Alan's Blog

 

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Non-Conformist?

There have been many times in my life when I’ve been admonished for not ‘toeing the line’ or ‘doing things differently to everyone else’. I am, of course, delighted by this as it implies that I can think for myself and am not one of the ‘sheep’, unless you mean the ‘black sheep’ of the family, which I’m proud to be.

Even little ‘non-conformist’ things can have a large affect on our lives. When I was in the Merchant Navy one of the Chief Engineers, under whose command I served, always treated me as being a bit ‘suspect’ because I didn’t conform with the others in being a heavy drinker. He thought I was quite odd being almost completely teetotal. Because of this he didn’t treat me in the same way as the other engineering officers as he considered me to be somewhat ‘different’. This all changed one day when he needed me to help him repair an electric-arc welding machine. He stood by and watched me do my job and get the machine working again for him. Later that day, when I went to his office, he was man enough to apologise to me for the way he’d been treating me – and said the reason was because I didn’t ‘fit in’ with the drinkers. After that he couldn’t do enough for me and treated me with utmost respect. He was a very clever man for whom I had a great deal of regard.

On the other hand, I once returned to a ship after my leave and the Chief Engineer’s first words to me were “Thank God you’re back. I’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep now”.

Before the days of the internet there was Prestel. I used to access this via a modem that sat under my Sinclair Spectrum computer. In those days several countries had their own network of computers (Minitel, in France, for example). It was all quite an adventure as nothing was very user friendly and computer graphics hardly existed. Even when the internet kicked off things were still quite fun without social media as everyone who wanted a ‘presence’ had to program their own website using fairly simple HTML – and very little was commercialised in those days. This meant that everyone had a different website – vastly different in appearance to everyone else’s. Great. Nowadays, most people can’t be bothered to present themselves using their own web site; they use social media sites such as Facebook (which I hate!) where they have to CONFORM to the restrictions and layout of the program. No individuality allowed!

Being a non-conformist, I still program my own websites (it’s not difficult – if I can do it, anyone can). My websites are simple. Nothing sophisticated and no beautiful creative designs (not being at all artistic), but they do the job – which is to communicate whatever content I want to share – without having a site that looks like everyone else’s on Facebook or whatever. Yes, I do sometimes use Facebook so I can send messages to people whom I can’t e-mail, or to find old friends, but there is almost nothing in the way of content on my page.

Of course, programming your own website takes a certain amount of time – especially when compared to dumping a few photographs, videos or text onto a Facebook (FB) page – and FB is the easiest option for busy people. In fact, I wish I could devote more time to building my own websites.

I was reminded of these things by reading an interview in the journal of one of my professional institutions (The Institute of Engineering and Technology – Vol. 14, Issue 3, April 2019) that published an interview with Professor Douglas Rushkoff who has recently written a book entitled ‘Team Human’ published by WW Norton. In this interview he talks about technology in such a way as “I want to be the user (of the technology), not the used”. He wants humans to be put back into the object role, not for us to be ‘caged’ by the technology like a lot of battery hens that makes us conform to certain strictures.

Following this, with regard to social media, I’ve just received an e-mail from Gary A. Scott gary@garyascott.com who has a website at URL: https://garyscott.com/

Part of his e-mail contained the following information:

Here’s how governments use social media to reduce our privacy.
The sun always shines somewhere.  Over the past 50 years, our publications in print, and later at this site, how new technology offers a global lifestyle that takes advantage of the light.
The darker side of this perspective is that governments have used the same evolving science to reduce our privacy and freedom.
Social media is the new tool that governments are using to track you down. (Ed. Note: I realise the text in this section applies to the US government but might it also apply to other governments – now or in the near future? If the US government is doing what is alleged here, there is nothing to stop other governments doing likewise).
The New York Times article “On Disability and on Facebook? Uncle Sam Wants to Watch What You Post” says:
In its budget request to Congress last year, Social Security said it would study whether to expand the use of social media networks in disability determinations, partly to help identify fraud.
“There is a little bitty chance that Social Security may be snooping on your Facebook or your Twitter account,” Robert A. Crowe, a lawyer from St. Louis who has represented Social Security disability claimants for more than 40 years, said he cautioned new clients. “You don’t want anything on there that shows you out playing Frisbee.”
As with all government restrictions, the erosion in our freedom begins under the guise of something good. 
In this case, the government is proposing to use social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to help identify people who claim Social Security disability benefits when they are not truly disabled.
Sounds pretty good… catching false disability claims. Right?
The problem is, once the government gets a tool like this in place… it will likely be used in increasingly destructive ways.
Take income tax as an example. The 16th Amendment in 1913 allows Congress to tax income without basing it on population or dividing it up among the states.
When the amendment was passed the tax rate was only 1 percent, after credits and a personal exemption of $3,000 were deducted.  Most people were not taxed and did not care.
We all care about tax rates now!
This chart from Wikipedia shows how income tax grew once the government was able to use it.

taxgraph


This expansion of government interference in our personal lives is one reason why the number of Americans who definitely plan to become expats nearly doubled in the last decade.

