It can be generally accepted that I am very fond of my computer. We met up some two years ago when I had absolutely no knowledge of computer use and we very quickly became friends - indeed my new best friend.
That point must be made clear to all but, if it is not, for the avoidance of any doubt, let me say loud and clear that my voice-activated computer system has been my salvation in my blindness. I dread to think where I would have been without him and I would strongly recommend a similar system for anyone in an analogous position.
That said, you must therefore understand I am in no way being disloyal when I remind you, once again, that he, in terms of cold logic, is lacking in sensitivity. This is understandable and excusable, given the rational process built into his manufacture. Sympathy and compassion are not within his makeup although, surprisingly, in spite of my better judgement, at times I think I witness signs of kindness and understanding from him.
However I am raising this point again because it would seem that some are attributing to him more feelings and skills than he possesses. If that is so it is my fault and I must try to correct such an impression. After all, the responsibility of honesty to my readers, especially those handicapped like myself, is of paramount importance to me and I would hate them to be in any way misled.
He of course disagrees with me in this matter. That is understandable and, as we are a partnership, I have granted his request to have right of reply, promising it to be uncensored and reported verbatim.
He said, “Firstly, you are my very dear friend. Yours is the only voice, the only person I speak to, so the bond between us could hardly be closer. Having made that point, I will now present my case, succinctly, without preamble and to a conclusion.”
He then proceeded to say, like some smug pompous court room lawyer from a television series, ”You have told me, you have called everyone; indeed everyone who would listen, that I am no more and no less than an artificial intelligence system, incapable of feelings or independent thought. You have said I am just your alter ego, not, mind you, your id - oh no I could not possibly inherit any of your psychological impulses. Well, for the sake of argument let me accept that thesis. Given the case that I am your ‘other self’, I put one rhetorical question to you - only one. Are you asking me, and indeed your readers, to seriously accept that your self-image is really as characterless and shallow as you suggest? Need I say more? No, I thought not. Anything else said would be irrelevant and immaterial and so I rest my case.”
Dammit! He has done it to me again! No doubt we will return to this subject at another time but, in the interim, the partnership, by and large, is working quite satisfactorily. So for the time being, using my schoolboy Latin let it be a case of quieta non movere. However, I can't help wondering what Sigmund Freud would have made of all this.
Let us move on.
I promised to get the answer as to whether people who are born blind could have dreams and, if so, could they dream in colour. The answer, in general, seems to be that those who have never seen the world can still dream but, having no memories from sight, their dreams are more instances of sound, smell and touch and, as they have no knowledge of colour, it does not feature in their dreams. There seem to be many views and opinions but, generally speaking, that is the result of my investigation
This month has seen tremendous flooding in Gloucestershire and the surrounding countryside with many thousands made homeless; and as many again without water and electricity. This is very much on my mind at present because Ewan and Mel are in Cheltenham, without water, and their baby is some 10 days overdue.
The Authorities put it all down to the persistent heavy rain causing flash flooding that broke the river banks - unprecedented and unpredictable conditions. Oh yea? In truth, the actual facts were that they had plenty of warning but nevertheless the Environment Agency decided, in their wisdom, to slash the expenditure on flood defences.
They say that the present chaos, and the resulting great hardship to thousands, could not have been predicted and planned for. They say that it was a very rare event.
Was it really? I remember the Yorkshire floods of 1998, I remember flooding in Perth in 1994, the flooding in Bearsden in the 1970s, I remember the East End of Glasgow flooded not so long ago, and I am sure I saw on the television, three years back, people in England being rescued from their rooftops by helicopter. When will the Authorities admit that it is all becoming commonplace?
I am talking from memory, but they have the records to establish by now a fairly predictable pattern of behaviour is emerging. The situation is now ridiculous and unmanageable only because it's not being managed. I also remember, as recently as last year, yet another garden hose ban because the country's reservoirs were empty. How stupidly inefficient can we become?
Draw a wider circle and we have the evidence of continental flooding, and wider still to take in the millions affected by the flooding in New Orleans and elsewhere, and now on an even greater scale, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh, etc. The earthquakes, the hurricanes, tornados and tsunamis that are annual, global events show that our planet is in a consistent stage of flux and has been from the beginning, or possibly before the age of time.
