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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Why does the Regressive Left worship the NHS?

NHS shrinks

Or rather why do metropolitan elites not trust the Working Classes?

Before you doubt my sanity, let me clarify a couple of buzzwords in the title. By regressive left I mean a widespread political current that positions itself on the progressive left, but always sides, when push comes to shove, with remote institutions who want to control rather than empower ordinary people. If progress means redressing the balance of power from elites to humble commoners, we should call many policies favoured by today's trendy left regressive as they undo much of the real emancipatory progress we have made since we cast aside the tyranny of our feudal overlords and the slave labour masters of early capitalism.

The second misconception is that anyone who questions the sanctity of the UK's National Health Service must be motivated by the vilest hatred towards the sick and disabled. Most of us aspire to good health and greater personal independence, which usually entails ideally being able-bodied. Medical advances have in many ways worked wonders enabling more otherwise incapacitated people to survive than ever before. Moreover, assistive technology can overcome the limitations of many physical and sensory disabilities, which most of us would agree is a good thing. I wouldn't wish paraplegia on anyone, but I welcome the availability of electric wheelchairs, adapted cars, hoists and robots to help the victims of spinal injuries lead more independent lives. However, the real debate is not whether we need health services, but how do we best provide healthcare to let more people lead meaningful lives? In other words, should our healthcare system empower us to lead the lives we want or should it empower professional elites to control our lives for the greater good?

I recently sprained my ankle on black ice, struggled to stand up afterwards and needed help to travel home. As the pain did not subside and my ankle swelled, my wife took me to the local A&E for an X-Ray. Predictably I was asked about all the medical conditions I may have, what medication I was on, whether I smoked, how much exercise I got, whether I had had a flu jab or suffered from any mental health issues. Ever since a misdiagnosis for a neurological condition 15 years ago, I've been a low-maintenance NHS patient. I hardly ever use the service unless I really need to. Admittedly the NHS did help me following two road accidents as a child, but back in the 1970s total healthcare spending amounted to just 4% of GDP. It now stands at 8% and rising without taking into account the country's huge social welfare budget and the growing private healthcare sector.

Like it or not, lifestyle changes and better medical technology have transformed the healthcare sector as we live longer and are more likely to be diagnosed with lifelong conditions requiring some form of treatment. Being on life support is a mixed blessing. You may enjoy more fruitful years of your life, but at the expense of less personal independence. If you're a subsistence farmer eking out a frugal living on a remote farmstead, you can maintain a high degree of personal independence as long as you are able-bodied. Sooner or later we all die, but the experiences we cherish most are our personal achievements in building a livelihood for ourselves and our loved ones. If other organisations assume these roles, then these feats are no longer personal achievements, but merely rewards for our participation in wider society.

I'd like to think that control over your body is one of the most fundamental human rights, but apparently not if you subscribe to the concept of socialised medicine in which healthcare professionals implement solutions that minimise the incidence of disease and problematic medical conditions in the general population. A classic example of this mentality is fluoridation of the water supply. Small doses of fluoride can help combat tooth decay when applied topically in the form of toothpaste. I won't debate whether alternatives are more effective or how we managed before the advent of toothpaste. Nonetheless, many people are lazy and do not brush their teeth as regularly and effectively as they should. In the 1940s some social planners heeded advice from phosphate industry lobbyists to add fluoride to the municipal water supply. Many surveys published since have shown marginal decreases in the incidence of caries in working class children, the category most at risk. However, dental health has improved in leaps and bounds almost everywhere over the last 50 years, mainly due to better personal hygiene and a growing obsession of perfectly aligned white teeth, in regions that have never introduced fluoridation, which is most of continental Europe. Indeed many independent biochemists have argued that risks of foetal brain damage and dental fluorosis caused by a fluoride overdose outweigh the marginal benefits of reducing tooth decay in vulnerable individuals who eat lots of sweets and fail to clean their teeth often enough. While public policy wonks may debate its effectiveness, fluoridation transfers responsibility away from families and individuals to remote organisations. Support for such policies always comes from elitist think tanks, and seldom comes from grassroots movements. People like to have emergency health services available locally in case of unexpected injuries or illnesses, hence widespread public opposition to the closure of smaller local hospitals, but almost total indifference to the provision of flu jabs. Sure nobody likes to get the flu, but many of us remain unconvinced of the efficacy of a vaccine against a common family of viruses that keep mutating. As it happens, many of us have friends and family who have succumbed to flu despite agreeing to their annual injections. Alas we often have little choice than to go along with professional medical advice. Vaccines against common diseases are now practically mandatory for school children, teachers and care workers due to the concept of herd immunity. It doesn't matter what you think as a mere layperson about the effectiveness of medication, only what health professionals advise you to do.

The relative pros and cons of vaccination and fluoridation may be the least of our worries. Moves are underway to merge healthcare, social care and psychological monitoring, also known as mental healthcare. Inevitably over time combined social, physical and mental healthcare will amalgamate with education and policing too. Currently politicians from all parties here fall over each other to support the equality of mental and physical health. Sadly few have seen where this is leading us as we begin to equate unwelcome feelings, awkward personalities and politically incorrect beliefs with real illnesses and injuries that have verifiable physiological causes. If I disagree with the orthodox view on climate change (and by the way I don't), I'm not diseased. I may be wrong, but that's my right. Likewise if I'm generally a bit grumpy and too argumentative for the likes of some colleagues and family members, that's my business. As a rule if you want to keep your friends, it's not good to be grumpy all the time, but we would not be human without feelings and a strong sense of self. If I visit my GP with a sprained ankle, I don't expect him or her to evaluate my state of mind, enquire about my erotic preferences or try to have me assessed for a flurry of unrelated medical issues such as diabetes or prostate cancer. We may call this modern approach mission creep or disease-mongering.

