Do our global policy makers welcome Scottish Separatism?
As the first exit polls came in after polls closed on Thursday 12 December, one key trend caught my attention. While the working classes in the Midlands and North of England had swung to the Conservatives, many voting Tory for the first time in their lives, Scottish voters had bucked the trend and shifted their support to the misnamed Scottish National Party, who in government have prioritised radical social engineering even more than Labour before them. As the Conservatives look set to win a comfortable majority, I monitored BBC coverage only to notice they displayed vote share for mainland Great Britain alone. Their reporters struggled to hide their glee that for the first time in history a majority of parliamentary seats in Ulster had been won by parties that support unification with the Republic of Ireland, with the moderate SDLP gaining two seats and the Alliance Party one seat. This clearly marks a move towards a secular Ireland detached from both the sectarian divisions in the North and from its cultural heritage. When Boris Johnson agreed a compromise with the European Union on the Irish backstop, did he know that sooner or later the province would merge back into Ireland anyway? It now seems the only distinctive features of Ireland's two jurisdictions, except for strong regional accents, are road signs in miles and prices in pounds Sterling in the North East, but in kilometres and Euros in the rest of the Emerald Isle. So Ireland may regain political unity just as it becomes a lot less Irish.
The SNP only really disagree with Corbyn's Labour on the constitutional issue and look set to emulate the transformative mass migration policies of Leo Varadka's Irish government (known as Project Ireland 2040). If the SNP had their way, Scotland may sever its ties with England but will become a lot less Scottish as is already evident in many parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow. However, unlike Labour, they ran a very sleek campaign that would meet the full approval of Guardian columnists and Blairites alike. Blair's advisors only really supported the Union to maintain social peace and keep alive the British wing of the Anglo-American military industrial complex. Traditional Scottish nationalists are correct in observing that the British Foreign office sees Scotland as a convenient location for their military toys. Now the European Defence Union is a done deal, international NeoCons like Henry Kissenger, Emanuel Macron, Guy Verhofstadt may turn to the Franco-German alliance for their global policing operations rather than the UK. Other big businesses really do not care about the Scottish constitutional settlement.
For the time being, England's new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (and yes I know he's technically the PM of the whole of the UK), has turned down Nicola Sturgeon's request for a second referendum on Scottish Independence, but it may well only be a matter of time before he announces a policy shift. With growing support for Scottish separatism coming not just from international academics and economists, but from former Scottish Labour politicians such as Kezia Dugdale, the outcome may depend on the unpredictable stability of the British and European banking systems. If Boris Johnson not only passes the Withdrawal Agreement, but successfully agrees on a full divorce settlement with the EU in the form of a Free Trade Agreement by the end of 2020 that would keep Great Britain out of the Single Market and Customs Union, we may just see a run on the pound which may increase the price of imports and cause the markets to panic leading to temporary disruption and hardship. The SNP could capitalise on such a scenario to win a narrow majority in a referendum. However, in the same time frame, we may see the collapse of the Italian banking system prompting a continent-wide recession and widespread civil unrest as governments raise taxes to keep alive the Euro and bail out banks. Other European countries cannot expect German taxpayers to keep subsidising economic mismanagement in Southern and Eastern Europe when they are struggling with their own social problems. In a Europe-wide crisis, Britain may seem a safe haven and support for Scottish separatism may well dwindle. Some recent polls have suggested figures as high as 51%. However, if the central government can manage an orderly departure from the European Union and the UK as a whole outperforms most other European economies despite Brexit, then the case for Scottish Independence falls. The question remains whether our business elites really want to keep the Union or do they think they can play a nominally independent Scotland off against a future Kingdom of England & Wales, e.g. by demanding lower corporation taxes or de-regulations of biotech experiments (something like human closing may be unpopular UK-wide, but may just win the SNP's approval if meant higher investment from biotech giants)?
I think most people on the ground crave economic stability and cultural continuity, i.e. do not want radical economic upheaval, top-down social engineering or rapid migratory flows. The SNP is building its entire case for Scottish independence on continued EU membership and a wishful assessment of Scotland's potential revenues from oil and other natural resources. That would only work if Scotland retained full control of both its territorial waters and banking system. As a separate member state within the EU Scotland would have neither. Norway prospered because it could invest the immense proceeds of its short-lived oil bonanza in education, infrastructure and training for just 5 million citizens.
How hate speech laws have come back to bite their proponents
This week Corbynites, who often call for the no-platforming of social conservatives, were on the receiving end of antisemitism allegations. Yet the same BBC stands accused of suppressing the scale of rape gangs to appease the Muslim community. It seems we must now think twice before expressing any opinions that may be deemed misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, antisemitic or in any way critical of our emerging Brave New World of rootless world citizens. For a while it seemed these constraints only applied to the evil far right or rather those who took a firm stand against social engineering, but now censorship hinders dissent on the left too.
More and more people with different political outlooks are getting well and truly fed up with the BBC's lack of objectivity, its narrow focus on a small set of perceived threats, its elevation of minor news stories to push an ideological agenda and its dismissal of much more important events as mere side effects of progress. In short, the BBC does not, as it claims, dispassionately report on a changing national and global reality with a wide range of divergent perspectives. It selects which news stories best serve its preferred narrative, often turning reality on its head by choosing exceptions rather than rules, and counteracts what it paradoxically calls fake news from the alternative media.
Yet the BBC does not just piss off opponents of UK involvement in endless wars in the Middle East, critics of unbalanced mass migration, social conservatives not totally on board with the LGBTQ++ agenda or dissident scientists concerned with the adverse effects of mass medication. It has now alienated hundreds of thousands of leftwing activists in Jeremy Corbyn's enlarged Labour Party, who take a strong stand against the Israeli government's repression of Palestinians and its role in destabilising other countries, not least the well-documented close collaboration between Israel and Saudi Arabia in a fateful triangle with the Pentagon.
The BBC's flagship current affairs documentary programme, Panorama, has a long track record of carefully timed hit pieces to smear opponents of British foreign policy, defame dissidents or destroy the reputation of organisations who in some way challenge corporate interests. In 2013 on the eve of a crucial parliamentary vote to authorise RAF airstrikes over Syria, the BBC aired Saving Syria's Children, in which crisis actors reacted to a staged chemical attack, purportedly launched by Assad's air force against innocent civilians. Robert Stuart has spent the last six years compiling evidence to conclusively prove the whole event was faked before the term #fakenews gained currency in everyday speech. The BBC's John Sweeney is a propaganda veteran of the British government's campaign to win support for Tony Blair's ill-fated invasion of Iraq when he championed the cause of Iraqi Kurds. Later the same journalist targeted the Scientology church, bankrolled apparently by a few wealthy Hollywood celebrities like John Travolta and Tom Cruise. Neither of these controversies are open and shut cases. The Kurdish people, spread over parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, have long wanted an independent homeland, but their cause has also long been exploited rival regional powers in their quest to destabilise their enemies. While the British government has historically turned a blind eye to the repression of Kurds in Turkey, US, UK and, dare I say, Israeli secret services have given logistical support to Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria. To put it another way, it's in the geopolitical interests of the main corporations behind the US and UK Deep States to destabilise all regional powers who undermine their hegemony and to seek alliances with any disgruntled factions. However, the military-industrial complex today encompasses the growing biotech and mind control sectors. While an independent Syria may be a thorn in the side of US and Israeli plans to prevent China and Russia from gaining greater influence in the Middle East, the Church of Scientology is an arch opponent of psychiatry and psychoactive medication and thus a threat to the biotech industry's grip on the collective psyche. I would add that Ron Hubbard's cult is an easy target that has merely co-opted a radical 1960s critique of psychiatry so they can present their behaviour modification system, known as Dianetics, as the only solution to our emotional challenges. I'm naturally sceptical of any well-funded cult-like organisation, but I suspect the BBC's main target here was not the Church of Scientology at all, but critics of psychiatry and their relentless drive to reframe all personal challenges as mental health issues.
An objective account of the Syrian civil war would look not only at the government's human rights record, which in the Middle East is unlikely to be very clean, but also at the funding and ideology of the various rival militias who controlled vast swathes of Syrian territory between 2011 and 2018. Before 2011 almost uniquely in the Middle East the Syrian government had somehow managed to prevent its disparate ethnic and religious communities from killing each other and to avert the menace of Islamic fundamentalism. To do so, it sometimes had to resort to repressive means, such as torture, and incursions against insurgents, most notoriously President Hafez al-Assad's 1982 crushing of Muslim Brotherhood rebels in Hama. Sadly all regimes in the Middle East have to deploy coercive means to subdue internecine warfare among rival factions.
Panorama commissioned John Sweeny to do another hit piece against a rabid Zionist, someone who had himself photographed standing on an Israeli tank proudly waving the Star of David flag. Stephen Yaxley Lennon, mainly known by his stage name of Tommy Robinson, has made a career out of his campaign against the spread of radical Islam and some of the worst practices of the burgeoning Muslim communities in many towns and cities across the UK such as their failure to integrate with wider British society, their perceived takeover of entire neighbourhoods with vigilantes enforcing aspects of Sharia law, their apparent visceral hatred of British armed forces and, most notoriously, their grooming gangs targeting vulnerable non-Muslim teenage girls. For the sake of clarity, I can sympathise with any community that opposes the British role in the projection of US military adventurism. On the 2003 march against the Iraq war I marched for a while alongside one of the biggest contingents, the Luton branch of British Muslim Council. While I don't blame individual soldiers for joining the army, I do not think they helped defend anyone back home. Indeed British military adventurism has only made the UK and British ex-pats prime targets for terrorists. Tommy Robinson's home town of Luton now has a Muslim majority in its school-age population. Non-Muslims of all ethnic backgrounds tend to send their children to suburban schools with a lower Muslim intake, while thousands of former Lutonians have simply upped sticks and moved to outlying market towns and villages, a phenomenon once known as white flight, but it's by no means exclusively whites who are metaphorically running for the hills.
