All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Blaming the Messenger

Spiked Online are at it again, jumping at the chance to blame common atrocities on the spectre of green fascists. To the likes of Frank Füredi and Brendan O'Neill a green fascist is anyone who doesn't believe in their technocratic vision of unlimited human and material growth, if indeed they believe their own propaganda. More is always better and anyone who says otherwise opposes progress.

A couple of weeks ago a school shooting in the Finnish town of Jokela captured the imagination of the European and North American media. A loner with the Internet pseudonym of NaturalSelector89 who had published a gun-toting video on YouTube, advocating the culling of much of the world's population, shot dead six fellow students and then completed his cleansing of the human race by turning on himself.

Although the importance of school shootings pales numerically in comparison with the slaughter taking place in countries ravaged by foreign occupation and civil wars, they form a regular part of a media spectacle obsessed with violence. Over the last few weeks the British popular media has entertained the gullible public with the latest on the murder of a female English student in Perugia, revelations of sex fiend responsible for the murder of Vicky Hamilton over 16 years ago, more on the Madeleine McCann story and, if that did not sate the appetite of necrophiles, the copycat accidental throat slitting during a sex game by the daughter of a wealthy businessman, now two-timing as a New Labour MP. Once you've consumed the appalling tales of shock and horror violence in the tabloid press, you can switch on the telly or game console and consume yet more, always portrayed as the acts of psychopathic individuals or justified revenge by their victims or their saviours. Indeed the two genres of media violence are often interpolated with ads for violence-themed movies alongside news stories and gory titbits of domestic news in the break between segments of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Whoever may be directly responsible for these atrocious acts, the media guides us subtly to the conclusion that we need to grant the state even more control over our lives. If Madeleine McCann had had an RFID chip implant, we might know her whereabouts by now, and if a CCTV camera had been installed in her bedroom we would have video footage of her abductor or killer. So why not go ahead and implant RFID chips in all children and CCTV cameras in all bedrooms. Honestly, it will not be long before child abuse awareness raisers make such absurd calls. Without thinking some of us are letting the authorities turn this country into a police state way beyond George Orwell's wildest imagination, all because law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from a freedom-and-democracy-loving establishment. Yet the very same establishment that purportedly wants to protect us against psychopaths also promotes a lifestyle that breeds insanity and extreme disillusionment. Few of us can meet the high expectations set by a combination of the mass media and peer pressure. 'I must have a Wii gadget because I'll be the only person in my class without one and if you don't buy one you're a child abuser'. We can hardly claim that many Europeans lack the financial means to acquire essentials like food, water and shelter. Indeed malnutrition nearly always takes the form of eating disorders amid an abundance of readily available junk food and anorexic supermodels.

I can think of many problems that afflict today's youth, but somehow over-intellectualisation is not one of them. This should not come as a surprise to the author of 'Where have all the intellectuals gone?' and the founding father LM Mag group, Frank Füredi. Most youngsters are either too immersed in pop culture or wrapped up in their own personal issues to worry about the wider world. I don't see green fascists roaming the streets at night mugging innocent pedestrians or developing 3D simulations of a depopulation campaign to save mother nature from the curse of humanity. Instead, I see disenchanted youths joining gangs in inner-city ghettos and millions more alienated youths totally enraptured by virtual reenactments of fighting. One buys a 40-inch plasma screen in order to view gory scenes in their true glory, not apparently to view a documentary on climate change.

As Paul Flynn, one of the few critically thinking Labour MPs left, notes in his blog 'No British coverage I read mentioned anti-depressants, yet that have been a factor in 28 school shootings and stand-offs including the killing of 10 students in Columbine and 5 in Minnesota . The website has published the full lists.'

Now let us just briefly ponder on Brendan O'Neill's thesis. He claims that Pekka Erik Auvinen was somehow inspired by Finnish fisherman and ecofascist intellectual Pentti Linkola. The extreme pessimism and politically incorrect support for eugenics and authoritarian rule to bring the population down to more manageable numbers suits the arguments of technocratic polemicists fine. Pentti honestly believes humanity is doomed unless we urgently cull most of the world's human masses, but we should at least distinguish warnings from extreme reactions.

Tale of the Titanic

Consider the infamous Titanic ocean liner as a metaphor for planet Earth. The ship has a revolutionary new unbreakable hull and is heading full steam ahead for iceberg-infested water just to the south of Greenland. Like the global population, the ship contains a huge economic disparity of passengers, some occupying the upper decks with luxury cabins, private bathrooms, dance halls and room service. Others occupying the lower decks packed like sardines. As nobody expected the unsinkable ship to go down, lifeboats could only save a small minority of passengers. As it happened they did not even suffice to save all the first-class passengers let alone those in the lower decks.

Now, what would you have done if you had spotted the infamous iceberg in time? In hindsight, most humane people would have done everything possible to alert the crew so they steer the ship clear of the iceberg and alerted as many passengers as possible so we could make the best use of available resources to save as many people as possible. So what would the position of the Spiked sect be? In a nutshell, don't panic! Place your trust in the wonders of human technology and enjoy the cruise. Those who claim the ship will sink and kill off 90% of the ship's passengers are misanthropic green fascists. Now the likes of Pentti Linkola, a rare specimen indeed, might advocate shedding excess passengers even before we hit the iceberg and might not attempt to steer the ship clear of the near-certain calamity, but most environmental realists would accept the harsh truth that we'd better adapt in time or face high excess death rates. If I advise you not to cross a busy motorway on foot because you might die, that's a warning. But if I drive my car at 70mph (112kmh) through a quiet village and run you over, that's called murder. Whichever way, Pentti Linkola's musings represent the mind of melancholic cynicism that can appeal to alienated individuals with an axe to grind. If you are bullied at school and treated as an outcast, you can hardly be expected to have a very optimistic view of humanity, a subject to which I'll return in my next piece 'Is another World Possible'. But let's be clear Pekka acted as a paranoid pushing innocent passengers off the upper decks of the Titanic long before the ship had approached icy waters. The analogy might not be perfect, but we still have time to avert disaster and the likes of Pekka and those killed by his deranged shooting fell victim to technocratic means of mind control.