Most practical people accept the need for public services in any complex society reliant on infrastructure like roads, railways, clean water supply, electric power and telecommunications. I know some libertarian anarchists imagine all services could eventually be privatised or run by small cooperatives, but let's be honest human nature would soon lead to some very exploitative practices as some entrepreneurs try to outsmart the masses and create new oligopolies. The point is do these public services serve us or do we serve them ?

One of the main dilemmas of modern medicine is the sensitive topic of personal responsibility. If I choose to engage in dangerous sports such as free climbing, off-piste skiing or motocross, should I expect my socialised health service to foot the bill in the event of an accident? Likewise if I prefer not to wear a seatbelt or crash helmet, should I expect other taxpayers to subsidise the additional costs of post-trauma care if I suffer severe brain damage that these safety devices may have prevented? Today in most Western countries one has little choice but to comply with strict regulations on these matters. So what happens if I choose to eat lots of junk food and partake in regular in binge drinking sessions, both perfectly legal activities in Western Europe? Should my indulgences be taxed to subsidise my statistically greater chance of succumbing to a broad gamut of diseases and, come to think of it, mental illnesses?

We really have to ask how a small subset of the population can cost the NHS a disproportionate amount of resources due to illnesses related to lifestyle choices. Yet now social justice activists play politics with good science by downplaying the importance of personal agency and social values while emphasising inherited behavioural traits or neurological diversity. Thus a dysfunctional behaviour like gambling addiction may be viewed as a neurological defect rather than a problem either with somebody's lack of wisdom or with the cultural pressures that may have led to such ill-judgment.

Solidarity requires trust and mutual respect, which in turn rely on strong cultural compatibility. We can either win the trust and respect of our neighbours through our own good conduct or we can rely on external agencies to engineer solidarity through education, awareness raising, social monitoring and law enforcement. By medicalising a condition that we would have until recently considered just part of someone's personality, the authorities can expand the range of people who require some form of treatment and thus depend on their guardianship. The system, for want of a better word, treats us increasingly like children incapable of making rational choices without some official advice. It wants us not just to seek their guidance, but to be fully integrated into an invasive human inspection network. The more often we require some form of interaction with social and medical services, the more they can monitor every aspect of our private lives and delve into our innermost thoughts. Just imagine visiting your GP for a regular checkup, only to be asked not just about your sexuality, but your state of mind via a series of questions that tap into your attitudes about key cultural and philosophical issues. What if your GP is required to ascertain not just if you're gay or straight, but if you have opinions that some may consider homophobic or Islamophic? I doubt medical professionals would ask such questions directly, but these subjects may crop up in a discussion about your mental health e.g. Suppose a patient reported feeling depressed because she's the only non-Muslim person left in her street since her old neighbours moved away. Should her GP note her patient's cultural alienation as a contributing factor to her depressed state of mind or should she consider her patient's perceived xenophobia as a medical condition in and of itself? With the rapid proliferation of recognised personality disorders, it is easy to see how concerns about someone's mental health can blur into an intrusive investigation of their philosophical outlook on life in a drive to mould people's behavioural patterns for the greater good of wider society. But who gets to decide what is good for society or not? Inevitably this task will fall to a bureaucratic elite of social planners and their army of enforcers in the guise of health visitors, primary school teachers, special needs assistants and social workers.

Hierarchical Collectivism vs Widespread Empowerment

The anti-plutocratic left, with which I still identify, has long had two main currents that aim:

  • to engineer a collectivist social conscience via an enlightened vanguard or
  • to empower millions of ordinary workers to lead more fulfilling lives with greater personal independence.

Most ordinary people focused on their immediate circumstances and the wellbeing of their family and friends favour the latter approach. Campaigns for better pay and working conditions appeal to millions of common folk. In a battle between greedy bosses and poorly paid shop floor workers, the empowerment left sides with the wage-earners rather the parasitical managerial classes. That's broadly why left-leaning parties like Labour in Britain still attract more support from the notional proletarian demographic. Despite all its betrayals, many of us just can't bring ourselves to vote tactically for the Tories and hesitate before placing our cross next to demonised parties associated with the nationalist right.

In most of Europe and North America the working classes have long given up on ideological socialism as a route to self-empowerment. Meanwhile, the vanguard left have co-opted other victim groups to further their cause and have counter-intuitively forged new alliances with the emerging technocratic elite, who no longer need a large skilled working class.

The ongoing cybernetic revolution with the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence and versatile robotics will soon dispense with rank and file workers and thereby consign the labour movement to the dustbin of history. What matters is not so much the percentage of people who are in some way employed, but the proportion of mission-critical workers whose expertise cannot be easily replaced. The latter number has declined significantly. If project managers, recruiters, marketing executives, health and safety inspectors, social media supervisors and psychiatric nurses all go on strike, the system will not grind to a halt overnight, just its smooth operation will not be monitored as meticulously. Rest assured that many aspects of these jobs will eventually be computerised too.

