Categories
Power Dynamics

Who’s really behind Momentum ?

Trotsky and the Neocons

How former Blairites morphed into radical advocates of a borderless utopia

Politics is really the art of winning influence over other power brokers to further one's true agenda, which may be self-aggrandisement, commercial interests or the pursuit of long-term ideological change. Personally I think most politicians fall into the first category of wishful thinking opportunists, eager to make a few gestures to please their electoral base, but more concerned with their career. Over the last century or more it seems it hardly matters who wins parliamentary elections, big business will always get its way anyway. The old dichotomy of a state-interventionist redistributionist Labour Party and a more laissez-faire pro-business Conservative Party was always a mere façade. In reality big business supported most of Labour's radical social transformation policies. The age of mass consumerism required a compliant but contented populace, something that naked capitalism could never provide left to its own devices. Indeed welfare dependency rose fastest not in the 1960s or 70s under Labour, but in the 80s under Margaret Thatcher as manufacturing moved overseas.

In the last two years British politics has undergone some quite unexpected realignments. The reemergence of Left Labour as a major force in British politics under veteran backbench rebel Jeremy Corbyn has taken many by surprise. Labour now has over 600,000 members, mainly critical of Tony Blair's legacy as a poodle of US foreign policy and big business. Back in 2003 many Momentum supporters would have marched against the US-led invasion of Iraq. I remember powerful speeches from the late Tony Benn, a younger Jeremy Corbyn and a grandiloquent George Galloway. The protest attracted broad support from disparate groups. The two most visible contingents were the far left, in their neo-Trotskyite and neo-Stalinist incarnations, and the Muslim Council of Britain. We also had a lower-key ensemble of mainly middle class Greens and left Labour activists embarrassed with their leadership. However, most participants were just well-intentioned teachers, social workers, charity workers, learning support assistants and even a few with normal jobs who were like me just generally disgusted with the idea that our government was about to authorise a military intervention that would likely trigger a wider conflict. Two years later the British electorate gave Tony Blair's government a reduced majority, but with just 35% of popular vote (and only 21.5% of potential voters). Many left-of-centre opponents of the war such as myself voted either Liberal Democrat or SNP in protest. When the Labour lost to a Conservative-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, this rainbow coalition regrouped to oppose cuts in social services, welfare and the perceived privatisation of healthcare. Nonetheless the general public had little appetite for a traditional left platform that might include the re-nationalisation of privatised services and industries, much higher taxes for the rich and massive cuts in defence spending. On this latter point many fail to realise that while conservative public opinion tends to oppose military adventurism in far-flung places, it's all in favour of defending the realm. In power New Labour seemed to take the opposite approach overstretching limited military resources in numerous conflicts around the globe, while failing to defend national borders, literally instructing border officers to wave through new migrants with minimal checks. Amazingly working class voters were much more concerned with social cohesion in Birmingham, Bradford or Luton than media reports of atrocities in Baghdad, Kabul or Pristina.

We may speculate that social media has played a major role in building support for the various causes that tend to inspire virtue-signalling trendy lefties. However, this apparent shift may reflect the changing strategies of corporate wheelers and dealers eager to undermine the residual power of national governments and replace traditional cultures with a global superculture.

Since the fall of the former Soviet Union, Marxism has kept a low profile, despite the fact many Western far-leftists had long distanced themselves from Stalinism. In Britain the Socialist Workers Party used the slogan Neither Washington Nor Moscow but International Socialism. As early as the 1930s Antonio Gramsci realised the workers would not rise up to overthrow their capitalist overlords, without a cultural revolution. Ironically Mussolini's government pioneered a close collaboration between the state and large companies, known as corporativismo, although in Italian a corporazione was not a limited liability company, but a state entity that coordinated smaller industrial concerns. Nonethless mid 20th century fascist regimes believed strongly in close liaison between the state and private enterprise. They viewed democracy as an illusion and tended to prefer plebiscites as a form of patriotic consultation. Gramsci feared that a workers' uprising in the more advanced capitalist countries would result in the kind of national statism we saw both in the German Third Reich and Stalin's Russian Empire. Many of us misunderstood what Marxism really meant. Marx did not argue for an all-powerful national state to protect the interests of local workers against predatory global corporations. Instead he argued that modern capitalism would inevitably yield to socialism, which in turn would eventually evolve into stateless communism, in the same way as primitive communism (based on an idealised Rousseauian view of early humanity) gave way to slave societies, feudalism and later, following the industrial revolution, capitalism. Early Marxists concerned themselves as much with culture as with economics. In 1884 Friedrich Engels wrote The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State advocating the eventual dissolution not only of private property, but of nation states and families. Engels genuinely envisioned a world free of economic, ethnic or sexual hierarchies where we would be motivated not by personal betterment, familial or tribal advantage, but by the progress of humanity as a whole. Over the last 120 years Marxists have mainly debated how to achieve these ends.