Population Pessimists

You see the position of population pessimists, as we call the likes of Paul Ehrlich is quite simple to summarise. Human population took thousands of years to climb gradually with ups and downs, from a few hundred million (estimates for global population circa 0 AD average around 300 million) to 700 million at the dawn of the industrial revolution. It then took another 150 years through famines and widespread ethnic cleansing in the epoch of colonial expansion, to climb to around 1.2 billion, circa 1890. All subsequent growth in little more than a century can be attributed to the petroleum revolution that significantly boosted agricultural yields and enabled regional specialisation through global distribution. So if this age is about to come to an end for hard scientific reasons, we may be in dire straits and thus need to adapt to lower aggregate consumption, an equation with two main variables per capita consumption and human population. Does that mean killing surplus people? No because if the pessimists are right, nature will take care of all human culling measures required to restabilise the ecosystem. The pessimists are merely predicting disaster. It's up to us to apply centuries of collective experience to avert this disaster or, at least, minimise the catastrophic consequences. Death and destruction are precisely what we want to avoid, but as I've pointed out in many other articles, will happen on a much greater scale if we fail to readapt to a post-petroleum age by consuming less and planning smaller, but viable and cohesive, families. So what if the population pessimists are wrong and, as the 1999 Channel 4 documentary, Against Nature, claimed the earth can genuinely support 32 billion human beings all with private motor vehicles, fridges and washing machines? What if hidden somewhere below the earth's crust are trillions of cubic metres of abiotic oil and we will soon develop the technology to tame Mars's environment? Well in that unlikely scenario, we still have plenty of time to grow and fill the void. It's planning for continued growth that so drastically wrong.

Upside-Down Thinking

In my humble opinion neither the extreme pessimists, those who claim the earth can support only a few hundred million, nor the extreme optimists, those who claim we can happily embrace billions more human beings into our mass-consumer lifestyle, are right. Personally, I'd rather see a significantly lower consumption in the opulent world than significantly higher mortality through disease and starvation in the poor world. I kind of think on a purely pragmatic level we need to set priorities. We are already so interdependent that a prolonged power outage in a large city like London could kill thousands within days. Hospitals would shut and soon run out of supplies for emergency generators, refrigerated goods would rot, supermarkets would shut as would most places of work and education. Water pumps would fail and all supplies of bottled water would run out within hours. The whole place would grind to a halt and millions unable to flee. Indeed a tragedy could only be averted if other large organisations intervened promptly with a huge expenditure of resources. Just consider the fate of New Orleans in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina in times of plenty. The first victims are always the urban poor. If the United States can spend upwards of 400 billion bucks on invading and occupying Iraq, surely it could have devoted a small fraction of the quantity to saving its own citizens in its own territory? Apparently not, US multinationals need more oil to continue their addiction to economic growth at all costs. They don't really need 10,000 poor Louisianans as there are plenty more potential consumers and workers elsewhere. Their disappearance can be written off as unfortunate collateral damage of natural events beyond our control and possibly bad planning. You see as the human population becomes less sustainable, individual citizens become more expendable. Conversely, the more sustainable the economy is in the long term, the more valuable its citizens. This is why the blind optimism of perpetual growthers relies so much on upside-down thinking. If, like me, you loathe the prospect of mass famines, internecine warfare, an encroaching police state and widening rich-poor gap, you'd favour powering down, consuming less per capita and stabilising population by lowering the birth rate. If, however, you don't care, are too concerned about your private high consumption lifestyle, taking cheap flights and one car per adult for granted, and would rather buy into the notion that a finite planet can support unlimited growth, then expect the worst. But high-profile pseudo-intellectuals like Brendan O'Neill should know better. They know green activists abhor violence and the multibillion pound mass entertainment business is controlled by a tiny elite wielding enormous power over consumers. While Brendan O'Neill probably reads the Guardian and Independent and pretends to see elements of fascism in the likes of George Monbiot (in reality a very conformist moderate), the masses consume a diet of the Sun, Sky TV, Ryanair and online gambling with plenty of boozing and video-gaming opportunities. Indeed the very unintellectual masses are deluged daily with Shop-Until-You-Drop propaganda, so much so that UK consumer debt has reached 1.3 trillion pounds. Are we seriously to pretend that Rupert Murdoch, a key supporter of Thatcher, Blair, GW Bush and Howard as well as the tyrannical Chinese regime, has the best interests of ordinary working people at heart. Yet it is in his media outlets that we hear the most outspoken Growth at any Price propaganda. Has Spiked Online offered Jeremy Clarkson a column yet? Your average gas-guzzling motorist doesn't want to personally kill innocent Iraqis, Iranians or Venezuelans, but is perfectly prepared to believe a warped version of reality, in which they are victims of evil dictators whom our benevolent leaders have always opposed. Europeans driving across the wilds of Tanzania in their 4x4 Landrovers may wish car-less African villagers all the best, but are seldom prepared to admit that their lifestyle relies on resources that others are denied. Africa in the early 21st century has become a battleground between Chinese, European and Anglo-American energy and commodity corporations.

Remember when you could smoke on the London Underground?

The first time I travelled on the London underground, sometime in the mid 70s, passengers smoked nonchalantly. This was just before separate smoking and non-smoking cars had been introduced and would be unthinkable today for two reasons. First, because the non-smoking majority no longer tolerates tobacco pollution, but more to the point, because attempting to light up on most tube lines anytime between 7:30 and 9:00am could very easily ignite other passengers as the mean gap between standing persons is seldom more than an inch. Banning smoking on public transport led to a temporary improvement in air quality, soon offset by a higher density of passengers. You see if I don't have to share the same room with you, personally I don't care whether you smoke. Indeed if we share a large hall, I might tolerate your smoking fairly well, but if we have to share a metaphorical phone box, I might object. Spiked Online's panacea would have even more people happily choosing whether to smoke. We'd need to quadruple the London Underground network. First, we'd have to double it to cope with the current volume of passengers and then double it again to have separate networks for smokers and non-smokers. More people means subjugating ourselves to greater control over each others' lives. If you live in a small close-knit community you don't need extensive databases of sexual predators and potential terrorists, because everyone knows other members of the community and has time to vet occasional newcomers, but when people move house at the drop of a hat and few residents have any roots in the neighbourhood, we have to rely on the police, social services, CCTV cameras and RFID chips to defend us against dangerous individuals in our midst. Whether you like or not overcrowding not only reduces individual freedom and rights, but also tends to impact negatively on community relations.