Elite Projects

Working class idealists of yore dreamed of a bottom-up revolution in which the workers would overthrow their bosses. By contrast today's social justice activists infiltrate NGOs, public sector organisations and increasingly big business itself to campaign for greater social regulation and surveillance. The healthcare sector is at the very epicentre of the new social-corporate complex that is gradually emerging from closer integration of tech giants, leading retailers, public services, charities and government. Facebook, Twitter and Google are deeply integrated not only with Amazon, but increasingly with supermarket chains like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's, your local hospital and myriad third sector organisations involved in various aspects of our lives. It's hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

Most policies that media pundits like to call progressive on topics as diverse as immigration to transgender rights and mental healthcare, tend to appeal much more to professional elites than to ordinary people on the ground, unless they can be persuaded that they belong to a favoured victim group. Back in the day leftwing activists would stand up for factory workers, miners and lorry drivers because they were exploited by their greedy bosses. These days upper middle class leftists champion the disabled, mentally ill, single parents, LGBTQ+ community and, of course, new itinerant communities defined by their ethno-religious affiliation as potential beneficiaries of what we can only logically call corporate welfare and potential clients of the mushrooming social surveillance sector.

Who Funds the Welfare Panacea ?

Over the last two decades Western European healthcare policies have ironically taken their lead from North America with a growing emphasis on the proactive diagnosis of medical conditions and precautionary mass medication, despite mean life expectancy being higher in most of the Western European than in the US. Healthcare spending per capita is significantly higher in the US with often exorbitant medical insurance bills. However, this lavishness has led to greater innovation and a much higher propensity to treat a wider range of medical conditions, bodily imperfections and psychological challenges. Traditionally Britain's NHS had a reputation for frugal cost-effectiveness and was, until recently, much less inclined to treat ailments that did not significantly impair someone's livelihood, such as cosmetic surgery to treat depression resulting from a poor body image. As a result the health spending gap between the world's top economies has closed.

The biomedical lobby has appealed both to growing public demand and to the instincts of politicians keen to improve healthcare to persuade either government or insurers to fund a massive expansion of their industry. This is not necessarily bad news as advances in medical technology have undoubtedly saved the lives of millions who until recently would have suffered early deaths. However, it has also greatly increased the number of people who depend on regular medical treatment, turned many into hypochondriacs and medicalised emotional unease. In his 2010 book Anatomy of Epidemic Robert Whitaker chronicled the proliferation of psychiatric diagnoses in the United States , which has now spread to Europe. Prescription rates for depression, social anxiety and psychosis are also soaring in the UK, as highlighted only yesterday in the left's bête noire, the Daily Mail. This predictably led twitter activists and virtue-signalling bloggers to condemn the popular newspaper for sensationalism and hatred against millions of ordinary people on such medication. Only a decade ago, most criticism of pharmaceutical lobbies would have come from the left. Alas drugs play a major role not only in mental health treatment, but in promoting alternative sexual lifestyles and gender expressions. The biomedical lobby is totally on board with the new fad for transgenderism, yet another excuse for medical intervention on spurious neurological grounds. Yet few ask just how are we going to fund this huge expansion in the age of smart automation and a growing wealth gap? In the end big business will foot the bill as practically the only generators of real wealth, but only by turning patients into loyal customers and experimental products.

The elitist left plan to secure their key role in the new social management sector by actively championing any causes or cultural trends that boost the number of people who need some form of monitoring. This is not social progress as I imagined it as a young socialist over 30 years ago. Social justice warriors, as many critics call this new breed of arrogant bandwagon jumpers, do not want to overthrow the establishment, they want to cheerlead the new technocratic establishment's attempts to reimagine humanity.

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Power Dynamics

On the Value of Human Life

Idyllic human nature

Two subjects are bound to enrage puritans, especially those with devout religious beliefs of one persuasion or another: abortion and birth control. Don't get me wrong, I favour vigorous debate on both issues and totally respect the rationale behind an absolute repudiation of the murder of innocent human life. Nothing is more human than a wish to go forth and multiply, but we need to be fully of aware of the likely consequences. Many will argue that once we justify the elimination of sentient beings because of their perceived weakness or superfluousness, we have crossed a moral line that may lead to industrial scale slaughter. Yet we only apply this logic to our own species whose numbers would not have risen so fast since the onset of the industrial revolution without swift technological progress and our enhanced ability to exploit the earth's natural resources. The same technology that can sustain a growing population and save the lives of those who would otherwise have died can also destroy our environment and kill unwanted people. In the early 21st century we do not lack human beings, but arguably we may have lost sight of what it means to be a living, breathing and above all free-thinking human being.

Before the advent of modern medicine and improved sanitation, only the fittest survived. To put things in perspective, the human population grew very gradually from the spread of agrarianism over ten thousand years ago to the European colonisation of the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. At the height of the Roman Empire the world's population did not exceed 300 million (usual estimates are around 250 million). When Christopher Columbus discovered the Antilles, there were still fewer than 500 million people worldwide. It took the colonisation of the Americas and the early industrial revolution to bring the global people count to one billion around 1830. As the industrial revolution spread to North America, the rest of Europe and Japan, our numbers grew to around 2 billion in 1930 and 3 billion circa 1960. There are now over 7.5 billion people and, contrary to the dire predictions of ecologists such as Paul Ehrlich (author of the Population Bomb), fewer people are malnourished today than 40 years ago. In 1798 Thomas Malthus presented an Essay on the Principle of Population that made perfect sense when applied to pre-industrial human civilisations and other animals. However, he failed to foresee an exponential rise in industrial efficiency. So despite famines in the colonies of European powers, in Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, by and large most economists believe Malthus got it wrong, but few could have foreseen the next 150 years of rapid technological progress. Some ecologists still argue that eventually we will hit our limits to material growth as the law of diminishing returns kicks in. When Richard Heinberg wrote The Party's Over in 2003, we still assumed future economic progress would be inextricably tied to the mass consumption of manufactured products rather than the provision of virtual services. We should have hit Peak Oil in 2008 when we saw crude oil reach its historic high of $150 a barrel. Despite the 2008 financial meltdown, per capita consumption has continued to grow in much of the developing world.

