Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics War Crimes

The Abolition of Britain and the rise of Global Governance

How the quest for greater independence is being usurped by power-hungry control freaks

I make no bets on the outcome of the snap General Election scheduled for 12th December. Last time a healthy Tory majority seemed almost certain until a couple of weeks before polling and after a disastrous Conservative election campaign. For the first time in recent history Labour did much better than expected. My hunch is Boris Johnson's party will win a comfortable majority of seats because the core working class electorate have lost all faith in Labour, but I doubt the resulting managerial team will do much to protect British workers from the excesses of globalism. I hope the government's ineptitude may oddly strengthen the resilience of ambitious youngsters as they realise the state will not help them fulfil their dreams and thus avoid succumbing to a prevailing culture of victimhood and entitlement.

We may well see another shift among the affluent managerial and business classes from the Tories to the misnamed Liberal Democrats (or the illiberal unDemocrats as I call them), while many traditional Labour voters either sit at home, strategically vote Conservative or flirt with the Brexit Party to keep out Labour, whom they now see as the party of unlimited mass migration, toxic identity politics and undeliverable spending commitments. However, in Scotland Labour will lose out not only to the Conservatives, but to a resurgent SNP capitalising on fashionable anti-English sentiment. They see Brexit as the brainchild of English Tories eager to resurrect the British Empire. If we assume current polling is correct, the political map of mainland Britain will be split into four. The Tories will dominate English shires and towns, the Liberal Democrats will do well in the most affluent neighbourhoods, while Labour will keep most of its metropolitan strongholds among its special victim groups, welfare-dependents, social engineers and trendy students. By contrast, owing to the vagaries of the First Past the Post system, Nicola Sturgeon's cult movement look set to snap up most Scottish seats, as the anti-SNP vote is too evenly split. The Brexit Party will be lucky to gain 1 or 2 seats in former UKIP strongholds, but they may succeed only in letting Labour hold on to a few more marginals.

The ongoing Brexit saga amid yet another General Election with very uninspiring choices has revealed two unwelcome realities. First most nation states have limited independence from global banks and corporations, supranational institutions and a well-funded network of nominally independent non-governmental organisations (NGOs) posing as humanitarian charities. Second, and perhaps more important, it has exposed what our ruling classes really think about democracy. If they cannot persuade the great unwashed masses to endorse their social engineering plans by electing a bunch of middle managers who will cooperate with the agents of change, they will destabilise your country and have you begging for their intervention.

Whatever the relative merits of the European Union may be, the outcome represented a huge kick in the backside for the metropolitan elite, who for decades have presided over the steady transfer of power from time-honoured local institutions to more remote international entities in the name of progress. Let us be under no illusions the EU is only a means to an end, not the end itself. There are many good reasons to welcome close cooperation among Europe's disparate peoples to protect our cultural heritage and defend us against the worst excesses of what we once viewed as neoliberal globalism, especially as a counterbalance to the North American and Chinese models with their extreme forms of plutocracy. Just 15 years ago in the aftermath of the joint US and UK occupation of Iraq, many of us wanted to distance ourselves from the British and American foreign policy establishment. Many of us hoped a Europe Community of independent peace-loving and democratic nation states with strong protections both for personal freedom and social justice could offer an alternative to Anglo-American capitalism.

While many other countries appeared insecure and in imminent danger of fragmentation, civil war and greater subjugation to imperial forces, Britain seemed impervious. Only the Northern Irish conflict ever posed a security threat, although behind the scenes the British Civil Service has long viewed the province as more of a burden than a strategic asset. Scottish and Welsh nationalism remained relatively tame disputes, quibbling mainly about the extent of autonomy within the United Kingdom. Few thought any major part of the UK would join another major superstate. The Republic of Ireland has since its inception remained steadfastly neutral, so even if Northern Ireland voted to join the Republic, there would be no fundamental shift in the balance of power. Leaving aside widespread opposition to the deployment of the Trident nuclear missiles in Faslane just northwest of Glasgow, Scotland has long been way too reliant on tight integration with the British military industrial complex for mainstream politicians to advocate military independence from the rest of the UK and from NATO, although this was the official SNP position until 2012.

Sea Change

Before around 2012 the European issue seemed very much off the radar. Transnational bodies like the EU, NATO and the UN were just facts of our increasingly internationalised lives, but not things we felt affected our everyday lives. Broadly speaking most Europeans opposed further centralisation preferring to keep control of economic, social and military policy at a more accountable national level, but many still believed our politicians somehow represented our interests at various international gatherings. We saw this in referendums in Ireland, France, the Netherlands and Denmark where voters rejected new treaties (respectively of Nice and Lisbon) only to see their votes either ignored or to be forced to vote again after cosmetic changes. However, we could also argue that the public have grown so disillusioned with the sorry state of national politics that they'd rather place their trust in shiny new progressive institutions that transcend traditional boundaries. For decades the establishment media has tried to persuade Europeans that they can trust the EU and NATO more than their local regimes with their chequered history of corruption and despotism. In the early 1970s not only was most of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain, but Greece, Spain and Portugal still had military dictatorships appealing to traditional Christian values to ward off the dual dangers of Eastern communism and Western decadence. Not surprisingly millions of younger Europeans welcomed the fall of these paternalistic regimes and embraced a new era of mass consumerism combined with a comfortable social safety net. While millions of Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese may be critical of the budgetary constraints imposed on their governments to keep alive the Euro, they still tend to associate the EU with the greater prosperity they've enjoyed since the 1980s. The situation in Britain is very different. The golden era of the British working classes was the 1950s and 60s. Sure we lacked many of the modern conveniences made more affordable by recent technological progress, e.g. many had outside toilets, coal fires instead of central heating and cars were still a luxury for many, but what mattered most is that the relative quality of life was steadily improving with a high level of upwards social mobility. A typical school leaver could aspire to getting a decent skilled job as an apprentice and earn enough to be able to marry, buy a house and start a family by his or her mid to late twenties, all without welfare handouts. We hoped progress would empower families to lead more independent lives while still enjoying the fruits of a civil society with a high degree of social trust and mutual respect. Little did we know that many of our mission-critical jobs would be first outsourced and then automated as big business had to rein in the collective bargaining power of trade unions. The long-drawn-out demise of British industry, kept on life support during the 1970s, weakened the resolve and resilience of the working classes, blamed for demanding unmerited pay rises, being too lazy and lacking the industriousness of their European and Japanese colleagues. Yet to this day, many observers simply blame Thatcher for turning off the life support machine that squandered countless billions on trying to save outdated industries that could not survive the challenge of global competition able not only to tap into a seemingly limitless supply of cheap labour, but to quickly close or retool outdated manufacturing facilities with little regard to job security.

I noticed even as long ago as the 1979 General Election that saw Margaret Thatcher's Tories win a healthy majority of seats, Labour had begun to shift its focus from standing up for workers' rights to championing welfare and public services. Thatcher managed to appeal to the aspirational working classes, the kind of people who wanted to own a house, drive a car, holiday in Spain and earn a decent living through a career in the growing service sector. While some workers adapted and some new light manufacturing outfits took the place of heavy industry, many youngsters in Labour's working class heartlands outside the more prosperous South East of England inherited the helplessness of their parents who had failed to adapt and thus became trapped on welfare or short-term jobs in call centres leading inevitably to dysfunctional households and social dislocation. Nonetheless a major rebranding effort saved the Labour Party as it embraced Thatcherite reforms, the information revolution and pop culture while promising not to raise taxes. I was an early sceptic of Blairite Magic. Somehow his soundbites lacked substance or analytical integrity, but one slogan stuck in my mind "Education, Education, Education". If you believed the hype, we were on the verge of a quantum leap in scientific excellence. The next generation would become talented doctors, inventors, bioscientists, software developers and robotics engineers. Alas very few did, but many more became recruiters, public relations officers, graphic designers, creative directors or worked on the peripheries of emerging high-tech industries in new-fangled specialisations such as forensic science or environmental science, learning how to engage with technologies that someone else developed to monitor other people's behaviour, market goods or ensure minimum healthy and safety standards. With such a dearth of tech-savvy innovators and entrepreneurs, British professionals have focused mainly on people management and persuasion, a sector encompassing not only advertising, public relations and entertainment, but behaviour and attitude modification through charities and education. For every engineer developing new technology to help us solve practical environmental challenges, there are many more climate change awareness officers or busy bodies lecturing parents on how to deal with tantrums without smacking. The net result is a dual culture of dependence, either on state handouts or on corporate largesse, and greatly reduced personal resilience. The first Blair government famously rebranded Britain as Cool Britannia, more about rock stars than scientific pioneers. Now the last gasp of British cultural innovation has been co-opted by the multibillion dollar entertainment industry and blended into a global culture disconnected from the specific locales of post-imperial suburban Britain. In the same period Global English has begun its shift from a high-status international language modelled on standard British or American English to a rapidly mutating form of NewSpeak inspired by a worldwide intelligentsia with little reference to the speech patterns of the transient residents of London or New York City. Native speakers have thus lost the relative advantage they once had over those who acquired the language later in life.

As a historical paradox the country that has given the world its dominant lingua franca now suffers from an acute identity crisis as progressive opinion leaders attempt to deny there is such a thing as a native English person. This mirrors trends in other European countries with almost identical claims going mainstream in Germany and Sweden too. National identity for many in cosmopolitan areas has been reduced to mere temporary allegiance to your country of residence in occasional sporting events.

What's left of Britishness anyway?

Many Ulster unionists are none too happy about Boris Johnson's deal to keep their province in regulatory alignment with the EU's Customs Union and Single Market with customs checks in the Irish Sea rather than along the meandering border with the Republic of Ireland. Increasingly only the Democratic Unionist Party defend traditional values, while Sinn Fein, claiming to represent the Catholic community, has recently endorsed positions on gay marriage, LGBTQ-friendly sex education and abortion perfectly aligned with the cultural left, but at variance with Catholic teachings. However, a growing proportion of the younger generation identify neither with Protestantism nor Catholicism and are very open to unification with what has become a secular Ireland. The British Deep State seems more concerned about the perceived Russian threat than subsidising Northern Ireland.

The begs the question whether the CEOs of UK PLC really care that much about the constitutional status of Scotland, now they know a nominally independent Scotland would both stay in NATO and join the new European Defence Union. Universalist media outlets treat Nicola Sturgeon's SNP much more favourably than the Brexit Party or even the Tory Party.

However, I sense a split between the Atlanticist and Europhile wings of British intelligentsia. Recent statements from Emanuel Macron, Guy Verhofstadt and the EU's new President Ursula von der Leyen have revealed a gradual shift from a unified European military command working within NATO alongside the USA to a European Army taking over from the USA in global policing operations in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. More disturbing is the growing hostility among the Western European elites towards Russia. In just a few years neo-conservative war hawks have shifted their lobbying operations from Washington DC to Brussels. To match US military spending, the Europe Union would have to double spending, something that would be very unpopular at a national level, but could only be justified by the spectre of a Russian and/or Chinese threat. Even if Trump is re-elected in 2020, US military adventurism has peaked. The federal government can no longer justify such a massive defence budget when they have bigger challenges at home with rapidly changing demographics. It's only a matter of time before someone like Tulsi Gabbard or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez becomes the president of a debt-ridden federation in a post-dollar world order, dominated by the Chinese and Indian economies.

