Another rant

Last Saturday I posted a very brief comparison between the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the industrial accident at Bhopal.

Against my expectations (this had never happened with similar rants before), this generated a lot of traffic. Monday was the second busiest day ever for my blog, and many of the visitors read this item.

This saddens me in two ways. Firstly, it is something about which I have no special knowledge; I am just a lay person. I am gratified when people read and engage with posts about things where I do have some specialist knowledge. I was delighted at the responses to the “Tuesday boy” posting, for example. Probability is an important topic which, arguably, is involved with the recent economic collapse (as banks and others used software for stochastic differential equations in situations well outside the assumptions behind these models), and it is important that we understand what we are doing. If I can contribute to this, I will try to do so. But nobody should take my views on anything else too seriously.

(I hope this doesn’t sound as if I am apologising for that posting, or withdrawing it.)

Secondly, some of the people who have commented (and, I fear, some of those who haven’t) have descended to details, in a way which is maybe not supported by the original post. I am sad about the fact that we live in a “blame culture”: if something bad happens to you, find somebody to blame, and sue them until the pips squeak. (And, if you can’t find someone to sue, then you are written off as a failure in the game of life.) But my purpose was not to argue over who is to blame. I would feel more comfortable in a culture where people took responsibility for their actions. In the current case, this means (among many other things) the whole world tempering its thirst for oil, whose production and consumption are both so damaging to this planet of ours.

A few weeks ago, in Bertinoro, Italy, I saw a poster giving Mahatma Gandhi’s “Seven Capital Sins”. They are:

  • Politics without principles
  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice

None of these is exactly my point; the third perhaps comes closest. But I think that they all, without exception, condemn lack of responsibility.

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About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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