Most people in Europe, North America, East Asia and Australasia have already adapted to our new reality of low infantile mortality and high educational needs by having fewer children. Even the Indian fertility rate has fallen to an average of 2.3 children per woman. The birth rate remains high only in the Middle East, most of Africa, parts of Latin America and Muslim Central Asia (Pakistan and Afghanistan). While this may seem good news for those of us who care about environmental sustainability and may have once feared food and water shortages in the event of either technological meltdown or severe limits to growth, one cannot fail to notice that human life is valued much more in countries with lower birth rates. Just consider the case of Japan, with an infant mortality rate less than half that of the US and a murder rate of just 0.3 per 100,000 people compared with 34 in South Africa, 5 in the USA or 0.98 in the UK. It stands to reason that greater economic and environmental strains will lower our tolerance of weaker citizens.

A few weeks ago Islamic fundamentalists killed 305 worshippers at a Mosque in the Egyptian town of Al Arish. Unlike some other attacks against the country's dwindling Christian minority, this was an inter-Muslim affair. The Western media seldom mentions the ongoing civil war in Northern Nigeria and turned a blind eye to the 15 years of internecine bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While our media decried the killing fields of the 1994 Rwandan bloodbath, few highlighted the rapid rise in the country's population coinciding with a rapid fall in the price of its main export, coffee. When the system breaks down and fails to feed, clothe and house the populace, we can soon downgrade the worthiness of human life.

While technology may have, at least temporarily, saved us from the Malthusian trap, it has come at the price of personal independence. In our interconnected high-tech world we buy greater personal freedom by gaming the system. Like all games there are winners and losers, but the prize is greater control over your life.

As we progress to ever greater levels of sophistication and interconnectedness, we become more aware of our relative emotional and intellectual weaknesses. Many prefer to ignore the paradox that affluent societies tend to obsess more with psychological challenges. Throughout much of human history, and still today in much of the world, people were just glad to be alive and enjoy a simple meal with other members of their community. Anything else was a bonus. Today people obsess with their body image, diet, personal accessories, personality profile and ascribe any mood swings to medical issues that require some form of treatment. Whereas until recently we would explain our trials and tribulations to society, upbringing or immutable biological facts, today we view our psychological challenges in neurological terms. Feelings that we once viewed as normal reactions to our psychosocial milieu are now considered signs of a mental pathology, partly because we have so much leisure time in which to obsess about our social status, body image and perceived lack of success. Psychiatry treats the human condition as a potential pathology, something that needs to be fixed by modifying someone's personality in the same way as one would fix a malfunctioning car or computer. By equating mental health with physical health we devalue the human experience to little more than a set of illusions. Your state of mind, sense of self, thoughts, feelings or reasoned opinions may thus be pathological too. Yet personal freedom means exercising control over of your life by letting your thoughts and feelings shape the world around you, i.e. without someone else telling you what to think or how to manage your life. If the purpose of life is to hand down one's legacy to future generations, how can we fulfil our dreams if every aspect of our lives is proactively monitored and responsibility for personal wellbeing is transferred from families and individuals to social institutions that treat us as overgrown children? Indeed why have children at all, if the state tells you how to bring your offspring up?

Coercive social engineering inevitably restricts our personal independence and reduces our sense of self worth. Psychologists love to talk about the importance of self-esteem, as if it were a mere hormonal reaction to neurological systems and not the result of real life experiences and complex social interactions. Here we should contrast pleasure with happiness. The former may respond to biochemical stimulation or cheap thrills, while the latter is the result of life's achievements that require mental, emotional and physical effort. By suppressing our natural instincts or failing to channel our inborn urges in a socially advantageous way, we devalue what it means to be human. If we just wanted a perfectly harmonious community of diverse individuals devoid of jealousy or any form of interpersonal conflicts, we could biologically engineer a bunch of selfless asexual drones, whose happiness depended on only the collective good. In small communities the well-being of our team-mates or comrades may motivate us if we all share the same ethos with a high degree of mutual trust. However, both creativity and conscientiousness rely on healthy social competition and a desire for self-betterment. In larger more complex societies the abstract needs of millions of other citizens are unlikely to motivate us as much as personal advantage. We're unlikely to sacrifice body and soul for amorphous corporations with Byzantine hierarchies, but often do so for our kith and kin, but as traditional family bonds weaken, we regress into a lifelong puerile state of submission to our supervisors.

Biological Paradoxes

Humanity would not exist today without millions of years of natural evolution. None of the social or technological innovations of the last 250 years could have happened were it not a cruel process of natural selection in which only the fittest or best-adapted survived. Until recently merciless natural forces would end the short lives of those incapable of self-reliance. Many tribes would sacrifice the weak for the greater good as the late Marcel Mauss and Henri Hubert chronicled in Sacrifice: Its Nature and Function , originally published in French in 1898 as Essai sur la nature et la fonction du sacrifice. Societies as diverse as the Carthaginians, Etruscans, Aztecs, Canaanites and Celts engaged in ritual sacrifice,. In Aztec culture the victims were led to believe their sacrifice to the Gods would sustain the Universe.