As the student-led protest movements of the 1960s failed to inspire the working classes of Western Europe, who despite their daily struggles were by and large glad they did not live on the other side of the Iron Curtain, the Marxist Left, still strong in Italy and France, devised a new strategy, Eurocommunism, which advocated a mixed economy and gradual social reform. Indeed on practical policies little distinguished the Italian and French Communist Parties from their social democratic cousins in Britain or West Germany, where local communist parties struggled to win popular support. On the great divide between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, the mainstream Labour Party remained staunchly Atlanticist in outlook. The Eurocommunists simply recognised that the Soviet Union could not serve as a model that would unite the working classes of the West with their comrades in the developing world. Their aims had not changed, only their strategy. Yet among a small clique of intellectuals in the Labour Party and the tiny CPGB (Communist Party of Great Britain), the New Left exerted much influence via organs such as the Socialist Register and later Red Pepper. One such intellectual was the late Ralph Miliband, born in Belgium to Polish Jewish parents who later migrated to England 1940 to escape Nazi persecution. He remained a committed Marxist until his death in 1994, having published numerous articles and books on Marxist theory. He was a close confidant of historian Eric Hobsbawm, who notably sympathised with the former USSR, and the radical Fabian, Tony Benn. In recent years the Miliband brand has been more associated with Ralph's sons, David and Ed. As Labour leader from 2010 to 2015, Ed Miliband tried to distance himself from Tony Blair's military adventurism. However, his brother not only supported the Iraq War, but willingly served as Foreign Secretary working alongside Hillary Clinton to promote commercial and military globalisation. After narrowly losing to his brother in the Labour leadership contest, David Miliband accepted a well-remunerated role in New York as CEO of the International Rescue Committee, which seeks to aid refugees worldwide. Earlier David had worked as Tony Blair's head of policy from 1994 to 2001, when he became an MP.

To most Momentum activists, Tony Blair is nothing but a traitor to the causes of social justice and international peace. However, the young Aaaron Bastini, one of the masterminds behind Momentum, opted in 2010 to support David rather than Ed Miliband. I mean at least the latter decried the Iraq War. Did Mr Bastani suddenly have an epiphany before he embraced Jeremy Corbyn's idealism only five years later? This would seem a rather odd move as most of us tend more to idealism in our youth. Not surprisingly two of the other leading lights in the People's Momentum, Adam Klug and James Schneider hail from the same upmarket districts of North London as the Milibands. Small world, isn't it?

One may wonder how both Tony Blair and Tony Benn could belong to the Fabian Society or how the son of Marxist scholar could embrace early 21st century US imperialism, while one of his close associates backed a longstanding opponent of US imperialism as Labour leader. Here it is important to understand that most Marxist strategists are not pacifists. They are quite prepared to support military might if the outcome is more likely to pave the way to international socialism. Indeed over the decades self-professed Marxists have adopted some startling positions on global conflicts. The British Communist Party failed to support the Second World War until Hitler's invasion of the Ukraine and Western Russia. Meanwhile some former Trotskyists, while opposing US imperialism before the fall of Soviet Union, became cheerleaders of US-led global policing operations ever since, most notably the late Christopher Hitchens who supported the 2003 Iraq War to defeat the looming danger of Islamism. However, the globalist left remained bitterly divided over military interventionism in the Middle East. They had to support both global cultural convergence through mass migration and the projection of Western values on the rest of the world on the one hand and appease the growing Muslim lobby at home on the other.

Every problem in the world today seems to demand one solution, more globalisation. It doesn't matter whether it's climate change, unemployment, unsustainable debt, regional wars, organised crime or terrorism, our main media outlets, national governments and global institutions just propose tighter international integration and the undermining of traditional nation states and support structures. The growing concentration of power in a handful of high tech multinationals naturally demands greater coordination of governments to regulate them and prevent tax evasion. It should really not surprise us that the New Left does not advocate the nationalisation of Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Tesco. It needs these profitable organisations to bankroll its social engineering plans. And it appears it's succeeding. Big business has for some time not just embraced rapid cultural change, but openly promoted it.

Ahead of the Curve

Momentum has cultivated an anti-establishment reputation, often accusing the BBC of bias and openly campaigning against what it sees as reactionary newspapers or political organisations. I've lost count of the number of online petitions against the Daily Mail or Nigel Farage. Yet one only needs to watch a BBC soap opera to understand the convergence of the BBC's social agenda and Momentum's objectives. Both support open door immigration. Both welcome the ethnic transformation of British cities. Both support greater state intervention in people's private lives. Both support the concept of multiculturalism, while also promoting the dissolution of traditional family structures at odds with practically all traditional cultures. However, the BBC still has to offer the pretence of impartiality and patriotism. It only seems yesterday when each evening of televisual broadcasts would end with the national anthem. Now we have 24/7 news, non-stop sports, endless repeats of soap operas and pop concerts.

Rebranding Globalism

Behind the scenes the leading proponents of Blair's third way do not really disagree with Labour's radical rebranding. They may complain about Corbyn's irresponsible spending plans or his opposition to Britain's expensive token nuclear deterrent, but actually such disagreements may not matter as much as we might like to think. The current debate about Britain's exit from the European Union has only exposed just how little independence once powerful nation states really have. It seems without the oversight of one supranational organisation or another, the country will grind to a halt. Vegetables will rot in the fields and sick patients will be left untreated because of a lack of migrant farm labourers and nurses willing to serve us tirelessly. You see both Blairites and Momentum activists love mass migration, because they hope the ensuing social dislocation will let them turbo-charge their vision of a socialist utopia, bankrolled by the same corporate behemoths they claim to loathe.

Of course, some people will always be more equal than others.

Categories
Power Dynamics

Disturbing Scenarios of the early 21st Century

Bury Park, Luton

Could globalisation trigger regressive ethnocentrism and religious hatred?

In a paradigm shift over the last 30 to 40 years, the establishment media in most Western countries now openly embraces not just globalisation and the gradual dissolution of traditional national boundaries, but also rapid cultural change via social engineering. However, until recently most national leaderships pretended to care about their countries, their citizens and their traditions to retain their people's trust and preserve social stability.

