My mind, bless it, loves a jamboree of ideas.
And so it came to pass that in just one busy online morning this week it was stimulated first by a conspiracy theory about sunflowers, then by the suggestion that we all have a shadow person living inside us. Then came a top philosopher's opinion that our outspoken political idealism and decency may ironically get us exactly the kinds of cruel and amoral governments we despise.
I'll dwell on the third and last and least frivolous of those ideas in a moment.
But first to the sunflowers. In this federal capital city this has been, for gardeners, somehow the best summer/early autumn for sunflowers in living, horticultural memory.
But wait! Isn't there something, something suspicious about sunflowers?
In a new New Yorker piece, a conspiracy theorist looks at our flower arrangements and of a vase of sunflowers accuses, plausibly, "What so-called 'flower' grows up to 14 feet tall and cranes its neck to eavesdrop on you? Sunflowers are listening devices developed ... by the C.I.A. #Spyflowers."
For The Atlantic the ever-creative James Parker contributes An Ode To The Left Hand.
"Righty or lefty, you know that if you lead with your nondominant hand, whether you're brushing your teeth or dismantling an unexploded bomb, the clichés of maladroitness will swarm you: the fists of ham, the fingers of butter, the multiplicity of thumbs.
"Why this built-in asymmetry, this out-of-whack distribution of motor skills? The psychology, it seems to me, is pretty straightforward. It goes like this: Inside your nervous system lives a shadow person, a shadow you, shy and clumsy. An underachiever who would very much like to be left alone. And you get in touch with this person, immediately and directly, by using your weaker hand."
And so to today's third idea, a worry for those of us who are politically-idealistically leftish, our (bleeding) hearts always on our sleeves.
Thought-stoking Australian philosopher Peter Singer has just been interviewed by The New Yorker. Interviewer Daniel Gross confessed he had been startled to hear Singer say on a recent podcast that we might have a moral imperative not to open borders to foreign migrants and refugees because doing so can lead to the kind of backlash that puts the likes of Donald Trump in power.
"It is a very surprising way of looking at it [migrants/borders issues]," Gross gasps.
"I don't think you should find it surprising, given that I'm a consequentialist," Singer replies.
"In an ideal world, we would have open borders ... enabling refugees to escape situations of oppression and genocide."
But, the Aussie consequentialist diagnoses, he's seen in the USA, in the EU and in Australia, the bad political consequences of being pro open borders. In Australia Labor used to argue we should accept all the so-called boat people. Conservatives exploited and still exploit this, scaremongering that under Labor Australia we would be swamped by foreigners. This 'stop the boats' anti-Labor scaremongering has cost Labor office. Meanwhile conservative governments, empowered, as well as closing borders and imprisoning refugees in terrible camps, have been awful governments per se, doing nothing about climate change, running down hospitals and schools and universities.
"It's a difficult standard to hold oneself to - that you can't advocate for positions that your political opponents might use against you," interviewer Gross grumbles and marvels.
"I'm a great believer in freedom of speech and freedom of expression," Singer rejoins.
"But I also don't want a progressive party to throw away its chances of governing by embracing ideas that clearly are rejected by the electorate.
In the interview, Singer insists we have to change hearts and minds first, and only then change policy. We mustn't expect policy to do the work of convincing people.
Singer reminds that "Jeremy Bentham, before the 1832 Reform Act was passed in Britain, argued for extending the vote to all men. And he wrote to his colleagues that he would have included women in that statement, except that it would be ridiculed, and, therefore, he would lose the chance of getting [even] universal male suffrage. So he was aware of exactly this kind of argument."
Readers! What ramifications, here, for all of us progressives in politics and the commentariat who seek restlessly to educate, enlighten and arouse the ultra-conservative Australian people! Is our earnest evangelising doing more harm than good, even lubricating the slither into power of the very sorts of reptilian governments that make our flesh creep?