Ironically the Spiked ' Sect tells would have us believe we can have our cake and eat it, i.e. we can continue to increase our burden on the ecosystem by relying even more on remote impenetrable technology and still enjoy personal lifestyle freedoms. Yet as sure as night follows day, technocratic elites take away our freedoms and put in their place a totally controlled fun culture.

A Note On the Spiked Sect

  • For those unfamiliar with Spiked Online, I'd better explain where it comes from. Posing as trendy progressives on the cutting edge of intellectual debate, the sect started life as breakaway faction from the old International Socialists, now Socialist Workers' Party, back in the mid 70s. They formed a far-left clique called the Revolutionary Communist Party, which took, shall we say without fear of contradiction, extreme stands on burning issues of the day, chiefly the civil war in the North of Ireland, steadfastly supporting the IRA and Sinn Fein even through some of the most indefensible atrocities against civilians. You name the issue and they tried to trump the rest of the radical left by assuming a more absolutist stance or dismissing more mainstream struggles as pointless syndicalism (like industrial action) or misguided counterrevolutionary revisionism. By the mid 80s they had honed their identity as the ultimate defenders of Marxist progress, seen purely in the simplistic terms that socialism represents not so much an alternative to the current world order but the next logical step in humanity's relentless progress from nomadism, through feudalism to capitalism and onwards to the dictatorship of the proletariat, guided by a vanguard party. Their vision of the future clearly reflected the prejudices of cosmopolitan Anglo-American elites. Rather than challenge rampant consumerism and large multinationals taking control of each and every aspect of people's lives, they embraced globalism as the ultimate humankind's destiny. Their focus moved away from the working class cause altogether as they attracted mainly upwardly mobile ambitious media studies students. However, they persevered with their role as the left's Devil's Advocate, especially when the left swallowed emotive humanitarian rhetoric on complex international crises such as the 1994 Rwandan democide, providing a semblance of radical anti-imperialism that appealed to small but influential clique of students.
  • By the late 1990s they had shed any pretence of competing on the far left, still dominated by the small neo-Trotskyite SWP. Their magazine, Living Marxism, became LM Mag and they began to campaign on largely lifestyle issues.
  • Just consider a selection of the Frank Füredi's clique's stances:
  • The human potential is boundless and thus any attempts to cut consumption, oppose technological solutions or plan for gradual population reduction should be opposed as reactionary opposition to progress itself. In any debate with RCPers on the environment sooner or later you'll be accused at best as a misguided opponent of progress and at worst of green fascism bordering on genocidal neo-Nazism.
  • Humanitarian disasters are often a figment of Western propaganda. The RCP campaigned vociferously to challenge media bias against Serbs in the Balkan Wars and against Hutus in the 1994 Rwandan tragedy.
  • We live a culture of fear, reluctant to embrace the technological solutions that could enable billions more human beings to enjoy the wonders of post-WW2 Western consumerism.
  • The adverse effects of modern consumer products, whether drugs, food or electronic devices, are hugely overstated and, with rare exceptions, greatly outweighed by their benefits. Here the latter-day RCP can appeal to many disillusioned with establishment control freakery over issues like smoking bans.
  • All regulation is bad. No nuanced position here as to whether we should call on the state to regulate us as private citizens or them as large corporate and state organisations. This stances places them in good company on the left on issues such as deregulation of cannabis or free speech, at one with the likes of Noam Chomsky. So they defend the right of racial supremacists to voice their scientific interpretations, but also dismiss the influence of mass entertainment on the minds of ordinary working people with little time to access to alternative media. So they say no to a ban on smacking, but also no limitations of the widespread prescription of psychoactive drugs. Ironically this stands in contrast with LM Mag's efforts to challenge media bias over Northern Ireland, Rwanda and Yugoslavia as your average Guardian reader would be depressingly unaware of the countercurrent perspectives that the RCP once championed. It would certainly appear that the new corporate-friendly Spiked Online brigade seem much concerned about defending the right of bug business to intoxicate and brainwash the masses through junk food and moronic electronic entertainment than they do about the freedom of genuine dissidents whose ideas are being silenced. Increasingly in the US and UK we see censorship of dissidents through an overload of mainstream disinformation and, where dissident ideas gain some currency, media belittling and bullying of all those who fail to sing from the right hymn sheet.
  • We have the universe to conquer. I recall this rallying cry from an RCP event I attended in 1985. Should appeal to Star Trek fans.
  • Multinationals are good and pave the way for a new borderless internationalism.
  • The Chinese and Indian economies are booming and poised to overtake Western European per capita consumption in the near future. Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your life's savings.
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

The Persuasion Industry

In one way or another a growing percentage of workers in the UK are engaged in various sectors of the persuasion industry. Call it new media, education, publishing, marketing, sales, customer relations, call centres, advertising, entertainment, legal services, lobbying, consulting, advice bureaux, research institutes, awareness raising charities, they are all in the multi-billion pound business of persuading. These businesses try to persuade us to buy products, borrow more money, adapt our lifestyles, seek diagnosis for some previously unheard-of medical condition, support a political party, place our faith in large corporations, support government policies, panic about media-fabricated problems. Even those of us not directly involved in the media sector service it by providing its infrastructure in the form of satellite dishes, computer hardware and software, catering, cosmetic surgery, hairdressing etc.