Until recent times one earned respect through survival, the ultimate test of worthiness. The monotheistic Abrahamic religions that evolved alongside the more advanced agrarian societies of the Middle East enforced a new moral order that condemned child sacrifices and upheld the sanctity of innocent human life. The old Testament explicitly repudiated such practices, e.g in Leviticus 20:2–5 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death.†Nonetheless until the advent of modern medicine many weaker children would succumb to disease and painful early deaths. Today's technology can keep all but the unluckiest of newborns alive. Infant mortality in Japan is just 2 per 1000 live births compared with a staggering 112 in Afghanistan. Historical rates would have been over 200 in most of the world. To provide some perspective in 1950 most European countries had infant mortality rates over 30 per 1000 live births.

On the one hand we have enhanced the value of life by enabling more people to survive into adulthood, but on the other hand we have devalued the unique sense of achievement that each adult survivor has. In countries with advanced universal healthcare systems, we have ceased to be strugglers and have delegated all responsibility for our livelihood to technocrats over whom we have only symbolic control. Extreme interdependence undermines our sense of self unless we retain some sense of personal achievement gained through work. Alas the ongoing artificial intelligence and robotics revolution will deny this opportunity to all but the most talented individuals. Everyone else will be expendable. Should our high-tech infrastructure fail to sustain the 10 billion human inhabitants of our planet mid century, it will be relatively easy to phase out the excess population. In 2016 over 6000 Dutch citizens chose euthanasia to end their lives, sometimes for psychological reasons. As a sign of things to come, I learned of the new 3D-printed suicide machine, the so-called Sarco capsule, that lets users end their life at the click of a mouse button.

An absolute moral stance on the sanctity of all potential human could empower megalomaniac technocrats unless we can afford everyone meaningful and rewarding lives. It's intellectually dishonest to dismiss any concerns either over demographic overshoot or over the coercisive means of control required to manage a large population of dependents.

To be human means more than just being alive, feeling biochemically induced pleasure or belonging to a monitored social group, it means above all retaining intellectual self-determination interacting with other autonomous human thinkers whom we respect and trust.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/HFCQl8ot_NU

Our obsession with mental health and lack of respect for natural selection could lead millions to voluntarily escape a seemingly pointless existence.

Categories
Power Dynamics

End of an Era

That's all Folks!

The Eclipse of American Power

Just 15 years ago in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the alternative antiwar media was abuzz with talk of the Project for a New American Century, championed by the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld as they pushed for more proactive military interventions to spread the USA's vision of neoliberalism. We can split the opponents of this strategy into two camps: those who oppose neoliberalism and/or militarism on principle and those who believed whatever its merits the policy was ultimately doomed to backfire. Today most of the globalist media who lent their moral support to successive US-led wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Balkans under the pretext of humanitarian intervention, are now openly critical of the US and UK governments and much more supportive of the European Union, which despite the outcome of the UK's 2016 referendum is forging ahead with plans to set up its own unified defence forces and federalise its structures into a United States of Europe. Just 15 years ago the Anglo-American media lampooned the cowardly French and German governments for failing to support the 2003 US-led ousting of Saddam Hussein, now they mock Donald Trump for colluding with Putin and failing to accommodate enough refugees from countries the US military has destabilised, while hailing Angela Merkel and Emanuel Macron as inspirational leaders of the progressive world.

What we are witnessing may be the steady demise of the United States as the main world power. By 2025 China's economy is set to outstrip the USA's. While US-based tech giants will continue to play a leading role in the development of artificial intelligence, the scientific centre of gravity has moved from California to Russia, China and India. You just have to look at the number of graduates in STEM subjects and the origins of the people shaping our cybernetic future. It appears our European neighbours have caught the British disease of focusing on marketing and people management rather than hard sciences. Slowly but surely Chinese and Japanese multinationals are buying their way into Europe, Australasia and North America. The next century will be a lot more Asian than many anticipated. While Anglo-American customs and language may linger on in global culture for some time to come, just as Greek and Latin outlived their respective empires, our future cultural development will be shaped largely by Asians with contributions from Africans and Latin Americans. With over half the world's current population, Asia is home to great civilisational diversity. Yet, thanks to the industriousness of its peoples and relative social stability, the East Asian model will prevail, while the Islamic world's strategy of conquest through high birth rates will only succeed in destabilising other countries, not in gaining control of the commanding heights of the techno-industrial complex.

However, the demise of the American dream is also due to the generally unanticipated failure of neoliberalism to adapt to a world of smart automation that in just 20 years could not only render most jobs obsolete, but subjugate most workless citizens to the dictatorship of a few global corporations. Neoliberalism promised a future of enterprise, competition and personal responsibility with governments intervening only to ensure equality of opportunity and some form of social safety net. In reality we have seen a transfer of power away from small businesses and local institutions to multinational businesses and global organisations. Today's small businesses are often just contract workers, whose income depends entirely on their subservience to the global mafia, e.g. in the Web development industry many of the most lucrative contracts are with advertising agencies or, would you believe it, with charities. There is not very much money to be made advocating localism or any viable alternative to global governance.