Back in the day rebels would oppose the imperialism or military adventurism of their rulers. We rightly associated wars, exploitation and oppression of subjugated peoples with expansionist nationalism. Some of us felt so disgusted with the crimes of our ruling elite that we would support their enemies or wish for the dissolution of our nation state into smaller regions of a larger continental superstate. Much of the European Union's philosophical appeal among the continent's trendy professional classes rested on its apparent disassociation with previous colonial empires. Yet in the early 21st century it's not so much the working classes who want to abolish their countries, as national elites who are now so enamoured with globalisation that they see their country as a mere anachronism and only pay lip service to its cultural heritage to placate conservative opinion.

Today school students learn about the horrors of, wait for it, nationalism. often seen alongside religion as the root cause of all evil. As discussed in previous posts we should contrast negative nationalism, which seeks to impose itself on rival ethnic identities, from positive nationalism or patriotism, which implies pride in the cultural heritage and collective achievements of one's wider community. In this sense negative nationalism is a precursor to imperialism, which has now morphed into globalism. We find many of the descendants of the same business classes who championed British imperialism in the 19th century and embraced Americanism in the mid 20th century are now the keenest advocates of globalism, often at odds with more conservative or protectionist movements at home. The worst examples of 20th century mass murder came not from small to medium-sized countries minding their own business, but from expansionist regimes that believed either in their civilisational supremacy or sought revenge for perceived past injustices. Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's People's Republic China, both responsible for millions of avoidable deaths, were not compact nation states, but regional powers with a globalist outlook that openly suppressed traditional expressions of ethnic nationalism. Even isolationist regimes such as Pol Pot's short-lived Democratic Kampuchea came about as a reaction to competing expansionist imperialist and ideological forces in the region. Pol Pot received funding both from China and later from the US State Department. His regime could only seize control due to the power vacuum created by US bombing of the Vietcong (Vietnamese National Liberation Front) camps in Eastern Combodia. Admittedly a cocktail of supremacist ethno-nationalism and military might can engender murderous regimes, as we saw in Nazi Germany and Japan. However, one may also argue that they only resorted to genocidal barbarity because other means of commercial and political expansionism had failed. The problems here were military adventurism and ethnic supremacism, not national pride. The British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian and Dutch empires were also responsible for their fair share of mass murder and ethnic cleansing, mostly of defenceless peoples who failed to write their own history books to counter the dominant narrative of civilising the world.

The workers' movement has long championed internationalism, i.e. solidarity and cooperation among independent nations with different cultural traditions and mores. One of the most famous gestures of true internationalism was when British and German soldiers ceased hostilities over Christmas 1914, exchanged gifts and reportedly played football. The truce highlighted the reality that it was not their war. Ordinary working people had little or no say in their country's foreign policy or military planning and had to rely on biased newspapers for information about unfolding events in other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Most supported the war due to their instinctive loyalty to their fatherland, a concept alien to many young Europeans who prefer vaguer appeals to abstract social justice and non-judgmental universalism. A hundred years ago our rulers urged us to fight for our country, now the descendants of the same power elites want us to welcome the transformation of our countries into mere regions of a fluid global superstate. Some still imagine the ruling classes as a reactionary cabal of nationalist aristocrats and religious leaders eager to prevent the fraternisation of a global working class yearning for a new tomorrow free of oppression or petty ethnocentric divisions. This is little more than 19th century fiction. In reality the upper classes have always been more universalist in outlook. The Great War of 1914 to 1918 saw intimately related European Royals on different sides of a dispute over the carving up of the former Ottoman Empire and the remapping of Eastern Europe. Ever since power has shifted to the bankers, oligarchs and state bureaucrats, who strut the world stage and often pose as progressive and environmentally conscientious liberals. Forget the waning influence of British Royalty, the real movers and shakers of the next century will be today's mightiest business leaders and multibillionaire technocrats in the guise of familiar jeans-clad rockstar tycoons such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Tim Cook or Mark Zuckerberg or even Britain's very own small-time billionaire aviator Richard Branson. These guys are all globalists, not old school nationalists by any stretch of the imagination.

Rebels against Post-modernism

Today's intellectual dissidents are seldom those calling for faster global cultural convergence. That prize belongs to what we may call the loony fringe of overzealous cheerleaders and idealists whose vitriolic loathing of their countries and traditions can be easily manipulated by global bankers who view national democracies with disdain. Instead the rebels of the early third millennium seek to warn us of the creeping authoritarianism of our ruling elites and of the cultural decay of our liberal societies. Naturally their main points of reference are the historically successful and prosperous nation states of the 19th and 20th century with their focus on civic culture and a mix of familial and social responsibility built on traditional values that evolved gradually through trial and error over many generations. While negative nationalism may have led to the revanchist neo-imperialism of the Japanese Empire and Germany's short-lived Third Reich, positive nationalism produced the social democratic mixed economies of Western Europe, North America, Japan, South Korea and Australasia. Most of the relative freedoms and rights we now take for granted evolved in nation states. Each country had a national debate about contentious issues as diverse as abortion, the legalisation or criminalisation of dangerous narcotics, nuclear power or euthanasia. Naturally people may reach different conclusions on these issues and live with the consequences. If a Muslim country wishes to force all women to wear a veil in public, that's their business. A globalist may seek to change such practices through military interventionism rather than by setting an example of more enlightened dress codes. If a cultural habit is bad for its practitioners, they will soon learn by comparison with neighbouring countries who take different approaches. Superior cultures, especially those that have stood the test of time, tend to expand more through emulation rather than conquest or imposition. We may reasonably debate whether the British needed to colonise India and much of Africa to spread our technical expertise, language or customs. Would the Indians and Africans not have found other ways to learn from our scientific discoveries and innovations without being colonised? Indeed many would consider the Christian culture that Britain spread in the 19th century to much of the non-European world both backward and supremacist. One only needs to read the annals of George Bernard Shaw's Fabian Society to learn how many envisaged the British Empire would morph into a Federation of the World.