Let us have a look at some representative team players in the 21st century persuasion industry:

Public information officer:
With various titles such people impart filtered information on behalf of their clients, the key word here being filtered. Far from redressing bias, they merely serve the highest bidder making sure the only opinions available through trusted establishment media outlets reflects the interests of their clients. Many such public information officers work for organisations that are technically charities, but in reality fronts for big business. Consider the moral universe of a mental health information officer working for a research institute funded in large part by pharmaceutical multinationals. Such a person may dismiss the organisation's spurious funding as corporate benevolence and deceive herself that her work is actually helping sufferers of emotional disturbance overcome their problems, when in reality she is promoting drugs to mask people's problems. People like to be do-gooders and greater conformism tends to suppress any critical analysis of the adverse side effects of our jobs.
Personal loan advisor:
They sell you the myth that we can keep expropriating resources from the rest of the world as long as we let banks create virtual money out of thin air, but to repay your debt you have to be a good team player within the system. An indebted person is usually a more docile conformist person.
As a front-line propagandist, a teacher is responsible for moulding tomorrow's loyal workers, but increasingly focus not so much on encouraging children to teach themselves, but to learn acceptable behaviour. These days good self-confidence and team-playing are considered more important than trigonometry or critical analysis. Children are trained to be good project managers, but not to create the things we really need unless that is part of larger enterprise. For more read the writings of John Taylor Gatto.
Project Manager:

They smile, converse and write reports to co-ordinate and motivate the people who really do the actual work. As such they have no particular concrete expertise other than excellent people management skills, but despite their apparent empathy they are trained to consider the real human beings who implement their projects as mere resources, expendable in the same away as computer hardware. Their real task is to hide the real purpose of a project from the various resources involved in different stages of its implementation. The ideal project manager is thoroughly brainwashed with a special talent for subconscious denial.

In some firms these account for 25% to 50% of office staff. Project managers are required to talk the talk, but with a few honourable exceptions seldom have to walk the walk. All PMs, often recentgraduates, have bosses, essentially project manager managers, who impart instructions on how to manage the human resources to whom they allocate the actual work that needs to be done. The whole American business management model is based on the notion that technical staff tend to lack the so-called social skills needed to negotiate with irate corporate clients. However, some megabuck clients may not be pleased to learn that at least in the world of commercial software development PMs account for a sizeable slice of the human resources budget. Typically a PM in the IT sector graduated in computer sciences and tends to know an awful lot of theory infused with corporate propaganda. The need for best practices in project management soon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as consultants routinely attribute the failure of projects to bad project management.

Power Dynamics

Blair concedes Iraq Lies

Information Clearing House recently republished extracts from the late Robin Cook's diaries, in which Blair concedes that Iraq could not strike the West or even nearby Israel with weapons of mass destruction. It also reveals how the initial scepticism of some New Labour Cabinet ministers in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq soon turned into loyalty as Blairite rhetoric morphed into crocodile tears over the human rights of oppressed and disenfranchised Iraqis.

Some analysts insist the likes of Blair, Brown and Bush remain happily oblivious to their serial mendacity over foreign policy. Only recently Seymour Hersh, noted for exposing the criminal activities of his government at home and abroad, reiterated his belief that Bush and, by implication, actuals means what he says. Consider a human resources manager imparting the news that owing internal restructuring your services are no longer required, but thanking you nonetheless for all your hard work during your tenure at the company and appearing very concerned about your future. By their nature HR managers have excellent skills of self-deceptive false altruism. Their job is to manage a situation, ensure a trouble-free transition from one human resource to the new one avoiding any ill-feelings or recriminations and maintaining a façade of good employee and public relations. This is especially important with key technical staff who are likely to find employment elsewhere with one of their competitors. The last thing they want is for word to get out that they routinely stab loyal workers in the back. For the duration of the private meeting the HR manager may temporarily believe her own rhetoric, but deep down knows that only an hour earlier her line manager had told her to sack you and replace you with a less experienced, but more manipulable human resource. Indeed if the HR manager ever met you after your dismissal, she'd probably feign concern about your wellbeing and appear genuinely delighted that you've found a new job or devastated that you're still between jobs. The same principle applies to politicians. They're little more than project managers with excellent client-facing skills.

Power Dynamics

On the Wrong Track

A good way to dispel concern about an emerging trend is to set up a phoney debate pitting the views of social conservatives rejecting cultural change against progressive change enthusiasts, e.g. only paranoid Daily Mail readers could possibly oppose the growing encroachment of war-themed video games in mainstream life. Progress is by default associated with trendy young culture with little regard to its key disseminators, while negative reactionism refers to recalcitrant opposition to progress. We thus have a false dichotomy of progressives against reactionaries, simplified into a classic goodies against baddies fight. But who sets the parameters of debate and then defines woolly concepts like progressives and reactionaries in a given socio-political context? This is a classic technique deployed in change management, the art of persuading first key opinion leaders and decision-makers and then the general populace of the need for some far-reaching cultural change already agreed upon by the powers that be. The media often asks us to consider whether public opinion is ready for a given policy that the establishment considers progressive such as a smacking ban or adoption of identity cards. Public opinion has to be prepared first, which is why in a nominally consultative democratic system the persuasion industry, whether through the mediums of advertising, entertainment, awareness-raising or staged debates, plays such a key role. If large sections of public openly dissented from the implementation of policies essential to the stability of the ruling elite, they would either have to impose a more openly authoritarian regime or change policy. However, often a semblance of intense debate can be created by pitting die-hard traditionalists, often with religious associations, against enlightened progressives.

Consider the news this week that all girls in England (and Wales and Scotland will no doubt follow suit) will be given the new Gardasil vaccine to protect them against the carcinogenic human papillomavirus, which is usually sexually transmitted. The BBC's Have Your Say fully moderated forum had a handful of messages opposing the move and a deluge not only enthusiastically supporting it, but lambasting naysayers as religious nuts. Indeed religious nuts prove useful tools of the establishment, only last week I had a conversation with a born-again Christian recruited by some obscure US-based Church (Potter's House, I believe), absolutely convinced that Biblical creationism is more scientifically valid than evolutionism as well as describing abortion as worse than the Nazi Holocaust. Of course, I support his right to believe such nonsense, but suspect they are being set up fake dissidents, eager to recruit millions of vulnerable humble citizens who have rightly lost their faith in the neo-liberal intelligentsia. So basically if you oppose mass medication of all 12 year old females, you're equated with religious zealots who advocate chastity until marriage. Indeed even if you just voice concern about the safety of the new vaccines, you are still associated with those who oppose mass medication for religious reasons. Whether or not the purported benefits of the new vaccine outweighs its known side effects or indeed whether or not it will curb the incessant rise of cancer despite much lower smoking rates, unthinking conformists are just expected to channel their anger against extremists opposed to progress as defined by Glaxo Smith Kline and Merck. Yes, the very same companies that profit enormously from drugs like SSRIs and childhood amphetamines. The goodies side with the NHS, the government and big pharma, while the baddies condemn teenagers to abstinence and fear of contracting diseases from promiscuous partners when the time is right.

