"The best laid plans o' mice and men oft
Let us interpret the frustration and disappointment inherent in
Burn's remarks in a more positive way -because presumably they
apply to conspirators just as much as they apply to well
Is this then an excuse for complacency?
I believe not, because there are ways of developing complex
systems, like a society or a computer programme, in ways that
allow for unexpected things to happen without destroying the whole
One of these "techniques" can be called "Environmental
programming" -and is a logical consequence of Darwin's "Survival
of the fittest". It is important to note in this context that
"fittest" does not mean the biggest, the strongest or even the
healthiest -it means the ones most adapted to "fit in" with the
environment. If the environment changes then the dominant species
will also have to change in order to fit in with the new
Under normal circumstances, trying to change people's behaviour is
very difficult: People know what they know and they believe what
they believe. Trying to persuade them differently is a tricky job
at the best of times -but change their environment and they will
be forced to adapt. No need to re-programme them -because they
will need to re-programme themselves -if they wish to survive in
the new environment.
So what kinds of "changes" and how might some these work in
Apparently makes ancient knowledge useless -so one can prevent the
youth from learning from the experience of their elders -so one
can easilly exploit their energy, enthusiasm and ambition.
Ghettoisation of the Audience:
By segregating people they are unable to communicate with others
who might think differently. By segregating the market one
provides everybody with (more or less) what they think they want
without bothering them with alternatives, by segregating the
audience one can hold their attention and not distract them with
potential conflicts with other viewpoints.
Truth, Lies and half-truths:
A downright lie is often easy to discover, but a half-truth often
takes a lot of effort to separate out the truth from the lie. It
generally takes a lot of careful fact-finding and a close reading
of the small letters. Something which most poeple often have not
the time, energy or inclination to do.
Feed people misleading or even irrelvant half-truths and the
resulting confusion will probably keep them distracted long enough
to prevent them understanding what is happening until it is too
late. Read any modern "thriller" to see how this principle can be
applied (at least within the realms of fiction).
Give someone enough rope and they will hang themselves, it has
been said. In other words, it is a very clever person who, when
given enough freedom will not get themselves into trouble. Put
enough temptations in people's paths and they are unlikely to
resist for ever. We are, after all human -and humans often fail
because they succumb to their weaknesses.
Freedom and Equality:
De Toqueville (title) seems a little wary of the practical effects
of "equality" -although intellectually, he seems to approve of the
If two people are clearly unequal opponents (perhaps one is
richer, healthier, better educated or stronger than the other)
then is it "fair" to pit them against each other in an "equal"
contest? (Philippine and hawaiian "parity laws" -WTO rules. etc.)
If a person has no idea of where to go or what to do -then is it
"honest" to give them the "freedom" to go where they will or do
whatever they wish?
Is it possible that the myth of "equality" (the level playing
field) is actually a tool which allows the bully to beat up a
weaker victim with impunity -simply becuase of the pretence of
"equality"? Is it possible that the myth of "freedom" is actually
a tool of oppression because those who agressively pursue their
ends can easilly push aside those who still have to formulate