Rebels vs Conformists

Today's critical thinkers can easily attract derogatory labels such as misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, Islamophobes (which my spell checker has just underlined), transphobes, right-wingers, conspiracy theorists, fascists or, if all else fails, Nazis. At the recent #welcomeToHell protests against the Hamburg G20 summit, Antifa black block activists asked reporters if they were, wait for it, Nazis before proceeding to beat them up. Such epithets are mere insults devoid of any connection to real historical events, as if modern dissidents are as obsessed with a short chapter in central European history as the authoritarian left seems to be. Unless you submit to borderless universalism and systematic social engineering, you are purportedly on a spectrum of reactionary perspectives that include sympathy for a defunct dictatorship.

By and large dissenters react to overwhelming bias from the mainstream media, academia and corporate lobbyists. Anxiety grows when empirical first-hand experiences diverge from the sanitised versions of reality that our mainstream media feeds us. When the media and other vehicles of indoctrination suppress key aspects of objective reality, some of us begin to ask questions. That doesn't mean we always come up with the right answers. It's easy to get sidetracked by focussing only on circumscribed issues or viewing the whole world through a narrow prism. This is precisely the tactic that clever social policy marketers deploy. They emphasise a perceived problem, e.g. depression in pre-school children, and present a solution, e.g. early psychiatric screening. If we focus on that problem alone without reference to wider society, the solution may sound reasonable especially if marketed as a mental health checkup. Likewise dissidents may view today's social problems entirely through the prism of Islamic fundamentalism or Israeli involvement in recent Middle East wars. These phenomena are based on mere observations of a tangled web of events that cannot be fully understood in isolation.

Islamocentrism

Twenty years ago Islamic fundamentalism seemed a side issue, confined to a few regions of Central Asia and Middle East with a few followers among the Muslim diaspora in Europe. The US and UK had long funded some radical Islamic sects, most notably Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Afghanistan's Mujahideen to counter Soviet influence before 1991 and secular pan-Arabist regimes later. As an opponent of Western interventionism in the Middle East, I soon became acquainted with the prickly Israeli / Palestinian issue and the role of the Zionist lobby in shaping US Foreign Policy. On demonstrations against military intervention I naively viewed Muslims as allies in the great battle against US imperialism and Western cultural decadence. Islam does have a few merits, such as its condemnation of gambling and interests on loans. Some interpretations of the Quran reveal an appeal to universal love and social solidarity akin to Christianity, but in practice modern Islamic societies exhibit extreme materialism, internecine violence, misogyny, child marriage, polygamy and castigation of homosexuality. For many years I wilfully turned a blind eye to these oppressive aspects not only of austere Wahhabism, but a wider unreformed Sunni and Shia Islam.

Before the 1980s many Muslim societies had experienced a rather swift cultural enlightenment. One can still view films of Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon from the 1960s with women wearing revealing dresses, jeans or short skirts just like their contemporaries in the West. Cultural attitudes seemed to differ little from those in Christian countries with a comparable level of economic development. An Afghani acquaintance of mine recounted her experiences as a student in 1980s Kabul before the Mujahideen took over. Educated women could aspire to careers in medicine and scientific research. A decade later the Taliban had forced all Afghan women to wear burkas in public and prevented girls from attending school. Yet these austere practices masked the sexual slavery of young women and little boys behind closed doors. Meanwhile I revisited the nondescript municipality of Luton where I spent my teenage years, only to notice the small Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities once concentrated in Bury Park have become the most visible ethnic group. Women now wear burkas in the town's large Arndale shopping centre. Many long-established pubs have closed to match the town's changing demographics and most of the people I knew from the late 70s have relocated either to nearby market towns or further afield. In little more than 30 years the Muslim community has gone from fewer than 5% of the population to over 50% of under 25s. Nobody really cared that much about Luton, but if you read the liberal press you may be under the false impression that the widely vilified and allegedly rightwing Tommy Robinson exaggerated the scale of the problem facing Luton's parallel communities. While once Lutonians would boast of their Irish, Londoner, Regional English, Scottish, Caribbean, Italian, Greek Cypriot or Indian heritage, today the real divide is between Muslims and everyone else. In the late 70s I eagerly attended Anti Nazi League demos and Rock Against Racism gigs to protest against the antics of few white racists and the short-lived popularity of the National Front (an ex school mate actually joined this organisation). I would read reports of white skinheads deliberately targeting defenceless black and Asian kids. In real life a mixed gang of English and West Indian lads beat me up once, but a I didn't let this isolated incident counter the narrative of pervasive white racism that essentially transferred the guilt of British colonialists onto working class youngsters in post-imperial Britain. None of this rapid demographic transformation would matter if everyone shared similar values and a comparable level of cultural integration. Today Luton's most tightly integrated community adhere to Islam. Everyone else is an outsider or infidel.