Last week the BBC also ran a report about the benefits, a key word in the art of neuro-linguistic conditioning, of first-person shooter games in developing business management skills. Only a few days later the Daily Mail reports on the findings of a study by Dundee's Abertay University into thebenefits of video games in stimulating concentration in school age children. The aforementioned BBC article correctly noted the pervasiveness of the pastime among teenagers and adults alike, but failed to present the dark side of this pursuit. Here we have a public service broadcaster trivialising the trivialisation of simulated mass murder and echoing the entertainment industry line that it's just harmless fun. Apparently not, otherwise big business would not be promoting it so enthusiastically. If addiction to these games changes the way we think, i.e. reprograms our minds to become more goal-oriented and be better team players, it soon becomes obvious who the main beneficiaries are, large corporations and potentially military organisations. In corporate jargon goal-oriented does not mean steadfastly pursuing a goal, but staying focussed on a goal that someone else higher up in the organisational hierarchy has set. In an increasingly high surveillance society, only complete idiots would unleash their violent dark side in public, but many would seek authorised outlets for their inner aggression, especially when presented as cool pursuits. Judging from conversations I hear at work, and as a contract programmer I regularly change workplace and come into a contact with a broad range of young adults, most avid gamers are down-and-out conformists. So what useful people management skills would they learn by spending hours navigating virtual mazes, often dark dungeons and inhospitable desert scenes reminiscent of the terrain soldiers might expect in Iraq, Iran or Sudan, and fragging their mates? Is this some kind of metaphor for beating the competition or betraying one's colleagues in pursuit of greater glory, pandering to the virtuous powers that be. Nobody can pretend that the psychology of electronic can be simplified as a dichotomy between good and evil, but these games appear to be empowering their makers more than their players.

Back in 1994 we learned that the infamous Radio Les Milles Collines had instigated a genocide by urging the Hutu majority to slaughter their Tutsi neighbours. This may be a highly biased and partial account of what really happened Rwanda ( see Revisiting the "Rwandan Genocide" - Resurrecting Ghosts, or Exorcising Demons? ), but if rudimentary audio media could incite a bloodbath when participants believe they have an official carte blanche to unleash generations of pent-up revenge, what potential does much more sophisticated interactive electronic media have to control the actions of millions of addicts? The question is seldom posed in these terms. Instead we witness a rather dull debate between trendy conformists and not-so-trendy conservatives about the immediate effects of playing these games. Indeed entertainment industry propagandists are probably correct in claiming violent video games have cathartic effects in some individuals, as anger that might otherwise be vented against the ruling elite in a coherent and rational way is channelled against fictitious enemies who often bear an uncanny semblance to our ruling elite's official enemies du jour. The real importance of video games to the establishment lies in their power of psychological conditioning. They need loyal conformist citizens with suitable outlets for their pent-up anger created by extreme competition.

Power Dynamics

A Numerical Paradox

If we want to strike a sensible balance between individual freedom, self-realisation, social cohesion, democracy and good community relations, we should be aware these noble aims can only coexist and thrive in optimal socio-environmental conditions that have stood the test of time. For too long we have worshipped the abstract world of economics rather than the concrete world of ecology that ultimately determines our real quality of life. If history has taught us anything, it should be that all predatory empires come to an end sooner or later and only those civilisations that live within their means survive more than a few generations. The American dream, on which the current hyperconsumption model is based, may well prove to be one the shortest-lived empires in global history, lasting little more than century.

I've corresponded with a friend about the biggest paradox facing humanity, scarcity and numbers. While well informed and sincere, he insists that latter-day Malthusianism is ideologically driven by misanthropy. For the ruling elite we are just numbers of human resources who can be manipulated as workers, soldiers, managers or consumers. We all know the feeling after travelling in the overcrowded public transport system of a bustling metropolis, only to witness on a quiet break in the country vast expanses of greenbelt serving as little more than the private playground of the new aristocracy escaping the social pressure cooker we call a city. We may then contrast the conspicuous waste of food in wealthy countries reliant on imports to sustain their standard of living with the near famine conditions of much of the world's poor still reliant on local produce. If only these resources were shared more equitably, we could all live happily ever after. I don't know how many times I've heard or read that the world produces four times the food its population needs, a figure pulled out of the hat way back in the early 70s. As most of us have long ceased to have any direct involvement in the harvesting or production of the goods we consume, our whole concepts of abundance and scarcity are manufactured. In post-industrial Britain few of us can remember the time when small close-knit communities would provide most of life's essentials. Such attempts to recreate a self-reliant past are parodied in TV sitcoms like the Good Life of the early 70s or dismissed as the pipe dreams of New Age communities. Some experiments in ideal conditions have met with some success. The Findhorn community near Inverness, Scotland, comes to mind, but that's in a relatively sparsely populated region that is surprisingly fertile for its latitude, but unpopular owing to Scotland renowned dreich weather. The whole of the UK population would not survive if everyone joined a similar commune.

Instead we rely on technology and trade to feed over sixty million UK residents, now projected to rise to over 75 million by 2050 as per capita oil, gas, coal and potable water resources dwindle. This means not only the widespread use of petrochemical to boost agricultural yield, but huge economies of scale. Last year nearly a billion animals, mainly chickens and turkeys, were slaughtered to meet the country's insatiable demand for meat, most of it sold through a handful of supermarket chains. Although the pastures of much of Scotland, Wales and Northern England are dotted with characteristic sheep, most food-grade livestock is raised in buildings, transported to large abattoirs possibly over 100 miles away for slaughter, prepared and sold in bulk to large retail chains. Without refrigeration and/or preservatives such a food distribution would be impossible and we'd have to eat produce originating from a relatively small radius with the exception of low-volume non-perishables such as spices.