Imperialism versus Localism

The national imperialisms of the 19th century have now morphed into unabashed global imperialism, after an interlude of North American dominance. Many observers may wonder how a longstanding opponent of British imperialism, such as myself, could advocate greater national sovereignty for the United Kingdom. If you're anti-British, would you not simply wish to see the dissolution of the UK into smaller regions integrated into a larger superstate? The main flaw in this logic is that the interests of ordinary citizens have seldom coincided with those of their ruling classes. Mercantilism was the primary driver of English and later British imperialism in the 17th and 18th centuries. British may refer either to an imperial state that evolved from the 1707 union of English and Scottish crowns or it may mean the peoples who have long inhabited the British Isles through successive ruling dynasties. I opposed British imperialism, not its peoples. The East India Company helped expand British colonial influence in the subcontinent with a little help from the Royal Navy. Christian missionaries and English language teachers may have followed, but the main purpose of imperialism has always been to expand markets and subjugate peoples by peaceful means if possible and by military means if all else fails. English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh peasants and factory workers did not suddenly decide to colonise the Americas, Africa, India or Australasia. Most did not even leave their homelands or only migrated to another part of the British Isles. Some took advantage of new opportunities in their masters' new colonies, but many died in the process. One may argue that much of Britain's wealth in the 19th and early 20th century came from its colonies, but it was very unevenly distributed. Before the growth of an educated and skilled working class in the late 19th century, most inhabitants of these windswept isles endured poverty every bit as bad or even worse than typical living conditions in 19th century India if we look at comparative infant mortality rates which only began to decline with the advent of modern plumbing.

Today our business leaders only cling to commercial and cultural links with the British Commonwealth through self-interest and tradition. In 2017 India exercises more influence over tiny Britain than vice versa through its large and successful ex-pat community and its dominance in the business services market. Just as China overtakes the US in economic output, India's total GDP is poised to pull ahead of the UK's. Yet big business does not seem to mind one iota. Not only do they have a larger market of new consumers, they can tap talent from a larger pool of university graduates. Subsidising the workless underclasses will be a problem for governments and global charities.

We would like to think that our governments endeavour to give us the best headstart in life through better education and high tech skills training. In the near future a country's wealth may depend more on the percentage of its citizens able to undertake intellectually demanding jobs in scientific research and innovation than by its prestige or the strength of its banking sector. If your youngsters can only aspire to medium skill clerical and manual jobs, their livelihoods will be swept aside by artificial intelligence and global competition. Yet our politicians seem more concerned with promoting gender theory among gullible primary school children than giving them the firm foundations in mathematics, reading and writing they will need to stand a chance in tomorrow's high IQ labour market.

Nationalism has earned itself a bad name by association with 19th century imperialism and 20th century fascism. Yet positive nationalism is just a way of managing in-group preferences and shared cultural values within a confined geographic area to ensure governing institutions can be held to account. Countries can choose different paths and learn from their neighbours' mistakes. If the whole world has to converge on the same social and economic policies, we will thrive or wither together. I'm happy for Moroccans to choose to prioritise Islamic studies in their schools. Its up to them. I'm not so happy for Scottish schools to adopt the same policies or for other countries to unduly influence local democracy here. Localism means devolving power to the smallest viable unit, which may be a farm, a village, a town, a county, a region or small country, a large country or community of countries, but at each stage power has to spread from the bottom up giving each community greater responsibility over its destiny and ultimately greater personal freedom. This stands in contrast to universalism which assumes billions of human beings can magically converge on new cultural norms without coercion. I choose bottom-up democracy and not top-down manufacturing of consent.

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Computing Power Dynamics

Establishment Stitch-Up amid Shifting Alliances

Did you naively think the whole EU membership debate had something to do with Europe and its smörgåsbord of cultures, cuisines and intellectual enlightenment? No doubt some of those who voted to leave the EU reminisced simpler times and older ways where at least we had a sense of social cohesion based on shared values, but most simply wanted to regain control over the country's administration so it works in the interests of its current citizens rather than serve as a social engineering playground.

Nostalgia is not unique to Britain, but it is easy to understand why those who endured the repressive dictatorships of the mid 20th century may be keener on belonging to a community of peaceful free-trading European nations. For many the expansion of the European Economic Community and its later transformation into the European Union coincided with a period of unprecedented economic and technological growth. Yet these apparent advances have failed to improve the perceived quality of life of most Western Europeans. The relative socio-economic security of the 1950s, 60s and 70s has given way to a new era of permanent volatility in our jobs, family structures, local communities, housing and dependence on external organisations.

So come April 2019 the UK will no longer be half in the EU, it will be half out of it. Some imagined the UK could regain its national sovereignty, stabilise migratory flows to more sustainable levels, forge new more advantageous trade deals and give our young people a chance to learn new skills through greater labour market protection. Alas all that is happening is the UK will technically be able to open its markets even more to the rest of the world. I suspect the end game will be like being an associate member of the EU, NAFTA and ASEAN with special deals with India and Australia. None of these trade deals are likely to restore power to our Parliament. Quite the opposite, such trade deals will merely transfer yet more power to unaccountable multinationals, headquartered not only in places like Chicago or Frankfurt, but in locales as exotic as Hyderabad, Mumbai, Shanghai or Seoul.