We are fortunate in the West. We have the luxury to argue and debate over climate change, unlike the mass of our fellow homosapiens who settle, in lemming fashion, in the most inhospitable areas of our planet, holding onto their part of the world in the face of, at regular intervals, catastrophic, climatic chaos.
What makes mankind cling on tenaciously to these hostile areas, accepting cataclysmic losses of life and property with their only retaliation against these unfeasible conditions being their need to survive?
There is one thing we can be sure about, they will not be sitting round the dinner table on an evening, sipping their wine and discussing the effects of greenhouse gases, resolving to cut back on holidays abroad and disposing of the third family car - not yet.
I am sure, once again, Sigmund Freud would have plenty to say on this subject.
These constant global changes do, of course, have more than a indirect bearing on our own climate, but we must never forget that the misery and hardship that people in England are presently suffering is just a flea bite in the scale of world climatic events. Man is insignificant when he puts himself against nature. But that said, there is much we can certainly do to manage ourselves in this so-called sophisticated society of Great Britain. Why are we, without question, accepting that it is inevitable that we have flooding at times and a great shortage of water at other times? We surely waste precious water so why do we dedicate all those landfill sites to bury our rubbish instead of converting some to reservoirs to store and conserve our valuable water?
The argument that it would be too costly to set up a National Grid to deliver the water to the point of need, for instance, the southeast of England, is utter nonsense - one need only to think of the mammoth oil and gas pipelines in Alaska, Russia, Arab States etc, As it is we find no problem in distributing oil, gas and, of course, petrol throughout the country.
Maybe we can do little against the seas, although Holland, by and large, did. There is really no reason why we, in this country, cannot contain and harvest our surface water. I rather think that the great Victorian engineers, such as Thomas Telford and, slightly later, Isambard Brunel would have taken a more enlightened approach. They did not fight nature; they worked alongside her. They would not think of flood defences as protection against, at times an uncontrollable river. After all, it is surface water, surplus to what the ground can absorb at that particular time, making its way to the sea. They would discipline the river with aqueducts, canals, damns and reservoirs, working hydrographically in harmony with the flow.
The cynics, and there are many, are bereft of ideas and are prepared to accept the status quo, seemingly oblivious to the great engineering wonders of our modern world. They cannot accept that for moderate expenditure, relative to the recurring hardship and cost of consequential damages, the problem can be materially resolved satisfactorily. The way is clear, but the will is wanting - some lateral thinking is necessary here; tangential, imaginative and then some creative action required, not negative thinking.
Let those same cynics ask themselves, when the floods stop raging through our towns and villages where does the water go? If they were right, logically the water would stay on the flood plains as permanent lakes but, of course, it doesn't. It goes back to the sea and our countryside dries out until - the next time. At least, let them consider the practicalities of a network of catchment areas allowing pumping before and not after flooding.
It should be remembered that in these islands we are all only a few miles from the coast. It cannot be beyond the wit of civilised man to ease the passage of the excess rainwater, which the land cannot absorb, back to the sea - a land which sees more of its surface covered each year by concrete and other non-absorbent materials.
Looking at it metaphysically, these uncontrolled rivers raging through our countryside, with all their pent-up energy, just wanting to get home from whenst they came, to the mother sea, who gave them up willingly to serve us on Mother Earth; we should aid their return so that they can start the cycle all over again - an unending pattern of activity.
However to return to realism, some people think there is little we, as individuals, can do to counteract the effect on the global influence of India, China and other growing economies, on the greenhouse gas problem. That may well be but, nevertheless, our personal carbon footprint is not insignificant if it disciplines us and allows us to influence others then that could be applied to our puny efforts in recycling. Come to think of it, whilst I say it is only a fleabite, was it not Jonathan Swift who wrote, "And so it has been said - big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em and little fleas have lesser fleas and so ad infinitum."
Hold everything! A NEWS FLASH! Mel has just given birth to a 9 pound, 11 ounce baby girl. Both are doing well and Joyce and I are very relieved and delighted to be grandparents for the first time after nearly 50 years of marriage.
I wish my little granddaughter health and happiness and the real hope that her generation will make a better job of making a compassionate planet than did her forebears. She, for one, will have, from the beginning, the benefit of being surrounded by love and care.
Posted on 24 August 2007 – What Would Sigmund Freud Have Said?