Anyone Been To Inner London Lately?

Take the 266 bus from Acton all the way to Cricklewood as I had to the other day owing to a strike by low-paid Silverlink workers (London's inner city overground rail network). It took over an hour to travel 8 miles (13km). Not only was the bus laden with an underclass recently imported from Eastern Europe and various Asian locales, the streets were lined with newcomers, many towing suitcases, and a never-ending parade of Internet cafés, pawn shops, betting shops, pubs, mobile phone shops and buffet bars, in short more reminiscent of a bustling third world metropolis and a society in moral decay than the cultural and economic hub of the civilised world. One cannot escape a foreboding sense of ephemerality, with the social fabric teetering on the brink of civil war. Contrast this reality with recent events held in London's Earls Court Exhibition Centre urging Brits to buy property to Spain, Bulgaria, Cyprus and even Berlin and the globalist tendency to break up traditional communities becomes apparent. What is obvious is the near total absence of wishful-thinking Guardian and Independent readers on London buses outside some trendy central districts. Sadly most just vote with their feet, wallets or automobiles, while subconsciously denying the incipient disaster, framing it in media-filtered terms of global warming or blaming foreign dictators. If so many Poles are unemployed at home and urged to migrate to the UK, might it be because in the post-Stalinist era foreign multinationals like Tesco have moved in to take control of the labour market. Yet those who deny the disastrous socio-environmental effects of overcrowding are as myopic (or short-sighted as non-Guardian readers might prefer) as those who choose to deny the human role in triggering climate change.

Today's shrink-wrapped Independent leads on the Italian government's purported intolerance for immigrants, discretely slurring even the mildest critics of globalisation as xenophobes. Ironically the countries we associate most with tolerance, such as Sweden or Finland, are those that attract fewer desperate migrants and have more available land and resources, while former bastions of open-door immigration like the Netherlands and Denmark have seen a huge backlash from their native populations. Contrary to popular misconceptions the debate is not between freedom of movement and harsh immigration controls, but between market-driven driven migration, as favoured by neoliberals, and sustainable communities able to control their own destiny within limits imposed by nature and non-destructive technology. You cannot have it both ways by letting big business exploit cheap labour and letting ordinary citizens have a say in the country's migration policy. No-one can deny the untold human suffering and human rights abuses all over the planet from Iraq, to China, the US, Nigeria to humble old Blighty. Yet the neoliberal media entertains us with the illusion that only foreign politicians are to blame and encouraging more overpopulation and more overconsumption is the answer rather than the problem. With around the same surface area and population as the UK, Italy has witnessed a huge influx of newcomers and is simply unable to cope with the inevitable structural and social difficulties that result from migratory pressure caused by a failed economic model. If the Balkans had not been destabilised, if Eastern European economies had not been taken over by Western multinationals, if oil-rich Middle Eastern countries were in control of their own destiny, if Africans could reap the benefits of their own resources and be left to develop within the constraints of home-grown technology, none of these migratory pressures would exist. A mass exodus from the world's trouble spots is a direct result of the globalist policies that the neoliberal media promote in an endless self-reinforcing cycle of social and cultural transformation.

One wonders where Independent editorial writers and other advocates of massive economically driven immigration live. On a parallel planet would seem a good answer, but more realistically they live in a Bohemian bubble where wealth generated largely by the propaganda industry meets a plentiful supply of cheap labour. If you earn £200K per annum, as many in the media business do and most neoliberal pundits get much more, and can afford the mortgage on your four bedroom townhouse, then the availability of cheap labour brings many benefits in the short term. Housemaids, child-minders plumbers, gardeners, painter-decorators, general handymen, hairdressers, massageuses and purveyors of sexual services, once offering their services at a premium are now very easy to recruit and replace at the drop of hat. They moneyed classes enjoy eating out and discussing their media projects amidst a vibrant café culture, staffed predominantly by new immigrants. This is what economists mean by a flexible labour market. Of course, it is absolutely true that many indigenous Brits are either unwilling or simply unable to perform these tasks, but this is largely because a culture of instant gratification has persuaded them that they should aspire to cushy careers rather than real jobs where they might get their hands dirty.

The most absurd argument that the Independent has used to justify the government's immigration policy is that an ageing population needs more carers and presumably young British workers are simply too busy to take time out of their new media careers to care for their elderly relatives. As life expectancy is almost the same in the UK and Poland, but lower than in Italy, France, Spain or Greece, one wonders who is going to look after elderly Poles and Ukrainians, if their offspring are busy serving work-shy, disabled and ageing Brits.

Carrying Capacity

No rationally minded empiricist (and I see no conflict between empiricism and rationalism) would deny a finite planet imposes limits on growth. Just in case you fantasise colonising Mars or some more hospitable earth-like planet in a distant solar system, please bear in mind the huge logistical problems in taming an environment millions of miles or scores of light years away from our home planet, something that may take millennia even when we acquire the technology. For the time being we'll have to make do with planet earth whose human carrying capacity depends largely on two factors, our per capita consumption and diligent use of technology to reduce our impact on the ecosystem that provides us with vital oxygen, water and nutrients. Currently we rely on a technocratic elite, whether under state or corporate auspices, to provide the majority of the globe's inhabitants with sustenance. Whether you're a Chinese factory worker or a French office worker, you use high-tech tools you could not conceivably make on your own and act as one small cog in much more complex industrial machine, even where the purpose of your job is clear. You might know how to assemble the components of your tools, but extracting and processing the raw materials is beyond the means of most of us. To co-ordinate numerous micro-specialisations and achieve sufficient economies of scale, we need a large and disciplined organisation, able to delegate responsibility for implementation of its business objects to lesser minions. Suppose a large retail chains wishes to offer European consumers affordable mp3 players, to cut costs it outsources production to a Chinese manufacturer, who in turn decides how to maximise its competitive edge over European rivals. In this case the European retail chain merely dictates the price and lets the Chinese manufacturer decide how to deliver the desired goods at the requested prices. Thanks to the logic of globalised trade, if the Chinese manufacturer raises prices to pay its workers better, the European buyer can simply source the same products elsewhere. Logically we may also argue that if the Chinese workers earned more, they'd be able to buy more consumer products, but then if the price of consumer products rose beyond a certain level in the opulent world workers would buy less affecting something we call consumer confidence. More important it is unlikely that all the raw materials required for the budget mp3 players (petroleum, silicon and aluminium) could be sourced from China alone.