The radical left has struggled to come to terms with divided communities, preferring instead to paint a blissfully naive picture of a united working class battling a few isolated racists spewing their hatred. The main flaw in this argument is that internecine hatred comes both from some radical Muslims and the wilder elements of the former English Defence League who have now regrouped as the Football Lads Alliance. Contrary to the BBC's simplified narrative, the battle lines do not divide whites from blacks, but Muslims from anti-Muslims.
Much of the avowedly antiracist left rejoiced as the Old Bailey set a legal precedent by jailing Stephen Yaxley Lennon for the subjective crime of contempt of court, when all he did was announce the list of men convicted of gang rape of minors, which was already in the public domain, as they returned to court for sentencing. Compare and contrast reporting restrictions enforced on these sex abuse trials involving 1000s of innocent girls, with the media's lynching of disgraced entertainers like Rolf Harris and Cliff Richard. The BBC even hired a helicopter to take aerial footage of a police raid on Sir Cliff's property at enormous public expense. From a legal standpoint it's irrelevant whether Mr Yaxley Lennon had himself been found guilty of physical assault on more than one occasion, the law should be applied equally to all. More worryingly, no jury was present at the trial.
Some will argue correctly that Tommy Robinson merely jumped on a bandwagon and did nothing to expose the scale of rape gangs targeting non-Muslim girls. Indeed the whole Tommy Robinson phenomenon would not exist without a captive base of disaffected working class youths and a little financial help from pro-Israeli pressure groups, most notably Australian-based Avi Yemini and the Canadian social conservative group, Rebel Media. The latter channel has admittedly countered some mainstream media bias on topics as diverse as sex education and mass migration, but is unashamedly pro-Israel and critical of all major Palestinian resistance groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which it defines as terrorists. We now have a distinctive political current that loathes Islam, loves Israel and champions national sovereignty and aspects of social conservativism with high profile advocates as varied as Katie Hopkins and Ezra Levant, to which we could add Gerard Batten's faction of UKIP and Anne Marie Waters' For Britain movement. This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with American politics where the Christian right has long been closely allied with the Netanyahu wing of the pro-Israeli lobby.
This must seem odd to some observers, as traditionally American Jews have been at the forefront of campaigns to relax immigration controls and promote alternatives to traditional families. Many on the radical right have blamed Hollywood, with its disproportionate Jewish influence, for subverting traditional Christian values.
Is the dispute really about anti-Zionism?
The so-called International definition of antisemitism is now so broad as to equate any criticism of the Israeli State or undue influence exerted by financiers and media executives, some of who may be Jewish, with the kind of pathological hatred of Jews that led to the Nazi Holocaust. Is it antisemitic to state correctly around 22% of all Nobel Laureates are Jewish, that the USA awarded Israel a $38 billion military aid package in 2016 or that 5 of the 7 Chairs of Federal Reserve since 1970 have been Jewish? I guess it all depends what conclusions one reaches from such easily verifiable facts.
Despite its close ties with successive US administrations, Israel is only one piece of a much larger jigsaw. To put the Palestinian conflict into context, more Muslims have been ruthlessly murdered by the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran and by Islamic fundamentalist militias than by Israel. The ongoing bombardment of Yemen is putting at risk the lives of as many as 20 million Yemenis, while the British RAF trains Royal Saudi Airforce pilots.
Many true Zionists accuse the BBC itself of antisemitism in its appeasement of the Islamic lobby in the UK. Few English, Scottish and Welsh people harbour ill feelings towards Jews, have very strong opinions about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or are obsessed with undue Jewish influence in finance or media. Most strong views, one way or the other, inevitably come either from radical political activists or more commonly from those with family ties to the Middle East. So which community in early 21st century Britain would be most likely to distrust Jews, blame Israel for many of the world's ills and cast doubt on the orthodox version of the Nazi Holocaust? Let me give you a clue. They are not old age pensioners who still remember the Second World War or virtue-signalling refugee rights campaigners, but neither are they ordinary working class Christians or trade unionists. Even outspoken critics of Israeli government policy like George Galloway have taken a very firm stance against both Holocaust denial and against the likes of Tommy Robinson. So let's scratch our heads and think which group of disaffected people with strong religious views might blame Jews not only for the Middle East quagmire, but for Western cultural decadence and its addiction to debt? What kind of staunch labour voters would view world history since the 1917 Balfour declaration through the prism of an almighty conspiracy by Zionists to control the globe? It may sadden some, but there is only one logical answer to the above question. It also helps us explain how Labour could miraculously hold on to the marginal seat of Peterborough in a by-election with nearly ten thousand postal votes or around 30% of all ballot papers cast. While the Palestinian conflict may be just one of many causes that many leftwing activists like to champion when they're not fretting about food banks, disability benefit cuts, global warming, veganism or LBGTQ++ rights, in the minds of many radical Muslims it justifies their jihad against Jewish power. The problem is most Labour activists either turn a blind eye to rampant Judaeophobia among some of their radical Muslim comrades or they are blissfully unaware of it.
Besides, the Israeli issue has long divided the Jewish community itself. Some of Israel's most outspoken critics such as Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky and Gilad Atzmon are themselves Jews. One hundred prominent Jews signed a letter to Guardian defending Chris Williamson, suspended for claiming Labour was too apologetic about antisemitism. More perversely, the only associate of Jeremy Corbyn who has ever called into question the scale of the Nazi holocaust is another Islington resident coincidentally of Jewish heritage himself, Paul Eisen, who even more intriguingly is also a close friend saxophonist, Gilad Atzmon. A few Labour activists, such as the MP for Derby, Chris Williamson or Edinburgh trade unionist Pete Gregson, may obsess with the Palestinian issue and the pro-Israeli lobby, but they have both vehemently denied hating Jews as lifelong opponents of any form of xenophobia. Indeed both could be described as xenophiles generally welcoming high levels of immigration.
Freedom of Inquiry
A common error of analysis is to assign collective responsibility to an entire category of humanity for crimes committed by a tiny subset of such groups and then to censor debate about key issues that affect us all through guilt by association with a few bad apples. Censorship of ideas creates an atmosphere in which people are scared to ask important questions and challenge orthodoxy. The spectres of Islamophobia and antisemitism do not serve to protect either Jewish or Muslim interests, but to silence dissent. If you care about Muslim lives, why not protest against UK logistical support for the ongoing bombing of North Yemen? If you care about antisemitic hate crimes, then you might like to have word with a few radical Islamists who learn Judaeophobic diatribes in their mosques. If you care about historical truth and our future as a free-thinking species, you may want to join me in taking a firm stance against the steady erosion of intellectual freedom.
In the age of narcissism, mass-consumerism and hyper-dependence
All of a sudden, the streets of major European cities are full of impressionable virtue-signallers demanding immediate action against our modern way of life to save the planet from the spectre of man-made climate change. I instinctively sympathise with rebels, even if I don't always share either their analysis or priorities, but are these latter-day hippies really rebelling against the system or are they simply being used to soften public opposition to unpopular policies that could empower global corporations to limit the personal freedom of all but the privileged few? Moreover, why has the British media remained almost silent about ongoing yellow vests protests in France as it champions climate activists and their celebrity spokespeople?
If we are to begin to tackle the very real environmental and human challenges of the new millennium to help us regain our sense of purpose in life and restore our symbiotic relationship with the rest of our wider community and mother nature, we must be prepared not just to sacrifice some of the ephemeral luxuries of our era, but also to critically examine the long-term human implications of the technological solutions we put in place.
There we go, I said it. There's much more to life than abstract money and economic growth, but does that mean we should suddenly stop all wasteful activities that contribute to our carbon footprint like driving cars, taking cheap flights to foreign beach resorts, buying ready-packaged convenience foods, filling our wardrobes with more garments and shoes than we really need, having one or more power showers a day, ironing our clothes, overheating or air-conditioning our homes and offices? There's no getting away from it, but our modern way of life thrives on consumption and public image. In practice we have little choice if we want to succeed in mainstream society. If you want to build a life around a successful career and attract the right calibre of partner, you'll need means to turn up to work on time in a fresh and presentable condition and be culturally attuned which usually means partaking in some form of inevitably commercialised recreation. Almost everything easily accessible to most urbanites these days is commoditised, including access to the great outdoors off the beaten track. There may still be plenty of seemingly untouched wildernesses, but they're usually pretty inhospitable environments without the right equipment. Whether you like or not, any sudden change to our way of life would lead not just to massive disruption and economic stagnation, but to much avoidable loss of human life. For a start millions of people with physical handicaps or ageing bodies rely on energy-intensive assistive technology to undertake some of the most basic tasks of everyday life. Our eco-warriors may fleetingly imagine a bright future of fit office workers cycling to work with their reusable coffee mugs, before they consider everyone else who need other means of transport to do the shopping or visit friends and family, or heaven forbid, do a practical job that requires a motor vehicle and/or other high-consumption tools.
