2 wks ago I had an amazing weekend in Bratislava thanks to my friend, Rado Bonk, a Slovakian who acted as my guide. The main objective was to go to a festival of traditional Carpathian dancing and music.
Rado was most interested in the dance and I was most interested in learning from the musicians. The most amazing part for me was watching an incredible gypsy band play.
Click here to watch them. Stick around till the end of the movie and watch the bass player. (If anyone has any tips on how to put this kind of AVI on the web without paying money for software but still in some sort of compressed and common format, please let me know). I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It sounds a bit messy in the recording but when you were there it didn’t sound messy at all.
The band is called something like Sugo, which is the name of the older guy. The older guy is the father of the bass player and the leftmost violin player. The guy next to the bass player is playing viola. 2 of them are playing with a string which I gave them (my claim to fame).
It was also a new experience to sleep what remained of the night (we got back at 3.45 am and left at 6.45) in a genuine ex-communist appartment block, which Rado had the keys to.

Individual responsibility and the public good problem

I’m interested what other people think of this letter (below) from New Scientist. I’ve always subscribed to the “a 1000 mile journey starts with the first step” philosophy of personal ethics and social responsibility. In terms of social change, this means that social responsibility for the billions starts with social responsibility for one. How can the whole world change their behaviour if no one individual does? Also a change made by millions cannot happen without millions of individuals like me changing their minds. It’s also inevitable that the initial conditions will be such that a few people have to change their minds without knowing that all the others are going to follow suit. That is unless there were some “prisoner’s choice 2.0 ” type protocol for making collective decisions without taking responsibility first (that paper is really fascinating).
But on the other hand often one knows damn well that the other million aren’t going to follow and just thinks – well what the heck I’ll keep doing xyz ‘cos the others are never going to give a damn. Maybe the key point is that one never knows how one person’s behaviour is going to influence others. I’ve often observed how one person changing their behaviour can have amazing ripple effects. Comments please.

Here’s the letter

Dave Reay makes the oft-repeated assertion that “saving the planet starts at home”. But it is illogical to “multiply up” decisions about one’s personal lifestyle to the population as a whole, unless there is evidence that your choices really will influence others. Otherwise, it’s a question of 10 steps to feeling smug.
The vast majority of people are either unaware of or apathetic about the threat posed by climate change. Those seriously concerned represent a small minority. Any small reduction in emissions that this minority may achieve will probably be negated by market feedback and/or used as an excuse for inaction by politicians.
True, some of the actions suggested – install low-energy light bulbs, cycle to work, compost food waste – make good sense anyway. But then it’s superfluous to invoke the environment as a reason for doing them. Others – turn down the heating in the middle of winter, drive more slowly, make sub-optimal transport choices – are forms of self-punishment that have no chance of ever being adopted by the unconcerned majority.
To have any significant impact on environmental problems, the concerned minority must take public, not private, action to change attitudes and behaviour. Riding your bike or installing roof-mounted solar panels, for instance, are public acts. They are seen and may even be imitated by others, albeit mainly at a local level.
But in the end, climate change is a global problem resulting from the unchecked growth of the fossil-fuel economy. Effective action against it must mean somehow transforming – or disrupting – the global economy.