How warmongers and open-borders activists collude to disrupt viable societies
If you have a romantically humanitarian worldview, you may well welcome all policies that seem to help other people in need and oppose all actions that may either harm or hinder others. An idealist would resist all wars, abhor all violence and accommodate all victims of military repression and socio-economic upheaval, receiving refugees and economic migrants with open arms.
Such extreme altruism rests on a Rousseauian interpretation of human nature, i.e. that we are all good at heart and only corrupted by an oppressive system that concentrates power in a few hands and pits one group of people against another. Its antithesis is the Hobbesian view that we are mainly self-interested and can, if left to our own devices, resort to savagery to further our selfish ends. I believe the truth lies somewhere in between, but one thing remains certain: civilisation affects human behaviour and some civilisations are much more violent or coercive than others.
Alas we are a socially competitive species. We don't just strive to better ourselves, but to win a competitive advantage over others. We see this behaviour at play in mate selection, in creative pursuits that require strong motivation and in our desire to gain influence over others. However, we can only live together peacefully if we fully respect each other's personhood and agree to a set of a ground rules to resolve conflicts. This begs the question: to what extent do we need the supervision of coercive authorities to maintain social order?
While opinion leaders may appeal to our idealism and emotions, in the real world ordinary people appear powerless to change the course of events. We may yearn for a harmonious world free of the deep-seated rivalry that once divided us, but such a paradise remains little more than a pipe dream. On the burning issues of military adventurism and mass migration we have four camps:
Pacifists oppose all wars and all borders, i.e. infantile leftists or anarcho-communists.
Jingoists always support wars against rogue regimes, but expect their governments to keep them safe by enforcing strict border controls, i.e. many rightwing nationalists or Trumpian neoconservatives.
Extreme interventionists support military interventions against the perceived enemies of progress, but also welcome the erosion of national borders and transfer of power to superstates, i.e. globalists such as American neoliberals, European federalists or the likes of Hillary Clinton, Tony, Blair, Angela Merkel and Emanuel Macron.
Non-interventionists oppose most wars, but still want borders to protect their way of life and cultural traditions, i.e. most ordinary working people.
Proponents of the first position clearly live in cloud cuckoo land. National borders are just one of many barriers between different groups of people. The biggest divider between us remains the power of wealth to control our access to private property. While an unemployed Portuguese woman can hop on a bus and travel within the Schengen zone to the wealthier regions of Northern Europe without ever having her passport checked, the intervening landscape is replete with countless other manmade barriers denying us access to buildings and land. I can't just turn up at a five star hotel and demand access to a vacant room because I have nowhere else to stay. I need to prove my ability to pay the going rate. Sure, in an ideal environmentally sustainable world without extremes of poverty and opulence, we may not need border checks at all, just as people in safe neighbourhoods do not feel the need to lock their premises at night. Do I lock my front and back doors because I distrust my neighbours or assume all passers-by are ill-intentioned? Of course not, I do so because in an imperfect society burglars may take advantage of my vulnerability.
The other three options have many nuances, but the real contrast lies between conservatives and interventionists. Pragmatically most governments of affluent countries need to maintain social order at home and may acquiesce to the demands of their more conservative citizens to keep their towns and cities safe from the worst excesses of gangland violence that plagues bustling metropolises across the developing world. Likewise many European governments seek to distance themselves from unpopular US-led wars to maintain trust with the general public. This gives us the illusion of a diversity of opinions among political leaders and national governments. It may seem that some politicians talk about the dangers posed by terrorists and foreign dictators, while others are concerned with helping those displaced by wars. It's a truism that if you don't want refugees in your country, you should oppose the arms sales and wars that caused so many to flee these war-torn regions.
I now think it's too facile to lay the blame for the endless wars and social dislocation in much of the developing world on Western military interventions alone. Most migrants who have fled to Europe with the help of people smugglers and aid agencies do not come from regions directly affected by recent US-led wars. Moreover, many civil wars rage in regions where the main Western powers have been more noticeable by their indifference, allowing some analysts like neocolonialist historian Andrew Roberts to suggest that we need more not less proactive intervention to stabilise Africa and the Middle East. It's hardly a coincidence most new low-skilled migrants (i.e. not those who could easily obtain a work visa) come from regions with a high fertility rate and a fast rate of urbanisation. People tend not to flee stable communities unless they are no longer able to fend for themselves or are enticed by promises of untold riches in faraway cities. Rural Africans experience their biggest culture shock when they move to a big city where they are likely to meet many other itinerants, not when they later decide to move another city in a more affluent country with a more advanced welfare system.
War is not the only cause of death and destruction. Environmental mismanagement is a much bigger killer. Moreover, many technological solutions, such as better sanitation, modern medicine and higher agricultural yields through irrigation and fertilisers, may lead to other problems further down the line like rapid population growth and an exodus of young adults to large cities. If the economy fails to provide most men of working age with gainful employment without a social safety net, many will turn either to crime or fanaticism, hoping for salvation through submission to a political or religious cult. Just as the professional classes in the affluent West embrace green solutions to meet the challenges of the coming century, Africa's upwardly mobile middle classes embrace mass consumption with a verve reminiscent of the swinging 60s.
Many of us have theorised that Western powers intervened in the Middle East mainly to gain control of the oil supply, but demand for this oil is growing faster in China, India and Africa as their car ownership approaches European levels and within the next ten to twenty years most vehicles will be electric anyway, reliant more on the availability of lithium and abundant cheap electricity than on the price of crude oil. However, we will need massive infrastructure to power billions of vehicles, robotised manufacturing facilities, domestic appliances, air conditioners, hospital equipment and other machines essential to our high tech way of life. Whether we bedeck deserts with giant solar panels or invest in next generation nuclear fusion reactors, only large corporations will have the resources to build and maintain such phenomenal infrastructure further reducing regional independence. Billions of urbanites are already at the mercy of remote organisations responsible for their energy, water and food supply. People may protest, but are powerless to challenge the hegemony of tech giants. If even oil-rich Venezuela, which used to be self-sufficient in food, cannot develop the technology to gain functional autonomy from big business, there is little hope for countries like Nigeria or South Africa whose restless populations are demanding a bigger slice of the global cake.
If neoliberal lobbyists really cared about people in the third world, they'd promote greater self-reliance to minimise the kind of sudden cultural and demographic change that can destabilise societies and trigger internecine conflict. They see the destabilisation of previously viable societies not as a threat to world peace, but as an opportunity for yet more intervention. So it should come as no surprise that many of the same global actors lobbying for more humanitarian wars, which tend to empower local militias and create more refugees, also welcome mass migration, not as a temporary side effect of environmental mismanagement, but as a desirable end in and of itself. The same players also seem quite happy to witness social dislocation across many European and North American cities. The spectres of Islamic fundamentalism, gang violence and rightwing extremism serve to justify more surveillance and a clampdown on free speech, while divided communities only empower social workers to engineer new identities detached from our cultural heritage.
Flag-waving nineteenth century imperialism has now morphed into progressive globalism coopting trendy social justice activists as its missionaries, but supported by the same banking cartels and industrial behemoths that once bankrolled Western colonialism. Once the middle classes of the home countries of the great empires may have enjoyed some economic privileges and cultivated a sense of moral superiority over the apparently less civilised peoples of their colonies. By contrast today, outside a few safe havens of general opulence and social stability, the whole urban world has become an occupied territory that nobody can truly call home.
No post-agrarian society has ever transferred all power to the people, but some have been fairly successful at involving broad cross-sections of their populace in the decision-making process through stage-managed consultation exercises. At various stages in history we may have fleetingly entertained the illusion of people power in workers' councils set up in the midst of revolutionary uprisings or in experimental communes, but sooner or later new elites would emerge as most practical day-to-day decisions have to be delegated to professionals well versed not just in their field of expertise, but in the nuts and bolts of an interconnected system. The trouble with complex societies reliant on modern technology to help us overcome nature's limitations is our growing dependence on external forces over which we only have theoretical control. The managerial classes, usually specialised much more in arts or liberal studies than hard science, have long endeavoured to isolate and tame the talented engineering classes by rewarding them handsomely for their excellence, but limiting their remit to a small piece of a much larger jigsaw puzzle. If your field of expertise is developing the encryption software for remote access locks purportedly to protect home owners, you cannot be held responsible if your application is used for nefarious purposes, e.g. enabling the police to gain easy access to the private properties of political dissidents.
A key component of the social pact that emerged in most Western (and some Eastern) countries in the four decades following the historical watershed of the Second World War was the enlightenment concept that all human beings are equally valid. Whoever we may be, we all have our needs, feelings and, most important, sense of self. It doesn't matter whether you're a mere street cleaner or the CEO of a large enterprise, you have just one vote in a democratic consultation. In theory the street cleaner is as free to express her views and campaign for her political ideas as a multibillionaire. In practice business leaders can buy influence through their control of the media, funding of academia and lobby groups. Corporations can literally buy the opposition and bankroll campaign groups whose deceptively progressive causes may have hidden agendas.
However, nobody could pretend for long that we are all the same. Arguably our advanced civilisations would fall apart if we were all perfectly homogenised clones devoid of independent thoughts, unless there were some upper tier of more self-aware and analytically minded engineers, whether human or just humanoid robots. In many ways we have replaced earlier deference to our religious and royal leaders with our worship of celebrity opinion leaders and technocratic gurus. Just as we try to sell ourselves the illusion of parallel social progress and material growth, we become forever more dependent on technology few understand. Yet is it unreasonable to ask if we can demand endless entitlements without assuming attendant responsibilities or if we can exert any meaningful control over our labyrinthine system without actively participating in its administration (a task which requires detailed knowledge of complex scientific issues)? In the past we could hold our masters to account by threatening to withdraw our labour. A lorry driver may not have a degree in nuclear physics, but until recently transport workers played a key role in the functioning of finely tuned system. Now it's only a matter of time before all but the shortest deliveries will be made by driverless vehicles or drones. Robots may malfunction, but they do not consciously decide to withdraw their labour. A faulty robot can easily be repaired or replaced without any concerns about its welfare or feelings.
Epistocracy or Expertocracy
Recent democratic consultations in the UK, US, Italy, Austria and Eastern Europe have yielded results that have disappointed the more metropolitan intelligentsia. Yet rather than overtly overturn the democratic will of the people, transnational power brokers have preferred to exert gentle economic pressure on their elected leaders to guide each country towards global governance, albeit with some degree of localisation. When voters fail to endorse progressive policies, the establishment media will dismiss their outlook as populist. Some on the wishful-thinking kum-ba-yah left struggle to understand why the descendants of the local working classes oppose progressive policies such as welcoming more immigrants and greater cultural diversity or embracing the redefinition of families and genders. More surprising is the finding that low to middle income workers are growing sceptical of the benefits of more welfare dependency, as they see their workless neighbours earn more on state handouts than they get toiling away 40 or more hours a week. Sadly as smart automation replaces medium-skill jobs, industrious strugglers will either have to retrain in more cerebral pursuits, a transition that's not always very easy, or give up and join the growing welfare classes. This begs the question if our rulers will ever allow mere consumers with little expertise in any scientific field any meaningful say in the way society is run. And by scientific fields I do not just mean nuclear physics or biogenetics, but social sciences. In the recent debate on gender theory, we've seen the way influential lobbies treat the views of laypersons. If most commoners believe there are only two biological sexes and thus only two accompanying gender roles because that reality is deeply embedded in our collective psyche and confirmed by our everyday experiences, then anointed opinion leaders see it as their duty to educate us. Experts used to mean specialists in particular fields who may share their knowledge with the rest of us so we can make more informed choices. However, experts are often wrong, either because their expertise is too narrow or because their bosses want to pursue an ideological agenda. An expert working for a large organisation is more likely to consider the common good of society than personal needs as people become little more statistics and their bosses are more concerned with maintaining social order than empowering individuals.