Media hysteria means little unless it tallies with lived experience. On my return to Greater London in 2006 I became aware that phenomena I had previously dismissed as mere teething problems of a multicultural Britain had begun to sow deep seeds of division. The rose-tinted view of Cool Britannia that I would read in the Guardian and Independent or see in BBC or Channel 4 documentaries seemed at odds with the harsh reality of ethnically cleansed neighbourhoods interspersed with unaffordable gentrified estates. Alarm bells started to ring when Guardian columnists expressed greater outrage over Daily Mail sensationalism than verified accounts of Pakistani rape gangs. That Daily Mail readers would tarnish all Muslims with the same brush seemed to concern Guardian columnists more than the fate of thousands of mainly white teenage girls treated as sex slaves. Some of us actually care about the truth. The mainstream liberal media now used the same techniques of diversion and subterfuge that served to justify Western intervention in the Middle East to suppress the unfolding reality of the kind of social disintegration that could lead to civil war. Some of us recall the Guardian's anti-Serbian bias in the Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s. In the final analysis the death count was fairly even split among the belligerent sides. The Serbs were the bad guys, while the Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians were mere victims of Serb aggression. The Guardian devoted thousands of column inches not to objective reporting of a complex conflict, but to slandering dissenters who failed to toe their line that the Serbs initiated most violence, going so far as to describe playwright Harold Pinter as an atrocity denier for opposing the 1999 NATO airstrikes over rump Yugoslavia. We now see the same vitriol against those who protest against some of the less salutary side effects of Britain's multicultural experiment. The English white working class have in effect become the Serbs of the current decade. The liberal media either ignores likes of Shazia Hobbs and Anne Marie Waters, or it associates them with alleged far-right activists. That the former is a mixed race Glaswegian and the latter an Irish lesbian and former Labour activist is of little interest to the regressive left, their critique must be ridiculed.

State-sanctioned ethnic cleansing

The concept of multiculturalism appeals to me on many levels, not least because I've long loathed the creeping homogenisation that is rapidly displacing traditional cultures that evolved gradually over countless generations. I would liken real cultural diversity with an insurance policy. If one culture succumbs to dysfunctional decadence, others can correct its ways by seeking inspiration from more successful societies. If a universal culture results in unsustainable degeneracy or extreme totalitarianism, the repercussions are by definition global in nature. However, the peaceful coexistence of diverse cultures is not the same as a deliberate policy of mass movements of divergent peoples or as Douglas Murray would put it the transformation of a country into an airport terminal. Indeed airport-grade security is steadily infiltrating shopping centres, office blocks, colleges and other public venues, just in case some deranged loners or radicalised extremists unleash their hatred on innocent bystanders.

Cognitive Dissonance

The cognitive dissonance of the liberal media is so strong that they fail to acknowledge that the spread of Islamic fundamentalism into the West could destroy the very progressive liberalism they claim to cherish. It could do this two ways. If Douglas Murray, author of the Death of Europe, or Boualem Sansal , author of 2084: The End of the World, are right, then radical Islam will eventually replace modern Western society except perhaps in a few isolated havens of tranquility populated by affluent liberal elitists. However, technological developments will likely preclude such an extreme outcome. Some Islamic leaders may be shrewd businessmen and ruthless political strategists, but they will rely on technology developed by mainly European, North American and East Asian engineers, bioscientists and programmers to placate their growing army of adherents. Countries like Sweden or Germany can only provide generous welfare to economic migrants if they can leverage their collective brainpower to generate excess wealth. The Islamist strategy is solely predicated on conquest by migration and a higher fertility rate and will ultimately fail if their offspring cannot contribute in any meaningful way to wealth generation. A much more likely scenario in my view is that the spread of dysfunctional subcultures and parallel communities will only empower the technocratic elite eager for pretexts to expand surveillance and limit free speech.


What Is Social Engineering

A Web search for this term may define it only in its more recent application in the context of information security where it may refer to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. This is obviously not what I mean. I refer instead to a combination of social policies, spending priorities, media conditioning, educational bias and commercial incentives that affect human behaviour, social interaction, our identity and sense of self. Architecture, town planning, wealth distribution, transportation, advertising, information technology and schooling are all factors that governments and big businesses can engineer to modify human behaviour. It's not necessarily a bad thing if such policies and their likely implications are openly debated. However, influential pressure groups can easily manufacture consent for radical policy initiatives by focussing on a narrow set of perceived social ills. Other forms of social engineering appear to respond to market forces or popular demand, e.g. pervasive fast beat piped music in shopping malls, leisure centres, offices and now even in some schools and libraries.

The key question is whether policy planners and corporate executives were aware of the psychosocial consequences of their initiatives, e.g. did the expansion of welfare state, especially the provision of generous child benefits to single parents, lead to the demise of the two-parent family as the cultural norm? Some would question the morality of those who even dare to ask such questions? Others would either seek alternative explanations or would welcome the decline of traditional family structures.

Categories
All in the Mind Computing Power Dynamics

The Brave New World Test

Fertility Clinc

Human history has had plenty of upheavals, but I believe we have never experienced such a rapid rate of technological and cultural change with worldwide reach. In 1931 Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World not so much as a reliable prognosis of human development over the coming six centuries (as the story is set in the year 2540 AD), but as a warning of how our socially progressive trajectory could lead us to a dystopia of complete submission to a technocratic elite. Huxley failed to foresee the likely implications of artificial intelligence and nano-robotics. He had mistakenly assumed the underclasses, represented by deltas and epsilons, would have a role to play in the production process. Yet as I write Chinese industries are busy automating their manufacturing facilities despite the widespread availability of cheap labour. In Huxley's day geneticists had yet to discover DNA or understand the mechanics of bio-engineering and cloning, yet he had in my view correctly identified a direction of travel, that would only be temporarily set back by the rise of national autocracies, another world war and an uneasy transition from Western colonialism to national independence in the developing world. Indeed one may argue that some rivals to Western neo-liberalism as it emerged in Western Europe and North America such as fascism, Naziism or Soviet-style socialism were mere failed experiments, whose people management techniques could serve a future ruling class once we had the technology to placate the masses through endless entertainment and effective mind control without relying on their brainpower to keep the economy going. This has always been our rulers' main dilemma: How can they prevent the masses from shaping the future of our society and gaining greater personal independence?