If your idea of utopia is based on the more affluent neighbourhoods of the USA's sprawling suburbs with their double or triple garages, water sprinklers and easy access to large road network connecting residents to the centres of work, leisure and shopping, the world has almost certainly long surpassed its medium term carrying capacity. Just consider the futility of driving twenty miles from a plush gated neighbourhood to an office building for the sole purpose of writing reports and attending meetings whose concrete purpose few participants comprehend. The only reason these tasks are not conducted remotely is the crucial role of people management in the modern corporate bureaucracy. If people worked from home, they might not only lack motivation, but might start to unleash the kind of creativity that corporate control freaks can ill-afford. They need workers to be fine-tuned to a hive mentality and all, metaphorically, bat for the same team, hence the importance of bonding rituals such as drinks after work on Fridays, conferences or weekend breaks. Only a fortunate few highly skilled freelancers can choose for which masters to serve and on what terms and even they have travel far and wide to socialise with their corporate clients. While short-term fixes such as tele-working with the wonders of broadband and Web cams, may save some fuel, the Suburban lifestyle still requires us to travel long distances to procure food, clothes and other wares, drop the kids at numerous activities and participate in a leisure culture, the alternative often being exclusion from real flesh and blood social life. The incessant drive to suburban bliss in much of the prosperous world has not only fractured traditional communities, but driven millions to depression as they feel unable to compete on new terms dictated by media role models. A quick tour of many lower middle class housing estates in the UK soon reveals the stark reality that most residents are engaged in some form of virtual reality with home cinemas, game consoles, Internet access to gaming and gambling sites or even just busy bidding or selling on ebay. When it comes to actually replenishing supplies, off we go to the nearest retail chain. When life at home gets the better of us, we might splash out on some form of mass-marketed entertainment. Dunfermline, the ancient seat of the Scottish Royal Family with a proud history, now offers its residents little more than four large supermarkets (two Asda outlets, one Tesco and a smaller Somerfield) and a new retail park with an Odeon multiplex cinema, fitness centre, bowling alley, bingo hall and the usual array of chain restaurants. The town has no greengrocers and only one butcher's. If you don't like mass-marketed fake individualism, you can either migrate to remote rural retreats relatively untouched by corporate Gleichschaltung or as it is known today, cultural harmonisation, or return to the cosmopolitan urban heartlands long abandoned by the indigenous working classes, but where there is usually a critical mass of human beings interested in some form of alternative lifestyle and where ironically it is still possible to live a varied life away from the country's dominant cultural institution, TV. However, only a select few can afford the exorbitantly priced properties in the gentrified inner urban locales of London, Manchester, Edinburgh or even humble Cardiff, leaving only substandard crowded accommodation for those unable or unwilling to commute.

Richard Heinberg ) has considered the changes required to reduce aggregate human consumption while saving as many lives as possible. While mainstream politicians may pay lip-service to the challenges presented by climate change or rising crude oil prices, they are completely incapable of considering any alternative to the dominant mantra of our times, the need for constant economic growth and greater globalisation. Critics of economic migration and outsourcing are routinely lambasted as reactionary isolationists with little respect for the world's poor or wonders of ethnic diversity. That mass migration at historically unprecedented levels destroys genuine cultural differences and exacerbates social inequality to the detriment of the poorest and to the benefit of the moneyed professional classes hardly occurs to many wishful-thinking Independent or Guardian readers, as they contemplate ads for a Volvo people carrier or a cheap European city break. Waste-reducing initiatives are seen as dialogues between positive-thinking citizens and large corporate institutions. We may asked to consider whether Tesco should reduce packaging, charge for plastic bags or sell sturdy reusable carrier bags, but not whether we should rely on multinational grocery chains for life's essentials. We entrust our future in distant experts whose importance only large corporate or state media outlets may determine. Instead to power down, we need to rethink the whole concept of progress by relocalising agriculture, production and distribution. Rather than appealing the Tescos and Walmarts of the world to source more of their produce from local providers, we should switch to an alternative network of local independent farmers, retailers and manufacturers to drastically cut food miles and plan for a more sustainable future, but in large cities like London such reasonable solutions would only be feasible with radical depopulation. Instead the powers that be seem hell-bent on permitting the construction of three million more homes in the Southeast of England, already Europe's least sustainable province in terms of fending for itself.

Get a Grip on Reality

Before you read another Independent shock horror story about the imminent deportation of a small number of Zimbabwean asylum seekers, consider the real victims of globalised insanity. Zimbabwe is a nation founded, moulded and thoroughly exploited by British colonialists. When the country finally gained independence and majority rule in 1980, 7 million people could be fed by a self-sufficient farming and the proceeds of tobacco plantations and minerals. 27 years later with around 13 million inhabitants, the flight of many white-owned businesses, previously the country's prime source of the hard cash it needed to import technology only available abroad, and vast tracts of former farm land laid barren owing to the effects of soil erosion and climate change. The British media, including the liberal lefties, conveniently blames Robert Mugabe and mismanagement of land reform. The harsh reality on the ground is that any government that doesn't toe a line dictated by the IMF and the the World Bank will, unless it has vast reserves of natural resources like oil or uranium and masters the technology to exploit them, be compelled to power down, and in the case of most so-called developing countries with a rapidly rising population, have to cope with rapidly declining per capita resources. Thus is just two decades Zimbabwe has transitioned from a net food exporter to a net importer. Had its population remained stable, land could have been redistributed more equitably and bought itself time to develop the technological infrastructure required for long -term sustainability, but the myth of material progress divorced from environmental reality, ironically shared by Marxists and neoliberal capitalists alike, has condemned the country to dependence on international trade. However, Zimbabwe's neighbours have profound structural problems of their own. The US and South Africa have long funded civil wars in Mozambique and Angola. Zambia has swallowed a bitter IMF-administered pill condemning much of population to starvation conditions with a dramatically lower population growth estimates, and South Africa with 40% of its working age population jobless has struggled to accommodate refugees from the rest of the Africa. Unlike the peoples of the British Isles in the late 18th century Zimbabweans have nowhere else to go, so why not accommodate them all in London, England. In my 1999 visit I was rather taken aback, after spending a couple of weeks in South Africa, to meet so many well-educated unemployed Zimbabweans. Despite horror stories of Mugabe's autocratic rule, the country's education system resembled that found 1950s Britain with little attention devoted to literacy in either Shona or Sindebele and plenty to English-medium basic education, reading, writing and arithmetic. Despite all the Pan-African rhetoric, the new African ruling elite has by and large attempted to emulate the model of development pioneered by their former colonial occupiers, which is hardly surprising as most graduated in European or American universities. You have cars, we want cars. You have home cinemas, we want electronic gadgetry too. Now if we had the technology to let millions of Indians, Chinese and Sub-Saharan Africans enjoy the same high-consumption lifestyle, that would, at least in theory, be exceedingly good for our economy.