Without Scotland and Ulster, England and Wales would be a very disunited place with London behaving more and more like a city state divorced from its geographic hinterland and parallel communities in many other towns and cities.

In all likelihood Boris Johnson's BRINO or Brexit In Name Only will avert Scottish Independence for a few years before other events overshadow it, Ulster quietly merges with a post-Christian Eire and the Scots turn against the SNP. Meanwhile continental Europe will struggle to cope with the fast pace of cultural and demographic metamorphosis, a looming banking crisis and an escalation of the civil unrest that has spread across France over the last year. We may just be able to salvage a federation of the British Isles, but with waning faith in traditional British institutions such as Monarchy (and far be it from me to comment on Prince Andrew's close friendship with American sex predator Jeffrey Epstein) this island seems ripe for Balkan-style destabilisation with the people's splat over Brexit serving as a trial run for a much deeper conflict over culture, identity and power.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Getting a taste of your own medicine

Corporate censorship

How hate speech laws have come back to bite their proponents

This week Corbynites, who often call for the no-platforming of social conservatives, were on the receiving end of antisemitism allegations. Yet the same BBC stands accused of suppressing the scale of rape gangs to appease the Muslim community. It seems we must now think twice before expressing any opinions that may be deemed misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, antisemitic or in any way critical of our emerging Brave New World of rootless world citizens. For a while it seemed these constraints only applied to the evil far right or rather those who took a firm stand against social engineering, but now censorship hinders dissent on the left too.

More and more people with different political outlooks are getting well and truly fed up with the BBC's lack of objectivity, its narrow focus on a small set of perceived threats, its elevation of minor news stories to push an ideological agenda and its dismissal of much more important events as mere side effects of progress. In short, the BBC does not, as it claims, dispassionately report on a changing national and global reality with a wide range of divergent perspectives. It selects which news stories best serve its preferred narrative, often turning reality on its head by choosing exceptions rather than rules, and counteracts what it paradoxically calls fake news from the alternative media.

Yet the BBC does not just piss off opponents of UK involvement in endless wars in the Middle East, critics of unbalanced mass migration, social conservatives not totally on board with the LGBTQ++ agenda or dissident scientists concerned with the adverse effects of mass medication. It has now alienated hundreds of thousands of leftwing activists in Jeremy Corbyn's enlarged Labour Party, who take a strong stand against the Israeli government's repression of Palestinians and its role in destabilising other countries, not least the well-documented close collaboration between Israel and Saudi Arabia in a fateful triangle with the Pentagon.

The BBC's flagship current affairs documentary programme, Panorama, has a long track record of carefully timed hit pieces to smear opponents of British foreign policy, defame dissidents or destroy the reputation of organisations who in some way challenge corporate interests. In 2013 on the eve of a crucial parliamentary vote to authorise RAF airstrikes over Syria, the BBC aired Saving Syria's Children, in which crisis actors reacted to a staged chemical attack, purportedly launched by Assad's air force against innocent civilians. Robert Stuart has spent the last six years compiling evidence to conclusively prove the whole event was faked before the term #fakenews gained currency in everyday speech. The BBC's John Sweeney is a propaganda veteran of the British government's campaign to win support for Tony Blair's ill-fated invasion of Iraq when he championed the cause of Iraqi Kurds. Later the same journalist targeted the Scientology church, bankrolled apparently by a few wealthy Hollywood celebrities like John Travolta and Tom Cruise. Neither of these controversies are open and shut cases. The Kurdish people, spread over parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, have long wanted an independent homeland, but their cause has also long been exploited rival regional powers in their quest to destabilise their enemies. While the British government has historically turned a blind eye to the repression of Kurds in Turkey, US, UK and, dare I say, Israeli secret services have given logistical support to Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria. To put it another way, it's in the geopolitical interests of the main corporations behind the US and UK Deep States to destabilise all regional powers who undermine their hegemony and to seek alliances with any disgruntled factions. However, the military-industrial complex today encompasses the growing biotech and mind control sectors. While an independent Syria may be a thorn in the side of US and Israeli plans to prevent China and Russia from gaining greater influence in the Middle East, the Church of Scientology is an arch opponent of psychiatry and psychoactive medication and thus a threat to the biotech industry's grip on the collective psyche. I would add that Ron Hubbard's cult is an easy target that has merely co-opted a radical 1960s critique of psychiatry so they can present their behaviour modification system, known as Dianetics, as the only solution to our emotional challenges. I'm naturally sceptical of any well-funded cult-like organisation, but I suspect the BBC's main target here was not the Church of Scientology at all, but critics of psychiatry and their relentless drive to reframe all personal challenges as mental health issues.

An objective account of the Syrian civil war would look not only at the government's human rights record, which in the Middle East is unlikely to be very clean, but also at the funding and ideology of the various rival militias who controlled vast swathes of Syrian territory between 2011 and 2018. Before 2011 almost uniquely in the Middle East the Syrian government has managed to prevent its disparate ethnic and religious communities from killing each other and to avert the menace of Islamic fundamentalism. To do so, it sometimes had to resort to repressive means, such as torture, and incursions against insurgents, most notoriously President Hafez al-Assad's 1982 crushing of Muslim Brotherhood rebels in Hama. Sadly all regimes in the Middle East have to deploy coercive means to subdue internecine warfare among rival factions.

Panorama commissioned John Sweeny to do another hit piece against a rabid Zionist, someone who had himself photographed standing on an Israeli tank proudly waving the Star of David flag. Stephen Yaxley Lennon, mainly known by his stage name of Tommy Robinson, has made a career out of his campaign against the spread of radical Islam and some of the worst practices of the burgeoning Muslim communities in many towns and cities across the UK such as their failure to integrate with wider British society, their perceived takeover of entire neighbourhoods with vigilantes enforcing aspects of Sharia law, their apparent visceral hatred of British armed forces and, most notoriously, their grooming gangs targeting vulnerable non-Muslim teenage girls. For the sake of clarity, I can sympathise with any community that opposes the British role in the projection of US military adventurism. On the 2003 march against the Iraq war I marched for a while alongside one of the biggest contingents, the Luton branch of British Muslim Council. While I don't blame individual soldiers for joining the army, I do not think they helped defend anyone back home. Indeed British military adventurism has only made the UK and British ex-pats prime targets for terrorists. Tommy Robinson's home town of Luton now has a Muslim majority in its school-age population. Non-Muslims of all ethnic backgrounds tend to send their children to suburban schools with a lower Muslim intake, while thousands of former Lutonians have simply upped sticks and moved to outlying market towns and villages, a phenomenon once known as white flight, but it's by no means exclusively whites who are metaphorically running for the hills.

The radical left has struggled to come to terms with divided communities, preferring instead to paint a blissfully naive picture of a united working class battling a few isolated racists spewing their hatred. The main flaw in this argument is that internecine hatred comes both from some radical Muslims and the wilder elements of the former English Defence League who have now regrouped as the Football Lads Alliance. Contrary to the BBC's simplified narrative, the battle lines do not divide whites from blacks, but Muslims from anti-Muslims.

Much of the avowedly antiracist left rejoiced as the Old Bailey set a legal precedent by jailing Stephen Yaxley Lennon for the subjective crime of contempt of court, when all he did was announce the list of men convicted of gang rape of minors, which was already in the public domain, as they returned to court for sentencing. Compare and contrast reporting restrictions enforced on these sex abuse trials involving 1000s of innocent girls, with the media's lynching of disgraced entertainers like Rolf Harris and Cliff Richard. The BBC even hired a helicopter to take aerial footage of a police raid on Sir Cliff's property at enormous public expense. From a legal standpoint it's irrelevant whether Mr Yaxley Lennon had himself been found guilty of physical assault on more than one occasion, the law should be applied equally to all. More worryingly, no jury was present at the trial.

Some will argue correctly that Tommy Robinson merely jumped on a bandwagon and did nothing to expose the scale of rape gangs targeting non-Muslim girls. Indeed the whole Tommy Robinson phenomenon would not exist without a captive base of disaffected working class youths and a little financial help from pro-Israeli pressure groups, most notably Australian-based Avi Yemini and the Canadian social conservative group, Rebel Media. The latter channel has admittedly countered some mainstream media bias on topics as diverse as sex education and mass migration, but is unashamedly pro-Israel and critical of all major Palestinian resistance groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which it defines as terrorists. We now have a distinctive political current that loathes Islam, loves Israel and champions national sovereignty and aspects of social conservativism with high profile advocates as varied as Katie Hopkins and Ezra Levant, to which we could add Gerard Batten's faction of UKIP and Anne Marie Waters' For Britain movement. This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with American politics where the Christian right has long been closely allied with the Netanyahu wing of the pro-Israeli lobby.

This must seem odd to some observers, as traditionally American Jews have been at the forefront of campaigns to relax immigration controls and promote alternatives to traditional families. Many on the radical right have blamed Hollywood, with its disproportionate Jewish influence, for subverting traditional Christian values.

Is the dispute really about anti-Zionism?

The so-called International definition of antisemitism is now so broad as to equate any criticism of the Israeli State or undue influence exerted by financiers and media executives, some of who may be Jewish, with the kind of pathological hatred of Jews that led to the Nazi Holocaust. Is it antisemitic to state correctly around 22% of all Nobel Laureates are Jewish, that the USA awarded Israel a $38 billion military aid package in 2016 or that 5 of the 7 Chairs of Federal Reserve since 1970 have been Jewish? I guess it all depends what conclusions one reaches from such easily verifiable facts.

Despite its close ties with successive US administrations, Israel is only one piece of a much larger jigsaw. To put the Palestinian conflict into context, more Muslims have been ruthlessly murdered by the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran and by Islamic fundamentalist militias than by Israel. The ongoing bombardment of Yemen is putting at risk the lives of as many as 20 million Yemenis, while the British RAF trains Royal Saudi Airforce pilots.