Modern multi-party democracies with universal suffrage are a relatively recent development. For much of history parliamentary politics was a game mainly for the landed gentry. Even in the USA the franchise was limited to property owning men until reforms in the late 19th century. As recently as 1970, not only was the whole of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain with only state-managed political parties, but Spain, Portugal and Greece all had paternalistic dictatorships that preferred occasional plebiscites with state-managed media over pluralism with a free press. One may reasonably argue that ruling elites only allow multi-party democracy when they can tame their populace and contain radical dissident to the fringes by providing widespread prosperity and social cohesion through inclusive cultural values. This made sense in an age when advanced societies relied on the efforts of most working-age adults. If society could no longer function without the specialised endeavours of most pre-retirement adults, its managerial classes had both to reward and to respect their underlings. Back in the 1970s key groups of skilled workers could literally bring the country's economy to a halt. While that may inconvenience ordinary people with disruptions of essential service like electricity, railways or coal supply, many could still recall coping with much worse mishaps during the Second World War, in its immediate aftermath or even during natural disasters such as the harsh winter of 1946 / 47. People were still prepared to make do with temporary hardships for the greater good. Business leaders and state planners knew that in order to keep the economy afloat and retain their privileged positions, they had to make concessions to organised labour. While low-skill workers are easily expendable, high-skill professionals need years of hands-on experience as well as a mindset that nurtures technical excellence. Many of today's brightest college students do not learn practical engineering skills at all, but rather how to manage engineering projects, treating the many tricky technical tasks that past generations took countless years to learn as little more than abstract academic subjects. The trials and tribulations of a ship welder gain the same strategic importance as dealing with the mental health of a former employee of a typewriter factory who has failed to transition to a new trade. If a job is both mission-critical and cannot yet be automated, project managers have to deal with human resources. The terminological shift from workforce, personnel or staff to human resources reflects a move away from lifelong professions, often working at the same company for most of one's working life, to temporary agency work or, as some call it, the gig economy. This works well for some intellectually demanding and highly dynamic professions such as software developers. Your market worth depends not just on your portfolio of experience, but also on your proven ability to learn new techniques. If you've specialised in an outmoded language such as Cobol and refuse to learn any more modern programming paradigms, you may find your employability wanes over the years, while if you combine your knowledge of legacy technology stacks with more modern frameworks you may well get a lucrative gig migrating an old code base to a more efficient, versatile and powerful system. Sadly, there is dwindling demand for hyperactive code monkeys who keep, figuratively speaking, reinventing the wheel. Why would you pay someone to solve a problem that has been solved thousands of times before or has a specialised shortcut function of your framework of choice? The only logical answers is that the code monkey is unaware of simpler time-saving options or the project manager has little idea of what the human resource is actually doing. It's usually a bit of both, but often managers will prefer mediocre, but docile, developers over accomplished software engineers whose ingenuity may win them too much power. As time goes by, we can only expect ever greater levels of specialisation in emotional and analytical intelligence to the exclusion of mediocre all-rounders, who have no niche competitive advantages in any endeavour that cannot be assigned to artificially intelligent robots.
Whereas the working classes once meant most economically active adults on low or medium pay, in the near future it may refer to a privileged group of professionals whose talent is mission-critical. Many others may be employed in some perfunctory roles as customer support advisors or lifestyle awareness raisers, mainly to humanise our interaction with a machine-operated system. Such auxiliary workers are expendable. A supermarket with automatic checkouts, RFID-tagged products and shelf-stacking robots could with current technology already run smoothly without human resources, but most customers still like to interact with real flesh-and-blood human beings, whose roles will only be advisory.
Let us just imagine what would happen if all social workers and health and safety inspectors went on strike. Would the economy grind to halt? Would vital services be interrupted? Would there be an instant breakdown in law and order? The answer is in the short-term nothing would change, but over time the managerial classes would have to find other means to monitor their finely tuned system.
The problem with Marxism
Marxist theory foresaw a class struggle in which the workers would rise up to overthrow their capitalist bosses and seize control of the commanding heights of the economy. We may debate whether this could ever have been achieved without transferring power to a new ruling elite or destroying an economy dependent on the technological innovation of highly motivated skilled professionals, but the shrinking size of the proletariat may soon make this controversy rather academic. This begs the question what pressure can the welfare-dependent classes exert on the technocratic and administrative classes?
I suspect our rulers will keep alive democratic consultations in some form, but that professional policy makers and opinion leaders will restrict mainstream debate to a narrow range of policy options. All other perspectives will be labelled extremist, reactionary or delusional and at odds with official sources of scientific truth. Slowly but surely the professional elites have begun to treat populist opinions, e.g. favouring traditional two-parent families or compact nation states, as mental health issues that they need to address with better education and more extensive social surveillance. All four main parties in the Scottish Parliament support what we can best call the progressive agenda, with a few of caveats to placate conservative popular opinion. Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Conservative Party has not only championed gay rights as newly wed lesbian women expecting her first child from the local fertility clinic, but she has argued vociferously for high levels of net migration and continued membership of European Union. In effect social conservatives in Scotland have no elected representatives. Yet a recent opinion poll in the Sun found that only 15% of Scottish youngsters between the ages of 18 and 25 wanted higher levels of immigration and most wanted a reduction, although the effects of mass migration are much less pronounced in provincial Scotland outside Glasgow and Edinburgh. I wonder what percentage of Scottish parents welcome their government's decision to teach gender theory (the idea that gender is a social construct and you can choose your gender identity) to primary school children. I suspect it may be even lower than 15%, but this policy is supported by over 80% of parliamentarians and the official Conservative position is we should wait until children are 8 rather than introduce such concepts as young as 5 years of age.
Jason Brennan calls this new form of rule by the enlightened elite Epistocracy formalising the current roles of unaccountable policy planning institutes in setting the agenda for the infantilised masses, whose disapproval in any consultation exercises may only temporarily slow the pace of change and prompt social engineers to adjust their persuasion strategies. That's why complex subjects such as migration are often reduced to feelings rather than objective analysis of decades of social research. By emotionalising complex subjects and artificially creating new victim groups, opinion leaders can dismiss thoughtful dissent as hate speech.
Once we have defined progress as a transition to a technocratic utopia, in which human feelings are treated as medical conditions and all human interactions are micromanaged to ensure social stability and protect the interests of the professional elites, we need only debate how to persuade the masses to accept their new engineered reality.
There is a certain category of pseudo-intellectual whose views are utterly predictable, though this subspecies of mildy affluent trendy lefties may come in a variety of shapes, sizes and intelligence levels. In an insular British context we might refer to this group loosely as Guardian readers, the kind of people who look down disparagingly on unenlightened tabloid readers, but yet also claim to stand up for the downtrodden, especially those who belong to identifiable victim groups. They also regularly fall for mainstream fake news about our rulers' hate figures, hence fanciful conspiracy theories about collusion between Putin, Assad, Nigel Farage, Julian Assange and Tommy Robinson, currently behind bars much to the delight of media pundits.
Free will is an illusion. Your thoughts and behaviours are a result of millions of years of genetic and cultural evolution. Therefore, we can dismiss any inconvenient opinions that do not suit our preferred narrative as mental illnesses, ignorance or backwardness. If you enter into a long debate with an elitist, just ask if they believe in free will and personal responsibility. Logically democracy and individual liberty are meaningless without free will. If you don"™t know what"™s good for you, why should we care what you think?
We need more proactive mental health intervention. When loosely defined nobody could disagree with the importance of nurturing our spiritual as well as our physical wellbeing. Nobody wants to be unhappy or dysfunctional. Whenever you hear talking heads blether endlessly about mental health , what they really mean is the psychiatrisation of the human condition, so that any behaviour or belief at odds with the new orthodoxy can be categorised as some sort of personality disorder. This is really a variant of the above, but watch out for key phrases typical of elitists, "*That"™s just your opinion*", "*That sounds like a conspiracy theory*" or "Have you read XYZ report published in XYZ official journal which refutes your ill-informed anecdotal evidence?". In short your political views are a mental illness and your experience is worthless.
Claims to oppose racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and, of course, Islamophobia and to champion the rights of vulnerable disabled people. No self-respecting elitist would want to openly express any prejudice on grounds of race, ethnicity, sexuality, biological sex, gender identity, religion, physical or mental disability status. However, that"™s just a rhetorical device to shut down debate on a wide range of far-reaching social issues that affect not just our sense of identity within previously viable societies, but also our very humanity. What they really mean is that a only minuscule intellectual elite may express any opinions on these subjects. The rest of us are apparently simply too stupid.
Loves fertility clinics. Why have Western elites embraced the LGBTQ+ agenda with such a passion and championed the fertility rights of other groups unable to procreate naturally or raise their children unassisted, while simultaneously introducing invasive measures to spy on traditional two-parent families? In short they do not trust ordinary people to raise the next generation. Fertility clinics and social services transfer responsibility away from families and close-knit communities to the state and biotech businesses. Fertility clinics also pave the way for enhanced biogenetic services available only to professional elites and compliant prospective parents vetted by social services. Such prenatal intervention could not only exclude genetic markers for many diseases and lifelong disabilities, but also insert DNA sequences associated with superior intelligence, physical strength or longevity. While fertility treatment is still very much in its infancy, CRISPR (a weird acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat) will soon set the stage for the divergence of natural homo sapiens sapiens and genetically enhanced humanoids.
Loves mass migration. Doesn"™t everyone want a second home in the Mediterranean or Caribbean, affordable childminders and plumbers, a wide choice of restaurants and the chance to participate in international professional and academic exchanges? Rhetorically, self-proclaimed progressives love to champion the rights of new migrant communities, while besmirching the more conservative sections of the settled population. Damned angry nativists! Another common tactic is to claim that we"™ve always had such a high level of immigration or to downplay its extent and cultural impact, often moaning about the lack of ethnic diversity in cultural backwaters like Hull or vast tracts of seemingly empty countryside just waiting to be culturally enriched by new housing, roads, shopping malls, windfarms, sewage treatment facilities, hospitals, mosques, gay bars, robotised warehouses, office blocks and day-care centres.
Thinks ordinary people are stupid, unless we can be persuaded to support one of their progressive causes. If you happen to be a working class lad involved in a gay relationship, elitists will love you if faithfully join their LGBTQ++ awareness-raising campaigns, but they"™ll hate you if you campaign against the Islamisation of your neighbourhood because you do not feel safe to walk the streets at night with your boyfriend. If you happen to be a young woman wishing to embark on a career in neuroscience or software development, they will love you if you unite in their crusade against theÂ patriarchy, but they will hate you if you don"™t want to share your changing room with transgender persons wielding male genitalia. Elitists see their favoured victim groups as pawns in a larger chess game to gain greater influence over our future society.
Always sides with global institutions like the European Union or the United Nations or with NGOs like Amnesty International or Oxfam. Trendy lefties, many of whom actually work for these institutions, may occasionally criticise them if they pander too much to populism or protectionism. If an elitist starts talking about reform, what they really mean is even faster cultural change, not listening and learning from the experiences of commoners, the kind of people who cannot afford exclusive properties away from the madding crowd.
Protagonists and Sycophants
Now you may reasonably complain that most trendy lefties are not really that privileged at all. Many struggle to pay their exorbitant rents in overcrowded metropolises, have to cope with traffic congestion and pollution on their cycle to work in chic advertising agencies, may have fallen victim to street crime and some have experienced genuine intolerance of their lifestyle choices from other sections of their diverse multicultural community. Logically their only explanations for such mishaps lie in a concentration of power and privilege in the old guard, the spectre of shortsighted nationalism and ignorant native underclasses buying into xenophobic propaganda from the sensationalist Tabloid press. Indeed any convoluted explanation for society"™s ills seems plausible unless enlightened opinion leaders can label it as in some way politically incorrect.