We can set six simple tests to track our progress towards this Huxleyan dystopia:

1) Pervasive Surveillance

We can still retreat to our private spaces and shield ourselves from electronic surveillance by logging off or taking basic precautions to protect our privacy. However, slowly but surely as cybernetics invade our domestic life and natural language processing evolves, more and more of our informal communication is monitored. People have already been arrested, fined and jailed for politically incorrect comments on social media. Facebook now analyses messages via NLP to filter posts and add links to fact-checking sites to correct suppositions that threaten certain vested interests. Meanwhile governments are keen to prevent citizens from using any indecipherable form of encryption. For the time being it appears the technically savvy can easily outwit any restrictions imposed by technically illiterate politicians, but the tech giants are already colluding with big government to police cyberspace. Just imagine how such techniques could evolve once we routinely have bio-chip implants capable of monitoring our thoughts.

2) Mind Control Through Entertainment and Stupefaction

The leisure and entertainment sectors have grown in leaps and bounds over the last six decades. Once upon a time commoners would make do with rudimentary means to amuse each other at communal festivities. Today entertainment is a multibillion dollar industry that pervades every aspect of our lives, whether recreational, educational or professional. However, we still have a wealth of choice and may filter out forms of commercialised distraction that do not suit our tastes or high standards. In many modern settings we have to little choice but to consume genres of music and cinematography that clearly have psychological impacts. Some of us have been desensitised to such audiovisual ferocity that we hardly notice it. We could treat stupefaction as a separate facet, but it is just another means of mind control and people management. Human beings have long experimented with psychotropic substances to regulate mood and foster harmony and connectedness. We could argue that caffeine, cannabis, opiates and khat have long helped make our lives bearable in different ways. However, such crude substances have undesirable side effects that may harm one's physical or mental health, trigger social unrest and weaken our current rulers' grip on power. Psychoactive substances are thus regulated, i.e. suppressed where their adverse effects may unduly harm public health or social stability and encouraged where their mood-altering properties can suppress undesirable moods or behaviours. While smoking rates have declined swiftly in much of the West over the last 3 decades, the prescription of antidepressants, stimulants and antipsychotics has grown as more and more people are diagnosed with a growing array of conditions that psychiatrists believe require such treatment. Psychopharmacologists recognise that people not only react to drugs in different ways, but psychoactive medications inevitably interact with food, drink and numerous artificial additives as well as naturally with recreational drugs. We do not yet have a universal Soma-style drug that can reliably pacify citizens by suppressing negative thoughts and erasing unpleasant memories, but we're getting very close. Arguably other means of pacification are more effective, such as action-packed movies, fast-beat music and online gaming that entertain our senses and distract our minds from real world events. Recent moves to legalise, commercialise and regulate marijuana in a number of countries, states and provinces may harbinger a near future where most people are no longer required to undertake any intellectually or physically demanding tasks, but merely stay happy, inspire their friends and relatives and act as consumer guinea pigs.

3) Artificial Reproduction and Managed Life Termination

While the first two criteria are common to other dystopian visions, artificial reproduction defines the Brave New World scenario. Despite our evolved intelligence, natural procreation remains the primary driver of human behaviour and organisation. However, it relies on clearly defined biological genders and competition for the most desirable partners. So far we have only made tentative baby steps towards state-controlled procreation. IVF normalised the concept of using fertility clinics to produce your offspring. Originally billed as a way to help heterosexual couples who failed to conceive naturally, the technique is now available for single parents and gay couples. As the proportion of children born to single parents grows, the authorities have phased out heteronormative terms such as mother and father and even replaced the term parent with caregiver. Meanwhile, social workers play a greater role in monitoring vulnerable parents and may take children away from problematic parents and assign them to new substitute carers. We already have the technology to bypass natural mothers and fathers altogether. In 2015 the British government authorised three parent babies produced by inserting one's mother's artificially fertilised egg nucleus in a donor oocyte (egg shell), a technique known as Mitochondrial replacement therapy. Moreover, artificial wombs are no longer science fiction. Some Swedish women have already borne babies in transplanted wombs, a technology which could also help men and male-to-female transgender people experience pregnancy. The next logical step is to enable embryos to grow in artificial wombs. It would only be a matter of time before extracorporeal gestation became the norm for healthy women too as a means to avoid all potential medical complications for baby and progenitors alike. The first successful human cloning may soon reach the public domain, but merely copying imperfect human blueprints will not satisfy our elite's lust to enhance their intellectual superiority. The real breakthrough to look out for will be the perfection of gene-editing in embryos, paving the way for designer babies, who combined with machine-augmented intelligence may form a kind of super-race.

Phasing out Senility

Senility presents a massive people management challenge as modern medicine has extended our live expectancy. The elderly with mild to medium forms of dementia are not only staid in their ways, but can impair the effectiveness of socialisation techniques aimed at the younger generation. Currently euthanasia has only been legalised tentatively in a few jurisdictions, but in the Netherlands some people with severe mental illnesses have been allowed to opt to terminate their lives. More disturbing is the rapid shift in public policy and attitudes over the last 15 years. The Netherlands has seen a rise of state-sanctioned mercy killings from 1815 in 2003, 3136 in 2010 and to 6091 last year (2016), which is around 1 in 30 of all deaths. Lawmakers are now considering euthanasia for healthy people over the age of 75 through legislation ominously known in English as the Completed Life Bill.