Many true Zionists accuse the BBC itself of antisemitism in its appeasement of the Islamic lobby in the UK. Few English, Scottish and Welsh people harbour ill feelings towards Jews, have very strong opinions about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or are obsessed with undue Jewish influence in finance or media. Most strong views, one way or the other, inevitably come either from radical political activists or more commonly from those with family ties to the Middle East. So which community in early 21st century Britain would be most likely to distrust Jews, blame Israel for many of the world's ills and cast doubt on the orthodox version of the Nazi Holocaust? Let me give you a clue. They are not old age pensioners who still remember the Second World War or virtue-signalling refugee rights campaigners, but neither are they ordinary working class Christians or trade unionists. Even outspoken critics of Israeli government policy like George Galloway have taken a very firm stance against both Holocaust denial and against the likes of Tommy Robinson. So let's scratch our heads and think which group of disaffected people with strong religious views might blame Jews not only for the Middle East quagmire, but for Western cultural decadence and its addiction to debt? What kind of staunch labour voters would view world history since the 1917 Balfour declaration through the prism of an almighty conspiracy by Zionists to control the globe? It may sadden some, but there is only one logical answer to the above question. It also helps us explain how Labour could miraculously hold on to the marginal seat of Peterborough in a by-election with nearly ten thousand postal votes or around 30% of all ballot papers cast. While the Palestinian conflict may be just one of many causes that many leftwing activists like to champion when they're not fretting about food banks, disability benefit cuts, global warming, veganism or LBGTQ++ rights, in the minds of many radical Muslims it justifies their jihad against Jewish power. The problem is most Labour activists either turn a blind eye to rampant Judaeophobia among some of their radical Muslim comrades or they are blissfully unaware of it.

Besides, the Israeli issue has long divided the Jewish community itself. Some of Israel's most outspoken critics such as Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky and Gilad Atzmon are themselves Jews. One hundred prominent Jews signed a letter to Guardian defending Chris Williamson, suspended for claiming Labour was too apologetic about antisemitism. More perversely, the only associate of Jeremy Corbyn who has ever called into question the scale of the Nazi holocaust is another Islington resident coincidentally of Jewish heritage himself, Paul Eisen, who even more intriguingly is also a close friend saxophonist, Gilad Atzmon. A few Labour activists, such as the MP for Derby, Chris Williamson or Edinburgh trade unionist Pete Gregson, may obsess with the Palestinian issue and the pro-Israeli lobby, but they have both vehemently denied hating Jews as lifelong opponents of any form of xenophobia. Indeed both could be described as xenophiles generally welcoming high levels of immigration.

Freedom of Inquiry

A common error of analysis is to assign collective responsibility to an entire category of humanity for crimes committed by a tiny subset of such groups and then to censor debate about key issues that affect us all through guilt by association with a few bad apples. Censorship of ideas creates an atmosphere in which people are scared to ask important questions and challenge orthodoxy. The spectres of Islamophobia and antisemitism do not serve to protect either Jewish or Muslim interests, but to silence dissent. If you care about Muslim lives, why not protest against UK logistical support for the ongoing bombing of North Yemen? If you care about antisemitic hate crimes, then you might like to have word with a few radical Islamists who learn Judaeophobic diatribes in their mosques. If you care about historical truth and our future as a free-thinking species, you may want to join me in taking a firm stance against the steady erosion of intellectual freedom.

Categories
All in the Mind

Language is more about Meaning than Words

Tower of Babel

I recently dived into an almighty row with a bunch of EU flag wavers replying to a message celebrating International Native Language Day. You see I'd like to celebrate it too, but the subtext implied EU citizens in the UK promote linguistic diversity. So let's think this through. Once abroad mingling with the locals and other newcomers, emigrants tend to neglect their own language unless it's widely spoken in their new country or they join a network of compatriots, in which case they're not integrating. Native English speakers are seldom inspired to learn other languages these days, as they can get by with English alone in many tourist resorts and cosmopolitan cities around Europe. Indeed in some places if you try to speak the local language, your interlocutor will answer in English, either because this comes as second nature to them or because they want to flaunt their proficiency in a more prestigious medium of verbal communication. No self-respecting go-getter wants to be written off as a country bumpkin unable to converse fluently in the global lingua franca. Like it or not, globalisation tends to strengthen strong languages to the detriment of weaker tongues. Some government agencies may pay lip service to local heritage by insisting on bilingual or trilingual signs, but unless all languages involved are actively spoken across multiple domains of everyday communication, they act as little more than an exercise in public relations. Some may try to deny this reality pointing to initiatives to revive endangered languages like Welsh, Basque or Romansh or embracing bilingualism as a way to reconcile the rather obvious conflict between worldwide cultural convergence and a desire to retain our diverse cultural heritage. I'm the first to stress the benefits of learning more than one language to expand your intellectual horizons and escape the semantic prison of monolingualism. A distinction that may seem crystal clear in one language is not in another, e.g. in English we have separate verbs for feeling, hearing and smelling, all referring to different forms of perception, but in everyday Italian all three can be sentire. Naturally context usually makes it clear which sensory organs perceive a phenomenon. By contrast English has two catch-all verbs, get and set, which cover a vast semantic range, often only understandable in context, i.e. with reference to other words, e.g. I got it may mean I understood the message or it may literally mean I obtained it depending what it is, which is partly why native English speakers tend to specify the names of common objects and concepts rather than resort to ambiguous pronouns (e.g. wash the dishes or do the washing-up are preferred as set phrases rather than grammatically and semantically correct constructs like wash them where them refers to the dirty dishes your partner just mentioned).

Not just Etymology

However, many amateur linguists fall into the trap of focusing solely on etymology. It helps us trace the cultural evolution of a language community through words alone. Most linguists would classify English as a West Germanic language with a large Graeco-Latin vocabulary, acquired largely through Norman French, supplanting or supplementing Anglo-Saxon words. Between the 10th and 13th centuries Old English underwent a rather dramatic transformation from a close cousin of Old Low German with three grammatical genders, five cases, inflected adjectives and a much more flexible word order to a simpler but more analytical tongue by Chaucer's time. We can't trace the exact progression of this metamorphosis as Norman French and Latin served as the main vehicles of written communication after the new Norman aristocracy had displaced the old Anglo-Saxon ruling class. However, etymologists fail to explain why Middle and Early Modern English had so few Celtic loanwords, but has diverged morphologically from contemporary languages spoken in adjacent regions of continental Europe. One would expect that a synthesis of West Germanic and French, itself evolving from the vulgar Latin adopted by former speakers of Gaulish, a Celtic language, would yield a language resembling Flemish in syntax and semantics. Yet middle English diverged not just from its Germanic and Romance cousins, but from Brythonic too (Cornish and Welsh spoken as far north as Cumbria and Galloway) in discarding grammatical genders and most inflexions (except plurals and the Anglo-Saxon genitive). Modern insular Celtic languages have two grammatical genders and a VSO (verb- subject-object) word order, unlike English which has a stable SVO order, and always place adjectives after the nouns they describe, unlike English where they usually precede the nouns they modify. Until recently anthropologists have offered two explanations. First that old English prevailed over autochthonous Celtic languages because of its higher prestige. Second that invading Anglo-Saxons drove the Celts to the western fringes of the British Isles. Brythonic dialects survived in Cornwall until the late 18th century and in Cumbria until 12th century. However, examples of written Insular Celtic predate the earliest records of written Germanic. Although most literature in the Roman period was in Latin, a tradition that continued in academic circles for many centuries thereafter, Celtic inscriptions can be found over much of Western Britain, but not in most of what later became England. As Christianity spread to the British Isles between 5th and 7th centuries mainly from the Celtic West, another clue that the Anglo-Saxons did not culturally eclipse the extant Celtic civilisation, but genetic evidence suggests they did not supplant the local population either. In over 200 years Anglo-Saxon migrations from continental Europe would add around 5% to the gene pool. Analysis of the haplogroups extracted from the Y-chromosome DNA of skeletons reveals gradual migratory patterns responding largely to environmental changes. As much as 75% of the gene pool of the settled British population, before recent waves of migration since the 1950s, can be traced to settlers who arrived in these Isles between twelve and four thousand years ago. Subsequent migrants added to the gene pool and assimilated over a long and protracted period. In Roman times the ruling classes and their foot soldiers made up little more than 1% of the population. This begs the question: Why would a mainly Celtic-speaking people abandon their native tongue in favour of a newly imported Germanic language that lacked the prestige of Latin, while leaving few traces of the Brythonic vocabulary or syntax, something we'd normally only expect to happen in the event of large-scale ethnic cleansing, which is alas unsupported by the archaeological evidence?

Substrate Languages

Arguably languages do not so much disappear as fall into disuse as the descendants of the original speakers adopt more prestigious speech registers. It took vulgar Latin around 800 years to supplant Gaulish and the pre-Indo-European Vasconic tongues of Aquitane (related to modern Basque). This followed a process of gradual acculturation of illiterate commoners with the more erudite urbanites, who had already adopted Latin. We see a similar process today in many of Africa's burgeoning metropolises where newcomers discard native African languages in favour of street slang based on a mix of the official language (English, French or Portuguese) with morphology and phrases borrowed from their ancestral languages. In France Latin evolved into French and Occitan. In Iberia it morphed into Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese. Yet in none of these regions was Latin or even a closely related Italic language the dominant tongue before Roman colonisation. Moreover, in none of these regions did the Romans displace most of the indigenous peoples, who gravitated over many centuries to more prestigious modes of communication contributing to a radical restructuring of Latin's successor languages, e.g. Latin had three genders, 6 cases and an underlying Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) word order, more akin to Sanskrit or old German than to modern Italian or Spanish. So Gaulish and Aquitane live on as substrata of modern French influencing not only its morphology, but its semantic range, e.g. the French penchant for counting in twenties with baffling forms such as quattre-vingt-dix for ninety has its roots in Gaulish and mirrors the old Welsh pattern of only having second tier numerals for twenties rather than tens (e.g. thirty one would be twenty eleven). Oddly most words of Celtic origin in modern English were not borrowed directly from Welsh or Gaelic, but came to us via French (e.g. ambassador, beak, brave, budget, car, cream, change, embassy, glean, gob, piece, quay, truant, valet, vassal etc.). So why would Celtic exert more influence on Old French than on Early and Middle English? Did Anglo-Saxon invaders succeed in persuading the natives to ditch their mother tongue completely where the Romans had failed? However, there is an alternative hypothesis that displeases Celticists and Germanicists alike: Most of the ancient tribes of Roman and pre-Roman Eastern Britain may have spoken pre-Indo-European rather than Celtic languages, which were later came into contact with tribes speaking a purported fourth branch of the Germanic family, once spoken in the Low Countries, thus facilitating the adoption of a lingua franca based on Anglo-Saxon, but with significant pre-Indo-European substrata. Modern Dutch and Flemish are based on Frankish dialects of West Germanic, which may have supplanted fourth branch dialects. More important surviving Old English manuscripts may well reflect an erudite variant of insular Anglo-Saxon rather than common English dialects. Contrary to popular belief, Roman and Greek scribes of the era did not usually identify the origin of the thousands of indigenous tongues they encountered so much as the tribes that spoke them and their relative mutual intelligibility. Greek scholars first applied the terms Keltoi to refer to tribes of Dacia, a region now straddling modern Bulgaria and Romania, long before the Slavic expansion. Besides the Celtic languages of the Western British Isles may have themselves displaced earlier pre-Indo-European languages, so both the Celtic and Germanic dialects spoken in the British Isles evolved atop substrate tongues spoken by illiterate indigenous tribes. This leads us to another bone of contention. Did the Picts of Northern Scotland and Ireland speak a Celtic language or did they, as some scholars suggest, speak a pre-Indo-European tongue? All we have to go by are place names and Ogham inscriptions. Scottish Gaelic, which prevailed in the Highlands and Islands until the Highland clearances of the 18th century, came to Scotland from Ireland between the 5th and 8th centuries. To complicate matters further the Picts may have borrowed much of their later vocabulary from Brythonic (precursor to Welsh) before merging with Gaelic under the rule of Dal Riata. A common mistake many linguists make, especially when only limited textual sources remain, is to analyse only the etymology of words that resemble cognates in other known languages. This often leads to false positives. Just because the word for king in language A has a cognate in language B does not mean that language A borrowed the word from language B or that both languages evolved organically from a common ancestor with gradual changes with pronunciation and meaning. It's often more likely that both languages borrowed the word at different times from a more prestigious tongue that may have since lost its pre-eminence.