If you scratch beneath the surface of any middling Guardian reader, you"™ll find they"™re only marginally more successful than the much-maligned Lumpenproletariat (underclasses) and are only a few paycheques away from bankruptcy. If artificial intelligence can replace human lorry drivers or machinists, it can displace lowly graphic designers, accountants, solicitors and recruitment consultants too. Many university-educated professionals may soon join the ranks of the welfare-dependent underclasses. This may in part explain the rise of Corbynism in the UK and the popularity of Bernie Sanders in the US. Yet their one big idea is to use the proceeds of multinationals to bankroll a welfare panacea, which would in effect subjugate us completely to the hegemony of a handful of tech giants. The CEOs of Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Tesla and Microsoft seem quite happy for social justice warriors to demand UBI (universal basic income) and more theoretical rights for all perceived victim groups, because they hold the technological keys to our Huxleyan future.
However, in some parts of the world we"™re beginning to see some overlap in the critiques of the disenfranchised native working classes and the disillusioned left. Both feel abandoned by the political classes and by global corporations. How long will it take for trendy lefties to realise they have more in common with ordinary working people who just want to defend the nation states and mixed economies that helped their parents prosper than with genuine global elitists hellbent on destroying such societies. When will it dawn on wishful-thinking hipsters that the global elites do not really care about theirÂ cherished victim groupsÂ and will be happy to sell them down the river just like they did with the native working classes of affluent Western countries? Just ten years ago trendy lefties hailed Polish migrants as hardworking taxpayers embracing the opportunities that globalisation provides. Today, some of the same progressive media pundits denounce Polish voters as myopic nationalists for failing to accommodate more North African migrants andÂ find on many issues their darling migrant communities hold more socially conservative views. Yes your average senior project manager on a relatively comfortable salary of 80 to 100K (you need to earn that much to get mortgage on a modest house in SE England) may have more in common with former steelworkers from Port Talbot than they do with the likes of George Soros or Bill Gates. The Guardian readers of today may well be the disaffected has-beens of tomorrow, unable to adapt to a world that no longer needs their expertise or loyalty.
The liberal enlightenment rests on three core tenets:
Social cohesion enabling peaceful coexistence of all communities and relative equality of opportunity.
Participatory democracy to resolve common disputes that arise in any complex society reliant on advanced technology
Intellectual freedom to facilitate the free exchange of ideas letting ordinary people speak truth to power
I could also add a fine balance between personal freedom and collective responsibility. Indeed free speech itself needs legal protection to ensure rational debate and prevent a descent into authoritarianism. Just consider the recent debate at Kings College London between objectivist Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute and Youtube commentator Carl Benjamin, better known online as Sargon of Akkad. In a liberal democracy one may agree, disagree and even vehemently disagree with their expressed opinions. One may also discount their analysis as uninformed or even potentially dangerous, if we acted on their conclusions. That is the purpose of rational debate within a democratic system that respects the will of an informed and politically aware electorate. So a bunch of upper middle class students associated with Antifa (which in the UK is usually known as Hope not Hate or is that Hate not Hope?) decided not to engage in rational debate, but to disrupt the discussion and moronically chant empty anti-fascist slogans. The irony is that neither speaker advocated an extreme concentration power in the state, the curtailment of basic civil liberties or discrimination along ethnic or racial lines. However, even if they did, I'd rather defeat their ideas in a peaceful debate than censor their views altogether. Intellectual freedom does not include the right to silence others or to resort to insensitive and gratuitous insults.
Banning Social Conservatives
This set the stage for two seemingly unrelated sets of events over the last week. First three social conservatives critical of Islam and uncontrolled mass migration were banned from entering the United Kingdom under schedule 7 of the 2000 Antiterrorism Act. The pretext is that their views may trigger acts of violence against Muslims, such as last year's Finsbury Mosque attack by a lone van driver with a history of drug addiction and mental illness. Canadian journalist Lauren Southern and American author Brittany Pettibone are best known as Youtube polemicists. Ms Pettibone's boyfriend, Martin Sellner, is a leading light in the Austrian Identitarian movement, which campaigns for the preservation of European culture. None have advocated violence or even the deportation of law-abiding immigrants in their own own countries. But whether one agrees with their views is neither here nor there, at stake is whether such views may be openly debated and, if not, which other political perspectives may soon be off-limits. They did not seek to settle in the UK, claim benefits, seek employment or break any normal laws, but their musings did fall foul of the Orwellian concept of hate speech. The London Metropolitan Police has helpfully clarified what this ill-defined offence means to them:
A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference. It doesn't always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online. If it happens to you, you might be tempted to shrug it off.
In other words, they punish perceived intention rather than actual acts. Thus my musings on the mental health agenda could be deemed hate crimes as may offend psychiatric patients. If we interpret the above definition literally, we cannot voice any opinions about the physical or intellectual capabilities of other human beings for fear of hurting someone's feelings. May I suggest that some people are morbidly obese in part because of lifestyle choices and not only because of genetic susceptibility. When will we start arresting people for claiming that obesity may be a preventable condition? Clearly rational debate is not possible if we resort to gratuitous offence, but there must be a platform for debates on all ideas, however absurd or hateful they may seem. If my neighbour were morbidly obese, I would avoid directly attributing to her any direct blame for her condition, whose causes might be a complex interplay between environmental stressors, social alienation, peer pressure and biology. However, it would be irrational not to objectively investigate the causes of a medical condition that not only shortens lifespans, but also limits personal independence.
Just as news broke about the full extent of the Telford grooming gang scandal and the way criminal investigations were hampered by political correctness and corruption, the BBC turned its attention to the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, with the notorious nerve agent, Novichok originally developed by the USSR in the 1970s. The government were quick to blame Vladimir Putin's Russian administration directly for this attack. Yes the same government that is happy not just to sell arms to the world's third or fourth largest military spender, Saudi Arabia, but also rolls out the red carpet to its leaders, is more concerned about alleged human rights abuses in Russia while clamping down on free speech in the UK. Saudi Arabia is currently engaged in a murderous bombing campaign in Northern Yemen and has facilitated the arming and funding of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The Saudi regime is not just responsible for the poisoning a few rogue agents around the world, but has directly aided and abetted unspeakable crimes against humanity and funded virulent strands of Islamic fundamentalism. It truly defies belief that British Foreign Secretary should voice concerns about gay rights in Russia, where homosexuality is legal between consenting adults, while selling arms to a regime that jails people for engaging in homosexual acts.
What we may best call the globalist British mafia, deeply entrenched in the intelligence services, state media, the civil service and naturally in government, unleashed a propaganda offensive, effectively accusing anyone who disputed their version of events of, wait for it, conspiracy theorism. If Sergei Skripal posed such a danger to Vladimir Putin, why would they wait until just before the Russian presidential elections and World Cup to score a massive own goal ? Why would they use a nerve agent like Novichok clearly associated with the former USSR that can kill indiscriminately. Why could they not resort to more conventional means such as setting a honey trap for their former spy and getting his mistress to poison his food? If Putin is in any way responsible for this dastardly act, we can only conclude that he may not be so cunning after all. Besides in the era of instant online communication, Russia can much more effectively extend its influence via Russia Today than by crude attempts to kill long-forgotten exiled traitors. Why would they carry out an act that would empower the UK and other Western governments to censor the Russian antidote to BBC and CNN disinformation? We might entertain the possibility that rogue elements within the Russian state or mercenaries acting on behalf of Russian oligarchs with a grudge against Putin carried out the attack, but it occurred just ten miles from UK's premier chemical weapons research facility in Porton Down. The mainstream media has stressed how the Novichok nerve agent could only have come from Russia, but fail to mention that one of the leading Soviet-era chemical weapons factories was in Uzbekistan, to which US and UK military personnel have gained access since the breakup of the USSR.
There are many good reasons to question the judgment of Jeremy Corbyn, but as leader of the opposition he was almost alone in expressing doubts about the UK establishment's drive to blame the Russia state, in order to impose tougher sanctions and deploy limited military resources to combat a perceived threat from a vast and sparsely populated landmass with extensive natural resources and little motivation to invade the British Isles. Mr Corbyn didn't even challenge the official narrative, he just asked for conclusive proof before we risk escalating hostilities with Russia and potentially triggering World War Three. Naturally most MPs recycled mainstream Western propaganda about the Syrian civil war levelling the blame at Assad and Putin, rather than at the head chopping militias who the US, UK and Saudi Arabia armed and funded. Not surprisingly the most vehement warmongering came from the usual suspects. Most notably, the author of the infamous 2003 Iraq Dossier, Alastair Campbell, used his column of the New European to advocate an alliance with the rest of the EU against Russia. Interestingly the New European, distributed free in some areas, appeals mainly to the kind of left-leaning young adults who protested againt Alastair Campbell's wars in early 2000s.
Connecting the Dots
How can we connect student campaigns against free speech, silencing Zionist advocates of laissez-faire capitalism, the banning of vocal social conservatives deemed far right from the UK and now the silencing or vilification of anyone who doubts the official narrative about the Salisbury nerve agent incident? It's obvious they are all attacks on intellectual freedom.
How can the UK state fail to protect vulnerable adolescent girls (some as young as 11) from culturally divergent grooming gangs, allow continued unbalanced migration, arm and fund Islamic fundamentalist militias in the Middle East and with a straight face claim it wishes to defend British citizens ? True patriots do not uncritically support their ruling elites, we stand up for the best interests of our families, neighbours, communities and wider society. If our ruling elites consistently pursue policies that threaten the freedom, safety, and security of our communities, we must stand up to tyranny.
Once again, we see an odd alliance of allegedly rightwing social conservatives and avowedly leftwing veteran antiwar campaigners question the official narrative on unfolding events. We need not read the Guardian to learn that the use of nerve agents is a barbaric contravention of human rights or that internecine conflict in Syria is an unspeakable human tragedy. But we must judge news outlets by their recent track record on apportioning blame for these events on the official enemies of our ruling cabal. If we analyse BBC coverage of events in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and most recently Syria through a critical lens, we discover numerous claims made over the years which turned out to be either grotesque exaggerations (e.g. allegations that Serb Security Forces were responsible for the death of 100,000 Kosovar Albanians in 1999) to outright lies and staged events such as the notorious 2013 documentary Saving Syria's Children.
I believe the real Jeremy Corbyn is a latter-day idealist, whose passionate defence of radical democratic socialism ironically serves the interests of dark actors with close ties to the world's leading banking cartels and corporations. These power-hungry elites are quite happy for naive students to silence perceived enemies of social justice, for governments to pursue foreign policies that endanger their own people and to oversee unprecedented rates of destabilising demographic and cultural change and for international bodies to introduce Chinese-style media censorship to combat the spectre of unofficial fake news.
We live in dangerous times. Sooner or later as centre of political power continues to move away from North America and Western Europe to East Asia allied with resource-rich Russia, the BBC's disinformation will become public knowledge and its reputation will lie in tatters. The decline of Britain as world power began long before it joined the EU, but with a buffoonish Foreign Secretary and a mumbling Prime Minister, the UK has become a laughing stock. Sadly given events elsewhere in Europe, it is not alone.
Two subjects are bound to enrage puritans, especially those with devout religious beliefs of one persuasion or another: abortion and birth control. Don't get me wrong, I favour vigorous debate on both issues and totally respect the rationale behind an absolute repudiation of the murder of innocent human life. Nothing is more human than a wish to go forth and multiply, but we need to be fully of aware of the likely consequences. Many will argue that once we justify the elimination of sentient beings because of their perceived weakness or superfluousness, we have crossed a moral line that may lead to industrial scale slaughter. Yet we only apply this logic to our own species whose numbers would not have risen so fast since the onset of the industrial revolution without swift technological progress and our enhanced ability to exploit the earth's natural resources. The same technology that can sustain a growing population and save the lives of those who would otherwise have died can also destroy our environment and kill unwanted people. In the early 21st century we do not lack human beings, but arguably we may have lost sight of what it means to be a living, breathing and above all free-thinking human being.