4) Sex for recreational purposes only

In human beings sex has always played a role in intimate bonding, often as a reward for loyalty to one's partner and conscientious behaviour within a relationship. It's also the ultimate expression of positive discrimination either for high-status partners or superlative physiques. All societies have sexual taboos, for while eroticism may reap many rewards, it can also cause psychological and physical harm as well as yield unwanted babies. However, once all procreation is achieved through artificial means, i.e. without either copulation or gestation, mutually pleasurable stimulation of the erogenous zones can take on a different role. In just 50 years attitudes to non-heteronormative expressions of sexuality have shifted dramatically in much of the world. Yet our private actions are increasingly subject to scrutiny in a deluge of confusing and conflicting mixed messages as surveillance encroaches on our private lives. In keeping with the contemporary mood Huxley foresaw recreational sex as lighthearted consequence-free fun between men and women and failed to speculate on the normalisation of acts that most traditional societies have deemed either perverse or only permissible in special circumstances. Of course, we could not only use genetic engineering to let us enjoy carefree sex, but also to suppress potentially harmful or unhealthy sexual urges or unleash our erotic desires on life-like sex dolls as envisaged in the 2015 movie Ex Machina. In George Orwell's 1984 the all-powerful state frowned upon sexual liaisons between lovers as such acts may form lasting personal bonds that weaken the Party's grip on power. Orwell, I suspect, remained a techno-pessimist as he contemplated the aftermath of a barbaric world war and the spectre of a nuclear Armageddon. Our attitudes to sexuality are likely to adapt rapidly to technological and cultural changes. However, our ruling classes will seek to exploit our natural desires both to pacify us and as another pretext to spy on us.

5) Division of humanity into bio-social castes with differing neurological profiles

Eugenics remained a common theme within the Western intelligentsia before the second world war. Anthropologists did not shy from ascribing different intelligence profiles to different subgroups of humanity. Among the keenest advocates of eugenics, i.e. state intervention to discourage the intellectually impaired from breeding, was the former Fabian society president and renowned novelist George Bernard Shaw. The Fabian society has long been at the heart of orthodox British progressivism, believing that the state exists to guide both the economy and the people to a better more prosperous tomorrow through benevolent social engineering. The main distinction between Fabian gradualists and revolutionary Bolsheviks was that the former believed they could bring about a more egalitarian society by subverting the current system, while the latter believed we need first to overthrow capitalism before a vanguard party could guide the workers to new communist utopia. Fabians recognised that only free enterprise could create the kind of sophisticated technology they will need to transition to a form of collectivism that satisfies all our existential and emotional needs .

The defeat of National Socialism with its concept of Aryan racial superiority and the emergence of Anglo-American social liberalism thwarted the plans of eugenicists. To counter the appeal of Soviet-style socialism, the dynamic mixed economies of the West had to champion equality of opportunities for all. By the 1960s mainstream academia and social policy makers had consigned racial eugenics to the dustbin of imperial history as the last vestige of white European supremacy. It is admittedly hard to win public support in a nominally democratic system if you deem a large portion of your electorate intellectually inferior.

Yet elitism, or the belief that intellectually superior upper class should guide social progress, has never really gone away and neither have our enlightened rulers abandoned eugenics altogether. Instead they peddle the mantra of equality and diversity, emphasising how people may be both equal, but have different neurological profiles that presumably have genetic roots. In our everyday lives we meet people who use their intelligence in radically different ways. Simon Baron Cohen, head of developmental psychopathology of the University of Cambridge, popularised a spectrum from extreme systematisers to extreme empathisers in his best-selling book, The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain. One may interpret his theory as confirming sexual dimorphism applies to neurology as well as to anatomy, but also redefining autism no longer as a rare developmental disorder but as spectrum that stretches into mainstream humanity in the form of Asperger's Syndrome or high functioning autism. The theory appears to imply there is some sort of trade-off between cold-blooded systematic analysis and the kind of advanced soft people skills that have become so important in our networked society. However, others disagree. We may use the same intellectual skills to negotiate personal interactions as we apply to scientific analysis. Human relationships are subject to many unwritten rules and often require contextual adaptations as we try to guess another person's intentions and feelings. Psychologists often refer to traits such as agreeableness or conscientiousness alongside openness to experience, extraversion and neuroticism. The growing focus on mental health with the psychiatrisation of every conceivable personality flaw such as depression, anxiety, shyness, hyperactivity or compulsivity have led researchers and medical professionals to explore the distribution of these traits ad infinitum. Market researchers and policy makers take a special interest in neurological diversity. They are no longer content to segment markets only by age group, gender, ethnic background or educational attainment. They want to build complex character profiles to ascertain your susceptibility to different marketing approaches, e.g. are you a conformist who merely follows fashion or do you try to swim against the tide and seek counter-cultures ? More ominously techniques pioneered for market research can help identify groups of people with problematic mindsets who may hold opinions at odds with our ruler's social engineering strategy.

