what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

recovering what has been lost


I want to pursue some thoughts I found myself expressing today when trying today to explain the purpose of the blog. There seem four separate but clearly related lines of argument and I’ve highlighted the phrases which I think are particularly important to develop –
· “The restless search for novelty dishonours the work (practical and written) of the past”. And I inserted an observation in a footnote about how quickly some extraordinary books seem to go out of print.
· “the recent rhetoric about monitoring and evaluation seems to have displaced the more interesting discourse of organisational learning - but, sadly, leaves those who work in organisations cold and cynical. Few people have the chance to come together and shape things in a sustained way - to build on what has gone before”.
· “making sense of the organisational endeavours I've been involved in - to see if there are any lessons which can be passed on” to those who want to make public organisations good for both the public and those who work in them.
· To “restore a bit of institutional memory and social history

When I sat down to make more sense of all this, I was reminded of a cartoon I had not thought of for decades and google tells me it is Jules Feiffer - who is apparently alive and well. I'm sorry I can't reproduce the cartoon - but th bubble coming out of the little boy's head says -
I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn't poor, I was needy. Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy, I was deprived...then underprivileged. Then they told me underprivileged was overused. I was disadvantaged. I still don't have a dime. But I have a great vocabulary”.
The vocabulary changes and implies that the problem has also – so government is not held accountable for its actions on the previous problem. And a new set of experts are needed.
Whenever we get a new perspective on an issue, we invent a new specialism – with a new elite which then marginalises the message from the bloodstream of the organisation.

Government positions require degrees and post-graduate Degrees – international bodies require PhDs so they are inhabited by those who have successfully played the academic game of specialisation and who are far removed from the hoi poloi

Tolstoy and Hans Christian Andersen – and cartoonists like Jules Feiffer say it all so much better. Even TS Eliot -

……. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate - but there is no competition -
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again; and now under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.


We need a body of people who tell the universities - "enough is enough!! These specialisms must go. Some simple truths are being masked by both the jargon and terminology you encourage people to use; and the craven cowardice you encourage".

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