Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
According to Donald Trump, the Queen thinks Brexit's complicated. Who’d have figured that? We know that Donald is not high on detail nor facts, some of which he appears to construct from his imagination. In that regard, he’s the same as those folks playing identity politics.
Politics is sound-bites, short-messages in an internet-age of limited attention span. These days we rarely see issues in their hues and tones, digesting all the facts.
With Britain's looming departure from the European Union, the country needs politicians who think. They need ‘expert’ precision. Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any in the arena. These days experts are trashed, especially when their facts challenge sacred positions. As Michael Gove famously pointed out, people are "sick of experts”.
And yet, we need experts to navigate Brexit with success. We need rational thought, instead of descending into a mess of rhetoric-ladened emotions. It’s not only Brexit, in many aspects of governance and politics rational thought is missing.
Hong Kong’s property market is a good illustration. The public is demanding government action to reign in surging prices. Fearful of public sentiment, our Chief Executive has sought to tinker at the edges. What is evident is that her government doesn’t understand the dynamics of the process. Ignored are the impact of broader issues and the intersectional nature of the problem. Intervention here may create unforeseen consequences there, with outcomes worst than the present. In short, it’s complicated.
For example, the Occupy movement was primarily a middle-class entity. The kids came from affluent backgrounds to demand change. Their property-owning parents offered lukewarm support at best. If those parents see the value of their property fall because of ham-fisted government policy, then what? They’d be less sanguine and more militant. Thus, the government creates another obstacle.
Adding to the morass is a divide between those who care about evidence and reasoning, against those who abandon them altogether. Perception polls feed this. These are the ones that find “All men are misogynists” and “All women repressed”. (The latter is easy to refute, spend five minutes with my Mum). It’s the sort of nonsense that comes from “Wimmin Studies". The Marxist origins that underpin these courses need exposing for their falsehoods.
These studies, with transparent untruths, produce reports that trade around as facts. Trump is an adopter of these tactics. But so-called progressive colleges have been at it for years. Here is an official publication from Brown University ... “quantitative data, statistical information and documentation are tools of systematic oppression”. The university urged students to set more store in their personal experiences.
That’s a stunning statement from a seat of learning. Had our ancestors decided to ignore data, we’d still be struggling to get out of Africa. “I know there’s no food here, we’ve had no rain for four seasons, but I’ve a gut-feeling the rains will return. Let’s hang around”. End of the game.
Those who reject scientific truths still need their iPhones and the internet to function. They take medical care formulated around scientific processes. All rooted in quantitative data and rationality. Thus, they rely on the products of the system they seek to denigrate.
Now I’m stepping into hot water. Rape and sexual assault on college campuses raise a host of issues. As a father of two daughters, I wanted to understand the risks my kids faced. To comprehend the issue you must cut through the rhetoric and noise. When you get to the scientific data, something emerges. It’s troubling, and again it’s complicated. Moreover, it's not the straightforward narrative put forth by feminists.
A 2015 Harvard study that meets proper scientific standards revealed a thorny dynamic. First, there is no evidence that women are being stalked and attacked on campuses. The instances that take place arise from social interactions. Female students entering male dorms are the most vulnerable. The attacker is most likely to be a friend or acquaintance.
Also, what Harvard found is a drinking problem; incapacitated victims and drunk offenders. In cases where the victims claimed physical force, they also reported that 69% of the offenders were drinking. Thus, you have drunk young men behaving terribly with drunk young women. This dynamic contrasts with that portrayed by feminists groups. Gangs of marauding males seeking to rape females aren't there.
Of course, if you point this out, you are immediately victim-blaming. Emotions supersede facts in the post-modernist world. Yet, we know the dismissal of empirical reality can have awful consequences. It’s the sort of thing that has kids not receiving vaccinations because of spurious claims of harm. These kids then suffer measles, rubella and other avoidable diseases.
It's evident that across the political spectrum there is a lack of understanding of detail. Brexit, climate change and nuclear disarmament are examples. Politicians take the easy route, they drop the evidence, as perception trumps (no pun intended) facts.
Nothing will change until we stop thinking around ideology or group identity. We need leaders who analyse with clarity. Remember, nature and market forces don’t care which group you identify with. Climate change has no heed of your feminists, socialist or conservative credentials. If we mess up to throw systems out of kilter, all groups suffer. That’s an objective truth.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.