As we see today with the proliferation of English-like words, neologisms and trademarks in the world's 7000 surviving native tongues, we cannot judge a language merely by the origins of its commonest words. English has gained over two thirds of its vocabulary since the earliest literary works of Old English, but before its expansion in the colonial era English evolved as the lingua franca of the peoples of England, Southern Scotland (where it was once known as Inglis before being renamed Scots when the Scottish aristocracy abandoned Gaelic), the Pale around Dublin and parts of Wales. A language is thus a speech code handed down through generations and shared within a community. Speakers are free to borrow words from other languages and integrate them creatively into their own, assigning new meanings and combining loanwords with other words to express new concepts and nuances. What matters most is mutual intelligibility and cultural continuity, providing a frame of reference for shared experiences and history. Cultural discontinuity occurs only through ethnic cleansing, mass migration or colonial repression of native cultures. However, unless a people is completely eradicated, their ancestral tongues are still likely to influence the way they speak their new language, especially before the advent of universal compulsory schooling.

The Quirks of Insular English

English syntax differs from its continental neighbours in a few important respects. Many scholars have explained the language's rapid transformation following the Norman conquest by its demotion to a vernacular spoken mainly by illiterate peasants. However, why did this not happen to many other European languages, which were seldom written before the Renaissance. Latvian successfully retained its highly inflected grammar despite only gaining a sizeable literature during the Latvian Awakening of the late 19th century.

  1. English has a rich variety of verb tenses with auxiliary verbs that convey important semantic distinctions between progressive and simple tenses, e.g. I play versus I'm playing as well between I've played and I played. Spoken French, Dutch, German and Northern Italian have all converged on a simpler range of tenses with a strong preference for simple forms for the present or near future and the present perfect (e.g. I have done) for past events. By contrast modern Celtic languages use continuous tenses for both progressive and simple actions. English distinguishes a general statement such as She plays the guitar, implying a habitual activity performed with some degree of competence, from She's playing the guitar merely describing her current activity.
  2. English uses the present perfect for events that started in the past but are still ongoing. Other European languages always use the present tense unless the referenced event has finished, e.g. "I've been waiting two hours for the bus" means I'm still waiting. Otherwise we would say "I waited two hours for the bus".
  3. English has lost grammatical genders and cases, but retains gender-specific pronouns referring to people, some animals and occasionally to personified objects (e.g. referring to a country, ship or car as she/her). This loss is not unique to English. It happened to Bengali, Armenian and Afrikaans too, but we cannot explain it simply by its temporary demotion to a vernacular or by the influence of neighbouring Celtic languages which have all retained grammatical genders.
  4. To maintain a consistent SVO word order, English uses auxiliary verbs for questions and negations, e.g. Did you wash the dishes? and I didn't wash the dishes. In early modern English the main exception to this rule was the verb to have, e.g. "Have you a match?" and this form persists in many set phrases and more conservative and literary varieties of English. In modern spoken British English the possessive aspect of have is often emphasised with got (e.g. have you got a match?), while in American English the form "Do you have a match?" is more common. Both constructs ensure a regular SVO order in both statements and questions. The verb to be may seem an exception, but as an intransitive verb it never has a direct object, only a subject and a subjective complement e.g. Is John a farmer? Doesn't need another auxiliary verb to remain unambiguous.
  5. English prefers possessive pronouns rather than the reflexive or dative possessor constructs common to most continental languages, e.g. "I washed my hands" translates "Ich habe mir die Hände gewaschen" or "Je me suis lavé les mains". English also tends to specify possession much more often than other languages, e.g. "I rode my bike" is more colloquial in most contexts than "I rode the bike" (which would usually mean "I rode a previously specified bike"), but one could also say "I rode my sister's bike". The Anglo-Saxon genitive is firmly ingrained in colloquial usage, Martha's bag rather than the bag of Martha (not usual in native spoken English), as it maintains the expected word order with modifiers preceding nouns.
  6. English stresses the distinctions between definite and indefinite objects as well as between known and unknown quantities. Thus "the women" refers to a specific subset of womankind identified earlier in the discourse, while "women" without a determiner refer to adult females in general. Likewise "the wine", "some wine" and just "wine" refer to different degrees of specificity, "I like wine" means "I like wine in general", while "I like the wine" may mean "I like the wine you just poured into my glass" and "I'd like some wine" just means I would appreciate an unspecified modest quantity of wine", but does not carry the same emphasis as literal equivalents in other languages although it is broadly comparable to the French du vin or Italian del vino. In other European languages these distinctions tend not to be so important. French, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish all have much stronger colloquial tendencies just to use the definite article, so "les femmes" may be both specific and generic.

The above aberrations from the continental European norm would suggest the enduring influence of substratum languages on the evolution of spoken English.

Neurolinguistic Programming

Psychologists have long been aware that the words and phrases we choose to express ideas can affect someone's willingness to believe a message, follow an order or internalise a new concept. Large organisations invest billions in the art of gentle persuasion, not just in advertising, but in public relations, awareness raising and increasingly in management via neurolinguistic programming (NLP). If your boss calls you to her office for a wee chat, you may reasonably wonder what she wants from you. Is she about to sack you, ask you to work overtime or offer you a pay rise to stop you leaving? Rest assured that most modern human resources managers have learned not only how to impart unwelcome news, but how to deal with awkward employees, who do not take kindly to management bullshit, e.g. an HR manager may engage in polite conversation about your children's progress at school and your last summer holidays and then thank you for your hard work over the last year, but none of this matters if the whole purpose of the meeting is to inform you of the termination of your employment at the company. If the HR manager had just said: "Hello, Mr Jones, you're fired", the gist of the conversation would be the same.

Neurolinguistic programming is about much more than marketing. It serves to reframe common events and concepts in a way that suits the interests of the managerial classes, in short persuasion. When you hear middle managers and politicians claim they did not get the message across to their target audience of employees, consumers or voters, it's an implicit admission that their NLP techniques failed, not that their policies are wrong.

Although the mismatch between English spelling and pronunciation presents a challenge to many learners, the language has proven very versatile in adopting new ways to express common concepts without having to alter its core grammar or syntax. Yet when the transgender lobby wanted to instil in the public mind the idea that gender may be non-binary, they devised a new set of pronouns as alternatives to he/him/his or she/her/hers. One may now be known as zhe/zher/zhers or they/them/theirs. Spoken English has long used the second person plural when the sex of an abstract person is unknown especially when combined with someone e.g. "Someone has left their phone on the table", but a sentence like "Kim gave me their key" would be ambiguous in English. Indeed Canada has enforced their use via its controversial C16 bill. Professor Jordan Petersons correctly defined this as imposed speech, going against the Anglo-Saxon tradition of a free market of new terms which are voluntarily adopted, albeit, I may add, with a little help from the advertising industry. Should a central committee decide which pronouns we use to describe other people in our social group any more than it should adjudicate on the correct term for tablet computer (something most people call an iPad).

Many organisations now employ copy-editors whose remit extends way beyond correcting typos or amending grammar, syntax and style to focus the core meaning and narrative that language conveys and to expunge all politically incorrect references. For instance, the British Foreign Office urged the UN Human Rights Committee to change the term pregnant woman to pregnant person. Until recently, nobody would have been offended by the assumption that only women can become pregnant, a concept deeply entrenched in most naturally evolving human languages. In the early 21st century not only do some biological females identify as men or non-binary, but artificial wombs may one day enable biological males to experience motherhood. However, simply swapping old gender-specific terms for new neutral terms can produce some very hackneyed phraseology. New concepts, such as the normalisation of fertility treatment as a common means of procreation, have to be promoted via special interest news stories and celebrity endorsements, before the public at large can readily accept them. As Diane Ravitch detailed in her 2004 book, the Language Police, textbooks are being rewritten to reflect the postmodern obsession with political correctness that effectively closes our minds to a wide field of legitimate scientific inquiry.

One thing is for sure, while the diversity of spoken tongues is shrinking, language is evolving at an unprecedented rate both to reflect our rapidly changing human ecosystem and to alter our perception of reality.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Anatomy of a Rebel

We may like to think of people as progressive or conservative, collectivist or individualist, egalitarian or meritocratic, caring or competitive, libertarian or authoritarian, selfless or selfish, nature-loving or materialist. All too often we simplify these issues along an arbitrary left to right spectrum, usually with the more virtuous stances on the left. However, one criterion sets us apart from the crowd, dissent. What kind of people will go against the flow and challenge contemporary orthodoxy out of personal conviction risking social opprobrium?

In the 19th century the prevailing doctrinal system across much of Western Europe preached love of God, monarch and country, moral superiority of European civilisations, traditional two parent families and a rigid class system in which everyone knew their place. Critical thinkers would naturally look to alternatives that challenged the hegemony of the old aristocracy, the clergy and the emerging capitalist classes in pursuit of greater freedom, independence, morality or social justice. In short people rebel because they are dissatisfied with the current system and envision a better world for themselves, their loved ones or for wider society, which they see threatened by vested interests. Likewise, people conform to gain favour with the managerial classes and win the trust of their neighbours and colleagues around shared allegiances.

A rebel in 1960's North America may have opposed the worst excesses of capitalism with its unbridled cut-throat competition and its promotion of wasteful mass consumerism. By contrast a rebel in the Soviet Union of the same era would oppose the state repression of personal liberties, censorship, pervasive surveillance and the extreme concentration of power in the party machine. While we may place one rebel on the left and the other on the right, they may well have been striving for the same fundamental human values that seek to marry personal freedom with social responsibility. Soviet-era propaganda would routinely portray dissidents like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as neo-fascists or dangerous reactionaries eager to unravel the great progressive gains of the workers' revolution. By the same token Western rebels before the precipitous fall of the Soviet Union were often portrayed as communists who would threaten our cherished family life, Christian values, democracy or free market economy.

