Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Post-War Dream


Click to Tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/xYv6r . This is it - the day we've all been waiting for.  Decades ago, i would've been really happy about this but i don't think politics is about personalities any more.  This is just my immediate reaction.  With hindsight it was inevitable that the first woman prime minister would be a Tory, just as Nancy Astor was a Tory.  I can't pretend i'm sad even though i've drifted to the right over the years.  I can hardly even remember what i said in this video to be honest.

was done off-the-cuff and has two gross one dozen and four views in day since i uploaded it.  There is clearly something to learn from this.  Interestingly, this:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/T7bGP .  Margaret Thatcher has died.  People's reactions to this have been divided.  My personal view is that it's a little like when someone in your family with whom you disagree violently but still care about dies.  Therefore, i do think it's inappropriate to celebrate her death.  However, i also think it's entirely understandable if you have personally lost people or suffered as a result of her actions.  For instance, someone may have died in a filthy hospital ward or committed suicide because of losing their job in the coal mine or factory closed down by her.

Two things about Thatcher:  in a sense she was not conservative, and in a sense she was not unequivocally in favour of entrepreneurial capitalism.  Taking the first issue, conservatism can be seen as the absence of an explicit ideology.  In certain circumstances, for instance a country which has recently emerged from a Stalinist regime, conservatism would not be recognisable as a right wing ideology.  Thatcher was in that sense not conservative because she had a clearly articulated ideology based around Hayek, Milton Friedman and monetarism.  Moreover, in certain areas such as the police, defence industry and the military, she was clearly in favour of public funding and nationalisation.  She is not like Nozick or Ayn Rand.

During her term as Prime Minister, i switched from being implicitly Tory in the sense of voting Tory just being the Done Thing like supporting Kent County Cricket Club, through being Stalinist myself into being anarchist.  Thatcher was good at politicising people, at least.  Of her beliefs in general at the time, i was of course vehemently opposed to almost all of them, with the exception of Euroscepticism.  I have long been Eurosceptic because i see the EU as inherently environmentally unfriendly and unsustainable, and also as an opportunity for the apparently free market, which is actually monopoly capitalism and not the same thing at all, to range unfettered.  As regards specific actions, i approved of a total of two things she did:  the establishment of Channel 4 TV and GCSEs with continuous assessment.  The former had virtual carte blanche to be radical and continuous assessment helped children who were capable but could not perform well in exam situations to get qualifications (remember i was implacably anti-home ed at the time).

With hindsight, it was kind of inevitable that the first woman Prime Minister would be a Tory, just as Nancy Astor was a Tory.  However, before she was elected i felt quite negatively towards the left as i felt it was dominated by men, masculinity and machismo, so a woman leading a party definitely seemed positive to me.

Regarding the Falklands Factor, her ability to call an election at any time was what led to one-party rule for eighteen years, and i just want to remind people that fixed term parliaments have now made that impossible, or at least difficult (see Helmut Kohl though).

She seemed to have broken the post-war consensus but as i point out in my "Caroline Timeline", many factors were already in place to change that and in fact it may have been largely illusory and held in place by the Realpolitik of the Cold War.

Whether she was significant as a person or not depends on your view of history and whether politics is an art or a science.  Historically, i reject the Great Man Theory and see people as the toys of impersonal forces.  However, if politics is an art like literature or music, then an individual can be important.  If, on the other hand, politics is a science, people just sort of slot in where they belong and are more the tools of trends.  There's another question about whether a political party's own ideology influences whether individuals are significant or not.  She herself was also a scientist and it might therefore be hoped that her policies would be more evidence-based.  It's important to have scientists in politics for that reason.

Finally, what if it had been the other way round?  What if, instead of a charismatic leader shifting the centre ground of politics dramatically to the right, there had been someone else pushing it in the opposite direction? For this reason i think it's important that there are people like Thatcher in politics, even though i might dramatically disagree with her views.

was my more nuanced and carefully-thought out version which has only had three views so far.  Incidentally, i'm not terribly happy with it as i feel i wasn't critical enough of Margaret Thatcher in it.