US relocate

Alan continues:

Although I'm not in America, this is only indicative of what is really going on in the world of technology. Here in the UK we are living in the most spied upon nation in the world – far worse even than the USA.

Would I go to the extent of re-locating? Too right I would! I really hate living in the UK – and there are many reasons for that, in addition to being spied upon. The tax burden is another factor – income tax (I even have to pay tax on my pension!), VAT, road tax (I paid £300 the other day just for the privilege of using one of our cars for one year!), tax on fuel for our vehicles (64.28 % on petrol, 60.4 % on diesel*), travel tax, insurance premium tax. In addition, as I have to run a limited company in order to work, I also have to pay corporation tax (many thousands of pounds) and be a VAT collector! – the list goes on and on.

Of course, the other factor for getting out of here is the climate. It really is utterly depressing and total misery to have to live here in the UK and has a massive negative affect on my life and my health (mental and physical).

You may remember that one of the main problems I had with our River Rhine bicycle trip was the time constraint of having to get JP back home in order for him to be able to start his new high school on the appointed date. He would have learned much more by completing the bicycle trip instead of having to go to school. How lovely it would have been if we had been able to meander through Europe on our bicycles without having to think about deadlines. All to keep our slave drivers happy by making them even bigger fortunes than they already have. Unless you come from a certain class and background, you've got no chance of climbing out of the 'slough of despond' that is normal life to most people. Us slaves are very much kept 'in our place' and few ever make it to the outside world where one can live a 'real' life of enjoyment and relaxation.

Why do you think I still have to go to work at the age of 70? I certainly don't go for the entertainment value! To gain the maximum amount of freedom one can achieve as a human being in this evil, over-regulated and over-taxed world, one has to have money. That rarely happens to working class (i.e. slave class) people such as us. We either work and have money and no time to travel (be free), or we have the time (being unemployed) but insufficient money to do the things we want to.

Being a non-conformist is of great assistance in life.  I’m pleased to say that JP is continuing this family trend, or, as he puts it, “being outside the social norm”. Watching our little lad grow up and seeing how his way of thinking develops is an interesting experience. His way of thinking really is extraordinary; mind-blowing at times. It’s just very sad that it sometimes gets him into trouble at school as his high school teachers are....... (well, let’s just say I don’t rate them highly) ........ unable to even recognise his very special talent, let alone develop it. The only school teacher who recognised and brought out this innate talent was his teacher (now the Head Teacher) at his little village primary school. On his first day at her school he introduced himself to her by saying “I’m your worst nightmare”. They got on really well together. How sad it is that he’s had to leave her behind. With the politicising of our education system, children aren’t supposed to think, let alone be taught how to think. They are just supposed to conform and follow the system like a herd of sheep - just as many of our schools have to do in order to obtain good marks from Ofsted, the education department’s school judging section.

There is very little, if any, freedom in our lives these days, if there ever was, unless you're one of the privileged wealthy class. Or, if you're one of the non-conformists who manage to live a life so different to everyone else, but even for this, you'd still need to have some money to support yourself. I do admire those who can go off with their bicycle and a tent and travel the world – doing odd-jobs here and there to support themselves – but it's a very hard way to live and not for everyone.

Maybe I should bring our caravan back into full-time service! When we were living in our caravan in December 2014 there was a small motorhome parked nearby. The owner was a lady who had got rid of her ‘proper’ home and now lived in her motorhome with her little dog. She did some part time work to bring in the little cash she needed and lived quite a simple life. One day she just drove off and disappeared without a word to anyone; never to be seen on the site again. We were most surprised. The point, regardless of the manner in which she left, is that she had the freedom to do just that - disappear. She could go off to wherever took her fancy, whenever she liked. She didn't have the constraints that a conventional life has in controlling just about everything we do. Isn't that marvellous? How wonderful that must be. Just to be able to get up and go to wherever one pleases. No wonder so many retired people have taken to travelling in this way. In fact, in 1990, I met a couple who'd been living and travelling with their caravan for 12 years. Terrific!

Living outside the 'system' is very difficult – almost impossible these days. From the time you are born, you are registered on the 'system' and the government will be keeping a watchful eye on you to make sure you pay all your taxes and CONFORM to their expectations of your life – not yours.

Your life is not your own after all. We need to change that - become a non-conformist!

*refer to: https://www.racfoundation.org/data/taxation-as-percentage-of-pump-price-data-page