Error 87 and other contemporary myths on life without facts

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					                                    Love can be many things, and there are          We can bypass the rationality of thinking
                                    many dangers. Holding hands may not be          or feeling and operate on impulse or
                                    love all the time, but a picture of George      emotion—but more of that later.
                                    W Bush hand-in-hand with a Saudi prince
                                                                                    It’s clear, in any case, that in this techno-
                                    caused some consternation recently. Per-
                                                                                    logical age, communication is a byword.
                                    haps the US President is expected to model
                                                                                    Mobile phones, iPods, laptops and the like
                                    a more circumscribed, tougher view of life.
                                                                                    foster impressions of ceaseless activity and
                                    While this behaviour is culturally approp-      exchange of ideas, or words and images,
                                    riate in the Middle East (much as express-      at any rate. Advertisements encourage the
                                    ing laughter, but meaning disapproval, in       successful business person to be plugged
                                    an Asian courtroom; or the disapproval of       in or otherwise connected in taxis, patios
                                    emotion in courtrooms just about every-         and aeroplanes.
                                    where), hearing about these things on the
                                                                                    Somewhat curiously, Australians are now
                                    radio might be fraught with danger, as far
                                                                                    lauded as hard workers, whereas a decade
                                    as understanding goes, at least.
                                                                                    ago we were excoriated for sloth. So far,
                                    Not everyone has that aim, of course, for       no-one has sought to explain this apparent
                                    a variety of reasons. The same can be said      contradiction, nor to suggest that working
                                    of the visual media, particularly in this age   hard might not be a good idea in terms of
                                    of ‘celebrity’: a title that one can acquire    real productivity, as criteria other than long
                                    pretty quickly these days, irrespective of      hours and sweat come into play there.
                                    other characteristics.
                                                                                    We are also considered the Lucky Country
                                    One of the curiosities in the reporting of      and the Clever Country, notwithstanding
                                    the last days of the arch-celebrity Pope        the sardonic origins of the former, and the
                                    John Paul II was the differing levels of        introduction of the latter as something for
                                    knowledge of what the Pontiff and his           Australians to aspire to, not something we
                                    organisation actually do, and what they         might already be.
                                    believe in. This resulted in some uneasy
                                                                                    With regard to these labels and their real
                                    on-camera moments for some reporters,
                                                                                    meanings, perhaps that’s where the phil-
                                    clearly sent to Rome with no knowledge
                                                                                    osopher Harry Frankfurt comes in (2005).
                                    or ability other than standing in front of
                                                                                    Bullshit may be the opium of the day, an
                                    historical landmarks. Their information
                                                                                    obfuscatory practice that treats all inform-
                                    was limited, and sometimes inaccurate.
                                                                                    ation the same, in that it’s only useful to
                                    Information does not necessarily lead to        defend your turf.
                                    facts, or to truth for that matter. And facts
                                                                                    The scandal concerning the practices of
                                    are not necessarily of interest—not even
                                                                                    the surgeon Jayant Patel at Bundaberg
                                    for sensing types—unless they fit with
                                                                                    Hospital appears replete with collusion and
                                    conscious experience. For intuitives, well,
Peter Geyer (INTP) researches and                                                   avoidance, and even denial of facts, from
                                    there’s the vision.
teaches personality from an MBTI                                                    people presenting as STJs, from what I’ve
and Jungian perspective.            Knowledge and development overlap these         read. Of course, if conventional behaviour
                                    approaches. For information to make sense       is to obscure and hide, and even to bullshit,
                                    there has to be a context in which the facts    then other principles such as responsibility
                                    are recognised and decisions can be made.       and duty can go by the wayside.
For some people, idleness appeals more          Perhaps it’s also like being on the phone,
than productivity or running around being       or at the airport, particularly the latter, when
active (Hodgkinson, 2004). Whatever one         a disembodied voice thanks you for your
might think of that (and Tom Hodgkinson         patience. This statement seems to magic-
points to the moral opprobrium heaped on        ally absolve the organisation concerned
idlers of various sorts over the past two       from meeting basic standards of efficiency,
centuries or so), a non-idle world is with-     fixing the problem quickly, or providing
out reflection and contemplation. Action        some sort of meaningful assistance to
without ideas seems rather meaningless to       customers or clients.
me, and I would think it unhelpful in gen-
                                                Implicit in this sort of thing is the presump-
eral. But there are other views.