Anarcho-communists and Metro-elitists against the Traditional Working Classes

In country after country we're witnessing a rather odd spectacle. Social conservatives with a strong belief in two-parent families, nation states and cultural traditions have become the new nonconformists, rejecting the prevailing mantra of endless progressive social engineering. If you support gay marriage, open borders, cultural homogenisation and the re-categorisation of humanity into competing victim groups, you will enjoy the whole-hearted support of much of the mainstream media, academia, many well-funded NGOs, big business and many large governments. For decades the growing leisure sector has openly promoted a carefree lifestyle of boundless explorative indulgence. Two recent referenda in Ireland reveal the emerging divide between universalist conformists, easily swayed by celebrity opinion leaders and subliminal media conditioning, on the one hand and traditionalist nonconformists on the other. In both the gay marriage and abortion consultations, organisations such as Amnesty International and the Open Society Foundation joined the main political parties, the Irish Times and many high-profile celebrities such as Bono and former President Mary McAleese to push for change. Only ten to fifteen years earlier the Irish people would have rejected both referendum propositions.

On the other side of the big pond the intellectual gulf lies between conservative rednecks and liberal professionals with their large fan base of special interest groups dependent either on welfare largesse or beneficiaries of the postmodern lifestyle revolution. North American terminology often confuses outsiders. While American liberals may have once advocated less state interference into people's personal lives and championed small businesses and free speech, today they invariably advocate greater state involvement in every aspect of our lives presumably to tackle the scourges of social isolation, discrimination, mental ill-health and manage the complexities of rapid cultural change and apparent hyperdiversity, empowering state and corporate actors to monitor the masses for their own good. Indian-American author Dinesh D'Souza has coined a metaphor for the transformation of the American Democratic Party, from supporters of slavery, racial segregation and the infamous Klu Klux Klan, to the champion of all purportedly disadvantaged victim groups. Whereas 19th century Democrat politicians wanted to confine African Americans to the rural plantations, dependent on the benevolence of their slave masters, it now relies increasingly on votes from denizens of the urban welfare plantations, dependent on state handouts. 150 years ago farmers and manufacturers still needed plenty of cheap manual labour. Today they need loyal consumers more than conscientious workers.

We have progressed from an age when the authorities treated homosexuality as a mental disorder, often prescribing hormone treatment to suppress undesirable erotic urges, to an age when teachers, social workers and medical professions collude to indulge transgender fantasies in young children, often prescribing hormones to suppress natural puberty. Whereas once sexual deviants may have run foul of the law, today parents and carers who adhere to traditional family values may attract the ire of busy-body social workers and even have their children removed.

Meanwhile in old Blighty we see the Guardian-reading professional classes take to the streets to express their support for the European superstate and their distaste for the maverick US President, who seems too keen on enforcing border controls and not keen enough on military adventurism. Europe is inconceivable without France, but just 15 months after reluctantly opting for establishment wonder boy, Emanuel Macron, in a run-off with the much-maligned nationalist candidate, Marine Le Pen, the French have had enough of more global convergence. The yellow vests, or les gilets jaunes, represent the grievances of the squeezed provincial working classes and small business owners, most affected by higher fuel duties, extreme labour mobility, outsourcing and smart automation. Recent socio-economic trends have had two main sets of perceived beneficiaries: the affluent professional classes and a growing array of welfare-dependent victim groups, who have acquired a sense of entitlement denied to previous generations, who before the expansion of their modern welfare state had either to earn their keep or appeal to the generosity of their extended family. Combined these groups still form a minority of the general population. While artificial intelligence may see the professional classes (currently around 15-20%) shrink further, the welfare classes are growing across Western and Northern Europe (anywhere between 15 and 25%). The squeezed middle of normal hard-working families, struggling to make ends meet, have become a little inconvenient for social policy planners as they tend to have conservative views on most contemporary controversies, i.e. wanting to conserve the viable society that helped millions of ordinary people earn enough to marry, start a family, afford a house and buy a car to entertain the illusion of personal independence. Most citizens were happy for the state to offer a helping hand when they fell on bad times, but did not want the state to run their lives, raise their children or eavesdrop on their private conversations. The public sector should serve the interests of the people and not vice versa. However, today sociologists, and many politicians, talk increasingly of communities rather the people, as the fast pace of demographic change, migratory flows and labour market fluidity has destabilised traditional rooted communities and replaced them with transient communities of disparate special interest groups, which may be as diverse as single mothers, gays, lesbians, Muslims, West Africans, Chinese, sufferers of mental illnesses, online gamers or Python programmers. We now identify people more by their behaviour than by their family or ethnicity.

The cosmopolitan professional elites and rooted masses have two conflicting worldviews. The former views grievances and civil unrest as social policy challenges that require more proactive intervention and outreach groups to engineer a more harmonious social reality by reconciling the divergent interests of our new intersectional communities. They see themselves helping other people adapt to globalisation and rapid cultural change rather than trying to preserve their former way of life. In short, the progressive managerial classes view the rest of us as overgrown children who must learn to play together without fighting or bullying.

By contrast advocates of nation states, still the vast majority of Europeans, view citizens as the architects of their common social landscape who agree on shared values and participate actively in their geographic community, i.e. a country is what its people make of it. Naturally some communities may have radically divergent cultural practices that impair social cohesion. To resolve such conflicts, we may either confine some activities to private properties or designated public zones, or seek greater regional autonomy to manage affairs more in tune with the wishes of local residents. Europe's largest nation states evolved after a lengthy process of cultural convergence largely along linguistic and religious lines. Multi-ethnic empires such as the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth could survive in feudal times as convenient alliances of fiefdoms and royal dynasties, but few countries could nurture liberal democratic institutions without a strong sense of shared identity and usually a common language. Belgium and Switzerland have finely tuned federal systems to accommodate multiple national languages, while Spain has granted Catalonia considerable autonomy over language policy. Large multilingual federations as diverse as India, Nigeria or South Africa struggle to build a unified identity around an administrative language only spoken proficiently by the managerial classes. To this day the native peoples of Europe retain a strong sense of shared national identity and history, supplemented only by new universal behavioural identities and postmodern universalist values, but such parochial feelings are much weaker among the professional classes and young adults immersed in a world of pop culture and easy travel. As natives are now distinct minorities in many Western European towns and cities (e.g. in only 3 of London's 32 boroughs are a majority of primary school children classed as White British), we can only expect further weakening of shared nationhood.

However, we live in an era of shifting alliances. In France the latter-day Trotskyists of Jean-Luc Mélenchon's La France Insoumise make common cause with socially conservative lorry drivers, small business owners and farmers. Some on the left still remember the days when we supported workers' strugglers against outsourcing and imported agency workers. Some old school trade unionists still realise the workers' struggle needs a united working class able to disempower their bosses through targeted industrial action. Globalisation has severely weakened the bargaining power of European workers. If they strike, their manufacturing facilities will simply be relocated, automated or operated by a new team of temporary labourers. The descendants of the old syndicalist left have failed to reconcile their universalist ideals of international solidarity and equality for all disadvantaged groups with the practical needs of today's core working classes who struggle to compete in a dynamic labour market with an endless supply of transient human resources at the bottom end of the salary scale and forever higher levels of expertise required at the top end. What's worse lucrative careers demand extreme specialisation with extraordinary personal qualities. Conscientiousness, or as we often call it today a can-do attitude, no longer suffices, leaving many redundant workers with a bleak choice between competing at the bottom end of the labour market for breadcrumbs and learning new intellectually challenging skills to outwit the best and brightest university graduates. Not surprisingly, many just give up and join the welfare classes. In 1980s Britain unsuccessful young adults would often blame Thatcherism for their misfortunes, but the old manufacturing and mining jobs that employed millions of workers are not coming back as robots take over. Today's Labour Party would like us to blame the Tories for cutting public spending. Yet such cuts are an illusion as government spending continues to rise year on year. The paternalist left would have us believe that minor adjustments to welfare provision, namely in a British context the roll-out of the new universal credit system, are fuelling the growth of foodbanks and homelessness in a country whose primary causes of premature death are all related to obesity and/or junk food and whose housing crisis is only exacerbated by unbalanced migratory flows, which they dare not criticise.

Luxury Communism

To fully understand the transition of the mainstream left from rebels to establishment cheerleaders, one need look no further than Aaron Bastani's new book about our emerging technotopia bankrolled by the world's leading tech giants. Would it be too far-fetched if a future worldwide government took the likes Amazon, Huweii, Samsung, Microsoft, Google and Apple into public ownership and proceeded to redistribute their massive profits as universal basic income? As Chinese industries begin to invest billions of Yuan in intelligent robotics, the sleeping giant is poised to become the world's largest consumer market with the government rolling out a social credit system to reward its citizens not for their hard work, but for their compliance. Currently, social credits entitle well-behaved citizens to discounts, easier Just Spend loans and travel passes, but it doesn't take a huge leap of faith to imagine that one day such a system could form the basis of universal basic income. Your basic income would be supplemented by rewards if you acted as a model citizen proselytising preferred lifestyle choices and cultural outlooks. While it may seem fair to reward you for taking good care of your health through regular exercise and a wise diet to minimise your burden on the public healthcare service, you may not be so pleased about the state's undue interest in your mental health, whose definition now extends to your political and moral views. Only last week Humberside police questioned a man who retweeted a transgender limerick, which they flagged as a hate incident, after a serious of social media message critical of gender theory. Now imagine having your UBI cut because you failed to attend a gay pride event, expressed your disagreement with euthanasia (already legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland) or just failed to cooperate fully with the government's social engineering initiatives. Bastani may envisage our idyllic future as a large holiday resort interspersed with parks, playgrounds, sports centres, dance halls, libraries, cafés and canteens where highly educated professionals only work a few hours a week. The trouble is only a tiny fraction of the general population will understand the complex technologies that make such a world possible or be fully aware of the advanced people management techniques required to maintain the illusion of social tranquillity.

Agitating against Wrongthink

Back in the day fascists were autocrats who did not trust the people at large to participate fully in open debate about how to run their society. From a fascist perspective, benevolent dictators may occasionally consult the people via stage-managed plebiscites, but only the upper echelons of the managerial classes can be trusted with the administration of our collective infrastructure and organs of indoctrination and supervision. In this regard, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain or Salazar's Portugal had much in common with Stalin's Soviet Union, except the latter aspired to worldwide socialism while often appealing to pan-Slavism and Russian nationalism. Not only did Mussolini start his political career as a socialist and as editor of the Italian Socialist Party's newspaper Avanti, but his fascist government pioneered the role of state intervention to accelerate industrial growth in a kind of public-private partnership known at the time as corporativismo.

Today many on the universalist left accuse anyone opposed to corporate globalisation of, wait for it, fascism. That's right. Fascists used to be corporate authoritarians, while today it's the opponents of corporate hegemony and cultural convergence who get labelled perversely as fascist. Even more perversely free speech is now tarnished by its association with the so-called far right. In practice that means we can longer freely discuss multifaceted issues such as migration, surveillance, sex education in primary schools or censorship without being accused of racism, terrorism, homophobia or hatred. Just as we asserted the right to intellectual freedom in the 1960s and 70s in the name of social progress, many left-leaning social justice warriors now spend much of their time campaigning to censor socially conservative viewpoints. They have become the new arbiters of politically incorrect thought every bit as bad as Mussolini's Ministry of Popular Culture (Ministero della Cultura Popolare) or the infamous East German Stasi (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit). They are not rebels, but enforcers.