Before the advent of modern medicine and improved sanitation, only the fittest survived. To put things in perspective, the human population grew very gradually from the spread of agrarianism over ten thousand years ago to the European colonisation of the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. At the height of the Roman Empire the world's population did not exceed 300 million (usual estimates are around 250 million). When Christopher Columbus discovered the Antilles, there were still fewer than 500 million people worldwide. It took the colonisation of the Americas and the early industrial revolution to bring the global people count to one billion around 1830. As the industrial revolution spread to North America, the rest of Europe and Japan, our numbers grew to around 2 billion in 1930 and 3 billion circa 1960. There are now over 7.5 billion people and, contrary to the dire predictions of ecologists such as Paul Ehrlich (author of the Population Bomb), fewer people are malnourished today than 40 years ago. In 1798 Thomas Malthus presented an Essay on the Principle of Population that made perfect sense when applied to pre-industrial human civilisations and other animals. However, he failed to foresee an exponential rise in industrial efficiency. So despite famines in the colonies of European powers, in Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, by and large most economists believe Malthus got it wrong, but few could have foreseen the next 150 years of rapid technological progress. Some ecologists still argue that eventually we will hit our limits to material growth as the law of diminishing returns kicks in. When Richard Heinberg wrote The Party's Over in 2003, we still assumed future economic progress would be inextricably tied to the mass consumption of manufactured products rather than the provision of virtual services. We should have hit Peak Oil in 2008 when we saw crude oil reach its historic high of $150 a barrel. Despite the 2008 financial meltdown, per capita consumption has continued to grow in much of the developing world.
Most people in Europe, North America, East Asia and Australasia have already adapted to our new reality of low infantile mortality and high educational needs by having fewer children. Even the Indian fertility rate has fallen to an average of 2.3 children per woman. The birth rate remains high only in the Middle East, most of Africa, parts of Latin America and Muslim Central Asia (Pakistan and Afghanistan). While this may seem good news for those of us who care about environmental sustainability and may have once feared food and water shortages in the event of either technological meltdown or severe limits to growth, one cannot fail to notice that human life is valued much more in countries with lower birth rates. Just consider the case of Japan, with an infant mortality rate less than half that of the US and a murder rate of just 0.3 per 100,000 people compared with 34 in South Africa, 5 in the USA or 0.98 in the UK. It stands to reason that greater economic and environmental strains will lower our tolerance of weaker citizens.
A few weeks ago Islamic fundamentalists killed 305 worshippers at a Mosque in the Egyptian town of Al Arish. Unlike some other attacks against the country's dwindling Christian minority, this was an inter-Muslim affair. The Western media seldom mentions the ongoing civil war in Northern Nigeria and turned a blind eye to the 15 years of internecine bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While our media decried the killing fields of the 1994 Rwandan bloodbath, few highlighted the rapid rise in the country's population coinciding with a rapid fall in the price of its main export, coffee. When the system breaks down and fails to feed, clothe and house the populace, we can soon downgrade the worthiness of human life.
While technology may have, at least temporarily, saved us from the Malthusian trap, it has come at the price of personal independence. In our interconnected high-tech world we buy greater personal freedom by gaming the system. Like all games there are winners and losers, but the prize is greater control over your life.
As we progress to ever greater levels of sophistication and interconnectedness, we become more aware of our relative emotional and intellectual weaknesses. Many prefer to ignore the paradox that affluent societies tend to obsess more with psychological challenges. Throughout much of human history, and still today in much of the world, people were just glad to be alive and enjoy a simple meal with other members of their community. Anything else was a bonus. Today people obsess with their body image, diet, personal accessories, personality profile and ascribe any mood swings to medical issues that require some form of treatment. Whereas until recently we would explain our trials and tribulations to society, upbringing or immutable biological facts, today we view our psychological challenges in neurological terms. Feelings that we once viewed as normal reactions to our psychosocial milieu are now considered signs of a mental pathology, partly because we have so much leisure time in which to obsess about our social status, body image and perceived lack of success. Psychiatry treats the human condition as a potential pathology, something that needs to be fixed by modifying someone's personality in the same way as one would fix a malfunctioning car or computer. By equating mental health with physical health we devalue the human experience to little more than a set of illusions. Your state of mind, sense of self, thoughts, feelings or reasoned opinions may thus be pathological too. Yet personal freedom means exercising control over of your life by letting your thoughts and feelings shape the world around you, i.e. without someone else telling you what to think or how to manage your life. If the purpose of life is to hand down one's legacy to future generations, how can we fulfil our dreams if every aspect of our lives is proactively monitored and responsibility for personal wellbeing is transferred from families and individuals to social institutions that treat us as overgrown children? Indeed why have children at all, if the state tells you how to bring your offspring up?
Coercive social engineering inevitably restricts our personal independence and reduces our sense of self worth. Psychologists love to talk about the importance of self-esteem, as if it were a mere hormonal reaction to neurological systems and not the result of real life experiences and complex social interactions. Here we should contrast pleasure with happiness. The former may respond to biochemical stimulation or cheap thrills, while the latter is the result of life's achievements that require mental, emotional and physical effort. By suppressing our natural instincts or failing to channel our inborn urges in a socially advantageous way, we devalue what it means to be human. If we just wanted a perfectly harmonious community of diverse individuals devoid of jealousy or any form of interpersonal conflicts, we could biologically engineer a bunch of selfless asexual drones, whose happiness depended on only the collective good. In small communities the well-being of our team-mates or comrades may motivate us if we all share the same ethos with a high degree of mutual trust. However, both creativity and conscientiousness rely on healthy social competition and a desire for self-betterment. In larger more complex societies the abstract needs of millions of other citizens are unlikely to motivate us as much as personal advantage. We're unlikely to sacrifice body and soul for amorphous corporations with Byzantine hierarchies, but often do so for our kith and kin, but as traditional family bonds weaken, we regress into a lifelong puerile state of submission to our supervisors.
Humanity would not exist today without millions of years of natural evolution. None of the social or technological innovations of the last 250 years could have happened were it not a cruel process of natural selection in which only the fittest or best-adapted survived. Until recently merciless natural forces would end the short lives of those incapable of self-reliance. Many tribes would sacrifice the weak for the greater good as the late Marcel Mauss and Henri Hubert chronicled in Sacrifice: Its Nature and Function , originally published in French in 1898 as Essai sur la nature et la fonction du sacrifice. Societies as diverse as the Carthaginians, Etruscans, Aztecs, Canaanites and Celts engaged in ritual sacrifice,. In Aztec culture the victims were led to believe their sacrifice to the Gods would sustain the Universe.
Until recent times one earned respect through survival, the ultimate test of worthiness. The monotheistic Abrahamic religions that evolved alongside the more advanced agrarian societies of the Middle East enforced a new moral order that condemned child sacrifices and upheld the sanctity of innocent human life. The old Testament explicitly repudiated such practices, e.g in Leviticus 20:2â€“5 â€œSay to the Israelites: â€˜Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death.â€ Nonetheless until the advent of modern medicine many weaker children would succumb to disease and painful early deaths. Today's technology can keep all but the unluckiest of newborns alive. Infant mortality in Japan is just 2 per 1000 live births compared with a staggering 112 in Afghanistan. Historical rates would have been over 200 in most of the world. To provide some perspective in 1950 most European countries had infant mortality rates over 30 per 1000 live births.
On the one hand we have enhanced the value of life by enabling more people to survive into adulthood, but on the other hand we have devalued the unique sense of achievement that each adult survivor has. In countries with advanced universal healthcare systems, we have ceased to be strugglers and have delegated all responsibility for our livelihood to technocrats over whom we have only symbolic control. Extreme interdependence undermines our sense of self unless we retain some sense of personal achievement gained through work. Alas the ongoing artificial intelligence and robotics revolution will deny this opportunity to all but the most talented individuals. Everyone else will be expendable. Should our high-tech infrastructure fail to sustain the 10 billion human inhabitants of our planet mid century, it will be relatively easy to phase out the excess population. In 2016 over 6000 Dutch citizens chose euthanasia to end their lives, sometimes for psychological reasons. As a sign of things to come, I learned of the new 3D-printed suicide machine, the so-called Sarco capsule, that lets users end their life at the click of a mouse button.
An absolute moral stance on the sanctity of all potential human could empower megalomaniac technocrats unless we can afford everyone meaningful and rewarding lives. It's intellectually dishonest to dismiss any concerns either over demographic overshoot or over the coercisive means of control required to manage a large population of dependents.
To be human means more than just being alive, feeling biochemically induced pleasure or belonging to a monitored social group, it means above all retaining intellectual self-determination interacting with other autonomous human thinkers whom we respect and trust.
Our obsession with mental health and lack of respect for natural selection could lead millions to voluntarily escape a seemingly pointless existence.
Whatever you may think of the most influential British politicians of the last century, whether prime ministers such as Clement Attlee or Winston Churchill or dissenting intellectuals such as Tony Benn or Enoch Powell, few can doubt their depth of historical and philosophical knowledge and acumen. Naturally historians can identify many past politicians whose main focus lay in pursuing their career or representing the vested interests of commercial or aristocratic lobbies. However, today's mainstream politicians seem by comparison complete and utter amateurs, less aware of power dynamics than millions of ordinary citizens. One can probably envisage Theresa May as a parish councillor or Jeremy Corbyn as secretary of the local branch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but do these politicians really know more about economics, ecology, military power, social welfare, healthcare, subversion or terrorism than we do? At best our politicians are actors at the mercy of an army of advisors and civil servants playing to a crowd of wishful thinking followers who believe their anointed representatives will stand up for their electors.
We keep hearing from the establishment media that voters back populist platforms because they lack education or distrust experts. Yet experts advised us on the invasion of Iraq, on joining the Euro, on deregulating gambling and on large comprehensive schools. Luckily our political leaders ignored the experts who wanted the UK to sign up to the Euro project. Unfortunately, they heeded their advice on the other issues. The same upper middle class professionals who complain about poorly educated native Britons unable to fill high-skill vacancies also tend to support comprehensive education and then wonder why our schools fail to produce conscientious plumbers, mechanics and nurses.
The Blair era exposed the sheer vacuity of our parliamentary leaders. Only in opposition or from the back benches could the more intellectual MPs challenge the corporate elite, and usually only in guarded language or in ad hominem attacks. As soon as dissident politicians challenge mainstream propaganda or expose hidden agendas, our leading newspapers and TV channels will slander them as extremists or mavericks. What inside knowledge did Tony Blair have on Kosovo, Iraq, Northern Ireland or economics that humble citizens did not? I think it's plainly apparent to all diligent analysts that he had no special expertise on these matters and merely acquiesced to pressure from the powers that be, while trying his level best to deny that external forces influenced his government's policies.
It saddens me to note that 2016's great plebeian rebellion against corporate globalism will once again be betrayed. British voters did not reject the European Union because they loathed Europe, but because they disapproved of the kind of borderless no man's land that is rapidly transforming the social fabric of our towns and cities. Whether the United Kingdom actually leaves the EU or not may not actually matter, as Ms May and her team of overgrown teenagers will only entangle the country in another set of international treaties and free trade agreements which bind governmental decision-making to the diktat of the same transnational bodies. Some of us felt leaving the EU might enable us to build an alternative to corporate hegemony in the same way as abandoning a major supermarket chain like Tesco might enable you to embrace local farmers or independent shops. Instead our puerile leaders offer us an alternative between Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda. The United Kingdom, Ms May assures us, is leaving Tesco and will instead shop at Sainsbury's, Asda or, money permitting, Waitrose. It's like it's leaving a mobile phone contract with Vodafone and opting for Everything Everywhere instead. I don't regret voting to leave the EU, but the UK's economy depends so much on international trade and imported goods that true national sovereignty will remain elusive. To be truly independent, we'd need either a much smaller population or a much larger island to regain relative self-sufficiency in food and energy. Our only other strategy would be to emulate Japan, also a densely populated archipelago, as an export-oriented high-tech power house, but successive governments have failed to motivate enough youngsters to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I'm not sure how long the EU can last in its current guise as Eastern European countries reject mass migration and Southern Europe struggles with debt and mass youth unemployment. I suspect that the EU's strategic importance will wane as the balance of power shifts away from North America and Europe to China, India and Russia.