The real environmental challenges
The aggregate human impact on our planet's ecosystem has risen exponentially since the advent of the industrial revolution, especially since modern medicine and the green revolution, boosting farming yields as much as seven-fold, spread across the developing world in the 1960s. We have escaped the much-feared Malthusian trap largely because of an unprecedented rate of technological innovation. Despite dire predictions of mass famines by the year 2000 in Paul Ehrlich's infamous 1969 book, the Population Bomb, the proportion of malnourished children has fallen dramatically as the global people count approaches 8 billion. Somehow despite growing numbers of mouths to feed, desertification of vast tracts of previously arable land and late rain seasons, infant mortality has continued to decline in Africa, India and South America. More strikingly the biggest development over the last 20 years has been the rapid urbanisation of Africa, meaning most of the continent's teeming masses are within easy reach of food distribution chains. If you like statistics, here's another. As recently as 2015 only 42% of Indians had access to a toilet in their home. When I first visited India in 1982, most people outside the major cities had to cope without access to the mains water supply. Today the figure is 82%. Yet each water closet requires extensive infrastructure such as sewage treatment plants. Now you might naively imagine that Sub-Saharan Africans and Indians are so glad to benefit from modern plumbing and electricity that they'd be happy to settle for an eco-friendly urban existence riding bicycles to work and wearing only second-hand clothes. Alas while many may not have much choice, those that can have already embraced mass consumerism. The real problem is not the prospect of 10 billion human beings, but the environmental challenge of accommodating the 3 to 5 billion vehicles our future global citizens will inevitably want to drive by mid-century. Even if we can persuade more people to use public transport, walk or cycle where feasible, we will still need to deliver raw materials and manufactured goods thousands of miles to meet growing demand.
Yet in the face of all hard evidence, many principled environmentalists insist the main problem is a mere by-product of our modern lifestyle, CO2 emissions leading to catastrophic climate change. I'm not going to fall into the trap of disputing the hard science linking CO2 emissions from industrial activity to climatic instability. However, we should at least have the intellectual honesty to analyse similar claims made over the last 30 years. Some ice sheets are expanding and some are retreating. Average global temperatures have barely changed. Some deserts have grown while some arid regions have been reclaimed as arable land. Irrigation, fertilisers and greenhouses can easily offset any shortfalls due to regional events such as late rain seasons or soil erosion. The real problem is whereas only 30 years ago most Africans and Indians were subsistence farmers, they are now trapped in the same techno-industrial complex as Western Europeans or North Americans with consequences for personal freedom that many observers have failed to foresee.
The Technocratic Trap
Hunter-gatherers or subsistence farmers are in intimate contact with mother nature. Their livelihoods depend on a mix of hard work and their interactions with their immediate ecosystem. In just two generations more than half the world's population has escaped the limited prospects of traditional low-tech lifestyles, only to fall into a new trap of hyper-dependence on global distribution chains, banking cartels and tech giants. Had they remained in their traditional settlements without access to electricity, telecommunications or modern medicine, much higher infant mortality would have contained population growth, but leave isolated rural dwellers in blissful ignorance of the wonders of television, smartphones, refrigerators and microwave ovens. Yet governments, big business and NGOs saw it as their mission to reach out to every stranded community on the planet to ensure they participated fully in modern education and preventive healthcare. Some remote regions bypassed the transitionary era of community television halls and public phone booths to embrace the marvels of smartphones putting locals in immediate touch with a consumer world they had only heard about before from occasional visitors and returning relatives. Unsurprisingly millions abandoned their ancestral homelands to seek fortune in big cities often coming into contact for the first time in their lives with extremes of opulence and helplessness. In today's bustling metropolises the main cause of worklessness is neither a lack of resources nor a lack of investment in education. It's an economic system that commoditises human beings as mere economic actors and has become so efficient at satisfying insatiable consumer demand that it has few practical jobs for the world's new urbanites other than as temporary sales reps or van drivers. Early capitalism relied on masses of workers to produce either essential goods or satisfy the consumer habits of the upper middle classes. Today large car manufacturers only need to a few thousand production workers to meet the automotive needs of whole nations. With the next wave of smart automation, a few hundred highly skilled robotics engineers will be able oversee the production of millions of vehicles. While the service sector will continue to grow, we will all become dependent on tangible wealth generated by a technocratic superclass.
Politically Correct Narratives
The world's managerial classes face two key dilemmas. First how can they manage the expectations of billions of new consumers. Second how can they prevent the underclasses from demanding more than their fair share of the goods that our techno-industrial complex can sustainably produce without triggering unmanageable populist backlash from the middle classes of wealthier countries as they stand to lose most from any levelling of per capita consumption? The answer is to come up with a humanitarian narrative that appeals to the wishful thinking middle classes, but does not offend the billions of new consumers in the developing world. The climate change narrative is neither the gospel nor a complete hoax as some naysayers may claim. It's simply a camouflage for much bigger environmental and social challenges that it would be, to put it mildly, politically incorrect to discuss openly. What are the managerial classes going to do with all the superfluous consumers if and when their economic model no longer needs us? Whether our planet can sustain 4, 8, 16 or 32 billion human beings may be a reasonable subject of scientific inquiry, but technocrats will only respect the masses if they do not challenge their hegemony. They cannot just tell useless eaters in developing countries to stop breeding. In today's climate of political correctness, that would be outright racism. But they can incentivise mass migration from poorer regions to trigger internecine conflict between newcomers and the native working classes. This creates a perfect storm where the perceived threats of far-right xenophobia among the native peoples and religious fundamentalism among many migrant communities serve to limit free speech and open debate. Climate change thus becomes a catch-all explanation for all disruptive changes to our way of life. Why do working class Europeans have to welcome millions of newcomers from disparate cultures into their neighbourhoods? Climate change. How do we explain the rise of Islamic fundamentalism? Climate change. Why are millions leaving their homelands? Climate change. How do we explain London's knife crime epidemic or riots in once orderly Swedish cities? You guessed it, climate change as locals cannot cope with heatwaves. If climate change is supposed to be such a big emergency in North Africa and Middle East, why have the urban middle classes there embraced automotive culture with a passion that would make Jeremy Clarkson look like an eco-warrior. Most large conurbations in countries as diverse as Nigeria, China, Turkey and Malaysia are practically gridlocked with a mix of private cars, minibuses and lorries.
In an ideal world we could all maximise our happiness and prosperity and minimise human suffering. We could literally have our cake and eat it, enjoying the wonders of modern technology and pristine nature, meeting all natural human desires, such as our instincts to go forth and multiply and to compete with each other, while ensuring everyone's emotional and material needs are fully satisfied. One of the biggest achievements of the liberal enlightenment was the recognition of other people's free will, namely the right of all human beings to act as autonomous living and breathing agents endeavouring to fulfil their personal ambitions. This means giving people equal opportunities to prove their worth and affording enough space for everyone to find their niche. Alas we are not all equally blessed either with extraordinary physiques or with exceptional talent.
This means each virtuous ideal conflicts with other ideals. For instance, the desire for scientific excellence and technological innovation may come at the expense of equality if we are to motivate the most talented engineers, physicians and inventors. Like or not, capitalism proved much more successful at driving innovation than command economies like the USSR or Maoist China. Yet even the Soviet Union had to reward its scientists and engineers handsomely to play catch-up with the West. Likewise, our natural desire to spread our genes and raise families may ultimately conflict with our wish for a clean and hospitable environment, especially if we want our large families to enjoy all modern conveniences. And last but not least, technofixes may indeed boost our carrying capacity and at least temporarily overcome the contradictions of rapid techno-social change, but usually come at the expense of personal independence, meaning any perceived liberties we may enjoy rely on infrastructure and technology controlled by remote organisations entrusted with the power of life or death over us.
Simply stating that these conflicts exist does not mean wishing for the worst outcome, but being smart enough to foresee other adverse effects and avert catastrophes. We should always consider drastic solutions with the utmost caution. Overpopulation is not, as many would prefer to believe, a myth, but a likely scenario if we fail to adapt fast enough to a new environmental reality beyond our control. The point is who's in charge of our destiny? In a socially engineered world at the mercy of a handful of tech giants who oversee every aspect of our lives, it's easy to imagine that unscrupulous bureaucrats may hatch plans to limit natural procreation to maintain an optimum population level and to prevent certain categories of people from challenging their grip on power.
However, our wishful-thinking extinction rebels present an apocalyptic vision of our near future lest we adopt drastic measures on a global scale that will not only restrict our personal freedoms, but also drive into the clutches of the very technocrats they claim to oppose. Few will retreat to self-sufficient farms in remote wilderness, but many more will be confined to micro-apartments in large conurbations under continuous surveillance.
Or do they just want to control us by getting us hooked on their technology?
As we progress into the 21st century, most of us find it harder and harder to understand the pervasive technologies that underpin our daily lives. This emerging reality can lead us to radically divergent conclusions. While many of us may fear a techno-apocalypse as we fail to tame the sophisticated systems that support our high-consumption lifestyle, others believe a tiny cabal plans to reduce the world's population by forcing most of us into big cities and depriving us of the means of self-reliance. Richie Allen, whose online radio show often discusses controversial subjects ignored by the mainstream media, recently interviewed Deborah Tavares of Stop The Crime . She honestly believes in a plot to kill off around 70% of humanity through carcinogenic radio waves (5G), vaccines, toxic additives in processed foods or the spread of manmade viruses and that this could happen as early as 2025. Proponents of the Agenda 2030 depopulation theory also contend that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax to justify the deindustrialisation of modern societies and force us out of our cars and spacious suburban houses into compact apartments serviced by automated public transit systems.