True rebels challenge the powers that be and without the freedom to criticise orthodoxy we will slide ineluctably into authoritarianism, albeit of a high-tech variety.

Categories
All in the Mind

Billions more on the Symptoms of Social Malaise

brain repair

In the autumn budget the UK government has just decided to pump an extra £20 billion into the struggling National Health Service. Don't get me wrong the tens of thousands of sick people on waiting lists for routine surgical operations would certainly welcome the extra funds. Not least the NHS could use the additional cash to train more nurses rather than rely on agency staff and ready-trained imported labour. We could give trainee nurses more generous grants so we can not only become self-sufficient in medical professionals, but tackle a vicious cycle of long-term welfare dependency in so many communities. We might even pay our nurses more and improve their working conditions with fewer hours and less stress by alleviating chronic overcrowding in some urban hospitals. Another idea might be to reopen or upgrade smaller provincial hospitals to reduce travel time. Here in West Fife, the Accident & Emergency department at the local Queen Margaret Hospital only treats minor injuries. For anything else you have to travel 20 miles to Kirkcaldy.

While successive governments have paid lip service to the many practical steps it could take to improve our health service in the best interests of ordinary tax payers and patients, it staggers from crisis to crisis. The NHS once had a reputation as one of the world's most efficient health services when compared with alternative insurance-based systems common in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland and certainly much better value for money than the profit-driven US system that incentivises hypochondria and overmedication. As a rule, the NHS works best if you need routine treatment for a well-defined condition or injury. It doesn't fare so well if you want personalised care or want a second opinion about suggested treatment options, which explains the steady growth of the private healthcare sector, often added as a bonus for well-paid jobs. If you want a flu jab, the NHS will gladly comply. Indeed they spend countless millions of tax-payer funded pounds advertising the benefits of flu vaccines. On the other hand if you need physiotherapy to treat intermittent episodes of painful sciatica or any other treatment that requires human expertise, you'll be put on a long waiting list while they advise you which painkillers to take.

Yet guess where the biggest chunk of the new NHS funding will go? I award no prizes for correctly identifying psychiatry as the destination for over £2 billion with specialist psych teams for young people in every A&E unit and in every school. Naturally in these enlightened times, we tend to say mental health to cover all ailments from mild sadness to psychopathic madness. The powers that be seem much more concerned about your mind and soul than your physical wellbeing or personal independence, which usually requires both good general health and a rewarding occupation, namely a purpose in life.

Neuropathology, as we may more accurately call this form of human surveillance, used to play a niche role in public healthcare as it affected less than one percent of the general population, but since the mid 1980s a forever wider gamut of aberrant behaviours and irregular moods have warranted medical attention. There may be nothing new about emotional challenges, misery, obsessions, drug abuse, exhibitionism, promiscuity or violence, but until recently only extreme cases of dysfunctional behaviour merited neurological analysis and, more important, we assumed most adults and even older children should be held responsible for the consequences of their actions. If you stabbed your neighbour in a drunken brawl, your actions would be subject to criminal investigation. Once in jail a criminal psychologist may investigate why some categories of people are more prone to violence than others, but the concept of free will implies not only that you may make rational choices through independent thought, but that you should bear the consequences of any bad decisions you may make especially if your actions harm others. Now if you exhibit noncompliant behaviour, such as throwing acid in someone's face, it is a mental health issue. By this logic we should view the incidence of acid attacks, not as heinous crimes that law enforcement agencies should deter with vigilant policing and harsh sentences, but rather as unfortunate manifestations of social unease in which the assailants are as much victims as the assaulted.

Alas this move should surprise nobody. Just after London's Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced that we should treat knife crime as mental health issue, the Conservative Home Secretary, Sajvid Javid, made the same claim. Labour have attempted to blame the Tories for not spending enough on police and mental health care, while asking the police to allocate more resources to tackle purported hate crimes or even just perceived hate incidents reported by third parties. By their logic low-life gang members are stabbing young Londoners, and the largest victim group is young Afro-Caribbean males, because too many people express views critical of unbalanced mass immigration on social media.

As many of us await routine operations for physical conditions, the NHS squanders more and more resources on lifestyle medicine. Last week Psychotherapist Bob Wither exposed the growing tendency of vulnerable youngsters on the autistic spectrum to embrace a new variant gender identity. In the past I've questioned the scientific validity of the extended autistic spectrum. Now many of the same awareness raisers who promoted the diagnosis of allegedly neurological disorders such as ADHD, Tourettes, Asperger's or OCD are quite happy to recontextualise the emotional distress of our younger generation as sexual dysphoria leading to lifelong medication and growing demands on public healthcare.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The true sign of an authoritarian state is its obsession with your mind. Our rulers do not intend to respect our opinions, but seek instead to tame our minds so we comply with their brave new world of supervised underlings.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Do the elites want to eliminate us?

Or do they just want to control us by getting us hooked on their technology?

As we progress into the 21st century, most of us find it harder and harder to understand the pervasive technologies that underpin our daily lives. This emerging reality can lead us to radically divergent conclusions. While many of us may fear a techno-apocalypse as we fail to tame the sophisticated systems that support our high-consumption lifestyle, others believe a tiny cabal plans to reduce the world's population by forcing most of us into big cities and depriving us of the means of self-reliance. Richie Allen, whose online radio show often discusses controversial subjects ignored by the mainstream media, recently interviewed Deborah Tavares of Stop The Crime . She honestly believes in a plot to kill off around 70% of humanity through carcinogenic radio waves (5G), vaccines, toxic additives in processed foods or the spread of manmade viruses and that this could happen as early as 2025. Proponents of the Agenda 2030 depopulation theory also contend that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax to justify the deindustrialisation of modern societies and force us out of our cars and spacious suburban houses into compact apartments serviced by automated public transit systems.

If we believed some ardent techno-pessimists like Paul Ehrlich or Richard Heinberg, by 2018 we should have suffered a massive worldwide famine as we would have failed to feed a record number of human beings or would have endured a total collapse of our industrial civilisation in the wake of Peak OIl. Alas not only are the scourges of infant mortality and malnutrition still in decline, but car ownership continues to rise steeply across much of the developing world. If our secretive overlords wanted to kill us, why would they let us survive and endlessly promote a wasteful consumer lifestyle? The technophobic doomsayers may have been proven wrong, at least for the time being, but what of the disciples of David Icke and Jeff Rense, who view all recent cultural trends as part of a plot to deny us access to safe technologies, boundless zero-point energy and almost unlimited resources? Their narrative appeals to a North American redneck mindset that favours personal freedom over state interference, gun ownership over police surveillance and affordable automobiles over public transportation. Ironically it also appeals to many leftwingers who view capitalism as the main cause of poverty rather than a system that has enabled more people than ever to live longer lives with greater material wealth. If there are limits to growth on a finite planet, then we have to contend with the ethical consequences of limiting human numbers. More external intervention can both boost our population by reducing infant mortality and limit family sizes by encouraging women to pursue careers rather than devote their lives to motherhood alone.

A common theme is the theory that mass vaccination programmes, e.g. as promoted by the infamous Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation, are part of a deliberate depopulation agenda. Whatever adverse effects some vaccines may have, especially if they are for diseases that our immune system will usually defeat, more children than ever survive into adulthood. In most developing countries, a growing population tends to hasten the process of urbanisation and people's dependence on imported resources.

Hyperdependence

All of a sudden, disruptions in broadband or mobile networks can render us helpless because in just 20 years we have transitioned from a world largely off the grid to a hyperconnected world, where social media validates your existence. Now imagine how many young millennials would cope with a prolonged power outage. Not only would washing machines, refrigerators and lights stop working, but within hours most domestic water supplies would run out too as they rely on electric pumps. Large cities would soon experience a public sanitation crisis as uncooled imported fresh food rots and residents fight over limited reserves of clean water. In short without drastic emergency measures, such as the immediate deployment of backup generators to keep essential services alive and the possible evacuation of many residents where these services cannot be restored, the death rate would skyrocket. Yet many urbanites ask not what practical help they could offer, but rather whom they should blame for such a catastrophic failure. Did the power supply fail because of lack of investment in infrastructure or because some technocrats wanted to kill off the population or did just fail because even with the best planning something always goes awry sooner or later?

We saw this dilemma at play in the aftermath of last year's gruesome Grenfell Tower fire. Many jumped on the bandwagon to assume the authorities were somehow complicit in the tragedy that killed 70 to 80 residents of an overcrowded high-rise block. If this were the case, then they could kill far more among the conurbation's nine million residents by simply cutting off the water supply. Now some may argue that the local council did not prioritise these mainly low-income residents and predominantly recent immigrants. However, they had just spent £8.7 million to refurbish the building or £72,500 per flat as well as subsidising the rent of most tenants as few could afford the going rate of over £2,000 a month. That money would go a lot further in provincial Britain. If anything the Grenfell tragedy should warn against the wisdom of mass migration without adequate infrastructure and environmental resources, but instead many have exploited the calamity to blame the rich for not spending enough to accommodate more newcomers in one of the most expensive and densely populated boroughs of Inner London. This is the politics of vengeance. The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea is home to many of London's 80 billionaires including Indian-born Lakshmi Mittal at 18-19 Kensington Palace Gardens, just a stone's throw from Grenfell Tower. Few ordinary English men and women on modest wages could afford to live there.

Could more people empower the power-hungry?

Let us just imagine two scenarios: one utopian and another dystopian. In one society everyone belongs to the affluent professional classes with a large private villa, plenty of nearby parks and countryside, one car per adult, a short working week and open participation in the democratic process with full access to the information, analyses and alternative perspectives we might need to reach informed decisions on public policies. Such a society would combine the best of public services and personal freedom. While we've yet to attain such societal perfection, we can see glimpses of it in the wealthy suburbs of European and North American cities, except we seldom need travel far to witness the rough edges and incongruences of our current system, e.g. the need for extensive transport infrastructure, industry, invasive policing and our continued reliance on low-paid workers in other neighbourhoods or countries. In other words the affluent professional classes inhabit a mere simulation of an ideal world, in which we all enjoy not just equal rights, but are equally involved the micromanagement of our complex society, equally intelligent and equally privileged. In such a society nobody would be a mere cleaner, nurse or machinist. We'd all have well-remunerated roles as health and safety supervisors, patient care coordinators or industrial automation engineers, managing specialised robots and unmanned production plants.

