Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Why is consistency a virtue?
A television programme must repeat the same elements it displayed last week in order to continue to be watched.
The supermarket requires all vegetables to conform to a consistent pattern.
The laws under which we live must be the same everywhere.
The decision of Judge B must be consistent with the decision of Judge A.
The untruths a politician told today must be consistent with the untruths he told yesterday. He can lie as much as he likes so long as he is consistent.
If Gravity or the other laws of nature were not themselves consistent then life would be impossible.
But life is not impossible without the same TV programme being shown endlessly, the same tomato being eaten again and again. Perpetrators of graffiti getting locked up in Surrey and it counting towards their GCSE coursework in London is inconsistent but not impossible and not undesirable. A politician occasionally telling the truth would be a novelty. No they are not unfairly criticised they are all, every last man jack of them consistent liars.
When I was about 7 I noticed at election times all the Labour and Conservative posters and the occasional Liberal poster. I asked my mother what it was all about.
She said; "Labour stand for the poor and the Conservatives stand for the rich - the Liberals dont stand for anything - your father votes Liberal"


Kara Alison said...

Good question there. Physical law allows us to make sense of our environment so that we may interact with it. Similarly, we prefer consistency (even when it is not a necessity) in other parts of our lives so that we can form routines and make sense of other people. If our television and tomatoes weren't somewhat routine then we'd have to invest a lot more effort and concentration each time we wanted to leave our homes.

I'm not saying that this is good or bad. I'm just saying that we need to be able to make rules (i.e. sitcoms are funny, women like chocolate) so that we can make sense of the world. Otherwise, it would be an entirely different world every day.

MacDuff said...

Physical laws do keep the world stable but they don’t impose the standard tomato or repeat prescription TV or the idea of making legal judgements in exactly the same way every time. These are impositions by men which make everything and everywhere tend towards sameness. I suppose we do need to fix our own template on the world to make sense of it and I am objecting to the consensus.
Kara is your blog now respectable again ? Can I call in without embarrassment ?
Caerphilly left me the following as a comment earlier on.
De Gaulle and Mme. dG were in Britain and were asked what they valued most. Mme. de Gaulle instantly replied 'a penis'. There was a frosty silence before the general coughed and said, ' my dear the word is pronounced 'appiness'. Boom boom

Brownie said...

I'm not sure that consistency is a virtue, but it certainly seems to make people happier. Well, maybe not happier, rather, it makes life easier. Imagine for a moment that every apple had a completely different appearance from every other apple in the world. If our neurons had to create a new chemical pathway for every apple we ever saw, so that we could recognize it as indeed an apple, then multiply that by the number of different things there are in the world, assuming that each of them is inconsistently shaped, formed, etc, just as our apples are, then our brians would have to be the size of pickup trucks. (If all pickup trucks are approxiamatley the same size).

What the heck am I talking about?
People need consistency to survive in the world, given our relatively small, underdeveloped and underutilized brains.

It's just that TV executives brians are smaller than everyone else's and they don't realize that if the show is on the same time every week and is called by the same title every week then that is sufficiently consistent for 99% of the audience. The fact that they keep re-telling the same jokes or stories week after week...that's just something we'll have to put up with. After all, they're handicapped.