If we believed some ardent techno-pessimists like Paul Ehrlich or Richard Heinberg, by 2018 we should have suffered a massive worldwide famine as we would have failed to feed a record number of human beings or would have endured a total collapse of our industrial civilisation in the wake of Peak OIl. Alas not only are the scourges of infant mortality and malnutrition still in decline, but car ownership continues to rise steeply across much of the developing world. If our secretive overlords wanted to kill us, why would they let us survive and endlessly promote a wasteful consumer lifestyle? The technophobic doomsayers may have been proven wrong, at least for the time being, but what of the disciples of David Icke and Jeff Rense, who view all recent cultural trends as part of a plot to deny us access to safe technologies, boundless zero-point energy and almost unlimited resources? Their narrative appeals to a North American redneck mindset that favours personal freedom over state interference, gun ownership over police surveillance and affordable automobiles over public transportation. Ironically it also appeals to many leftwingers who view capitalism as the main cause of poverty rather than a system that has enabled more people than ever to live longer lives with greater material wealth. If there are limits to growth on a finite planet, then we have to contend with the ethical consequences of limiting human numbers. More external intervention can both boost our population by reducing infant mortality and limit family sizes by encouraging women to pursue careers rather than devote their lives to motherhood alone.
A common theme is the theory that mass vaccination programmes, e.g. as promoted by the infamous Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation, are part of a deliberate depopulation agenda. Whatever adverse effects some vaccines may have, especially if they are for diseases that our immune system will usually defeat, more children than ever survive into adulthood. In most developing countries, a growing population tends to hasten the process of urbanisation and people's dependence on imported resources.
All of a sudden, disruptions in broadband or mobile networks can render us helpless because in just 20 years we have transitioned from a world largely off the grid to a hyperconnected world, where social media validates your existence. Now imagine how many young millennials would cope with a prolonged power outage. Not only would washing machines, refrigerators and lights stop working, but within hours most domestic water supplies would run out too as they rely on electric pumps. Large cities would soon experience a public sanitation crisis as uncooled imported fresh food rots and residents fight over limited reserves of clean water. In short without drastic emergency measures, such as the immediate deployment of backup generators to keep essential services alive and the possible evacuation of many residents where these services cannot be restored, the death rate would skyrocket. Yet many urbanites ask not what practical help they could offer, but rather whom they should blame for such a catastrophic failure. Did the power supply fail because of lack of investment in infrastructure or because some technocrats wanted to kill off the population or did just fail because even with the best planning something always goes awry sooner or later?
We saw this dilemma at play in the aftermath of last year's gruesome Grenfell Tower fire. Many jumped on the bandwagon to assume the authorities were somehow complicit in the tragedy that killed 70 to 80 residents of an overcrowded high-rise block. If this were the case, then they could kill far more among the conurbation's nine million residents by simply cutting off the water supply. Now some may argue that the local council did not prioritise these mainly low-income residents and predominantly recent immigrants. However, they had just spent £8.7 million to refurbish the building or £72,500 per flat as well as subsidising the rent of most tenants as few could afford the going rate of over £2,000 a month. That money would go a lot further in provincial Britain. If anything the Grenfell tragedy should warn against the wisdom of mass migration without adequate infrastructure and environmental resources, but instead many have exploited the calamity to blame the rich for not spending enough to accommodate more newcomers in one of the most expensive and densely populated boroughs of Inner London. This is the politics of vengeance. The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea is home to many of London's 80 billionaires including Indian-born Lakshmi Mittal at 18-19 Kensington Palace Gardens, just a stone's throw from Grenfell Tower. Few ordinary English men and women on modest wages could afford to live there.
Could more people empower the power-hungry?
Let us just imagine two scenarios: one utopian and another dystopian. In one society everyone belongs to the affluent professional classes with a large private villa, plenty of nearby parks and countryside, one car per adult, a short working week and open participation in the democratic process with full access to the information, analyses and alternative perspectives we might need to reach informed decisions on public policies. Such a society would combine the best of public services and personal freedom. While we've yet to attain such societal perfection, we can see glimpses of it in the wealthy suburbs of European and North American cities, except we seldom need travel far to witness the rough edges and incongruences of our current system, e.g. the need for extensive transport infrastructure, industry, invasive policing and our continued reliance on low-paid workers in other neighbourhoods or countries. In other words the affluent professional classes inhabit a mere simulation of an ideal world, in which we all enjoy not just equal rights, but are equally involved the micromanagement of our complex society, equally intelligent and equally privileged. In such a society nobody would be a mere cleaner, nurse or machinist. We'd all have well-remunerated roles as health and safety supervisors, patient care coordinators or industrial automation engineers, managing specialised robots and unmanned production plants.
However, this idyllic future vision has three main pitfalls. First it relies on a high-consumption lifestyle with massive waste, essentially extending the North American dream to the whole world. To accommodate the projected peak of ten to eleven billion world citizens, we'd need substantial technological innovation with much higher efficiency. The trouble with technology is that it does not always work as desired. While some scientists have calculated that we could accommodate as many as 32 billion human beings with existing proven technology, this is only in theory assuming minimal waste. It's like claiming that a small lift measuring just 4 square metres (or 2x2m) could accommodate as many as 32 people (assuming an area of 25x50cm for each person). It all depends on how large these people are and what degree of personal freedom they're willing to relinquish for the duration of their short elevator journey. Yet our current way of life is constantly interrupted by seemingly trivial, easily avoidable but unpredictable mishaps, e.g. a traffic accident on a major motorway can lead to significant delays not just for commuters, but for food supplies and emergency services or a burst mains water pipe could deny thousands of residents of safe drinking water and spread life-threatening contaminants.
Second it fails to account for human nature, which is naturally socially competitive. While we may theoretically all thrive in different spheres, e.g. one neighbour could be an award-winning playwright, another a renowned architect and another a molecular biologist, most of us have rather mediocre skillsets. We may have relative strengths and weaknesses, but very few of us are genuinely top of our game. Yet without the fierce competition that motivates the most talented among us to excel, we could easily regress to a comfortably numb existence of subservience to a master race of technocrats.
However, there is a third downside to our hipster utopia. While our privileged denizens may lack motivation to hone their technical skills, they will have plenty of time to engage in political activism and challenge the ideological hegemony of the managerial classes. We would have an endless battle between the technocrats who know what's best for masses and the empowered lay-people keen to challenge their monopoly on wisdom. If nuclear power proves to be the only practical means of generating enough energy for such a perfect world, what would happen if voters decided to ban it and rely on wind turbines and solar panels instead? Would the demos be responsible for the increased death rate as vital services stop working?
Our ruling elites do not want us all to become hipsters, because this category of trendy affluent professionals are exceedingly hard to manage and constantly challenge the authority of anyone who tells them how to lead their lives. The managerial classes may tolerate this subset of humanity in segregated Bohemian neighbourhoods or as a minority caste of creatives and intellectuals, whose disruptive influence they can easily contain by subverting any movements that may challenge their grip on power. However, they'd much prefer a dumbed-down populace with minimal intellectual or economic independence, totally hooked on commercialised simulacra that technocrats can both control and monitor. It's much easier to manage online gamers ensconced in their bedrooms and engrossed in a captivating alternate reality, but oblivious to the machinations of the real ruling classes, than it is to tame intellectual rebels who want to free themselves from pervasive surveillance and mass consumerism.
The high-tech alternative to our hipster utopia of cycleways, vegetable patches, wind turbines, art galleries and pristine swimming lakes is a global network of megacities accommodating a large population of consumer drones rewarded not for their intellectual talent, but for their compliance with our brave new world of shiny happy people, unable to conceive of independent life. While our recent ancestors believed in a high degree self-reliance with most people working hard to provide for themselves and their family, we're drifting towards a new reality where either big business or state institutions, whose roles are rapidly merging anyway, are solely responsible for our well-being. In the not too distant past we would attribute our misfortunes either to spiritual forces beyond our control or to personal responsibility. While in the past we may have striven to overcome injustices suffered by large groups of people (e.g. the campaign against slavery), we now obsess with perceived disadvantages and inconveniences that various categories of people may subjectively experience, as if we all had an inalienable right to be whoever or whatever we want to be. Rather than accepting our natural limitations and trying to do our best to succeed in life, we now expect society to compensate for our weaknesses and facilitate our ephemeral ambitions. Our achievements thus become not the fruits of tireless endeavour, but rewards for compliant behaviour.
It's hardly a coincidence that the most universalist cults, from Islam to Catholicism and from big business to big government, encourage their followers to go forth and multiply. In the past devotees may have adhered to strict commandments, limiting their personal freedom, while today's rulers much prefer a new breed of self-pitying victim groups whose dysfunctional lifestyle choices will keep them at the mercy of welfare handouts. American-Indian political commentator and author, Dinesh D'Souza, correctly observed the transformation of the American Democratic Party from a champion of slave owners to a bastion of state interference. The same ruling elites who once kept their subordinates as slaves in plantations, now champion welfare-dependency and identity politics as a new kind of plantation of loyal subjects. Whereas once slaves had to work, now they only have to consume as subjects of endless screening. If big business is happy to bankroll the state to subsidise your consumer products, just be aware you are the product.