However, this idyllic future vision has three main pitfalls. First it relies on a high-consumption lifestyle with massive waste, essentially extending the North American dream to the whole world. To accommodate the projected peak of ten to eleven billion world citizens, we'd need substantial technological innovation with much higher efficiency. The trouble with technology is that it does not always work as desired. While some scientists have calculated that we could accommodate as many as 32 billion human beings with existing proven technology, this is only in theory assuming minimal waste. It's like claiming that a small lift measuring just 4 square metres (or 2x2m) could accommodate as many as 32 people (assuming an area of 25x50cm for each person). It all depends on how large these people are and what degree of personal freedom they're willing to relinquish for the duration of their short elevator journey. Yet our current way of life is constantly interrupted by seemingly trivial, easily avoidable but unpredictable mishaps, e.g. a traffic accident on a major motorway can lead to significant delays not just for commuters, but for food supplies and emergency services or a burst mains water pipe could deny thousands of residents of safe drinking water and spread life-threatening contaminants.

Second it fails to account for human nature, which is naturally socially competitive. While we may theoretically all thrive in different spheres, e.g. one neighbour could be an award-winning playwright, another a renowned architect and another a molecular biologist, most of us have rather mediocre skillsets. We may have relative strengths and weaknesses, but very few of us are genuinely top of our game. Yet without the fierce competition that motivates the most talented among us to excel, we could easily regress to a comfortably numb existence of subservience to a master race of technocrats.

However, there is a third downside to our hipster utopia. While our privileged denizens may lack motivation to hone their technical skills, they will have plenty of time to engage in political activism and challenge the ideological hegemony of the managerial classes. We would have an endless battle between the technocrats who know what's best for masses and the empowered lay-people keen to challenge their monopoly on wisdom. If nuclear power proves to be the only practical means of generating enough energy for such a perfect world, what would happen if voters decided to ban it and rely on wind turbines and solar panels instead? Would the demos be responsible for the increased death rate as vital services stop working?

Our ruling elites do not want us all to become hipsters, because this category of trendy affluent professionals are exceedingly hard to manage and constantly challenge the authority of anyone who tells them how to lead their lives. The managerial classes may tolerate this subset of humanity in segregated Bohemian neighbourhoods or as a minority caste of creatives and intellectuals, whose disruptive influence they can easily contain by subverting any movements that may challenge their grip on power. However, they'd much prefer a dumbed-down populace with minimal intellectual or economic independence, totally hooked on commercialised simulacra that technocrats can both control and monitor. It's much easier to manage online gamers ensconced in their bedrooms and engrossed in a captivating alternate reality, but oblivious to the machinations of the real ruling classes, than it is to tame intellectual rebels who want to free themselves from pervasive surveillance and mass consumerism.

The high-tech alternative to our hipster utopia of cycleways, vegetable patches, wind turbines, art galleries and pristine swimming lakes is a global network of megacities accommodating a large population of consumer drones rewarded not for their intellectual talent, but for their compliance with our brave new world of shiny happy people, unable to conceive of independent life. While our recent ancestors believed in a high degree self-reliance with most people working hard to provide for themselves and their family, we're drifting towards a new reality where either big business or state institutions, whose roles are rapidly merging anyway, are solely responsible for our well-being. In the not too distant past we would attribute our misfortunes either to spiritual forces beyond our control or to personal responsibility. While in the past we may have striven to overcome injustices suffered by large groups of people (e.g. the campaign against slavery), we now obsess with perceived disadvantages and inconveniences that various categories of people may subjectively experience, as if we all had an inalienable right to be whoever or whatever we want to be. Rather than accepting our natural limitations and trying to do our best to succeed in life, we now expect society to compensate for our weaknesses and facilitate our ephemeral ambitions. Our achievements thus become not the fruits of tireless endeavour, but rewards for compliant behaviour.

It's hardly a coincidence that the most universalist cults, from Islam to Catholicism and from big business to big government, encourage their followers to go forth and multiply. In the past devotees may have adhered to strict commandments, limiting their personal freedom, while today's rulers much prefer a new breed of self-pitying victim groups whose dysfunctional lifestyle choices will keep them at the mercy of welfare handouts. American-Indian political commentator and author, Dinesh D'Souza, correctly observed the transformation of the American Democratic Party from a champion of slave owners to a bastion of state interference. The same ruling elites who once kept their subordinates as slaves in plantations, now champion welfare-dependency and identity politics as a new kind of plantation of loyal subjects. Whereas once slaves had to work, now they only have to consume as subjects of endless screening. If big business is happy to bankroll the state to subsidise your consumer products, just be aware you are the product.

So the depopulation theorists are wrong, global megalomaniacs do not want to kill most of us so they can have the whole planet to themselves, they want us locked into an interconnected system that they control and without which we would die. It may be an unsettling thought, but a freer world may well be one with greater room for autonomous communities and individual creativity, supporting a smaller, but more self-reliant population than the tens of billions that genetic engineering, nuclear fusion and nanorobotics could theoretically support. The question is no longer whether we can feed ten billion or more human beings, but whether our descendants will have any control over their destiny. One billion is a very big number for a large mammal. For most of human history our numbers remained below 750 million before the advent of the industrial revolution and hovered between 200 and 450 million from early Roman times to the Rennaissance and the European discovery of the Americas. Today just 3% of land mammals by weight live in the wild. Should our destiny resemble domestic sheep, captive tigers on display in zoos and wildlife parks, guinea pigs under 24/7 surveillance or the last wild animals who have adapted to habitats unfit for human explotation?

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

The Day the World Turned Dayglo

Disinformation

Confusion in an era of instant disinformation

To capture the current state of uncertainty that pervades both global socio-economic instability and cultural decay succinctly is no mean feat. Teenage rebellion is a rite of passage at a critical period of transition in our lives, an interlude between childhood innocence and adult responsibility when we question the powers that be and often challenge parental authority. We pose our elders a simple question: What kind of world did you create for us? and more to the point: How am I supposed to navigate a social rat race with its contradictory messages and emotive provocations? In short What is the purpose of life?. In the not too distant past we would soon overcome our adolescent existential crises as we assumed new responsibilities as conscientious workers, mothers and fathers. The purpose of life is life itself, the continuation of our species, our family, our culture and hopefully incremental improvements in our quality of life. However, in an age of rapid technological transformation, our adolescent hiatus now extends well into our 30s or even 40s. I sometimes recall the mood of my own teenage years as cultural continuity gave way to a new era of mass consumerism, family breakdown, atomisation and job insecurity. We naively believed punk rock bands screaming their disaffection with mainstream society would challenge elitism and empower the masses to take back control from greedy capitalists. Alas they were just marketing tools that served to drive a wedge between generations and subvert traditional support structures. Yet whenever I wrestle with a paradox and try to make sense of contradictory news sources, somewhere in the back of my brain I hear echoes of the dissonant punk chorus of X-Ray Specs "œThe day the world turned dayglo". Yet the late 1970s seem a relatively tame era when despite the trappings of modernity, incipient cultural decay and excitement about the coming computer revolution, we had not completely lost touch with human nature and divergent philosophical perspectives could be openly debated.

Before the advent of the Internet, we could either follow an organised political faction who would filter objective reality for us or we could engage with the great university of life by reading the works of important thinkers whose ideas had been shaped not by dogma, but by practical experience. If most people retain some power of critical thinking and share some core ethical values, bad ideas will fail in open rational debate because their consequences are truly evil, because they're incompatible with human nature or rely on fanciful, but dodgy science. However, in an atomised society with obsessive surveillance of politically incorrect speech, patently biased mainstream media reporting at odds with people's daily experiences and a tangled web of unofficial counterpropanda, bad ideas can proliferate because they cannot be challenged in an open, rational and empirical way. I'm inclined to think that online videos claiming the earth is really a flat disc or that the moon landings were staged are some kind of social experiment. From the isolation of your bedroom connected to the outside world only via social media and surrounded by a synthetic backdrop of housing schemes, shopping malls, office blocks, warehouses, hospitals, schools and prisons, one can believe almost anything, especially when official narratives reveal so many internal inconsistencies. In the end, our analysis of evolving news stories depends more on whom we trust most than independent analysis of conflicting sources.

How do we know that tightly controlled media and strict censorship sow the seeds of distrust? Just ask anyone who experienced life behind the Iron Curtain. The more the government limited the range of permissible opinions and smeared dissidents with accusations of fascism or treason, the more ordinary people distrusted official media outlets and sought means to clandestinely listen to foreign radio stations or smuggle in banned books. Many would pretend to go along with the system, but behind closed doors in the privacy of their own homes they'd voice dissent. However, in such environments it is easy to fall victim either to counterpropaganda from rival superpowers or to planted disinformation campaigns designed to entrap dissidents, e.g, setting up bogus anti-semitic groups recycling Nazi-era propaganda that would still resonate with some anti-Soviet dissidents in the 1950s and 60s. Stalinists would love all their opponents to behave just like stereotypical Nazi sympathisers to justify their coercive means of corrective political re-education. Likewise today's globalists would much prefer all troublesome dissidents to be either rightwing extremists, an epithet often applied to social conservatives whose views would have been conventional wisdom until recently, or Islamic fundamentalists.

Our instinctive hunches may very often be right, but sometimes embarrassingly wrong. Would I stake my political reputation on the assertion that Boris Johnson knowingly lied about the Skripal poisoning incident ? I'd need good evidence to challenge such claims in the midst of Putin-bashing hysteria. It is just possible that the Russian secret services may have wanted to eliminate a former double agent, but it's also highly likely that the British establishment is spreading disinformation again to pursue a hidden policy agenda. As most of us have limited time to corroborate primary news sources, a much better approach is to compare contentious claims that were made ten or twenty years ago with what turned out to be true. Often only snippets of the truth reach us through mainstream media and usually long after the original claims have served their purpose. Did Tony Blair lie about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Maybe, but a narrow focus on this one claim deflects our attention from a much larger game plan. It's possibly one of the few cases where the establishment has begrudgingly admitted its deceptive claims. However, if you dig deep enough, many of the one-sided claims made about the Rwandan killing fields, the Balkan civil war, Iraq, Libya and more recently the Syrian quagmire turn out to be either fabricated or twisted to suit the dominant narrative of the time.

The Social Media Rabbit Hole

For a variety of personal reasons I've steered clear of intrusive social media platforms, and that means mainly Facebook, much preferring peer-to-peer messaging, though no doubt Skype eavesdrops too. I do tweet, but seldom reveal personal details that could either embarrass me or get me into serious trouble, although if I had millions of followers my account may well have caught the attention of Twitter's thought police by now. Social media provides a platform to keep in touch with friends and family, but also connects you with hundreds of millions of other potential virtual friends, who may recommend products, services or ideas. A simple example of Facebook's business model is product endorsement. Why would you recommend one product over another? Maybe some people have well-informed predelictions based on firsthand experience and technical knowledge, but more often than people recommend merchandise because they might win a prize or wish to express their short-lived joy about owning a trendy gadget. Marketers have long known that loud, brash or in-your-face advertisements can put off large segments of their potential clientele, but what if your new friend with whom you've enjoyed a few brief chats and has an endearing profile picture recommends a product. Research shows peer pressure is often much more effective than traditional advertising. So what if your new friends do not just recommend products, but contentious causes, involving concepts, ideas, analysis and scientific data that you have not yet had either the time or inclination to investigate? Would you support a cause just because your charming new virtual friend has endorsed it?

