Ask anyone who’s suffered through (who knows, perhaps enjoyed?) being a subscriber to my Facebook timeline, my Twitter feed or my Google+ stream and the reason my nom de plume for this blog is “PassionateObserver” will start to become clear. I’m interested in a lot, don’t feel particularly restrained about commenting on it, and like to share with others.
But about me: I’m a baby boom generation Canadian, born in Toronto, who has lived in Ontario, British Columbia, and outside Canada in Connecticut, USA, and The Netherlands. LinkedIn can show you more about my career and what employees, colleagues, clients and fellow travellers have said about me. My degrees are in Philosophy, with an emphasis on the Philosophy of History, and I tend to work from a phenomenological starting point. I’m also an accredited Cognitive Edge practitioner, which means I use complexity science in my thinking.
I love history — often my posts will include some, because I do think you need to know some relevant things from the past to judge the present situation and potential futures properly — and, unsurprisingly, that makes me what I call a red-green tory politically, a position for which you’ll find no party and no party leader standing up and saluting. “Tory” because I believe our society has inherited much of value from the past, that we would be well-advised to consider carefully before running out to rip up, replace, change or toss on the ash-heap of history, and that we have a duty of care for this to pass it on to future generations, well-tended. Change is often more necessary in institutions — they are always in need of reform, but reform to bring them back into line with the purposes they were established to fulfil from our traditions. Traditions, too, need change, but more slowly and carefully. So I’m big on the “conserve” part of “conservative”.
But I’m not a right-winger as we know them today. I do believe in individuals and their liberties, and want smaller, less intrusive government powers because our institutions of governance have become far too intrusive upon each of us. “What that state does, it should do well and in fairness, but it should do nothing it need not do” is at least a starting point for me. On the other hand, other big institutions in society require equal restraint, so I’m not anti-regulation and I certainly do not think governments should be in bed with other big institutions (so I don’t support “deals” with unions, corporations or other governments, in general).
As I put individuals first, I tend not to be a supporter of “group rights” — indeed, “with rights, come responsibilities” and if you want to assert a right you had best tell me what obligations you accept and fulfil that come with that, or I’m really not disposed to spend effort on your “right”. But also, because I put individuals first, I tend to be in favour of the small and the local over the big and global.
I do believe it is part of the reason we have more than purely minimalist government to prepare the way for the future: from the decision to open the Canadian West with structure and police already in place, to building the transcontinental railways, to building out distinctive Canadian media, we have used governments to handle being a land with a lot of geography and not many people. So I’m in favour of good infrastructure and investing in it, and investing in people. That’s the “red” part.
I also believe that only a fool fouls their own home. (We have a lot of fools on this planet, apparently.) I am aware that the science around climate change continues to evolve, and, indeed, I’ll circulate thoughts from both the “we’re killing the planet unless we act now” side and the “we forgot about this and so the models aren’t sound” side because good scientific enquiry is about study, experiment, discovery and challenging testing, not merely adopting a position and telling everyone else “shape up or else”. Yes, there are theories that are so well established that to act as though they’re wrong is to, Wile E. Coyote-style, expect to hang in mid-air in defiance of gravity. (Hint: it doesn’t work.) Evolution is one such. So is TANSTAAFL (“there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”).
But it seems to me that there’s no need to foul the air with carbon compounds if there are other forms of energy that could be used than hydrocarbons; there’s no need to dump waste products if better system design allowed them to be used; to build big structures that lack resilience if decentralised, local systems can be built. That’s the kind of “green” that fits into me.
As for the left-right nonsense (why we still worry about where factions sat in a U-shaped structure during the French Revolution is beyond me), all I can say is that progressives find me regressive, and right-wingers find me far too classically liberal for their corporatist-populist hearts. But I enjoy “not fitting in”, so I’m fine with that too.
My regular topics I study include our energy resources and deployment, our economy, our society, politics (which to my mind is “the ethics of group action” and therefore worth thinking about even if the political system and what it throws up leaves me cold most of the time), and of course from a professional point of view I must think about how organisations function and how technology plays its part. I have a passion for transit issues, and never think of citizens as voter, consumers or taxpayers (which may explain why I’ll toil in the ditches of despair thinking about politicians). I’m not a scientist, but I do a fair bit of reading about science, and I’m not religious, although there’s barely a week goes by I’m not looking deeper into one or another faith’s thought. “I am human; what we do interests me.”