As editor of the Spectator, Boris Johnson occasionally expressed his penchant for snide remarks and critical thinking, going so far as criticise Tony Blair over his handling of the Iraq war. Within hours of attaining his first Cabinet post as foreign secretary, he fell into line with the Anglo-American foreign policy establishment hailing the White Helmets as nonpartisan rescue workers and amplifying anti-Russian propaganda. Meanwhile the Chancellor of Exchequor, Philip Hammond, exhibits the same degree of economic prudence as Gordon Brown, racking up the nation's debt in the name of growth. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, appears powerless to tackle a breakdown in social cohesion caused by fragmented communities, but is only to keen to empower the police and social services to spy on the citizenry.
Things look little better on the opposition benches. The SNP, Labour modernisers and the sole Green MP are eager to back the Europan Commission against the interests of the UK at every juncture, while urging the government to boost spending on welfare and relax immigration controls. Seriously, some MPs seem much more concerned about the rights of EU citizens who have moved to the UK over the last 20 years than of their unemployed constituents born in the country. Parliamentary debates have descended to virtue-signalling about our hardworking neighbours from other European countries and the lack of mental health services for our neighbours born in the UK. Has anyone wondered why we can no longer persuade our youngsters to train as nurses or drive buses in London ?
Don't Believe in Conspiracies!
To keep alive the illusion of democracy, our politicians have to pretend they are merely negotiating with other global actors on our behalf. If we can't quite get our way, it's because we had to make a compromise with our international partners, who promptly tell their people the same fable. It's the same everywhere. Most ordinary people are smart enough to realise they cannot aspire to higher living standards without playing an active part in wealth creation. Translated into English this means most people still want to be able to earn a decent living and may reasonably expect their government to facilitate rather than hinder their endeavours. As long as Western governments could deliver prosperity and relative social cohesion, we had the illusion of choice between rival political factions. However, as real power migrates to unaccountable global organisations, governments can at best mitigate the side effects of policies decided in remote boardrooms and think tanks.
While Ms May's administration pretends to respect the outcome of last year's referendum, it's busy empowering the same large multinationals who wanted the UK to remain in the EU. While many voters supported the misnamed Conservative Party to defend family values and restrain the power of big government, Ms May's team has expanded surveillance of private citizens and succumbed to pressure to redefine gender identity. Just as many Americans are beginning to doubt their new President wields any effective control over lawmakers, I suspect Ms May is hostage to her corporate handlers, eager to manufacture phoney political crises over the terms of the country's withdrawal from the EU to seize more control over a weakened UK. As events in Iberia show us, Europe is far from united and currently facing one of the fastest demographic transitions since the Moorish conquest of Spain. The inescapable truth is that more interdependent we are, the less democratic control we have over our governments. The universalist left would have us believe that institutions such as the European Union could better reflect the will of the people, but which people? Those who want less centralisation and more personal freedom or those who want to milk the system?
I seldom comment on unfolding events before I can establish some basic facts and investigate all the forces at play. I woke up this morning to a twitter stream showing violent clashes between the Spanish Guardia Civil and unarmed Catalan citizens attempting to vote in the region's independence referendum. I think Mariano Rajoy's central government have not only seriously misjudged the public mood in Catalonia, but their heavy-handed and morally indefensible actions will backfire massively. Recent polls suggested only 40% supported full independence, but now that percentage must be much higher. Despite a recent influx of newcomers from the Middle East and North Africa, Spaniards from other regions form by far the largest minority and many Catalans are descendants of earlier waves of migration from Spain's poorer regions. While the Catalan language was suppressed under Franco, since the late 1980s it's been the main language of instruction in state schools. Indeed parents have to explicitly request Castillian Spanish medium instruction. Yet Spanish is still the most widely spoken home language (According to Wikipedia 47.5% speak Spanish as their main tongue versus 44.3% for Catalan). Catalonia is undoubtedly Spain's richest region with its highest per capita income. As a result it subsidises poorer regions such as Andalucia and Extremadura and some estimate to the tune of â‚¬16 billion a year.
Back in the mid 1990s I witnessed the rise of the Northern League (Lega Nord) in Italy. Their leader, Umberto Bossi, ranted and railed against Southern Italians. For a few years it seemed the North, known as Padania, may very well have severed ties with Italy's boot. I lived in provincial Veneto where most residents still spoke the local dialect, Veneto, which many considered a language in its own right. Veneto has as much claim to independence from Italy as Catalonia does from Spain. The Venetian Republic lasted until 1796 before being split into two regions under Austrian rule. Italy did not unite until 1871. By contrast Catalonia has been in a union with Castille since Ferdinand II of Aragon married Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1469. However, the governments and legal system did not merge until the aftermath of the War of Succession in 1714, just 7 years after Scotland joined the United Kingdom. The Kingdom of Aragon covered a much larger territory comprising modern communities of Valencia, Aragon and the Balearic Islands as well as Sardinia, Sicily, Naples and briefly Athens. All fascinating stuff, but why would the Catalans want to secede from Spain now if most real economic power lies with multinationals and the EU?
Some may prefer to jump on bandwagons and support the side that appears to have popular momentum behind it. If you supported the rebels in Kosovo, Libya or Syria, you may be surprised to learn US and UK agencies and proxies armed and funded them all. Our media told us pretty much who the good and bad guys were. The problem here is that no country, region or ethnic group today lives in a bubble, except for a few isolated tribes. Self-determination may be a fine ideal in theory, but in practice smaller countries without substantial natural resources have to bow to the diktat of large corporations and superstates. The only apparent exceptions are city states with highly educated citizens like Singapore that serve as financial hubs.
In 2014 I had mixed feelings towards Scottish Independence. In an ideal world I'd have a loose federation of countries and regions within the British Isles. The UK has three main downsides. Most of its population lives in England, its economic activity is concentrated in the South East and it has a thorny imperial legacy. To me Scottish independence would have made sense in the 1970s if the country could have invested its oil wealth in a new high tech economy, while supporting its traditional farming and fishing communities. Alas today's SNP proposes independence within the EU, which essentially means transferring decision-making powers from London to Brussels. Worse still, Scotland exports more than 4 times more to the rest of the UK than it does to the EU27 (the EU post-Brexit). For me the strongest argument in favour of Scottish Independence was the SNP's opposition to Trident nuclear missiles and some aspects of US-led military adventurism. Honestly, with falling proceeds from North Oil the Scottish economy is a basket case, heavily reliant on subsidies from central government and on trade with England.
Catalonia, by contrast, can just as easily trade with France and other European countries as it can with the rest of Iberia. A rump Spain would lose more than a separate Catalonia. However, there's more to life than short-term economic expediency and other problems are looming on the horizon for Catalans. In a world of independent nation states, it would be fairly easy solve the Catalan question. Catalonia could become an independent country for most matters just like Portugal, but join an Iberian Federation to cooperate on strategic infrastructure, environemntal and security issues. Sadly we live in an asymetric world dominated by supranational entities. Only 6 weeks ago, Islamic terrorists killed 13 civilians and injured 130 in Barcelona's renowned La Rambla district. Catalonia has the third highest concentration of Muslims in Western Europe, an estimated 6% of the population and growing through immigration and higher fertility rate. The vast majority are first or second generation immigrants. Paradoxically Catalonia was only briefly part of al-Andalus, the Arabic name given to Iberia under Muslim rule.
While many Catalans are not happy about subsidising their brothers and sisters in Southern Spain, their politicians are fully signed up to the EU project and favour large-scale migration from North Africa and elsewhere. The current President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, heads the Catalan European Democratic Party, which belongs to the same ultra-federalist ALDE group as EU evangelist Guy Verhofstadt. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group wants to see a pan-European army, a unified fiscal regime and continent-wide harmonisation of most other domains of governance such as welfare, healthcare and even education. In an era of open borders, Catalan independence would be a pyrrhic victory. No sooner would they gain greater fiscal autonomy from the rest of Iberia, than they would end up subsidising the rest of Europe while accommodating larger transient communities of North Africans and Middle Easterners. They may well have to speak less Spanish, but more Arabic and Pidgin English. An independent Catalonia within a volatile European Union would not be more Catalan, only less Spanish.
However, the attitude of other European leaders may seem rather puzzling. Yesterday, Emanuel Macron urged Catalonians to support Spanish Unity, a rather odd position for a Frenchman committed to a federal Europe and mass migration. The BBC initiallly presented both sides of the debate. This rather reminds me of the beginning of the Yugoslav civil wars in the early 1990s when the BBC World Service would air many voices in favour of Yugoslav unity. Let's not forget in both world wars, many Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians and Kosovars had sided with the occupying Axis powers against the Allies. Yet by the mid 1990s the main US, UK and other Western European media outlets had overwhelming anti-Serb bias. Today, the Spanish government is portrayed as neo-Fancoist and certainly the antics of its Guardia Civil have done little to dispel that reputation. The real question has to be why the Spanish government thinks it can get away with such violent intimidation in an era of live video streaming ? They have either mishandled the situation in acts of extreme incompetence or they have been led to believe they have the full weight of the international community behind them as remarks from the UK's Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, might suggest.
Technically the Catalan referendum contravenes the 1978 Spanish constitution that does not allow any region to secede without the explcit consent of all Spaniards. It would be like having a UK-wide referendum on Scottish independence. More intriguingly, recent opinion polls have shown support for Catalan independence is only around 40%. If Spain had simply allowed a Catalonia-only independence referendum, with a free and fair debate on both sides, it could well have won as so many Catalonians have relatives in other parts of Iberia. As it is their actions may yield the very outcome that will damage ordinary Spaniards most, separation, the empowerment of the EU and demise of viable nation states.
In the era of hate speech laws, safe spaces and fact checkers
Many may argue that hunger, environmental depredation, nuclear war or extreme disparities of wealth are the main challenges of our times. I don't dispute for a moment that without life's necessities, a hospitable environment, peace and social stability, free speech may seem a luxury. If you don't know where your next meal is coming from, then you might not care much about Internet censorship and mass surveillance. Indeed if the alternative to tyranny is starvation, you may just choose to embrace the illiberal ideology of your new masters, but will lack the analytical and informational means to challenge the ruling elite's supremacy. You may be rewarded for your compliance with the system, but others may not be so lucky. Neither democracy nor individual freedom can exist without intellectual freedom, which in turn is ultimately meaningless without free will. If we have no independence of mind, other than the outcome of a complex interplay of biological and environmental influences beyond our control, then our ideas are mere physiological phenomena, which may like other faculties of human nature be healthy or unhealthy, strong or weak, valid or invalid, functional or pathological.
Back in the 1960s and 70s it was usually the notional left who would champion free speech on matters such as military adventurism, women rights, gay rights, dress freedom, workers' rights, pollution, censorship and even on psychiatry, which many correctly viewed as a tool of mental tyranny. While the left in those days was far from united, encompassing socially conservative trade unionists and cultural revolutionaries from privileged backgrounds, we could at least agree to disagree. If someone dissented from the party line on a contentious issue such as abortion, they were perfectly entitled to their deeply held convictions. I recall such a discussion at a local Socialist Workers' Party meeting. Everyone seemed to accept that our Irish Catholic comrade had a different opinion on that matter. If anything intolerance would often emanate from the conservative right, unwilling to depart from strict interpretations of traditional Christian teaching on sexuality or countenance a radical critique of British foreign policy. Only 30 years ago at many dinner tables it may have been unwise to express your support for gay rights in the polite company of devout Christians. Today you'd be unwise to express your opposition to gay marriage or transgenderism in many places of work and education. Indeed you could even get fired for expressing your deeply held Christian beliefs.
Of course, the pretext for silencing public debate on these matters is that many traditional perspectives on human morality and values constitute hate speech. Opposition to gay marriage might offend homosexuals who are allegedly denied a right that heterosexuals have always enjoyed. Likewise if you oppose gender reassignment therapy for pre-teens, you deny somebody of their right to identify with a gender at odds with their anatomical sex. If you question the scientific validity of many new-fangled personality disorders, you may hurt the feelings of those who identify with their assigned psychiatric labels. If you support immigration controls to stabilise your country's population and maintain social cohesion, by the logic of hate speech you are merely revealing your pathological xenophobia against those who wish to move to your country. To question the orthodox account of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks would dishonour the memory of those who died that infamous day. If we may only express opinions consistent with authorised and sanitised facts, then any digressions can be associated either with hatred or misguided denial of officially certified reality.