If you still harbour illusions in the European Dream, Martin Schulz, former President of the European Parliament and current leader of the German SPD (social democrats), let the cat out of the proverbial bag by openly advocating a United States of Europe and urging countries that do not share this vision to leave. What's also clear is that the international elite no longer follow the lead of the United States administration. The USA's share of the global economy has been steadily declining for over 50 years. China's economy is set to overtake the USA's by 2025, while many leading trading countries are moving away from the US Dollar. Worse still US-led intervention in the Middle East has lost the all-important battle of hearts and minds as its collusion with Saudi Arabia and Israel becomes all too clear. The Syrian Civil War, fuelled by foreign mercenaries, marked a watershed as Russia, rather than the USA, helped defeat ISIS and enable millions of displaced Syrians to return to their homes. Both the BBC and CNN have lost enormous credibility as the facts on the ground fail to match the fairytale accounts of evil Assad-led forces targeting heroic freedom fighters.

While most Europeans want both peace and stability through international cooperation on environmental and security matters, few outside the metropolitan elites and idealistic students, want a United States of Europe with open-door mass immigration from Africa and the Middle East. Yet this is precisely what Europe's politcial elites offer. Only coercive means, usually threats of economic meltdown, can persuade national electorates to support tighter integration. Oddly the strongest resistance to European Federalisation comes not from France, Italy, Spain or Portugal, whose economies have struggled to adapt to the Euro, but from Eastern Europe, whose people do not want to accommodate rapid change in the ethnic composition of their countries. Eastern Europe has seen its fair share of ethnic cleansing over the last century and the spectre of Islamic hordes at the gates of Budapest and Vienna loom large in the collective psyche.

However, Europe faces another little-mentioned crisis. The continent's primary strengths have long been its educational excellence and strong skills base. Yet most technological innovation now comes from the United States and East Asia. Hundreds of millions of Indians, Iranians, Chinese, South Americans and Russians can now compete with Europe's younger generation. As standards continue to rise in much of East Asia, they're falling in much of Europe as schools have to accommodate children from new migrant communities, who seldom speak the local language at home. At the same time many traditional low and medium-skill jobs are undergoing smart automation leading to the growth of workless underclasses and the proliferation of part-time non-jobs such as charity awareness raisers. With millions of Eastern Europe's best and brightest now in the UK, Germany or Scandinavia, local youngsters are less motivated to pursue many high-stress professions such as nurses or plumbers. More striking is the dramatic fall in the scientific excellence of major Western European countries, of which only France remains in the top ten countries with the most engineering graduates. And guess which major country has the highest number of engineering graduates relative to its population? Not Germany, France, Italy or the UK, but Russia. In computing we see similar trends, Russia, Ukraine and the Far East produce proportionally more talented programmers, especially in the more demanding domains of machine learning and artificial intelligence, than North America and Western Europe. Whereas once the top developers would be attracted by higher salaries in California, in our interconnected world more and more startup companies run their operations east of the old Iron Curtain. JetBrains, the company behind Android's new Kotlin programming language (named after island near St Petersburg) comes to mind. Not only does Google rely on many engineers trained in East Asia and Russia, but both Russia and China have their own home-bred alternatives, Yandex and Baidu.

So what was really going through the minds of our politicians as they negotiated the UK's new relationship with the EU? I suspect their two main concerns were how to continue the process of globalisation on all fronts while the UK nominally leaves the EU and second how to placate public opinion back home and keep alive the illusion of democracy safe in the knowledge that the only likely alternative government, a Corbynite Labour administration who may well end up in coalition with the more business-friendly Liberal Democrats, will seek an even deeper relationship with the European Union and do nothing at all to address the issues that concerned voters most, unbalanced mass migration and job security. In just two years since Jeremy Corbyn's surprise election and Momentum's takeover of the party, Labour have fully embraced a future of extreme interdependence. If you dream of a borderless utopia with universal basic income guaranteed by taxing global corporations, the EU may well seem a side issue or a mere means to an end. As things stand, I can only think the future of our country's younger generation may be slightly better if we emulated the high-skill economies Japan, South Korea and Russia than follow Sweden and Germany's recent conversion to welfare consumerism (a common argument among Swedish politicians is that while many of their low-skill immigrants do not work at least they contribute to the economy through their consumption).

The sad truth is we're a small archipelago that imports around half of its food and is a net importer of most manufactured goods and raw materials. A larger population will only increase our dependence on imports. Our geography and historical ties push towards two dwindling blocs, either with Donald Trump's USA or with the EU. Both are discredited on the world stage. The EU tries to cast aside the imperial legacies of its constituent nations, while collaborating with the USA in the destabilisation of the Middle East and its attempted economic colonisation of the Balkans and Ukraine. The world is changing before our eyes. The whole Brexit debate may be swept aside as smart automation and the growing power of East Asian multinationals consign both the EU and US to the status of regional bureaucracies overseeing divided communities that could easily descend into civil war.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Guilt by Association

Screaming at a computer

Recently British author Douglas Murray took part in a video chat with the renowned YouTube sensation and self-proclaimed libertarian philosopher Stefan Molyneux. While critical of Radical Islam and mass migration, Douglas Murray has been careful to steer a middle ground. Initially he came across to me as a Blairite, not least because he's associate director of the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative think tank that has counted Labour MPs such as Ben Bradshaw and Jim Murphy in its ranks. I wonder how they reconcile their differences over the EU. As a supporter of the 2003 Iraq War, Douglas Murray has earned himself plenty of airtime on the BBC. I suspect his recent congenial conversation with Stefan Molyneux will soon catapult Mr Murray to the outer reaches of the cybersphere, seldom to be seen or heard again on mainstream TV or other approved channels of official news.

