Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Seducing TINA

Some people find TINA incredibly attractive: the promise of the single door opening before you with a big red flashing neon sign saying "There Is No Alternative". All the deliberation, complexity, confusion and debate peels away in a moment of clear-sighted, hard-nosed decision-taking.

Of course, other people find TINA hideous and dangerous. Unfortunately, lust for TINA is most common amongst those in power.

Part of TINA's appeal lies in the way that the path to her single doorway can be manipulated by those in power. It takes the form of:

  1. a engineered crisis, or the exploitation of an existing crisis;
  2. the suppression of debate, opposition, humour and creativity;
  3. the cumulation of small, apparently insignificant moves, which gradually transform the situation to one where TINA becomes more likely (but too slowly for anyone to see it coming);
  4. the manipulation of decision-making bodies and regulatory mechanisms to ensure we stay on the path to TINA;
Eventually TINA arrives, nobody can do anything about it, and when she is truly revealed, what we see is naked self-interest. But by then, There Is No Alternative.

I think we're seeing this process all around us at the moment. In government, in the banks, in the media, in our institutions... everywhere. And people seem powerless to do anything about it. 

One of the major features of our current crisis (as Oleg pointed out to me yesterday) is that this time everyone is knackered. No-one's got the energy to fight when the fighting most needs to be done. It's as if we've awoken from a wild party with a terrible hangover, burdened with guilt because we've done things we know we shouldn't have done, and we simply can't deal with our own demons to muster the energy to take on the bad people.

This time there is no external demon that we can objectify as an 'other' and attack. After Saddam and Osama, we're done with that kind of thing. The 'other' is in us. We have to deal with ourselves. This crisis is existential in a way which is entirely new in the modern era.

Our politics needs a better way of defending itself against the TINA-merchants. We need to get better at reading the signs.

Those in power make decisions. Every decision reveals something in their hinterland. Whilst each decision may seem inconsequential, irrelevant and unconnected, each decision is an indicator of the constraints which produce it. Each decision, each thought is the product of what cannot be thought. If what can only be thought is the self-interest of the thinker, then the decisions will reveal this... and we will be in TINA trouble before long. 

The people need a means of performing a kind of negative analysis on those in charge. It is not only the regulation of society we should be concerned with; it is the virtue of the regulators. It may be that a negative analysis of decisions may provide an early-warning sign of emergent self-interest. I think we need to explore this possibility urgently. There is enough data from government and the draconian changes in our public and private institutions for an investigation.


Anonymous said...

The other trap doesn't have a cute acronym, but is the seeming necessity to Do Something. Even when the most sensible course of action is actually to Do Fuck All.

The Hippocratic oath seemingly doesn't apply to politics.

Mark Johnson said...

Does Fuck All include "Keep a Blog" ;-)