My interest in corporate and state propaganda grew largely from a critical analysis of the advertising industry and later of mainstream media bias over US and UK military interventions in the Middle East. Indeed these two sectors are deeply intertwined. In 1929 Edward Bernays notoriously paid a group of young ladies at a women's rights march to smoke cigarettes. While mainstream media have long depended on advertising revenue, advertisers promote not just products and services, but also ideas and lifestyle choices. I remember in 1990 after Iraq occupied Kuwait, PR Firm Hill & Knowlton launched a multimillion dollar awareness raising campaign featuring the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter who testified that she had seen Iraqi soldiers removing Kuwaiti babies from incubators. I would explain the bias of the BBC and liberal newspapers such as Guardian simply in terms of Britain's submission to US-centred military industrial complex. However, until the early 2000's my critique focused on consumerism and militarism from a clearly left green perspective. I blamed capitalism for triggering avoidable wars over resources or letting us succumb to mindless consumption. Then I noticed a strange phenomenon. The media began to co-opt many causes I had always associated with the radical left. The liberal media not only rebranded military interventions as humanitarian missions to avert genocide as in Kosovo or to free women from barbaric oppression at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, it championed environmentalism, gay liberation, disability rights, greater awareness of mental illnesses and open borders. I initially dismissed corporate sponsorship of progressive causes as cynical marketing ploys, but I kept discovering new issues that failed to fit the classical left / right paradigm, while ideas once associated with mainstream conservatism attracted vitriol from the new liberal establishment. I began to notice how scientific and historical controversies that we once openly debated had become off-limits. Only mavericks, quacks and extremists would question the new received wisdom.
The Pharmaceutical Lobby
Around the turn of the millennium I became aware of the presumed link between MMR vaccines and autism. There were a few public debates on the issue including one broadcast late at night on Channel 5. I had mixed feelings. One of my wife's Italian childhood friends, a latter-day hippie, had prevented her children from being vaccinated on principle. I recall discussing the issue with my wife when our children were due to get their triple jab. I was very much in favour at the time. Only my wife had reservations. Having been diagnosed with a mild form of, Asperger's whose validity I now question, my interest in this controversy grew. To this day I honestly cannot be 100% certain whether or not either thimerosal (a mercury additive used in most MMR vaccines before circa 2005) or a combination of three viral strains could cause neurological defects leading to regressive autism where previously sociable toddlers rapidly retreat into their shell, lose speech and suffer from inflammatory bowel disease. In 2003 I began to volunteer for various Asperger's support groups in Scotland and met Bill Welsh, an intrepid MMR truth campaigner, shunned by the growing autism support industry. He tried to persuade me that my condition had nothing to do with autism, but MMR vaccines had caused an epidemic of a previously rare disorder. One Guardian columnist, Polly Toynbee had earned my disdain through her consistent support for Tony Blair's wars. On cue she unleashed her literary skills in favour of the pharmaceutical establishment in her 2004 piece urging us to dismiss any concerns about the new 5-inâ€“1 vaccine jabs. All I wanted was a fair and open debate grounded in science, but we didn't get one. Wikipedia articles on the subject were hastily edited to remove all links to sites sceptical of vaccine safety. Dr Andrew Wakefield, who had urged parents to have separate staged injections for Measles, Mumps and Rubella, had become a public enemy comparable with Saddam Hussein. To doubt the safety of MMR vaccines was now routinely compared with Holocaust denial as discouraging parents from having their children vaccinated might lead to epidemics of preventable childhood diseases. If the evidence so overwhelmingly supports the safety of MMR vaccines, why would the unholy alliance of governmental and commercial forces seek to stifle all debate?
However, vaccine safety was hardly the only issue that upstanding laypersons could no longer question. If you have ever discussed hot topics as varied as gay marriage, the Twin Tower attacks, the environmental sustainability of mass migration, US/UK funding of Islamic fundamentalists or even the 2008 mega-bailout of the banking sector, you will have discovered a new corporatist orthodoxy among self-styled liberal, progressive and green pundits. I don't suggest for a moment that the truth always lies with unorthodox perspectives, but rather with empiricism and reasoned debate.
I could have added man-made climate change to the list of phenomena that the liberal establishment does not want us to dispute. An exponential rise in human industrial activity, not least over a billion cars with millions of miles of highways, are likely to have adverse environmental effects, but our business leaders are doing little to persuade us to consume less. I keep seeing ads urging me to buy a new car. Instead our rulers use the spectre of rapid climate change as a pretext to regulate us more. I suspect some prefer to believe climate change is not anthropogenic because they fear losing the greater personal freedom afforded by individual car ownership. I just want to know the truth. What's happening and why? Then we may debate what action we should take.
Mental health prison
Meanwhile more and more youngsters were diagnosed with a new range of personality disorders and relative learning disabilities, which require special needs education and/or psychoactive medications, while emotional challenges in adults were reconceived as mental illnesses with biogenetic causes and medical cures. My brief involvement with autism charities taught me they did not really want to engage with adults on the spectrum unless we toed their line, which is basically that autism is a genetic condition that has always existed, but has until recently been severely underdiagnosed. They saw us as tools to further their agenda. We were all supposed to take pride in our diagnosis and our neurological otherness. Guest speakers at support group meetings would proudly cite new research claiming as many as 5% to 10% of people might be on their ever-widening autistic spectrum, but they did not welcome my suggestion that this spectrum might encompass the whole of humanity. Then I noticed that not only were alternative views on the MMR controversy being edited out of Wikipedia, but any serious challenges to psychiatrisation. Advanced societies have long had to deal with a tiny subset of the population who pose a serious threat to public safety. Just as we accept that some violent criminals should be locked up to let the rest of us enjoy relative peace and security, it seems reasonable that some extreme neurological conditions may warrant either medical detention or monitored treatment in the community. In my view psychiatry might be only valid as neurocriminology as long as we clearly define for which crimes we need neurological explanations. Over last 30 years the boundaries between sociology, psychology, psychiatry and pharmacology have blurred under the amorphous concept of mental health. Yet to question the mental health agenda is to invite instant ridicule. Dissent is limited to a few nonconformist writers, such as Robert Whitaker author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, who have challenged mass medication or over-diagnosis of mental illnesses.
Redefining Biological Diversity
If we fast-forward ten years, the same lobbies that silenced anti-MMR campaigners and promoted early years mental health screening are now busy supporting transgenderism. Now young children will learn not only about diverse neurological profiles or normalised mental illnesses, but also about a diversity of sexual orientations, family structures and gender identities. Let me be frank. Young boys and girls are impressionable creatures with wild imaginations. It's not uncommon for children to identify as monsters, fairies, supermen, princesses or even as alien species. However, a good parent teaches their offspring to be proud of their biological reality and accept their natural limitations and potentials. A young boy may dream of being a Premier League footballer or a medal-winning athlete. If he doesn't excel in sports, there are plenty of other worthwhile career paths or personal ambitions a young man may pursue. But why would a young boy want to identify as a girl? As a keen swimmer from an early age I sometimes fantasised being reborn as a dolphin. Like many I sometimes wondered what life would be like as a girl. Yet everyone around me treated me as a boy, although I never enjoyed football or took much interest in play-fighting. A relative bought me a toy gun, which failed to enthuse me. I was much more interested in building contraptions. Nobody indulged my fleeting fantasies except in games. Yet all of a sudden a growing number of youngsters identify as the opposite gender. I first became aware of this trend not in real life, but via the BBC school drama series, Waterloo Road, that featured a girl who identified as a boy. The same series had highlighted personality disorders and homophobic bullying too. Now schools in Glasgow are building unisex toilets to avoid embarrassing transgender pupils, a problem that barely existed just 5 years ago.
Joining the Dots
Now you may wonder what all these topics have to do with free speech on matters such as war crimes, terrorist attacks, genetically modified food or nuclear power. You may not care about the scale or culpability of US bombing of Indochina or the exact death toll of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward. Most of us tend to leave such disputes to historians, forensic scientists and archaeologists as we lack the means, time or academic background to verify their accuracy. Besides nothing we write today can undo historical crimes against humanity. By contrast our identity as male, female, non-binary, neurotypical or neurodiverse affects us all intimately. Of these only male and female have a firm basis in biological fact. The other categories are largely subjective.
Infantilising the public discourse
If we reduce human life to mere feelings that may be either indulged or closely monitored lest their expression unsettles the social order, we live in a mental prison of infantile emotions regulated by paternalistic experts whom we may no longer hold to account. Maturity means above all else learning to accept your true self and your place in nature and in wider society. That doesn't mean submitting yourself to tyranny or curbing your ambitions, but understanding that you can only gain greater personal freedom, and thus independence, through honest self-awareness. Identity politics based on arbitrary and volatile categories empowers those with the technical means to sway emotions. Once we have acquiesced to restrictions on intellectual freedom to protect victim groups from alleged hate speech, we have effectively relinquished not only personal freedom but any meaningful democratic accountability. Free speech would cease to mean freedom of inquiry and rational debate, but merely the monitored expression of feelings.
Could globalisation trigger regressive ethnocentrism and religious hatred?
In a paradigm shift over the last 30 to 40 years, the establishment media in most Western countries now openly embraces not just globalisation and the gradual dissolution of traditional national boundaries, but also rapid cultural change via social engineering. However, until recently most national leaderships pretended to care about their countries, their citizens and their traditions to retain their people's trust and preserve social stability.
Back in the day rebels would oppose the imperialism or military adventurism of their rulers. We rightly associated wars, exploitation and oppression of subjugated peoples with expansionist nationalism. Some of us felt so disgusted with the crimes of our ruling elite that we would support their enemies or wish for the dissolution of our nation state into smaller regions of a larger continental superstate. Much of the European Union's philosophical appeal among the continent's trendy professional classes rested on its apparent disassociation with previous colonial empires. Yet in the early 21st century it's not so much the working classes who want to abolish their countries, as national elites who are now so enamoured with globalisation that they see their country as a mere anachronism and only pay lip service to its cultural heritage to placate conservative opinion.
Today school students learn about the horrors of, wait for it, nationalism. often seen alongside religion as the root cause of all evil. As discussed in previous posts we should contrast negative nationalism, which seeks to impose itself on rival ethnic identities, from positive nationalism or patriotism, which implies pride in the cultural heritage and collective achievements of one's wider community. In this sense negative nationalism is a precursor to imperialism, which has now morphed into globalism. We find many of the descendants of the same business classes who championed British imperialism in the 19th century and embraced Americanism in the mid 20th century are now the keenest advocates of globalism, often at odds with more conservative or protectionist movements at home. The worst examples of 20th century mass murder came not from small to medium-sized countries minding their own business, but from expansionist regimes that believed either in their civilisational supremacy or sought revenge for perceived past injustices. Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's People's Republic China, both responsible for millions of avoidable deaths, were not compact nation states, but regional powers with a globalist outlook that openly suppressed traditional expressions of ethnic nationalism. Even isolationist regimes such as Pol Pot's short-lived Democratic Kampuchea came about as a reaction to competing expansionist imperialist and ideological forces in the region. Pol Pot received funding both from China and later from the US State Department. His regime could only seize control due to the power vacuum created by US bombing of the Vietcong (Vietnamese National Liberation Front) camps in Eastern Combodia. Admittedly a cocktail of supremacist ethno-nationalism and military might can engender murderous regimes, as we saw in Nazi Germany and Japan. However, one may also argue that they only resorted to genocidal barbarity because other means of commercial and political expansionism had failed. The problems here were military adventurism and ethnic supremacism, not national pride. The British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian and Dutch empires were also responsible for their fair share of mass murder and ethnic cleansing, mostly of defenceless peoples who failed to write their own history books to counter the dominant narrative of civilising the world.