Online campaigning platforms like 38 Degrees, Avaaz and Change Dot Org are theoretically open to anyone who wants to struggle against injustice, but in my experience their bias is overwhelmingly in favour of universalism and social engineering, i.e. a borderless utopia controlled by large worldwide organisations. Superficially, they favour many campaigns associated with the traditional green left. I've signed and promoted a few campaigns myself on things like TTIP and the Monsanto-Bayer merger because I instinctively oppose any policies likely to empower big business. However, these outlets have also run campaigns calling for the Daily Mail to be banned from colleges and public transport or for the BBC not to let Nigel Farage appear on Question Time again. They've run numerous campaigns on letting more refugees and economic migrants move to the UK and elsewhere in Europe, against organisations accused of hate speech and most disturbingly many of their campaigns against the horrors of war recycle mainstream propaganda on complex conflicts in the Middle East. Would I sign a petition calling for Malala to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Maybe. She seemed a nice girl and I totally abhor the Taliban's treatment of women, but her rise to fame, supported by many bellicose politicians, helped justify ongoing NATO intervention in Afghanistan. But could I be duped into supporting Bana, the 7 to 9 year old social media expert and technical whiz girl from Eastern Aleppo? Sorry, I don't buy that version of events, especially as the Syrian civil war only escalated after the US and UK started funding anti-government militias. However, I'm a natural cynic. I tend not to fall for propaganda from powerful lobbies, but today we live in an era of shifting alliances and disinformation overload. Gone are the days when the BBC and CNN could set agendas on foreign policy initiatives. Their grip on the global collective psyche has failed to recover in much of the world since their logistical support for destabilising US-led military adventures. Worse still, the BBC has lost much credibility with conservative public opinion due to its conspicuous promotion of identity politics, globalisation and epistocracy, i.e. rule by an intellectual elite.

The Cambridge Analytica Delusion

First off I'm beginning to think that neither the Trump phenomenon nor Brexit (the awful term coined for the unexpected outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum) hindered corporate globalisation at all. Trump had three selling points: Stronger borders, greater protectionism and an end to pointless wars that do not protect the American people. His slogan was Americanism, not globalism and it appealed especially to rednecks and blue collar workers from the Rust Belt. Yet now with Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as senior security advisor, the Trump administration is firmly in the hands of bellicose NeoCons. Despite all the rhetoric about temporary travel bans for jet-setters from 7 countries accused of exporting terrorism, Congress failed to approve Trump's much trumpeted border wall. As for trade protectionism, Trump's proposed tariffs against Chinese, Japanese and European manufacturers are much lower than those enforced during the Reagan era. We used to think US Democrat or British Labour leaders would be more bellicose because they could more effectively deflect dissent. Now Trump supporters have inadvertently reinvigorated the military industrial complex at a time when US economic power is waning. Likewise the British government has effectively negotiated a deal with the EU that addresses none of the key concerns that 17.4 million leave voters had, while cleverly driving a wedge between generations, regions and social classes. The ruling elites can now blame Brexit or Russia for anything that goes wrong, while doing little to stem migratory flows or social alienation, banning social conservatives from entering the country, locking up Youtube pranksters, remaining in full regulatory alignment with the EU and even letting them access our fishing waters. The subtle point many observers have failed to get is that we the people do not own the land we call home. Banks, big business and the government do.

So did a bunch of cybernetic whizkids use social media and clever artificial intelligence algorithms to sway the vote to the outcome that the establishment appeared not to want? Yes, but so what? So did the Clinton campaign in the US and Remain campaign in the UK, but midway through these campaigns millions of ordinary voters grew tired of the uninspiring marketing spiels emanating from the establishment media. In the run-up to the EU Referendum, I saw much more proactive persuasion from the well-funded Remain camp. The frequency of these videos seemed to track my online behaviour, which varies from technical sites, to mainstream media and several alternative media outlets. For a while leave campaigners seemed much more active on social media, but largely because they were the challengers rather than the incumbents. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has the advantage of appealing to impressionable Guardian readers, but also empowers government to regulate the Internet with the tacit support of the wishful thinking chattering classes. The establishment's answer to the Brexit rebellion appears to be a rebranding of UK PLC's relationship with the EU Commission and greater control over social media.

Recent community guidelines enforced by the main social media outlets have almost exclusively targeted what we may class as social conservatives and nationalists as well as a few rogue racial supremacists and outright nutters. The existence of the latter justifies the suppression of the former. They're getting worried because a few channels such as Infowars, Stefan Molyneux, Paul Joseph Watson, Jordan Peterson and Gad Saad, to name but a few, have attracted large audiences to challenge the logic of postmodernism, sometimes known as Cultural Marxism. People are slowly but surely cottoning on to the emerging reality that agendas like transgenderism or the abolition of nation states are not just wild ideas championed by a few maverick academics, but are actively promoted by well-funded NGOs deeply entrenched in government and often bankrolled by the same evil corporations that the anti-establishment left used to hate. No wonder people are confused.

Addendum

This morning SumOfUs.Org sent me another mailshot urging me to support their campaign to censor the Internet by getting major retailers such as Amazon to boycott Breitbart. Let me quote their missive:

Nearly 2,600 advertisers pulled out of the white supremacist news site famously known as Trump News. Amazon is one of the last major advertisers on Breitbart, the site formally operated by hate-leader and Cambridge Analytica colluder Steve Bannon. meeting for us to share our concerns!

This is guilt by association and insinuation, a reaction to memes spread at great expense by the mainstream media. Any outlet telling the truth about the migration crisis will be targeted, while the British State spreads lies about nerve agent attacks and bellicose NeoCons take over the White House. Yet SumOfUs.org is more concerned with protecting their NGO friends who have colluded with people traffickers.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Parallel Universes

Shoreditch

When emotions trump logic

Do you ever get the feeling that your political adversaries do not respond to the logic of your arguments, but merely to their cultural acceptability from their narrow ideological worldview? Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News believed she could rely on good old emotionalism to defeat the purportedly reactionary arguments of Canadian professor of psychology, Jordan Peterson. They inhabited different moral universes. Ms Newman stubbornly refused to accept any scientific evidence of fundamental neurological differences between male and female brains. Over 15 years ago Simon Baron Cohen popularised the distinction between more feminine empathisers and more masculine systemisers or in other words women are more people-oriented while men tend to be more thing-oriented. In practice we all need a bit of both to navigate our social and physical worlds. A technically illiterate but sociable project manager is as useless as a socially inept and uncommunicative engineer oblivious to the needs of other human beings. The differences may be minor, but the weight of hard evidence points to neurological dimorphism among male and female humans. The irony is that young women in the wealthy world are now outperforming men in most lucrative people-oriented professions that the growing persuasion and social management sectors have created. The robotics and artificial intelligence revolution is likely to affect men, traditionally employed in practical trades, more than women whose superior emotional intelligence is much harder for machines to replicate.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/aMcjxSThD54

Nowadays debate has succumbed to infantilisation measuring policies not by their practical feasibility, but their perceived virtuosity. How do you explain to a two-year old boy that he cannot have another ice-cream because you want him to acquire healthy eating habits and save him from all sorts of nasty medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes? Believe me when expectations run high it's hard to convince youngsters they are not entitled to something they desire. The political discourse has ceased to be a battle between left and right factions, for we have learned to associate the former with openness, compassion and generosity and the latter with narrow-mindedness, discipline and greed. The real intellectual divide is now between romanticism and objective reality, i.e. a dichotomy between how our world should be and how it really works.

It hardly matters where you stand on any of the key issues of our era. If you let emotions alone drive your analysis, you will inevitably dismiss any countervailing evidence and find with great ease a virtual echo chamber to reinforce your preconceived conclusions. It would be nice to believe Israel were a peace-loving liberal democracy threatened only by intolerant Iran-funded Islamic terrorists, but to believe the opposite would be equally blinkered. Life is seldom that simple.

However, it's much easier to ignore inconvenient facts on the ground if the mainstream media and influential institutions provide alternative facts consistent with their ideological bias with the full support of the information verification industry. Sorting the wheat from the chaff can be even harder when such news outlets and NGOs pose on the radical left to widen their appeal among trendy youngsters. Their version of reality thus becomes an article of faith. To countenance alternative explanations for our social and economic woes is to invite ridicule with a litany of aspersions ranging from Islamophobe to transphobe or from conspiracy theorist to fascist. In short if you fail to toe the party line, you are anachronistically uncool.

Take for example the rather transparent issue of the housing crisis in the South East of England. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if the population rises by several million in just a 15 years and the housing market is dominated by buy-to-rent landlords and property speculators, ordinary people on average wages will struggle to pay their exorbitant rents and fail to get on the property ladder. The most affected are not welfare dependents entitled to housing benefit, but young professionals whose incomes may seem deceptively high until you subtract £1500 to £2000 a month for rent. In the early 1990s London property prices, whilehigher than other regions of the UK, were still affordable by international standards. A couple with a joint income of £30,000 could get a mortgage on a modest three bedroom house in the outer boroughs. Now such properties sell for at least half a million in the worst areas of the city's outskirts. To get mortgage a couple would need to earn at least £125,000 a year with the threat of repossession if their employment circumstances change. Yet the regressive left refuses to acknowledge how the city's over-dependence on migrant labour and international property speculation, effectively two sides of the same coin, have pushed up prices and transformed neighbourhoods. Their only response is to blame the evil Tories, the personification of the aristocratic old guard, for not building enough new houses. The same universalists also support laxer migration controls and usually argue that a greater population boosts the economy. It certainly boosts retail sales and provides employers with a larger and more malleable supply of cheap labour, whether it benefits the existing inhabitants, other than landlords and property speculators, is another matter. However, once we factor in the additional costs of providing all the extra infrastructure required for a growing population such as new housing, roads, hospitals, schools, sewage treatment plants etc., the economic case for mass migration to a small island that already imports half of its food collapses. Indeed if the Tory government were to blame, why did the previous Labour government fail to subsidise council house building as it knowingly let migratory flows reach unsustainable levels ? Other countries that have allowed large scale immigration over the last decade such as Sweden and Germany also have housing crises, despite having had until recently many empty properties and holiday homes that could be repurposed. Both the Swedish and German governments have dispersed new immigrants to outlying regions to avoid the proliferation of ethnically diverse ghettos.

Don't get me wrong. I don't oppose migration and cultural exchanges, which, if managed sensibly, can enrich society. However, it is intellectually dishonest to deny the rather obvious strains that mass movements of people impose on the existing population. London has seen a massive rise in acid attacks and stabbings. Working class Londoners of English, Scottish or Welsh descent are now very thin on the ground. We may soon see pitch battles between rival gangs as wealthy hipsters migrate to Devon, Sardinia, Bulgaria or further afield after selling their tiny 2 bedroom flats for a fortune to greedy Chinese investors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMcjxSThD54

A sign of things to come in Mayor Khan's London.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.