forgetting how civilisation as we know it came to exist. It can't escape anyone's notice how since the introduction of methods to keep alive people who don't deserve to remain so, there's been a significant increase in undesirables... this makes sense in the Darwinian model, and I don't like it, because I'm not one of those freeloaders who requires such government-run survival band-aids.

Someone's forgetting how civilisation as we know it came to exist.

You have been misinformed. Altruism arises naturally in the animal kingdom just as it arose in humans. Where you think the optimal strategy is to look out for number one, it is in fact to collaborate for the good of the species. Look no further than Professor Hawking if you want an argument for keeping people alive when nature perhaps wants them to die.

In terms of the actual biology behind it, the entire reason gender and sex arose was because it provides a better chance of 'saving' good genes that arise in otherwise bad genomes. In asexual reproduction if a good mutation arises in an already crap genome, it will likely die out. In sexual reproduction, because of chiasmata, it's possible to lose the bad genes and retain the good ones. Evolution has already shown that mechanisms that prevent potential goodness being written off are preferable to the alternative. Being 'civilised' is a sociological implementation of that.

Under Darwinian selection, the chavs would out-reproduce us (especially you - sexual selection is not going to be kind to you my friend), and rule the earth. There are enough of them with jobs that we can't just cut out benefits and hope that it takes them out. Think on that..

That's a fairly weak rebuff because you know I'm actually right... just need a method of effectively controlling wasters. Besides, citing Hawking as an example of why we should keep spastics alive doesn't really do justice to the many thousands of the retards that don't have quite the mental capabilities of the great man and frankly could well do with being shipped out into the English Channel and pushed overboard. The ones that make it back to shore can stay.

A society so bereft of compassion and empathy that it did as you suggest would be a society that truly drove human achievement, because... oh wait, it *doesn't* logically follow, does it?

I can think of several cultures which judged the worthiness of others to live, and I would not wish to live in any one of them.

and I would not wish to live in any one of them.

That's okay - it sounds like you wouldn't be invited anyway.

However unreal it really is, I still find it comforting to remember how I felt when I thought that we could change the world. Sometimes gives me the little bit of hope that maybe I still can. It's rubbish but makes me feel a bit happier at least.

I still like to feel like that by going to work with a casual attitude but being good enough at my job that nobody minds... odd sense of liberation from the belly of the beast ;o)

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