The missing piece in this human jigsaw puzzle is of course IQ. While being more or less gregarious or more or less conformist does not necessarily make you more or less valid as a human being, a biologically determined and thus immutable IQ is the one factor that can justify privilege and greater power. In the US SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Tests) serve as approximate IQ tests. In the UK standardised national literacy and numeracy tests serve more to measure a pupil's receptivity to teaching methods than their culturally neutral analytical intelligence. However, mental health screening, which may soon become mandatory, reintroduces true IQ tests through the backdoor. Rest assured similar initiatives are afoot in other countries too, all under the pretext of helping vulnerable young people overcome mental health issues. Meanwhile we've seen a marked rise in the proportion of youngsters with severe learning disabilities, i.e. boys and girls who are not merely a bit weird, geekish or boisterous but who have not mastered some of the most basic life skills and will in all likelihood require constant assistance as adults. Learning disabilities now cover a very wide range of perceived intellectual impairments. In some cases it may be hard to ascertain if they are caused by psychosocial rather than mainly biological factors. Since the 1990s special needs education has mushroomed. In England and Wales alone there were 471,000 assistants by 2014 employed to help pupils with special learning challenges. While teaching aides may sometimes just help pupils whose home language is not English get up to speed in the default language of instruction (around 1/4 of English school pupils have foreign parents), extra language help would usually only be a temporary requirement especially as young children tend to absorb the dominant language from peers, television and online media. In some mainstream schools special needs pupils may only be a small percentage, but in others, especially in deprived areas, this proportion can rise significantly once we include pupils with ADHD who are routinely medicated with the stimulant methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin. In some primary schools as many as 1 in 4 pupils are on such psychoactive drugs. Dyslexia is another phenomenon, often ascribed to whole-word teaching of English spelling, that may fall under the broad umbrella of learning disabilities.

Educationalists prefer to explain our growing awareness of learning disabilities in terms of a more inclusive and caring society that wants to help people who in previous generations would have fallen by the wayside, ended up austere institutions or suffered early deaths through neglect. As a result health visitors and paediatricians are much more likely to refer children for diagnosis. However, other factors may have contributed to this rise, most notably the much higher survival rate of premature babies, greater use of IVF for conception, higher preponderance of multiple births (in the US this has risen from 1 in 53 in 1980 to 1 in 33 in 2014 ) and medical advances that enable severely disabled children to survive into adulthood. Whether you like it or not, in traditional societies before the advent of modern medicine any child with a severe neurological handicap unable to undertake basic life tasks would have been left to die. While many view our greater generosity towards weaker members of our community as a sign of social progress, it does bring with it a dilemma. We now have to acknowledge that some people may have a significantly lower intellectual capacity and thus be less able to fully participate in the organisation of a complex society. When the neurologically handicapped made up less than 1% of people, we could easily accommodate them as a vulnerable category exempt from the normal responsibilities of life. It seemed common sense, at least based on our traditional emphasis on greater self-reliance, that we should prevent such people from procreating as they would be unable to look after their offspring. However, now both consensual sexual activity and parenthood are viewed as rights rather than privileges or responsibilities. Few have pondered the implications of allowing the proliferation of intellectually impaired underclasses. Indeed even to mention the subject invites instant derision as a latter-day eugenicist. Yet the normalisation of dysfunctional personality profiles and dysgenics through the higher survival rate of the neurologically impaired may well lead to the emergence of submissive human subcategories akin to Aldous Huxley's epsilons and deltas. In a near future where smart robotics has relieved most of humanity of the need to work, happiness, social integration and compliance (extreme agreeableness in psychology) may be more highly valued than analytical intelligence.

6) Suppression of Free Will and Independent Thought, except as personal preferences and behaviours subject to psychoanalysis

Many high profile intellectuals believe free will is a mere illusion. However, our whole conception of individual liberty, self-determination, human rights and common law is founded on the premise that we all have independent minds capable of critical thinking. Psychiatry reduces human ideation and emotions to biochemical reactions or a complex combination of biological and environmental stimuli. By this logic homicide is not so much a crime as a behavioural malfunction that leads to an unfortunate death. I guess that's how we would explain the erratic behaviour of a robot that destroyed another robot.

Free will lies at the heart of what it means to be human, but we usually only ascribe full responsibility to adults of sound mind, i.e. only a mature mind has gained enough experience to make independent decisions. In most legal systems parents or other responsible adults are held accountable for the actions of minors and are thus entrusted with their discipline. However, the current trend to explain aberrant behaviours in psychiatric terms effectively infantilises the whole of humanity, except an elusive cabal of experts and higher authorities.

Psychoanalysts can even explain beliefs and political opinions as predictable reactions to environmental conditioning and neurological profiles that affect the way we process information. It is certainly easy to see how social conditioning can affect our opinions but some of us can and do think out of the box and challenge orthodox thinking. By dismissing unwelcome viewpoints as reactionary, populist or childish, the intellectual elite imply that we may not participate in the decision-making process unless we accept their presumed expertise. Thus in a referendum on a contentious issue such as nuclear power we decide which set of experts to believe. Yet the elite still needs to give us the illusion of democratic accountability just we like to take ownership of our ideas, which are seldom original and inevitably rely on prior art. In a dictatorship the appointed government and business classes exercise power on behalf of the people, who have to be conditioned to accept their authority. By contrast in a nominal democracy, the ruling classes manufacture consent for a range of acceptable policy options. Nonetheless we have witnessed rapid cultural change despite the conservative instincts of Western electorates. Most of the baby steps we have taken so far towards the Brave New World scenario have not been openly discussed until they are presented as ineluctable aspects of modern life. The point is while earlier technological advances have certainly transformed our societies, the next stages in the ongoing bio-engineering and artificial intelligence revolutions may transform what it means to be human.