                                                tion that one listens and accepts what has
The 24/7 world conjured up by technology        been said, and doesn’t look for facts, or
also has its leakages. Recently, commun-        principles. One opinion might be as good
ication between my iMac and hp printer          as another, something that would confuse
was halted by something called Error 87,        both Isabel Briggs Myers and C G Jung
the provenance of which was unknown to          were they around today, as both showed
both my available information and the           an intense interest in facts, expressing that
mysterious call centre I had to contact in      interest in their writing and work.
Bangalore, India, in order to get help.
                                                Asking for evidence seems a vexed quest-
I rang up the genial men and women of           ion these days, and it’s easy to get into
Bangalore several times over an afternoon,      trouble. The recent re-ascent of Gallipoli
providing opportunities for them to practise    as a defining myth for Australian identity
their English and discover differences in       is a case in point. Participants in this mili-
cultural etiquette. Regrettably, the various    tary event are now presumed to have fought
bits of advice I received failed (essentially   for altruistic and noble reasons such as lib-
the same advice recycled), until one call       erty, rather than for the reality of Empire,
after 6pm provided the unwelcome news           much as Australians did in the Boer War.
that the centre was only available between
                                                You can check this out by taking a cruise
8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, as was
                                                along country roads to seek out memorials
the online help. All this seemed incompat-
                                                to the Boer War and the Great War, even
ible with hp corporate vision as expressed
                                                of Gordon at Khartoum, and read what they
in their advertising.
                                                say. This is not to deny notions of military
My problem was mysteriously solved just         bravery pro patria sua—simply that the
by being out of the office, as the printer      reasons for being brave, or simply serving
functioned perfectly a few days later. But      in the armed forces at that time, are different
I’m none the wiser; there seems to be no        from what is currently expressed. They
list of errors and their descriptions, which    are consistent, though, with what has been
seems strange to me. You see them on your       said by centenarians and others who were
computer quite regularly. Some have four        veterans of these long-ago events.
numbers, so there must be a lot of them.
                                                In purveying the modern myth (sometimes
You’d think that if the system identified
                                                celebrated complete with music video
an error, it might be able to describe it in
                                                entertainment), excursions to history texts
some way, and a solution would follow.
                                                to discover facts are necessarily avoided.
But the best recommendation I had was to        In popular English history, the myth of
‘Google it’ and hope someone else had the       Charles II as the ‘Merry Monarch’ con-
same problem and had solved it. I found         tinues, notwithstanding the reality of a
someone with the same problem—but no            cunning and devious man not wishing to
solution. I can’t believe that a major ind-     go on his travels again, as he had been
ustry has the temerity to leave people in       forced to following the execution of his
the lurch in this way. It seems unprofess-      father (Harris 2005).
ional, but maybe it’s all about money, or
something more arcane.