So the depopulation theorists are wrong, global megalomaniacs do not want to kill most of us so they can have the whole planet to themselves, they want us locked into an interconnected system that they control and without which we would die. It may be an unsettling thought, but a freer world may well be one with greater room for autonomous communities and individual creativity, supporting a smaller, but more self-reliant population than the tens of billions that genetic engineering, nuclear fusion and nanorobotics could theoretically support. The question is no longer whether we can feed ten billion or more human beings, but whether our descendants will have any control over their destiny. One billion is a very big number for a large mammal. For most of human history our numbers remained below 750 million before the advent of the industrial revolution and hovered between 200 and 450 million from early Roman times to the Rennaissance and the European discovery of the Americas. Today just 3% of land mammals by weight live in the wild. Should our destiny resemble domestic sheep, captive tigers on display in zoos and wildlife parks, guinea pigs under 24/7 surveillance or the last wild animals who have adapted to habitats unfit for human explotation?
How greed, distrust, decadence and unsustainability engender conflicts
Most of us agree wars are best avoided, but we have long debated whether and when they can ever be justified. In theory at least, we can assert the right of all communities to self-defence against incursions and conquest, but in practice life is seldom that simple, as outside forces may easily manipulate disaffected insurgents with well-founded grievances for their own ends. Today most nation states rarely fight wars for territorial gain in the way European and Asian powers regularly did until the mid 20th century. In an increasingly interdependent world national governments play second fiddle to corporate lobbies, supranational bodies and borderless banks. As migratory flows have grown rapidly in an age of job insecurity and international commuting, regional identity has waned especially in our more cosmopolitan cities. Why spend billions of pounds to defend the right to self-determination of around 2000 Anglophile Falkland Islanders, when the ethnic composition of towns and cities across the British Isles and the rest of Western Europe is changing at a rate not seen since the mass people movements of the Second World War? Why invade a country if you can just move there, buy up properties and take over entire neighbourhoods? While global superculture with its familiar brands and transient communities often imposes itself on a backdrop of distinctive historical landmarks and geographic surroundings, we may ask if the blurring of national borders will end military conflicts, set in motion a new era of intensified internecine conflicts policed by transnational militias or trigger heightened superpower rivalry? After two decades of decline following the fall of the Soviet Union, military budgets in the world's main jurisdictions show a marked upward trend. However, the world"™s most active military powers do not seem very concerned with the defence of their own people, but rather with global peace-keeping and counter-insurgency operations.
The progressive narrative holds that enlightened superpowers may intervene to restore peaceful coexistence and protect human rights in more backward regions. Recent boundary changes in the Balkans occurred only after the Yugoslav federation went bankrupt and the wealthier republics of Slovenia and Croatia seceded. Most fighting took place in the contested regions of Slavonia, with a large Serb minority, Bosnia-Hercegovina and most notoriously in Kosovo. While the civil war rekindled old wounds dating back to the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian empire and the shifting alliances of Croat, Serbian and Bosnian militias during the First and Second World Wars, its main victim was national sovereignty as NATO assumed a peacekeeping role in the Bosnia and Kosovo while Slovenia and Croatia integrated with the European Union widening the economic gap with their southern neighbours. Other border disputes since the collapse of the former Soviet Union relate more to superpower rivalry than to aspirations of national aggrandisement, e.g. the Russian annexation of Crimea merely reflected the will of most Crimeans, who had only been part of Ukraine since 1954 and only divorced from Russia since Ukraine gained independence in 1992. With over 17 million square kilometres of land, the Russian federation hardly needed more living space and the region's key port of Sevastopol was only of limited strategic value to counter a massive US military presence in the Black Sea region. The backdrop to this dispute was the westward expansion of the EU and NATO through an association agreement with the Ukraine, a borderland whose eastern half had been part of the Russian Empire since the 17th century and before that was split between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Cossacks (Zaporozhian Sich) and Crimean Khanate under Ottoman rule. Ironically today ordinary people value nationhood more in Eastern Europe and Russia than in Western Europe, where it has fallen out of favour among the chattering classes, except when secessionist movements as in Scotland or Catalonia can help undermine larger nation states whose integrity stands in the way of global convergence.
Social Stability and Peace
Idealists may well oppose all wars, no matter how evil the enemy may be, while simultaneously expressing their love of all peoples and all cultures, no matter how oppressive or depraved they may be. However, our desires for greater prosperity, social justice and tranquility have often motivated us to support the military endeavours of our ruling classes or to unite behind freedom fighters. Like it or not, today"™s world would look very different without the legacy of Western imperialism, the industrial revolution and the liberal enlightenment. While the industrial revolution led to the growth of entrepreneurial capitalism and the abolition of slavery, it is also helped create the sophisticated infrastructure that have enabled such widespread prosperity.
To most of us peace does not just mean an absence of state-sponsored military conflicts, but freedom from the scourges of state repression and violent crime. We can think of peace as a state of social harmony where we resolve disputes without resorting to acts of coercion against individual liberty. We can only approach this ideal when we moderate our desires to goals we can attain without depriving others of their livelihood or personal space. Violence may ensue when we perceive that another group of people have denied us of our material and spiritual wellbeing and we have no other means to better ourselves through education and hard work.
Without innovation, we would still be fighting over finite resources with a much lower human carrying capacity. In some ways we still fight over access to life"™s necessities. For millions in the world"™s most densely populated arid regions of the Middle East, North Africa, Australia and the Southwestern United States, potable water has become a scarce resource, often only available as a packaged product. With widespread unemployment and limited welfare provision, price rises of staple foods and fuel can trigger social unrest that fanatical insurgents can easily exploit for their own ends or to empower rival superpowers. In previous ages if a region"™s population grew beyond a level that the local environment could reasonably sustain with contemporary technology, most people would simply die through malnutrition, disease or warfare. Today"™s youngsters have two other options. They can either emigrate to wealthier regions or demand more foreign aid or corporate taxes to subsidise technofixes, shifting social problems to the opulent countries most economic migrants choose and transferring responsibility for their environmental adversity away from local leaders and personal responsibility (i.e. only having as many children as you can feed unaided) to external powers, whose influence we could best describe as neocolonial. If you can only feed, house and clothe your people with the aid of large multinationals, foreign banks and NGOs, you are not independent at all. China is now by far the largest investor in African infrastructure projects. While local leaders gain their share of the proceeds, they train pitifully few local technicians preferring to rely on their own engineers.
A low-level civil war has been raging in the mainly Muslim regions of Northern Nigeria against infidels (non-Muslims) since around 2011. It only reached the Western public"™s attention when Boko Haram abducted 276 school girls in the town of Chibok, Borno State. While many observers have focused on the spread of Islamic extremism, another factor is the country"™s high fertility rate alongside widespread unemployment and a mass exodus of the fittest young adults to the country"™s sprawling conurbations and abroad. Many philanthropists hoped that better education and sustainable local business development could guide Nigeria towards the kind of social democracy that emerged in Western Europe in the latter half of the 20th century. Alas desires for larger families and consumer products, especially cars, have thus far trumped the impetus for greater engineering excellence and more sustainable technological solutions, i.e. more solar panels, greater use of bicycles, better public transport and smaller families. This begs two questions: Who is responsible for solving Nigeria"™s developmental woes or how can we both meet the people"™s expectations for a more prosperous future and ensure social stability? It all depends what we mean by we? Do we mean external powers such as UN agencies, charities, tech giants and foreign governments seeking to gain influence over Africa? Or do we mean the Nigerian people taking responsibility for their own future and living with the consequences of their decisions? Some would still blame the legacy of colonialism and the dominance of foreign multinationals in the country"™s lucrative petroleum sector. Yet one startling and easily verifiable fact stands out. At Independence in 1960, the country had just 40 million inhabitants. Yet despite the Biafran civil wars of the late 60s and occasional famines in the arid north, the population has grown to around 200 million not because women are having more babies but because more babies are surviving into adulthood and beyond.
Instability breeds conflict
While I still believe greed, envy and vindictiveness are the ultimate drivers of violence, in complex societies unsustainable development leads to greater coercion, whether in the form of state repression, heightened surveillance, militarism, violent crime or gang fights. When society can no longer foster prosperity and social stability through responsible management of a shared environment and high levels of communal trust, it will inevitably resort to more overt means of social control. When advanced people management techniques fail, social unrest ensues and the administrative classes have little choice but to suppress the personal liberties of the great unwashed masses. These days only the affluent professional classes can afford to buy more private space.
However, high tech societies with largely unarmed and welfare-dependent citizens need not resort to the kind of overbearing brute force that the great dictatorships of the 20th century had to deploy against insurrections long before most young adults were immersed in social media and online entertainment. The biggest threats to today"™s ruling classes are not drug addicts, low-life gangsters or even remorseless terrorists, whose actions conveniently serve to justify more intrusive surveillance, but the politically aware skilled working classes, whose expertise our rulers still need, but whose conservative beliefs may stand in the way of the kind of progress that our elites envisage. What the managerial classes fear most are not troublesome malcontents, but intelligent, conscientious and independently minded workers with families and strong roots in their local community. That may explain partly why many employers prefer a smaller number of well-remunerated technicians working over 40 hours a week, than investing in training more specialised staff so they can spread the burden. They want to limit the number of well-connected mission-critical operators who could challenge their hegemony. As we rely more and more on smart automation and lucrative jobs require forever higher levels of analytical intelligence, expect the captive disempowered welfare classes to grow. This transition to a subsidised consumer economy, where people are paid for their acquiescence rather than any real work, will affect military strategy too. A hyper-dependent populace, engrossed by social media and online entertainment, is much easer to control through non-violent means, e.g. psychotropic drugs, operant conditioning and financial incentives.