Stefan Molyneux openly believes that not only do genetic variations between racial groups affect our intelligence, but such differences are significant and irreconcilable. I don't have time to do justice to this debate because the subject both fascinates and disturbs me as I'm a little uncomfortable with some of the conclusions of leading social biologists like Charles Murray or Nobel Laureate and co-discoverer of DNA James Watson. Not surprisingly, Mr Molyneux has attracted a large following from what we might fairly call racists and I pick my words carefully. In my mind a racist is not someone who is simply proud of their racial lineage or prefers to mingle with others of the same ethnic background, for most Africans, Chinese and Indians would fall into that category. A true racist believes that their perceived intellectual superiority grants them special rights over other racial groups. Apartheid South Africa before 1994 and Zimbabwe as Rhodesia under Ian Smith before 1980 are classic examples of openly racist states that survived into the late 20th century. Their rulers often cited IQ test results to justify excluding most black citizens from the levers of power. Perversely the self-proclaimed liberal intelligentsia now accuses the native working classes of ignorance whenever they fail to endorse their preferred policy options. Ever so subtly both the BBC and Guardian have blamed a lack of education for the unexpected outcomes of the last US Presidential Election or last year's EU referendum. We read terms such as low-information voters, which is a codeword for low-IQ voters unable to interpret conflicting sources of information.

On Wednesday I awoke to the news that Donald Trump had retweeted three videos originally sent by Jayda Fransen, of Britain First, whose main focus is on the rapid Islamisation of parts of urban Britain and the suppression white British identity. Paradoxically the group's leaders often cite Winston Churchill's forthright warmongering against Nazi Germany in the mid 1930s to justify their stance against Islamic supremacism. To be honest, despite living in London for many years with a short period in Leeds, I've only ever seen Britain First online. Jayda Fransen only came to my attention in a series of videos about the town of my high school years, Luton. As far as I know Britain First is a splinter group from the much larger English Defence League, which attracted many football supporters of different backgrounds. Today in Luton the real divide is over allegiance to Islam, not race or ethnic background. The EDL, UKIP and now its splinter organisation, For Britain are all very supportive of Israel and have many members of African, Asian or mixed racial heritage. The Glaswegian anti-Islam activist Shazia Hobbs, of half Pakistani descent, comes to mind. More notably Breitbart columnist, former UKIP leadership candidate and author of No-Go Zones is one Raheem Kassam, who grew up as a Muslim. The main thread that unites these disparate groups is their aversion to Islamic expansionism and their uncritical support for the Jewish State of Israel. Many naive leftists, and I include my younger self in this category, believe in a simplistic black and white world of affluent white imperialists and poor oppressed dark-skinned people. It seemed to make sense in the 19th century, when most wealth was concentrated in Europe and North America and Western governments treated their colonial subjects as second class citizens. Now the same multinationals that once supported British, American, French, Dutch or German imperialism have shifted their support to globalisation. They are not interested in spreading the cultural heritage of the countries that nurtured technological innovation or in granting their working classes any special privileges. They only need an elite of engineers, scientists and managers trained in psychology and neurolinguistic programming to keep their industrial operations afloat. Everyone else is expendable, useful mainly as consumers who earn crumbs from menial jobs that can be automated or from their obedience to an interlocking network of welfare providers.

However, the marginalisation of the native white working class has not succeeded in silencing dissent, merely in disrupting rational debate about how we should deal with an unprecedented rate of cultural change or even if such changes are desirable or a price worth paying for short-term economic growth. So Brendan O'Neill hit the nail on the head in his recent blog post on the Britain First Retweeting Scandal. This fringe organisation is indeed a monster of the establishment's own making. Our soi-disant liberal opinion-leaders have demonised a large cross section of ordinary decent British citizens, who through no fault of their own happen to descend from a long line of Northwest Europeans who settled in these isles, for the crime of wishing to protect what's left of their cultural heritage in a world of permanent uncertainty. I think a narrow focus on Islam is misplaced or rather its growth and the ensuing culture clash are symptoms rather than causes of a greater malaise. Would radical Islam pose such a threat if our rulers had not destabilised the Middle East and had not allowed the creation of parallel communities in towns and cities which until recently were boringly monocultural with only a trickle of immigrants who had little choice but to assimilate? Can we not at least discuss the causes of the expansion of radical Islam ? Is it fair for working class Europeans to accommodate more Muslim migrants because of the latter group's much higher birth rate? Ironically the very mention of demographics and environmental sustainability annoys both the Christian Right and Islamic fundamentalists, for both believe in large families despite a dramatic drop in infant mortality. The population of Africa and the Middle East is not rising so fast because women are having more babies, but because more babies survive thanks to modern medicine and better sanitation. Subsistence farming can no longer sustain such large populations, leading to a massive oversupply of migrant labourers and beggars in the burgeoning metropolises of the developing world. In such an environment it is easy to see the appeal of radical universalist ideologies that promise welfare for all in exchange for doctrinal subservience. This explains the seemingly odd alliance between the Marxist Left and Radical Islam. They both ultimately lead to an extreme concentration power in state or corporate institutions. What is the point of feminism or the empowerment of women, if all but the most privileged citizens, of either gender, have to submit to the will of higher authorities governing every aspect of human behaviour? I would hope we could have an honest debate on this subject without resorting to unnecessary shaming through guilt by association or pointless virtue-signalling.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/eAsDYc6vR5A

Douglas Murray discusses the concept of guilt by association with American philospher and neuroscientist Sam Harris.