The saga of Dan Brown and The Da Vinci         sumption that we mean well, for instance,
Code is similar in some ways. A ripping        and that we are a generous nation. All that
yarn takes on such plausibility to the un-     can be true, but just as true is the brutality   !               "       # $%                                                                                 &
                                                                                                        '                 ( )                                  *                        +,
wary, or to those unable to distinguish        expressed at various times and places; the
                                                                                                        %                                    !                -
between a tale and reality, that it has the    ‘compliance’ and detention associated with                                                                                      )
form of fact. And it’s not easily disabused,   immigration; and the varying perspectives                ! & ! . /0
even when the experts and proponents are       on aboriginal people from pioneering days,       )               !                                $)
examined closely (Robinson, 2005).             from ‘pests’ to valuing their hard work
                                               (Waterhouse 2005). Much of what is true                                                                /1 2                 34 4 1 3 +5 /
To be fair, it was a seductive tale when I
                                               has been wrong, or unacceptable, but it’s        6           7                                $7
read in the area decades ago, and there’s
                                               no less true for that.                                                                             89                   34 4 1 /+3
something appealing to the unconscious                                                          :           ;                       $2                                                   )
about the mythical.                            But some seem to want to have it one way,                                    2                         2
                                               and argue we can withdraw our favours                                                                                                /0 0 1
The American interest in Marlo Morgan’s
                                               when we feel spurned, or express moral           *       6       $*                                                                        2
Mutant Message Down Under (1994) a
                                               outrage at the notion that Australians might              2                                                                             11 < 9
decade ago is apposite here, a story con-                                                                34 4 1 84 +81
                                               be drug smugglers. Yet history over several
cocted on the idea of mystical aborigines,
                                               decades at least, shows that Australians         *       6                                                                                        =
a variant on the noble savage theme pop-                                                                6                       6                                  34 4 8
                                               are over-represented in this activity, often
ularised by Rousseau in the 18th Century
                                               engaging in it for a lark without care for       )               > 2 !
(Geyer 1995). I met several Americans in                                                                                                                       ?                         6                   @
                                               consequences, which seems part of the
the type community who wanted the story                                                                 %               /0 3
                                               Australian mythos, no matter how repre-
to be true, and were disappointed when                                                          )               > 2 !                                                              !
                                               hensible it might be to some (McCoy 1980).
informed it was not.                                                                                                                                                                         ?
                                                                                                        6                   @ %                               /0 4
                                               Historically, too, Australians have been
One of the reasons stories like Brown’s
                                               world leaders in the consumption of drugs        2           2                            "
become popular is that, although we may                                                                                     6                         :                            /0 0 1
                                               in general, from the early days of the gen-
know the names of some of the people                                                            *           %                                                                  #
                                               eral availability of heroin a century ago,
involved (Jesus, Mary Magdalene, etc), we                                                               )"! *A                                                     30 2                              1 9
                                               to analgesics, like the now faded cultural
know very little about their stories at all.                                                            34 4 1 >                                          *         &                  34 4 1
                                               icon Bex, but more particularly aspirin,
It’s a version of public/private: we know                                                       %                   >
                                               paracetamol and the like.
them; there’s not much on record about
                                                                                                                               7                                           !                 B           &
them; we don’t know them. And so that          Alison Cameron recently reported on the                  "                   34 4 1
makes speculation all the more easy. You       use of such drugs by some Australian
have to know something about history, and      mothers to placate or otherwise control          C                       !                         9                    :                             ;
perhaps theology in Brown’s case, in order     their children. Perhaps it’s done in order                   &
to query the romance, as it were, and risk     to avoid engaging with them as human                 &
being identified as a killjoy.                 beings, but who knows? But it fits neatly                                        "                                                                        &
                                               into a lengthy documented pattern of                                                                                &
The search for an Australian identity is an
                                               Australian behaviour, as consistent as
ongoing process, helped and hindered by
                                               success at sport and other endeavours.
a general lack of knowledge and informat-
ion about the facts surrounding Australian
                                               In the end, perhaps it’s better to see things
history, and the paradoxes inherent in hav-
                                               as tensions between opposites. Whether
ing key players, at one and the same time,
                                               you are nominally after the facts or the
hero as well as villain. Fairly normal in
                                               vision, searching out facts is hard work.
some sense, but there seems a tendency to
                                               And the facts may not fit your logical or
go for one or the other, rather than recog-
                                               personal perspective—or mine, for that
nising both as part of the whole. We have
to take Mr Hyde along with Dr Jekyll;
Redmond Barry and also Ned Kelly. ‘Un-         But it’s a challenge that’s necessary in order
Australian’ has to be jettisoned in terms      to understand the presentation of inform-
of ‘what kind of Australian’                   ation in our time, and the emotions that
                                               often accompany it, like a cloud from the
Without that perspective there is only a
naiveté, an unconsciousness even, about
the complexity of Australians—the pre-         Something like Error 87, really.

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