So you will have gathered that the day has come, for which so many people have waited for so long.  She's dead.  However, considering that personalities are in a sense a right-wing thing, in a way it seems inappropriate to celebrate the death of someone who was, surely, nothing more than a tool of impersonal forces.  Still, people are human i suppose.

As it happens, news of her death has saved me because i was dreading making the following video:

Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/f6I5g . Concrete, cement and limestone are tedious grey or white materials that do nothing all day and come in big lumps, and they're everywhere.  They are so boring, in fact, that they're on the AQA GCSE chemistry syllabus.

Limestone is calcium carbonate.  Animals living in the sea whose hard parts (skeletons) are made of calcium carbonate sink to the bottom after death and form sediment which becomes chalk, although this is only one of the many ways in which limestone can form.  This mineral is then quarried, heated, traditionally in a lime kiln, converting it into calcium oxide or quicklime - many carbonates can be converted to oxides by heating and in the case of calcium carbonate a bunsen burner flame is enough.  This can be slaked (have water poured over it), which causes it to give off heat - an exothermic reaction which converts it to calcium hydroxide.  It can also be heated and mixed with clay or iron oxide, which is why it's grey - dark and white materials mixed together.  This makes cement.  Concrete is cement mixed with gravel or other hard particles such as old building materials or pottery.  Roman concrete was made with volcanic sand.  It's strong because of the ionic bonding and it's bulky and common, being the most commonly manufactured compound on this planet.  2 billion tons are manufactured a year, which is the size of a small asteroid such as 1566 Icarus or 69230 Hermes.

The other uses of calcium carbonate and related compounds include the production of glass.

The acidification of sea water as a result of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere may cause animals such as molluscs, which have calcium carbonate shells, to dissolve them, which could have huge consequences for the environment.

Unfortunately for me, concrete, limestone and cement are on the AQA GCSE chemistry syllabus and for all i know the others.  Incidentally, here's the diagram that appears about half way through for a minute or so:

(Hope that fits).  This is of course rather slapdash but i did make two videos yesterday.  I decided that the thing to do was to make the tedium of concrete the subject of the video rather than trying to fight it, so that's what i did.  It was very tempting to fork off into some architectural disquisition.  It's also apparent that this is my version of this:

which is a lot more fun.  It's been said that my Big Science vids are like OU programmes and by Theintrostealer that they're actually like Look Around You itself, probably because he knows little of the Post-War Dream of which we speak.  Which brings me to the link between these videos.

Thatcher brought the post-war dream to an end, or so it seemed.  I've explored this in obsessive depth here but i suppose some people might call that a research paper.  Maybe if people read it, it would've felt like less of a waste of time, although linking to it on a readerless blog probably won't achieve much.

OK, so the link is of course modernism.  The post-war era was one in which housing had to be built fast due to the fact of the Luftwaffe trashing quite a lot of the old stuff, though of course far less than the RAF had done, a conveniently forgotten fact.  Incidentally, i can remember bomb sites because for some reason Canterbury weren't very interested in clearing them up and they were still there nearly three decades later  (life is really long, isn't it?).  There was an associated belief that this would somehow usher in a utopia, or at least a land fit for heroes, but it was clearly not to be, partly because people are too individual and need more than concrete for their well-being.  Sim City takes an amusing view on this of course.  Similarly, the deadlocked position of the Warsaw Pact and NATO after the War led to a situation where British politics was also frozen, a situation referred to as the "Post-War Consensus", which may in fact have been an illusion.  It involves Keynesianism, a mixed economy with certain major industries nationalised, a welfare state, the NHS and tolerance of trade unions.  It was also blamed for relative economic decline.  My view is that it wasn't a myth but that it existed for pragmatic reasons and was unstable.  I also see it as sort of modernist but can't put my finger on why.