The future of warfare depends on the success of the global convergence project, which would eventually lead to the disappearance of practical cultural and economic diversity, with lifestyle homogenisation in locales as diverse as Beijing, Istanbul, Lagos, Berlin or New York City. In such a scenario, the workless classes would have little to fight over except access to the bounties of tech giants. Cities may still have different climates and landscapes, but each would have similar mixes of submissive consumer classes, social supervisors and technically literate professionals.
Sadly I don"™t share the optimism of many leading proponents of a borderless utopia with universal basic income for all. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the relative economic decline of the United States, the inability of Western military alliances to tame the Middle East, the failure of the European multicultural experiment with parallel communities and Africa"™s delayed demographic transition could all destabilise a fragile peace in the prosperous world. While Western elites focus on the perceived Russian threat, they are playing with fire in the Muslim world.
If you want social tranquility in a relatively free and fair society as much as I do, then you should not just campaign against military adventurism, but identify the causes of future conflicts. Bad environmental management and unsustainable rates of cultural and demographic change pose by far the greatest threats to world peace.
I wish we could wish away any historical or geopolitical controversies related to Jews or Muslims and all live together in peace and harmony. As it happens, for many years Jews, Christians and Muslims managed somehow to reconcile their differences in countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq where today Islamic fundamentalism threatens religious minorities.
As I write the world is undergoing technological and cultural change at such a rapid rate that makes it hard to foresee the future trajectory of human civilisation over the next couple of generations. Yet just as artificial intelligence colludes with nano-robotics to supplant human workers and biotechnology conspires to render motherhood obsolete, many remain obsessed with time-honoured theological disputes over allegiance to religious cults. Let us be in no doubt to discuss either Islamism or Zionism is to invite ridicule.
How can we interpret our modern world through the ideological lenses of Islamism and Zionism? This narrow obsession with the Jewish and Islamic questions can lead to some odd alliances that transcend the traditional left versus right split with severe implications for intellectual freedom.
One may rationally analyse the power of international cabals over traditional societies. If we look at the most influential movers and shakers in media, banking, literature, science, politics and academia, it's hard to deny that some ethnic groups are much more prevalent than others. For instance of 892 Nobel prizes awarded as of 2017, 201 or 22.5% went to Jews, despite being only around 0.2% of the world's population. Likewise Sikhs exert disproportionate influence on Indian business and administration.
We may also objectively study the causes of the current conflict between the Zionist State and Palestinian peoples and attempt to sift through a sea of claims and counter-claims about heavy-handed Israeli suppression and Islamic terrorism. I've listened to both sides of the debate. I shared a flat with three Palestinians in Italy and my former Jewish landlady in North London kept complaining to the BBC and the Independent whenever they highlighted Israeli war crimes. I know the arguments off by heart. The Palestinian version is that the Zionists stole their land and created an apartheid state in all but name, using American and European (mainly German) money to build new Jewish settlements in territories assigned to the Palestinians in 1948. The pro-Israeli version is that Palestinian Arabs are Jordanians who can easily move to any of the surrounding Arab countries, while Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organisations who want to drive Jews into the sea. However, this tittle tattle ignores two other indisputable facts. First Israel is about the same size as Wales and even if we add the Palestinian territories its total land area is still just 28,000 km2. Second the population of this combined area has grown from just shy of 2 million in 1948 (with 800,000 in Israel proper) to 13 million today, that's 7.7 million in Israel proper and 4.9 million in the Palestinian territories. Yet much of the land is semi-arid or desert. It's only through the miracles of modern irrigation and trade that Israel not only feeds its people, but is now a net food exporter. Life is much tougher for most in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but in part due to overcrowding and larger families. The fledgling Jewish state was built on two historical injustices, the expulsion of around 700,000 Palestinians from its newly assigned territories and, of course, the Nazi-era genocide of European Jews. By no stretch of imagination does the latter justify the former, however hard some revisionist historians try to blame Palestinian collaborators, such as the former Mufti of Jerusalem Al-Husseini, for the Nazi Holocaust, as one could just as easily highlight the 1933 Haavara agreement between the Zionist Federation of Germany and the new National Socialist regime. The classic mistake many part-time historians make is to blame ordinary people for the machinations of their ruling classes or for atrocities in far-flung lands over which they have no control. Some Arab Palestinians may well have sympathised with the Axis powers for the same reason that some Irishmen did, on the misguided grounds that my enemy's enemy must be my friend. Nonetheless the current demographic reality of the former British mandate precludes an easy solution that can please all parties concerned and guarantee lasting harmony. Unless all parties concerned are prepared to compromise, I do not foresee an easy solution that does not inconvenience a large section of Israeli / Palestinian inhabitants.
Why should Western bystanders care about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories or the proliferation of Islamic fundamentalism any more than many other prickly disputes around the world? How did this small plot of land become an ideological battleground between rival factions of anti-Zionists and fanatical friends of Israel. It's a cause célébre that somehow manages to unite anti-imperialist leftwingers and Muslims against Israel-firsters, who now include not just influential American Neocons, but many social conservatives. Much of the new right across North America and Europe is avowedly pro-Israel. Geert Wilders, Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson have all expressed their unconditional support for the Jewish State and have condemned Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations. Benjamin Netanhayu was not only the first head of state to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the US presidential electoral college, but has fostered close relations with prominent social conservative politicians in Eastern Europe such as Viktor Orban.
The Holy Land conflict acts as a proxy among shifting alliances. Few are really interested in the plight of Palestinians or the protection and self-determination of religious Jews in a hostile world. Of greater interest to me has always been the influence of leading Zionists on international politics and their role in fomenting endless internecine wars in the Middle East and further afield. Of note is substantial collusion between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli government, both staunch allies of the United States. If Israeli leaders really wanted to secure a prosperous Jewish homeland living in peace with its neighbours, why would they arm and train the most fanatical Islamic fundamentalists? Just as US-led military adventurism does not serve the interests of ordinary working class Americans, covert Israeli support for Islamic militias in Syria actively imperils Orthodox Jews in Israel with nowhere else to go, while affluent global Zionists with dual nationality can easily relocate. How odd it must seem that the latter group are now befriending proponents of the growing nationalist counterculture. Back in the day many on the real far right, by which I mean those who openly sympathise with the fascist or national socialist dictatorships of the mid twentieth century, would oppose Zionism, sometimes seeking common cause with Islamists. Indeed a propensity towards Shoah revisionism often served as a litmus test for far-right thinking as country after country banned denial of Hitler's death camps. More important than the tragic historical episode itself, which sadly we cannot undo, is the exploitation of its memory to justify modern wars or stifle rational debate on key scientific and historical issues. Today's Judaeophobic right has shrunk to a hardcore of Third Reich nostalgics mainly found in a few areas of Eastern Europe such as Lithuania and Western Ukraine where the memory of Stalinist betrayal and ethnic cleansing lingers on. The Soviet Union invaded the Baltic Republics as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Fast forward 70 years the German intelligentsia not only champions a federal European Union with the eventual dissolution of traditional nation states, but has welcomed a massive influx of Muslim newcomers with very different views on morality and twentieth century history.
Why people choose to believe one version of history
In a perfect world we would critically analyse all historical and current events in a cool, calm and collected way. Yet we tend to decide many key controversies on emotions rather than with any regard to facts on the ground, which are often complex or open to multiple interpretations. How many people died the US kill during the Vietnam war or indeed how many did it murder during its occupation of Iraq? It all depends how we count and attribute deaths.
How political factions squabble over the Semitic Question
The old far right, sympathising with twentieth century fascist regimes, often sided with Muslims as the enemy of their enemy and attempted to downplay the industrial scale of Nazi crimes.
The new populist right usually sides with Israel against Islamic expansionism as they want to defend the concept of compact nation states built on ethnic identity and shared cultural norms.
The old left defended the rights of all oppressed peoples to self-determination and often sympathised with the Zionist cause, viewing Israel as a bastion of social democracy.
Since the 1967 six day war the radical left has usually opposed the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and its role in supporting or driving US foreign policy. Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle sets forth an exhaustive critique of Israeli foreign and domestic policy, but still advocates a two-state solution with a Jewish homeland as envisaged in the 1947 partition of Israel and Palestine/
The far left have openly sided with radical Muslims in their principled opposition to the very existence of Israel as a Jewish ethno-state. This takes two forms. One championed by some anti-Zionist Jews, such as Gilad Atzmon, foresee a united secular Palestine/Israel where Jews, Muslims, Christians and Atheists live together happily in peace. Others just want a complete Islamic takeover of the Levant. Some on the fringes of far left have internalised a radical critique of Jewish power and, like many Islamists, call into question the orthodox narrative of the Shoah.
Most Muslims denounce Israeli suppression of Palestinian self-determination, yet seem much less concerned about the plight of other Muslims living under repressive Islamic regimes. Divisions within the Muslim diaspora seldom adhere to the traditional Western left / right paradigm. The views of many radical Muslims may vehemently oppose US and Israel imperialism, while espousing a regressive ideology antithetical to the values of the liberal enlightenment.
Most Jews support Israel and often its wider neoconservative foreign policy agenda, i.e. instinctively distrusting Israel's enemies and ignoring its frenemies such as Saudi Arabia. However, many Jews do not, most notably Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein in the US or the late Gerald Kaufman in the UK. By contrast ultra-Zionist attitudes are prevalent among much of the new populist right in North America and Europe. You're much more likely to see blue and white Star of David flags at rightwing rallies these days than swastikas.