The workers' movement has long championed internationalism, i.e. solidarity and cooperation among independent nations with different cultural traditions and mores. One of the most famous gestures of true internationalism was when British and German soldiers ceased hostilities over Christmas 1914, exchanged gifts and reportedly played football. The truce highlighted the reality that it was not their war. Ordinary working people had little or no say in their country's foreign policy or military planning and had to rely on biased newspapers for information about unfolding events in other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Most supported the war due to their instinctive loyalty to their fatherland, a concept alien to many young Europeans who prefer vaguer appeals to abstract social justice and non-judgmental universalism. A hundred years ago our rulers urged us to fight for our country, now the descendants of the same power elites want us to welcome the transformation of our countries into mere regions of a fluid global superstate. Some still imagine the ruling classes as a reactionary cabal of nationalist aristocrats and religious leaders eager to prevent the fraternisation of a global working class yearning for a new tomorrow free of oppression or petty ethnocentric divisions. This is little more than 19th century fiction. In reality the upper classes have always been more universalist in outlook. The Great War of 1914 to 1918 saw intimately related European Royals on different sides of a dispute over the carving up of the former Ottoman Empire and the remapping of Eastern Europe. Ever since power has shifted to the bankers, oligarchs and state bureaucrats, who strut the world stage and often pose as progressive and environmentally conscientious liberals. Forget the waning influence of British Royalty, the real movers and shakers of the next century will be today's mightiest business leaders and multibillionaire technocrats in the guise of familiar jeans-clad rockstar tycoons such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Tim Cook or Mark Zuckerberg or even Britain's very own small-time billionaire aviator Richard Branson. These guys are all globalists, not old school nationalists by any stretch of the imagination.
Rebels against Post-modernism
Today's intellectual dissidents are seldom those calling for faster global cultural convergence. That prize belongs to what we may call the loony fringe of overzealous cheerleaders and idealists whose vitriolic loathing of their countries and traditions can be easily manipulated by global bankers who view national democracies with disdain. Instead the rebels of the early third millennium seek to warn us of the creeping authoritarianism of our ruling elites and of the cultural decay of our liberal societies. Naturally their main points of reference are the historically successful and prosperous nation states of the 19th and 20th century with their focus on civic culture and a mix of familial and social responsibility built on traditional values that evolved gradually through trial and error over many generations. While negative nationalism may have led to the revanchist neo-imperialism of the Japanese Empire and Germany's short-lived Third Reich, positive nationalism produced the social democratic mixed economies of Western Europe, North America, Japan, South Korea and Australasia. Most of the relative freedoms and rights we now take for granted evolved in nation states. Each country had a national debate about contentious issues as diverse as abortion, the legalisation or criminalisation of dangerous narcotics, nuclear power or euthanasia. Naturally people may reach different conclusions on these issues and live with the consequences. If a Muslim country wishes to force all women to wear a veil in public, that's their business. A globalist may seek to change such practices through military interventionism rather than by setting an example of more enlightened dress codes. If a cultural habit is bad for its practitioners, they will soon learn by comparison with neighbouring countries who take different approaches. Superior cultures, especially those that have stood the test of time, tend to expand more through emulation rather than conquest or imposition. We may reasonably debate whether the British needed to colonise India and much of Africa to spread our technical expertise, language or customs. Would the Indians and Africans not have found other ways to learn from our scientific discoveries and innovations without being colonised? Indeed many would consider the Christian culture that Britain spread in the 19th century to much of the non-European world both backward and supremacist. One only needs to read the annals of George Bernard Shaw's Fabian Society to learn how many envisaged the British Empire would morph into a Federation of the World.
Rebels vs Conformists
Today's critical thinkers can easily attract derogatory labels such as misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, Islamophobes (which my spell checker has just underlined), transphobes, right-wingers, conspiracy theorists, fascists or, if all else fails, Nazis. At the recent #welcomeToHell protests against the Hamburg G20 summit, Antifa black block activists asked reporters if they were, wait for it, Nazis before proceeding to beat them up. Such epithets are mere insults devoid of any connection to real historical events, as if modern dissidents are as obsessed with a short chapter in central European history as the authoritarian left seems to be. Unless you submit to borderless universalism and systematic social engineering, you are purportedly on a spectrum of reactionary perspectives that include sympathy for a defunct dictatorship.
By and large dissenters react to overwhelming bias from the mainstream media, academia and corporate lobbyists. Anxiety grows when empirical first-hand experiences diverge from the sanitised versions of reality that our mainstream media feeds us. When the media and other vehicles of indoctrination suppress key aspects of objective reality, some of us begin to ask questions. That doesn't mean we always come up with the right answers. It's easy to get sidetracked by focussing only on circumscribed issues or viewing the whole world through a narrow prism. This is precisely the tactic that clever social policy marketers deploy. They emphasise a perceived problem, e.g. depression in pre-school children, and present a solution, e.g. early psychiatric screening. If we focus on that problem alone without reference to wider society, the solution may sound reasonable especially if marketed as a mental health checkup. Likewise dissidents may view today's social problems entirely through the prism of Islamic fundamentalism or Israeli involvement in recent Middle East wars. These phenomena are based on mere observations of a tangled web of events that cannot be fully understood in isolation.
Twenty years ago Islamic fundamentalism seemed a side issue, confined to a few regions of Central Asia and Middle East with a few followers among the Muslim diaspora in Europe. The US and UK had long funded some radical Islamic sects, most notably Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Afghanistan's Mujahideen to counter Soviet influence before 1991 and secular pan-Arabist regimes later. As an opponent of Western interventionism in the Middle East, I soon became acquainted with the prickly Israeli / Palestinian issue and the role of the Zionist lobby in shaping US Foreign Policy. On demonstrations against military intervention I naively viewed Muslims as allies in the great battle against US imperialism and Western cultural decadence. Islam does have a few merits, such as its condemnation of gambling and interests on loans. Some interpretations of the Quran reveal an appeal to universal love and social solidarity akin to Christianity, but in practice modern Islamic societies exhibit extreme materialism, internecine violence, misogyny, child marriage, polygamy and castigation of homosexuality. For many years I wilfully turned a blind eye to these oppressive aspects not only of austere Wahhabism, but a wider unreformed Sunni and Shia Islam.
Before the 1980s many Muslim societies had experienced a rather swift cultural enlightenment. One can still view films of Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon from the 1960s with women wearing revealing dresses, jeans or short skirts just like their contemporaries in the West. Cultural attitudes seemed to differ little from those in Christian countries with a comparable level of economic development. An Afghani acquaintance of mine recounted her experiences as a student in 1980s Kabul before the Mujahideen took over. Educated women could aspire to careers in medicine and scientific research. A decade later the Taliban had forced all Afghan women to wear burkas in public and prevented girls from attending school. Yet these austere practices masked the sexual slavery of young women and little boys behind closed doors. Meanwhile I revisited the nondescript municipality of Luton where I spent my teenage years, only to notice the small Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities once concentrated in Bury Park have become the most visible ethnic group. Women now wear burkas in the town's large Arndale shopping centre. Many long-established pubs have closed to match the town's changing demographics and most of the people I knew from the late 70s have relocated either to nearby market towns or further afield. In little more than 30 years the Muslim community has gone from fewer than 5% of the population to over 50% of under 25s. Nobody really cared that much about Luton, but if you read the liberal press you may be under the false impression that the widely vilified and allegedly rightwing Tommy Robinson exaggerated the scale of the problem facing Luton's parallel communities. While once Lutonians would boast of their Irish, Londoner, Regional English, Scottish, Caribbean, Italian, Greek Cypriot or Indian heritage, today the real divide is between Muslims and everyone else. In the late 70s I eagerly attended Anti Nazi League demos and Rock Against Racism gigs to protest against the antics of few white racists and the short-lived popularity of the National Front (an ex school mate actually joined this organisation). I would read reports of white skinheads deliberately targeting defenceless black and Asian kids. In real life a mixed gang of English and West Indian lads beat me up once, but a I didn't let this isolated incident counter the narrative of pervasive white racism that essentially transferred the guilt of British colonialists onto working class youngsters in post-imperial Britain. None of this rapid demographic transformation would matter if everyone shared similar values and a comparable level of cultural integration. Today Luton's most tightly integrated community adhere to Islam. Everyone else is an outsider or infidel.
Media hysteria means little unless it tallies with lived experience. On my return to Greater London in 2006 I became aware that phenomena I had previously dismissed as mere teething problems of a multicultural Britain had begun to sow deep seeds of division. The rose-tinted view of Cool Britannia that I would read in the Guardian and Independent or see in BBC or Channel 4 documentaries seemed at odds with the harsh reality of ethnically cleansed neighbourhoods interspersed with unaffordable gentrified estates. Alarm bells started to ring when Guardian columnists expressed greater outrage over Daily Mail sensationalism than verified accounts of Pakistani rape gangs. That Daily Mail readers would tarnish all Muslims with the same brush seemed to concern Guardian columnists more than the fate of thousands of mainly white teenage girls treated as sex slaves. Some of us actually care about the truth. The mainstream liberal media now used the same techniques of diversion and subterfuge that served to justify Western intervention in the Middle East to suppress the unfolding reality of the kind of social disintegration that could lead to civil war. Some of us recall the Guardian's anti-Serbian bias in the Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s. In the final analysis the death count was fairly even split among the belligerent sides. The Serbs were the bad guys, while the Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians were mere victims of Serb aggression. The Guardian devoted thousands of column inches not to objective reporting of a complex conflict, but to slandering dissenters who failed to toe their line that the Serbs initiated most violence, going so far as to describe playwright Harold Pinter as an atrocity denier for opposing the 1999 NATO airstrikes over rump Yugoslavia. We now see the same vitriol against those who protest against some of the less salutary side effects of Britain's multicultural experiment. The English white working class have in effect become the Serbs of the current decade. The liberal media either ignores likes of Shazia Hobbs and Anne Marie Waters, or it associates them with alleged far-right activists. That the former is a mixed race Glaswegian and the latter an Irish lesbian and former Labour activist is of little interest to the regressive left, their critique must be ridiculed.
State-sanctioned ethnic cleansing
The concept of multiculturalism appeals to me on many levels, not least because I've long loathed the creeping homogenisation that is rapidly displacing traditional cultures that evolved gradually over countless generations. I would liken real cultural diversity with an insurance policy. If one culture succumbs to dysfunctional decadence, others can correct its ways by seeking inspiration from more successful societies. If a universal culture results in unsustainable degeneracy or extreme totalitarianism, the repercussions are by definition global in nature. However, the peaceful coexistence of diverse cultures is not the same as a deliberate policy of mass movements of divergent peoples or as Douglas Murray would put it the transformation of a country into an airport terminal. Indeed airport-grade security is steadily infiltrating shopping centres, office blocks, colleges and other public venues, just in case some deranged loners or radicalised extremists unleash their hatred on innocent bystanders.
The cognitive dissonance of the liberal media is so strong that they fail to acknowledge that the spread of Islamic fundamentalism into the West could destroy the very progressive liberalism they claim to cherish. It could do this two ways. If Douglas Murray, author of the Death of Europe, or Boualem Sansal , author of 2084: The End of the World, are right, then radical Islam will eventually replace modern Western society except perhaps in a few isolated havens of tranquility populated by affluent liberal elitists. However, technological developments will likely preclude such an extreme outcome. Some Islamic leaders may be shrewd businessmen and ruthless political strategists, but they will rely on technology developed by mainly European, North American and East Asian engineers, bioscientists and programmers to placate their growing army of adherents. Countries like Sweden or Germany can only provide generous welfare to economic migrants if they can leverage their collective brainpower to generate excess wealth. The Islamist strategy is solely predicated on conquest by migration and a higher fertility rate and will ultimately fail if their offspring cannot contribute in any meaningful way to wealth generation. A much more likely scenario in my view is that the spread of dysfunctional subcultures and parallel communities will only empower the technocratic elite eager for pretexts to expand surveillance and limit free speech.
