23 May 2010

"Yarr, Compass points Nor'-Nor'-East Cap'n!"

"Now north, now south, now east, now west,
The wavering point was shaken,
'Twas past the whole philosophy
Of Newton, or of Bacon;
Never by compass, till that hour,
Such latitudes were taken!"
~ Thomas Hood, From The Compass, With Variations

My declared intention on Thursday was to write some more involved comment on Amnesty's International's legal conflict with the Scottish Government of the legality of the Strathclyde Taser pilot. I anticipated tthat his would appear on Friday. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to obtain the relevant documents - including the whole text of Aidan O'Neill QC's opinion - until Friday morning and then the usual tyrannical hobgoblins of work dragged me back to the duties of my day job. At any rate, I have now accumulated the relevant bits and pieces of text. (Thanks for your gracious assistance, by the by, are owed both to Amnesty's Scottish office and the ever-estimable James of Two Doctors). The promised blawg on Tasers should slip free of the treacly inhibitions of delay and manifest here at the beginning of next week.

One point I've also discussed before is how often blogging begins in media res. Many citizen commentators have particular affiliations that allow us to allocate them to a particular groups, your Labour activist, Tory boy, SNP sympathiser, Liberal Democrat member and whatnot. These affiliations may imply general features of these authors' political beliefs, allowing us - as readers - to predict somewhat that their  principles  they will be committed to, what partisan tribes they've joined, and hence, what their response to the political subjects of the day will be. Categorisation in this way can be a great comfort, a great compressor of diverse complexities into a word or two that condenses multiplicities into workmanlike categories of understanding. It can also lead to befuddling confusions, if we don't narrow our eyes and strive to understand the judgements underlying the polemic. Starting in the middle of things frequently leaves these judgements deferred. As a result, as Malcolm Harvey has repeated discovered (to his sometime mortification), folk can acquire the queerest ideas of where you stand on the political spectrum and who you stand beside. 

It never seems appropriate to draft a post entitled My first principles, from which all subsequent postings shall be derived. This pervasive source of uncertainty in blogging - and reading blogs - was brought back to my mind earlier when I noticed that  Subrosa has been orientating her x values against her y values on the Political Compass. Although not an unproblematic mapping device, the Compass is a fun way of reflecting on our positions and where we sit in the relational field of opinion, when everyone is asked the same questions. To save you the tedium of my First Principles chapter, in the interests of disclosure, here is where the Political Compass places me on the political grid. Thereafter, I've also appended where the Compass folk placed the UK parties in the  late 2010 Westminster General Election.

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