If you don't have close ties to the region, you may well project your own insecurities and prejudices onto the dispute in the same way as many Scottish nationalists may wish for any team but England to win in the World Cup. Yet one big question remains unanswered in the age of global convergence. Why do some influential Jewish billionaires, such as George Soros, support open borders with so much zeal, while Israel continues to enforce strict immigration controls? Here many make a fundamental error of analysis, conflating the interests of powerful international elites with those of plebeians with strong ethno-religious affiliation. Today we witness a battle between the unrooted professional classes or anywheres, who can easily move as long as they find accommodation within a secluded neighbourhood and stay in touch with other like-minded professionals, and the rooted somewheres, who often find their neighbourhoods and wider social support networks utterly transformed by rapid waves of mass migration, a thesis that David Goodhard has popularised in his recent book A Road to Somewhere.
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.
To capture the current state of uncertainty that pervades both global socio-economic instability and cultural decay succinctly is no mean feat. Teenage rebellion is a rite of passage at a critical period of transition in our lives, an interlude between childhood innocence and adult responsibility when we question the powers that be and often challenge parental authority. We pose our elders a simple question: What kind of world did you create for us? and more to the point: How am I supposed to navigate a social rat race with its contradictory messages and emotive provocations? In short What is the purpose of life?. In the not too distant past we would soon overcome our adolescent existential crises as we assumed new responsibilities as conscientious workers, mothers and fathers. The purpose of life is life itself, the continuation of our species, our family, our culture and hopefully incremental improvements in our quality of life. However, in an age of rapid technological transformation, our adolescent hiatus now extends well into our 30s or even 40s. I sometimes recall the mood of my own teenage years as cultural continuity gave way to a new era of mass consumerism, family breakdown, atomisation and job insecurity. We naively believed punk rock bands screaming their disaffection with mainstream society would challenge elitism and empower the masses to take back control from greedy capitalists. Alas they were just marketing tools that served to drive a wedge between generations and subvert traditional support structures. Yet whenever I wrestle with a paradox and try to make sense of contradictory news sources, somewhere in the back of my brain I hear echoes of the dissonant punk chorus of X-Ray Specs "œThe day the world turned dayglo". Yet the late 1970s seem a relatively tame era when despite the trappings of modernity, incipient cultural decay and excitement about the coming computer revolution, we had not completely lost touch with human nature and divergent philosophical perspectives could be openly debated.
Before the advent of the Internet, we could either follow an organised political faction who would filter objective reality for us or we could engage with the great university of life by reading the works of important thinkers whose ideas had been shaped not by dogma, but by practical experience. If most people retain some power of critical thinking and share some core ethical values, bad ideas will fail in open rational debate because their consequences are truly evil, because they're incompatible with human nature or rely on fanciful, but dodgy science. However, in an atomised society with obsessive surveillance of politically incorrect speech, patently biased mainstream media reporting at odds with people's daily experiences and a tangled web of unofficial counterpropanda, bad ideas can proliferate because they cannot be challenged in an open, rational and empirical way. I'm inclined to think that online videos claiming the earth is really a flat disc or that the moon landings were staged are some kind of social experiment. From the isolation of your bedroom connected to the outside world only via social media and surrounded by a synthetic backdrop of housing schemes, shopping malls, office blocks, warehouses, hospitals, schools and prisons, one can believe almost anything, especially when official narratives reveal so many internal inconsistencies. In the end, our analysis of evolving news stories depends more on whom we trust most than independent analysis of conflicting sources.
How do we know that tightly controlled media and strict censorship sow the seeds of distrust? Just ask anyone who experienced life behind the Iron Curtain. The more the government limited the range of permissible opinions and smeared dissidents with accusations of fascism or treason, the more ordinary people distrusted official media outlets and sought means to clandestinely listen to foreign radio stations or smuggle in banned books. Many would pretend to go along with the system, but behind closed doors in the privacy of their own homes they'd voice dissent. However, in such environments it is easy to fall victim either to counterpropaganda from rival superpowers or to planted disinformation campaigns designed to entrap dissidents, e.g, setting up bogus anti-semitic groups recycling Nazi-era propaganda that would still resonate with some anti-Soviet dissidents in the 1950s and 60s. Stalinists would love all their opponents to behave just like stereotypical Nazi sympathisers to justify their coercive means of corrective political re-education. Likewise today's globalists would much prefer all troublesome dissidents to be either rightwing extremists, an epithet often applied to social conservatives whose views would have been conventional wisdom until recently, or Islamic fundamentalists.
Our instinctive hunches may very often be right, but sometimes embarrassingly wrong. Would I stake my political reputation on the assertion that Boris Johnson knowingly lied about the Skripal poisoning incident ? I'd need good evidence to challenge such claims in the midst of Putin-bashing hysteria. It is just possible that the Russian secret services may have wanted to eliminate a former double agent, but it's also highly likely that the British establishment is spreading disinformation again to pursue a hidden policy agenda. As most of us have limited time to corroborate primary news sources, a much better approach is to compare contentious claims that were made ten or twenty years ago with what turned out to be true. Often only snippets of the truth reach us through mainstream media and usually long after the original claims have served their purpose. Did Tony Blair lie about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Maybe, but a narrow focus on this one claim deflects our attention from a much larger game plan. It's possibly one of the few cases where the establishment has begrudgingly admitted its deceptive claims. However, if you dig deep enough, many of the one-sided claims made about the Rwandan killing fields, the Balkan civil war, Iraq, Libya and more recently the Syrian quagmire turn out to be either fabricated or twisted to suit the dominant narrative of the time.
The Social Media Rabbit Hole
For a variety of personal reasons I've steered clear of intrusive social media platforms, and that means mainly Facebook, much preferring peer-to-peer messaging, though no doubt Skype eavesdrops too. I do tweet, but seldom reveal personal details that could either embarrass me or get me into serious trouble, although if I had millions of followers my account may well have caught the attention of Twitter's thought police by now. Social media provides a platform to keep in touch with friends and family, but also connects you with hundreds of millions of other potential virtual friends, who may recommend products, services or ideas. A simple example of Facebook's business model is product endorsement. Why would you recommend one product over another? Maybe some people have well-informed predelictions based on firsthand experience and technical knowledge, but more often than people recommend merchandise because they might win a prize or wish to express their short-lived joy about owning a trendy gadget. Marketers have long known that loud, brash or in-your-face advertisements can put off large segments of their potential clientele, but what if your new friend with whom you've enjoyed a few brief chats and has an endearing profile picture recommends a product. Research shows peer pressure is often much more effective than traditional advertising. So what if your new friends do not just recommend products, but contentious causes, involving concepts, ideas, analysis and scientific data that you have not yet had either the time or inclination to investigate? Would you support a cause just because your charming new virtual friend has endorsed it?
Online campaigning platforms like 38 Degrees, Avaaz and Change Dot Org are theoretically open to anyone who wants to struggle against injustice, but in my experience their bias is overwhelmingly in favour of universalism and social engineering, i.e. a borderless utopia controlled by large worldwide organisations. Superficially, they favour many campaigns associated with the traditional green left. I've signed and promoted a few campaigns myself on things like TTIP and the Monsanto-Bayer merger because I instinctively oppose any policies likely to empower big business. However, these outlets have also run campaigns calling for the Daily Mail to be banned from colleges and public transport or for the BBC not to let Nigel Farage appear on Question Time again. They've run numerous campaigns on letting more refugees and economic migrants move to the UK and elsewhere in Europe, against organisations accused of hate speech and most disturbingly many of their campaigns against the horrors of war recycle mainstream propaganda on complex conflicts in the Middle East. Would I sign a petition calling for Malala to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Maybe. She seemed a nice girl and I totally abhor the Taliban's treatment of women, but her rise to fame, supported by many bellicose politicians, helped justify ongoing NATO intervention in Afghanistan. But could I be duped into supporting Bana, the 7 to 9 year old social media expert and technical whiz girl from Eastern Aleppo? Sorry, I don't buy that version of events, especially as the Syrian civil war only escalated after the US and UK started funding anti-government militias. However, I'm a natural cynic. I tend not to fall for propaganda from powerful lobbies, but today we live in an era of shifting alliances and disinformation overload. Gone are the days when the BBC and CNN could set agendas on foreign policy initiatives. Their grip on the global collective psyche has failed to recover in much of the world since their logistical support for destabilising US-led military adventures. Worse still, the BBC has lost much credibility with conservative public opinion due to its conspicuous promotion of identity politics, globalisation and epistocracy, i.e. rule by an intellectual elite.
