Tuesday, 18 March 2008

I'd Like You To Agree To Change The Way You Read This Blog...pretty please

Now, how did you feel reading that blog headline? What do you think the prospects are of me getting you to change your reading habits? Why do you think that is?

It's for precisely those reasons that I believe that there is something intrinsically naive about governmental (big and small) policies for behaviour change and the prospects for sustained, deep and lasting personal change.

As you will know, any policy or intervention is based on a set of prior assumptions about how people learn and change. The social policy agenda has been so dominated by a pampered form of liberal intellectualism it is often completely removed from the practicalities of the issues that it is dealing with. It has become so pervasive over the last 50 years that we hardly even notice it.

The approaches suggested pay scant regard to the 'level of consciousness' of the individual the policy makers wish to change. The 'Don't Spit-esque Orders' of the bureaucratically minded don't work and the fluffy notion of 'learning contracts' won't work either. These behaviourist approaches to learning and changing which are predicated on a form of simplistic stimulus and response psychology are incapable of penetrating the inner psyches of the 'Am I Bovvered' brigade.

I see no initiatives that pay any attention to the deep and profound mind-sets of the people we would like to change. If the mind-set of the badly behaved individual is at level of consciousness that only responds to harsh physical measures then that should be a tool in the tool bag. If they are capable of intrinsic motivation then approaches should be used in that context.To presume that the 'higher' level of awareness will be understood and aspired to by all is gullible and naive.

Hang on a moment I hear you say, how can YOU decide what is is acceptable and what is not? Well that just proves my point. The relativist agenda has emasculated the discussion about standards, and that is a pity. Working out standards is actually intellectual 'hard work' anybody can simply 'deconstruct' and 'relativise' The little dears' that plague our streets, open spaces, and malls, that are in the habit of shooting each other, that think they are entitled to 'bling' and a Mercedes just because they want one don't need to be 'understood' and 'related too' they need to be told what society's standards are and what happens if they cross the line.

And so, you might be asking where's the evidence for this? Well look around you its all over the place...here's just one example...in the less socially disruptive context of a university you will find students that conform to appropriate, justified standards and are self organised and motivated...they will respond to 'instructions' in module booklets and forms of assessment such as 'peer group' and 'learning contracts'..there are others that 'don't read the signs'...and despite forms of 'social assessment' free load and play the system. Pampering the latter with 'supportive' explanations, and exhortations to do things differently often doesn't work...quite often being confronted with the plain consequences of their behaviour (you have failed, this is inadequate, the responsibility for failure and the financial cost is yours) does.

ASBO fodder doesn't need support it needs telling.


  1. I'm not sure I buy into the freeloader argument that all those who need welfare are freeloaders (not that you said it, but it's a common argument). Most of these people have genuine needs and whether they should be left to charitable institutions or the faith based initiatives is really questionable.

    I look at the results, and it seems that whenever a conservative government is in power, this is what happens: crime goes up, the economy falls to pieces, the social fabric breaks at the seams. I love the principle of having each man for himself, but I also reject the anarchist tendencies of many republicans.

    We're too polarized in this country, and I just wish we could find a balance. We base our politics on myth and clichés rather than results. We should learn from Denmark, where taxes are high but there is complete personal and fiscal freedom. They seem to manage their affairs and reach a state of wellbeing and individual happiness. The Danes are healthy, prosperous, and educated.

    If the government is for the people and by the people, and it does not function properly, then the people themselves are to blame for that (there's no way around it). The other option is a fascist state where every "tool in the bag" is used to make people work.

    Individualism does not mean isolation and laissez-faire capitalism, but a respect for each individual, even from a government standpoint. In the US, republicans are more concerned with protecting corporations than the common man. I think that as a nation we are capable of a lot better.

  2. Thanks for this well expressed comment Madmerv. Yes I agree there are those whose need for support is genuine. I also agree that a balance such as the Danish approach should be considered. Let's see if others have a view.