What Is Social Engineering
A Web search for this term may define it only in its more recent application in the context of information security where it may refer to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. This is obviously not what I mean. I refer instead to a combination of social policies, spending priorities, media conditioning, educational bias and commercial incentives that affect human behaviour, social interaction, our identity and sense of self. Architecture, town planning, wealth distribution, transportation, advertising, information technology and schooling are all factors that governments and big businesses can engineer to modify human behaviour. It's not necessarily a bad thing if such policies and their likely implications are openly debated. However, influential pressure groups can easily manufacture consent for radical policy initiatives by focussing on a narrow set of perceived social ills. Other forms of social engineering appear to respond to market forces or popular demand, e.g. pervasive fast beat piped music in shopping malls, leisure centres, offices and now even in some schools and libraries.
The key question is whether policy planners and corporate executives were aware of the psychosocial consequences of their initiatives, e.g. did the expansion of welfare state, especially the provision of generous child benefits to single parents, lead to the demise of the two-parent family as the cultural norm? Some would question the morality of those who even dare to ask such questions? Others would either seek alternative explanations or would welcome the decline of traditional family structures.
In the great debate on the relative merits of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and atheism as dominant ideologies, let me declare my relative agnosticism. Sure, on a purely empirical level I've long been an atheist and have yet to find any credible evidence of the existence of supernatural beings. However, I doubt we will ever gain a complete understanding of nature so we will always have to account for phenomena beyond our control, but I digress. I'm much more concerned with the way ethno-religious and ideological allegiances warp our worldview and more importantly how the elites can manipulate our prejudices to further their own hegemonic ends. Do the ruling elite really care whether we adhere to Islam or postmodern narcissism? Do they really care whether we support Israel or pan-Arabism?
In the globalised era, old national divisions are giving way to new culture clashes among rival sections of an atomised populace. Last year's UK-wide EU referendum, the Trump phenomenon in the USA and the French presidential dual between Macron and Le Pen, all pitted the somewheres against the anywheres, as David Goodhart theorised in the New Statesman (Anywheres vs Somewheres: the split that made Brexit inevitable). The former group are still rooted in their town, region or country. They have over several generations adapted to their locale's dominant culture in terms of language, cuisine, social customs and worldview. As such they are more likely to cherish the quintessential cultural oddities of their neck of the woods. For decades Northern European holiday makers in Spanish seaside resorts would tend to socialise in largely national groups. Language was not the only barrier. By contrast the university-educated professional classes tend to identify more with an amorphous global culture and can thus much more easily socialise with professional elites from other countries than they can with working class people from their own home town. If you want to discuss the subtleties of English Premiership football and real ale with people well-versed in the vernaculars and idioms of the English Midlands, you'll find it much easier with others who share your cultural heritage. By contrast if you want to discuss the relative merits of keyhole surgery, fine wines and Mediterranean holiday villas, you'd probably be quite at ease to converse with affluent medical professionals from any country, who are more likely not only to be proficient in medical English, but to belong to the same social class. The rooted somewheres tend to be sceptical of globalisation, rapid cultural change and mass migration, while the more erudite anywheres welcome these changes as long as they can afford their exclusivity to keep the riffraff at bay. The political landscape mirrors this split too. On the one hand we have openly globalist parties posing on the lifestyle left that champion the rights of welfare dependents, migrants and ethno-religious minorities and on the other we have conservative or nationalist parties who promise to retain nation states with more socially cohesive communities, but with some boundaries and labour market protections. Often big business will support both sides as long as they can successfully lobby government to defend their commercial interests. Globalist parties tend to attract votes from wishful thinking affluent professionals, idealistic students, new migrants and welfare dependents. As I noted in another recent post Realignment in the age of Elitism, more conservative or nationalist parties tend to appeal to the true middle ground of ordinary patriotic working and lower middle class voters. By contrast more openly globalist parties tend to appeal either to the professional and managerial classes who have benefited most from recent techno-economic developments or to the growing underclasses of welfare dependents and special socio-cultural minorities. The latter group is naturally very heterogenous, anybody from Muslims with large families (and thus very keen on welfare provision, schooling and healthcare) and migrant workers (keen to have unrestricted access to the global labour market) to gays, transsexuals, and some categories of mentally ill people who feel estranged from their heteronormative or neurotypical mainstream culture. It hardly matters that these disparate groups privately hate each other. All that matters is that they depend on the kind of welfare largesse that only big business can provide.
Old rooted identities had a geographic reality, with greater homogeneity within a given region, but more cultural diversity worldwide because each culture could thrive in its own self-contained niche. Large corporations find it easier to rule over transient, volatile, heterogeneous and intersectional communities with competing interests and conflicting demands than over culturally homogenous communities with shared values. The mainstream media may preach universal harmony, but its constant re-categorisation of humanity engenders more distrust and thus justifies more social surveillance. As the native working classes abandon our cities, we see the emergence of transient ghettoes interspersed with gated neighbourhoods for the affluent classes everwhere from Paris to Berlin, from London to Rome or from Madrid to Stockholm. While electronic media can pacify most of the underclasses, police forces are already preparing for street battles on an unprecedented scale in high-density trouble spots. In just ten years the banlieues of Paris have evolved from mixed working class neighbourhoods into ghettoes with few French natives, where women dare not walk the streets alone. Some see these developments as evidence of growing Islamisation, a by-product of former Western colonialism and destabilisation. Yet I see a different scenario emerging, as the technocratic elite take advantage of the conflict between infantilised decadent Westerners and regressive Muslims to impose their new caste system.
Two faces of the same Monster
The globalist left has two rival faces. On the one hand we have mainstream social democratic parties who have thrown their weight behind neoliberal economics, seeking a new partnership between the state and transnational businesses to promote progressive social and cultural change. In the UK we called this strategy Blairism. In Italy the old Communist Party morphed into a bland imitation of the US Democratic Party, implementing policies that penalised small businesses and empowered big businesses to the detriment of blue-collar workers who saw their jobs outsourced. France is a little different. While Macron won the recent French Presidential election by a handsome margin, the mainstream globalist left failed to get much more than 30% of the vote if we combine his votes with those of socialists in the first round. However, France's youthful Blairite, who welcomed the support of former President Obama, is likely to have only a very short honeymoon as his administration proves powerless to tackle the growing disaffection of most ordinary French people with their out-of-touch metropolitan elites. Many on the old radical left opposed this lurch to corporatism, but found it virtually impossible to organise strikes or unite an increasingly fragmented and mobile workforce, whose bargaining power is limited by both extreme labour mobility and by smarter automation. Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece have so far failed catastrophically to offer workers an alternative, simply because their countries' economy and institutions are too enmeshed in a globalised system for them to do anything but negotiate with the powers that be. National governments have become little more than parish councils and trade unions act like student councils whose infantile policy suggestions our real rulers can happily ignore.
Useful Social Justice Warriors
Another faction of the radical left proves immensely useful to large corporations, busy planning for a near future when artificially intelligent robots can displace most low-skill jobs transforming the labour market. Some argue greater automation will just create new jobs for people to do, but that's not how the economy works. Big business needs a reliable and malleable workforce and who could be more malleable and more reliable than robots? They will only deploy human resources if we have niche intellectual skills or can act as friendly humanoid operatives in the growing marketing, social care and awareness raising industries. Today more people, ranging from high street charity promoters to call centre marketers, are employed to persuade us to change our lifestyles and/or consumption patterns than to make the goods we need. The old mixed economy worked on the assumption that and better-educated and better-paid workers would boost demand for the products they helped to make. If the labour market is tightly controlled and industries rely on a large number of skilled workers, businesses will have to acquiesce to workers' demands and accommodate their idiosyncratic customs and regional cultural preferences. Now big business is much interested in socially engineering a new kind of culturally homogenised but synthetically diverse team of enthusiastic colleagues. Many of the lifestyle causes once associated with the radical cultural left, such as women's rights, gay rights, disabled peoples' rights, transgender rights, migrant rights, mental health rights, have been embraced by large corporations. Some see this as progress. Should we not welcome the fact that big business has now come on board in our struggle for social justice or should we just cynically dismiss any corporate initiatives? None of these lifestyle issues affect the economic relationship between social classes, they merely address our perception of the relationships and roles of new and old categories of people within the same socio-economic class. Indeed some of these new categories are a product of recent societal changes. Feminism has morphed from a worthy campaign for women's rights to the redefinition of biologically based genders and traditional two-parent families. Some social critics such as Camille Paglia and Germaine Greer, who once called themselves feminists, now question the role of postmodern feminism as no longer being about empowering women as women, but more about the ideologically driven re-engineering of natural variations of humanity. I've previously observed how the roles of men and women respond to underlying societal conditions. Technological advances over the last 150 years have significantly empowered women, arguably more so than men. Not only do women have more time to pursue careers and not only have strenuous manual jobs been first mechanised and then automated, but women excel in modern higher education and in professions requiring advanced emotional intelligence or people skills (marketing, surveillance, social work, recruitment etc.) more than their male peers. Yet these jobs do not produce any concrete results, except to ensure the smooth functioning of an increasingly complex system that values compliance and harmony more than creativity and personal freedom. We now only need a small minority of the workforce to design, develop, test, build and maintain our goods and infrastructure. Our mixed economy rewards everyone else not so much based on their productivity but on their strategic worth as social regulators and persuaders as well as consumers. Many low achievers already work as product testers, mystery shoppers or product reviewers. That's right big business will pay you to act as guinea pigs for their products or services. The aim is not simply to boost sales or short-term profits, but to analyse the long-term psychological impact of their wares. Some lucky souls even get paid to test games or compete in online role playing tournements.
These lifestyle trends will not only transform the world of work, but traditional family structures and may eventually redefine the purpose of life itself. To enact the kind of far-reaching societal changes required for a Brave New World of intellectually superior creative elites and compliant underclasses of subjugated consumers, today's policy makers have first to suppress traditional social structures. Just as Mao Zedong's cultural revolution paved the way for his country's later conversion to state-managed neoliberalism and extreme wealth disparity, albeit overseen by the Communist Party of China, large corporations are now using social justice idealists to campaign for the kind of social changes that will eventually lead us to an era of hyper-dependence.
So what do transgender teenagers, Muslim migrants, learning disabled adults and other special categories of people have in common? How can we confuse the complex problems that may arise from sexual identity, religion, migration and intellectual impairments? These are mere aspects of humanity that could potentially affect us all. Religion is at heart a belief system that manages human behaviour. Migration is driven largely economic and environmental forces. Sexual identity may be problematic if one is unable to succeed with one's biologically determined gender. Last but not least, intellectual impairment is very relative. But all these categories of people rely not only on state or corporate intervention, but on the blurring of traditional boundaries between countries, close-knit communities and natural categories of people (such as men and women). It hardly matters if many Muslim migrants have regressive views on women's rights or homosexuality, as this provides the perfect pretext for more social intervention. A globalist policy planner does not care so much about a specific self-sustaining community, but how to subjugate the whole of humanity to a handful of corporations. If you're a goat herder in the Yemeni mountains or a Scottish fisherman, you may still retain some degree of independence from the global banking system. If the same Yemeni goat herder becomes a refugee in some godforsaken suburb of a Northern European city and the former Scottish fisherman ends up on incapacity benefit after a spurious psychiatric diagnosis, both owe their continued existence to the illusory generosity of a corporate monster few of us can understand. Yet social justice warriors will fight for migrant/refugee rights and champion the cause of mental illness sufferers, without a moment questioning the system that created these problems or contemplating the long-term consequences of our loss of personal autonomy.
Antifa (antifascist action) have deservedly won their reputation as intolerant agent provocateurs who serve to shut down debate on a wide range of contentious social issues. We now have mounting evidence of collusion between corporate NGOs and far-left political activists, most notably via George Soros's Open Society Foundation, but also via governmental agencies such as Europeans without borders funded by none other than the European Commission. The young idealists who genuinely believe in these causes have the same degree of intellectual autonomy as the cigarette salespeople of yesteryear. They are marketing a dream of a brave new world that can only end in more subjugation with a police state to manage the hyper-dependent masses.