The Cambridge Analytica Delusion
First off I'm beginning to think that neither the Trump phenomenon nor Brexit (the awful term coined for the unexpected outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum) hindered corporate globalisation at all. Trump had three selling points: Stronger borders, greater protectionism and an end to pointless wars that do not protect the American people. His slogan was Americanism, not globalism and it appealed especially to rednecks and blue collar workers from the Rust Belt. Yet now with Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as senior security advisor, the Trump administration is firmly in the hands of bellicose NeoCons. Despite all the rhetoric about temporary travel bans for jet-setters from 7 countries accused of exporting terrorism, Congress failed to approve Trump's much trumpeted border wall. As for trade protectionism, Trump's proposed tariffs against Chinese, Japanese and European manufacturers are much lower than those enforced during the Reagan era. We used to think US Democrat or British Labour leaders would be more bellicose because they could more effectively deflect dissent. Now Trump supporters have inadvertently reinvigorated the military industrial complex at a time when US economic power is waning. Likewise the British government has effectively negotiated a deal with the EU that addresses none of the key concerns that 17.4 million leave voters had, while cleverly driving a wedge between generations, regions and social classes. The ruling elites can now blame Brexit or Russia for anything that goes wrong, while doing little to stem migratory flows or social alienation, banning social conservatives from entering the country, locking up Youtube pranksters, remaining in full regulatory alignment with the EU and even letting them access our fishing waters. The subtle point many observers have failed to get is that we the people do not own the land we call home. Banks, big business and the government do.
So did a bunch of cybernetic whizkids use social media and clever artificial intelligence algorithms to sway the vote to the outcome that the establishment appeared not to want? Yes, but so what? So did the Clinton campaign in the US and Remain campaign in the UK, but midway through these campaigns millions of ordinary voters grew tired of the uninspiring marketing spiels emanating from the establishment media. In the run-up to the EU Referendum, I saw much more proactive persuasion from the well-funded Remain camp. The frequency of these videos seemed to track my online behaviour, which varies from technical sites, to mainstream media and several alternative media outlets. For a while leave campaigners seemed much more active on social media, but largely because they were the challengers rather than the incumbents. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has the advantage of appealing to impressionable Guardian readers, but also empowers government to regulate the Internet with the tacit support of the wishful thinking chattering classes. The establishment's answer to the Brexit rebellion appears to be a rebranding of UK PLC's relationship with the EU Commission and greater control over social media.
Recent community guidelines enforced by the main social media outlets have almost exclusively targeted what we may class as social conservatives and nationalists as well as a few rogue racial supremacists and outright nutters. The existence of the latter justifies the suppression of the former. They're getting worried because a few channels such as Infowars, Stefan Molyneux, Paul Joseph Watson, Jordan Peterson and Gad Saad, to name but a few, have attracted large audiences to challenge the logic of postmodernism, sometimes known as Cultural Marxism. People are slowly but surely cottoning on to the emerging reality that agendas like transgenderism or the abolition of nation states are not just wild ideas championed by a few maverick academics, but are actively promoted by well-funded NGOs deeply entrenched in government and often bankrolled by the same evil corporations that the anti-establishment left used to hate. No wonder people are confused.
This morning SumOfUs.Org sent me another mailshot urging me to support their campaign to censor the Internet by getting major retailers such as Amazon to boycott Breitbart. Let me quote their missive:
Nearly 2,600 advertisers pulled out of the white supremacist news site famously known as Trump News. Amazon is one of the last major advertisers on Breitbart, the site formally operated by hate-leader and Cambridge Analytica colluder Steve Bannon. meeting for us to share our concerns!
This is guilt by association and insinuation, a reaction to memes spread at great expense by the mainstream media. Any outlet telling the truth about the migration crisis will be targeted, while the British State spreads lies about nerve agent attacks and bellicose NeoCons take over the White House. Yet SumOfUs.org is more concerned with protecting their NGO friends who have colluded with people traffickers.
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.
Just 15 years ago in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the alternative antiwar media was abuzz with talk of the Project for a New American Century, championed by the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld as they pushed for more proactive military interventions to spread the USA's vision of neoliberalism. We can split the opponents of this strategy into two camps: those who oppose neoliberalism and/or militarism on principle and those who believed whatever its merits the policy was ultimately doomed to backfire. Today most of the globalist media who lent their moral support to successive US-led wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Balkans under the pretext of humanitarian intervention, are now openly critical of the US and UK governments and much more supportive of the European Union, which despite the outcome of the UK's 2016 referendum is forging ahead with plans to set up its own unified defence forces and federalise its structures into a United States of Europe. Just 15 years ago the Anglo-American media lampooned the cowardly French and German governments for failing to support the 2003 US-led ousting of Saddam Hussein, now they mock Donald Trump for colluding with Putin and failing to accommodate enough refugees from countries the US military has destabilised, while hailing Angela Merkel and Emanuel Macron as inspirational leaders of the progressive world.
What we are witnessing may be the steady demise of the United States as the main world power. By 2025 China's economy is set to outstrip the USA's. While US-based tech giants will continue to play a leading role in the development of artificial intelligence, the scientific centre of gravity has moved from California to Russia, China and India. You just have to look at the number of graduates in STEM subjects and the origins of the people shaping our cybernetic future. It appears our European neighbours have caught the British disease of focusing on marketing and people management rather than hard sciences. Slowly but surely Chinese and Japanese multinationals are buying their way into Europe, Australasia and North America. The next century will be a lot more Asian than many anticipated. While Anglo-American customs and language may linger on in global culture for some time to come, just as Greek and Latin outlived their respective empires, our future cultural development will be shaped largely by Asians with contributions from Africans and Latin Americans. With over half the world's current population, Asia is home to great civilisational diversity. Yet, thanks to the industriousness of its peoples and relative social stability, the East Asian model will prevail, while the Islamic world's strategy of conquest through high birth rates will only succeed in destabilising other countries, not in gaining control of the commanding heights of the techno-industrial complex.
However, the demise of the American dream is also due to the generally unanticipated failure of neoliberalism to adapt to a world of smart automation that in just 20 years could not only render most jobs obsolete, but subjugate most workless citizens to the dictatorship of a few global corporations. Neoliberalism promised a future of enterprise, competition and personal responsibility with governments intervening only to ensure equality of opportunity and some form of social safety net. In reality we have seen a transfer of power away from small businesses and local institutions to multinational businesses and global organisations. Today's small businesses are often just contract workers, whose income depends entirely on their subservience to the global mafia, e.g. in the Web development industry many of the most lucrative contracts are with advertising agencies or, would you believe it, with charities. There is not very much money to be made advocating localism or any viable alternative to global governance.
Imperialism versus Localism
The national imperialisms of the 19th century have now morphed into unabashed global imperialism, after an interlude of North American dominance. Many observers may wonder how a longstanding opponent of British imperialism, such as myself, could advocate greater national sovereignty for the United Kingdom. If you're anti-British, would you not simply wish to see the dissolution of the UK into smaller regions integrated into a larger superstate? The main flaw in this logic is that the interests of ordinary citizens have seldom coincided with those of their ruling classes. Mercantilism was the primary driver of English and later British imperialism in the 17th and 18th centuries. British may refer either to an imperial state that evolved from the 1707 union of English and Scottish crowns or it may mean the peoples who have long inhabited the British Isles through successive ruling dynasties. I opposed British imperialism, not its peoples. The East India Company helped expand British colonial influence in the subcontinent with a little help from the Royal Navy. Christian missionaries and English language teachers may have followed, but the main purpose of imperialism has always been to expand markets and subjugate peoples by peaceful means if possible and by military means if all else fails. English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh peasants and factory workers did not suddenly decide to colonise the Americas, Africa, India or Australasia. Most did not even leave their homelands or only migrated to another part of the British Isles. Some took advantage of new opportunities in their masters' new colonies, but many died in the process. One may argue that much of Britain's wealth in the 19th and early 20th century came from its colonies, but it was very unevenly distributed. Before the growth of an educated and skilled working class in the late 19th century, most inhabitants of these windswept isles endured poverty every bit as bad or even worse than typical living conditions in 19th century India if we look at comparative infant mortality rates which only began to decline with the advent of modern plumbing.
Today our business leaders only cling to commercial and cultural links with the British Commonwealth through self-interest and tradition. In 2017 India exercises more influence over tiny Britain than vice versa through its large and successful ex-pat community and its dominance in the business services market. Just as China overtakes the US in economic output, India's total GDP is poised to pull ahead of the UK's. Yet big business does not seem to mind one iota. Not only do they have a larger market of new consumers, they can tap talent from a larger pool of university graduates. Subsidising the workless underclasses will be a problem for governments and global charities.
We would like to think that our governments endeavour to give us the best headstart in life through better education and high tech skills training. In the near future a country's wealth may depend more on the percentage of its citizens able to undertake intellectually demanding jobs in scientific research and innovation than by its prestige or the strength of its banking sector. If your youngsters can only aspire to medium skill clerical and manual jobs, their livelihoods will be swept aside by artificial intelligence and global competition. Yet our politicians seem more concerned with promoting gender theory among gullible primary school children than giving them the firm foundations in mathematics, reading and writing they will need to stand a chance in tomorrow's high IQ labour market.
Nationalism has earned itself a bad name by association with 19th century imperialism and 20th century fascism. Yet positive nationalism is just a way of managing in-group preferences and shared cultural values within a confined geographic area to ensure governing institutions can be held to account. Countries can choose different paths and learn from their neighbours' mistakes. If the whole world has to converge on the same social and economic policies, we will thrive or wither together. I'm happy for Moroccans to choose to prioritise Islamic studies in their schools. Its up to them. I'm not so happy for Scottish schools to adopt the same policies or for other countries to unduly influence local democracy here. Localism means devolving power to the smallest viable unit, which may be a farm, a village, a town, a county, a region or small country, a large country or community of countries, but at each stage power has to spread from the bottom up giving each community greater responsibility over its destiny and ultimately greater personal freedom. This stands in contrast to universalism which assumes billions of human beings can magically converge on new cultural norms without coercion. I choose bottom-up democracy and not top-down manufacturing of consent.