What is beyond dispute is that millions of Africans live in very precarious conditions and are denied rights we take for granted, such as easy access to potable water, safe shelter and a cooked meal every day. Never mind whether they are locked up in jail for daring to criticise their local line managers, let us look at what our multinationals are doing, yes the same friendly institutions that via lobbying firms like Price House Cooper or KPMG shape our government's policies. Well Exxon, Texaco and BP Amoco, key supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, consider the Angolan exclave of Cabinda their personal fiefdom, paying kickbacks to the former Marxists now in technically charge of Angola. The civil war in former Zaire, now affectionately known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with its at least three million excess deaths, largely concerns control of mineral resources. As for Darfur, has anyone noticed the copious reserves of black gold in a region extending into neighbouring Chad. To understand the real intentions of the globalist British elite we need look no further than historians Niall Ferguson and in, more overt terms, Robert Cooper, former advisor to multimillionaire keynote speaker Tony Blair. Roberts unashamedly advocates the recolonisation of Africa, but cunningly adorns his greedy intentions with humanitarian waffle. The lobbying efforts of many professional political advisors close to the New Labour establishment have not only helped large corporations secure lucrative PFI contracts or forced health and education services to waste tax payers' money on expensive proprietary software solutions, but have also secured state funding for multibillion pound military hardware projects such as the Eurofighter, which have never been deployed in defensive operations and whose only conceivable use would be in wars of resource appropriation. More important they have represented private security firms such as Blackwater supplying mercenaries to war zones like Iraq. Unlike many new army recruits, hardened mercenaries often boasting experience in Africa's forgotten wars (indeed many were raised in Apartheid era South Africa), have few qualms about shoot-to-kill policies. As

Stephen Lendman notes ()

The Bush administration believes anything government can do private business does better, so let it. And that applies to the military as well with Blackwater and SandlineUSA's powerful emergence Exhibit A. Author Jeremy Scahill portrays the company as "the world's most powerful mercenary army" in his frightening new book about it. It describes a "shadowy mercenary company (employing) some of the most feared professional killers in the world....accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences....largely off the congressional radar." It has "remarkable power and protection within the US war apparatus" with unaccountable license to practice street violence with impunity that includes cold-blooded murder.

The numerical paradox is that immigration proponents who claim human rights abuses as a reason to let in more newcomers grossly understate the problem and evade their responsibility for human suffering. If Britain's population grows, as predicted, by a further 15 million over the next 40 years, mainly through immigration as the indigenous people count is actually declining, this is but a small drop in the ocean compared to the hundreds or even thousands of millions who may meet early deaths as a result of the failure of the current globalised high-consumption model of development. 15 million is but 1.5% of the Indian population or 2% of the Sub-Saharan population. More important current migration policy depends entirely surplus wealth generated by large corporations who produce little of what we really need. Besides banking and media, the three biggest UK industries are now the defence (read attack), energy and pharmaceutical/biotech sectors, all engaged in controlling access to vital resources and undermining economic autonomy. We could add other arguments such as the inevitable brain drain of countries of net emigration, but the most important fact is when the temporary economic boom that drew so many to the centres of wealth accumulation bursts, we will face social and environmental disaster.

Many of us aspire to noble aims such as social cohesion, democracy, tolerance, good community relations, plentiful and essential resources and more important breathing space for each individual. Before you think of the vast expanses of inhabited land in North Africa, Siberia, Northern Canada, Central Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific Ocean, just remember only a small fraction of the earth's land mass lends itself to comfortable human habitation. With oil extraction now past its peak and with alternatives sadly much less feasible than many of us would hope, we will have to readapt our lifestyles if we are to salvage the best of what humanity can offer. That means powering down everywhere, less consumption beyond that essential for sustaining life, less migration to high consumption areas and more economic incentives to lower the birth rate in proliferous nations. A stepping stone to a more sustainable world is to make each community responsible for its own actions. Globalisation lets wealthy communities export pollution and import food and cheap labour. If a community can sustain itself autonomously balancing material exports and imports, then nobody has a right to dictate their behaviour. But if a community depends on global banking cartels, handouts from remote governments and patented technology only available from a handful of multinationals, it has no freedom and any remnants of democracy are a mere illusion.

Many leftists don't like any talk of population simply because that might mean eliminating many of those already blessed with life on this planet. It's hard to imagine a society more obsessed with slaughter and destruction more than our own, though usually only through virtual media and possibly because we are largely shielded from its immediate human consequences, but the earth's carrying capacity is not moral issue, but a scientific one. By blindly placing our faith in the power of human ingenuity to cope with an unprecedented rise in our population, we are merely sowing the seeds of our own destruction, but by reversing gear we will actually allow more people to live more peacefully, more fruitfully and over more generations, just not all at the same time and in the same place. To survive as species we need to refocus our attention on the quality of human existence rather than quantity of potential consumers.