Categories
Power Dynamics

Extinguishing Open Debate and Personal 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, boost 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.

Intellectual Honesty

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.

Categories
All in the Mind

Language is more about Meaning than Words

Tower of Babel

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

Not just Etymology

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

Substrate Languages

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

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

The Quirks of Insular English

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

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

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

Neurolinguistic Programming

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Computing Power Dynamics

The Brexit Delusion and the End of Neoliberalism

I've long been critical of superstates and any extreme concentration of power, but only really from around 2014 did anti-EU feeling in the UK gain enough momentum to call into question Britain's integration with the European project and to force a referendum, which the establishment hoped would endorse the status quo's trajectory of ever-closer union. The real underlying cause of widespread public distrust in remote political elites remains the rapid pace of corporate globalisation with its extreme labour mobility, job insecurity, transient communities and fast cultural change. The biggest issue of all is the perceived disenfranchisement of the traditional working classes. I say perceived because some may argue that democratic accountability has always been an illusion, but at least until the late 1970s, British workers had a sense that some politicians in power actually cared about their plight and would negotiate with big business to secure better working conditions, higher pay and above all job security with subsidised training and apprenticeship schemes.

If you think the prospect of Brexit is bad, then you may wonder whom to blame for this calamity. The Guardian's favourite culprits are Tory aristocrats, Rupert Murdoch, Nigel Farage, Arron Banks and naturally the ominous Russian connection. Carole Cadwalladr of the Guardian has taken Putin-themed conspiracy theories to the next level, even claiming Russian involvement in the recent drone incident at Gatwick Airport. Yet they fail to identify the real cause of people's distrust in remote elites, lying politicians, and most notably the former New Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who not only evangelised European integration and opened up the UK Labour market to agency workers from poorer Eastern European countries, but fully supported military interventionism in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Iraq. New Labour had 13 years to help train British youngsters to meet the technological challenges of the new millennium, yet succeeded mainly in producing more project managers and recruitment consultants to organise ready-trained human resources, while more and more British youngsters failed to gain any practical work experience except in dispiriting part-time promotional gigs.

However, the whole Brexit Saga does reveal divisions within the ruling elites, which reflect shifting global alliances as the relative strength of the USA wanes and European governments embrace a more interventionist form of corporatism with the transfer of power away from national governments to supranational organisations. While big business may once have backed continued US Hegemony by supporting resources wars in the Middle East, they now openly despise President Donald Trump's advocacy of America First. When Macron and Trump spoke at the centennial commemoration of the Armistice ending the First World War, news outlets favourable to more global governance (BBC, CNN, the Guardian, New York Times, France 24, ZDF, Le Monde etc.) supported Macron's denunciation of nationalism and his redefinition of patriotism to the mean the exact opposite, while they ridiculed Trump's defence of nationhood. The USA may have a gigantic military industrial complex, but its endless escapades do little to defend US citizens back home, but rather serve mainly to project the power of a global network of banks and corporations on the whole world. Until recently North Americans have been more willing to support their nation's military endeavours than their European counterparts. As the wider American public begin to realise that their country's huge military outlay does not help them and may promote the kind of corporate globalism that will strip them of any economic advantages they may once have had, we can expect peacekeeping activities to be managed more at a supranational level with missions outsourced not only to multinational armed forces but to mercenary outfits posing as NGOs not associated with a specific country. Just consider the example James Le Mesurier's outfit, Academi (formerly known as Blackwater). Judging from their website and many promotional videos available online, you'd seriously think their main mission were to provide humanitarian relief to conflict zones, rather than arm and train insurgents and rescue workers specialised in the art of atrocity simulation. Such organisations are happy to work for the highest bidder, especially with the implicit support of global corporations. As rapid cultural and ethno-demographic transformation destabilises many urban areas, we can expect to see heavily armed transnational security forces deployed in Western Europe in the same way as NATO peacekeeping intervened in the former Yugoslavia.

The Free Market Myth

Western Europe and North America converged in the post-war period on a mixed economy compromise where local small businesses could thrive alongside larger corporations while the government intervened to provide essential services and infrastructure as well as regulate markets in the best interests of social cohesion and general prosperity. Until the 1990s Europe remained a very heterogenous continent. Global brands and culture may well have permeated home-grown traditions, but if you scratched beneath the surface of ubiquitous Anglo-American movies and pop music, young Europeans could still identify with their cultural roots, which they interpreted mainly along regional and national lines. Moreover, each country chose to manage its economy, social welfare and security in different ways. Italy and Greece would offer very limited benefits for the workshy and single parents, as they just assumed extended families should take care of relatives who had fallen on bad times or made unwise lifestyle choices, but offered comparatively generous pensions and early retirement for many categories of workers and state employees. The bedrock of Southern European economies remained family-run businesses, which naturally favoured local or culturally attuned workers. The last twenty years of rapid demographic change has seen hundreds of thousands of longstanding small businesses close as young adults seek better temporary career opportunities in remote cities, often abroad, in the emerging gig economy, dominated by transient design, development and marketing companies whose fortunes are intimately tied to a handful of tech giants, global corps and NGOs. Rather than help their family business adapt to modern technology or a changing clientele, many of the smartest young Europeans are creating marketing media for consumer lifestyle options or awareness-raising initiatives at a design agenc in London, Frankfurt, Paris or Barcelona, while struggling to pay sky-high rents for modest mini-apartments and only being a few pay cheques away from bankruptcy, eviction and a future of welfare dependence and emotional insecurity. Today's knowledge workers are paid not just for their expertise, but for their positive attitude to recent social changes and their compliance with the evolving progressive orthodoxy. Money talks. If you can get €300 a day as a graphic designer in one of Europe's major cities for an advertising agency producing a transgender awareness campaign, why would you refuse? Yet this is precisely what happens. There's a lot more money in transformative social engineering than in good wholesome conservative values. Big business does not want young women to marry and start families in their home region staying at home to give their children the best chance in life. It wants them working for advertising agencies in remote metropolises paying sky-high rents and partaking in commercialised hedonism while the state brings up their offspring in a foreign land instilling postmodern cultural uniformity in their young minds.

For some time now large corporations, third sector agencies and governments have been working in unison to facilitate the kind of rapid cultural change that empowers technocrats and undermines traditional support structures. Nominally Tesco may appear to compete with Sainsbury's and Asda (currently planning to merge awaiting approval), but in practice most shoppers gravitate towards the nearest and most convenient supermarket. The real competition is with independent retailers and farmers. Likewise Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and IBM may appear to compete. For a while I would religiously boycott Microsoft products, probably due to a virus that wiped two hard drives in 2001 (and which had not been fully backed up), preferring Linux instead and then falling into the clutches of Google and the even more restrictive Apple[1] instead. Yet away from the public gaze these tech giants cooperate a good deal. For instance Microsoft has just announced that is abandoning its own Edge Browser (the successor to IE) in favour of Chromium, making the default Web client on Windows 10 just a Microsoft-themed version of Chrome. Meanwhile Google has adopted Microsoft's open source Javascript successor, Typescript, for their Angular framework and have long desisted from seriously challenging Microsoft's main cash cow, its desktop Office suite, which works just as well on Mac OS as on Windows and has fully functional mobile version running on Android and IoS, and distancing itself from underfunded open-source projects like LibreOffice. I suspect behind the scenes their collaboration may be much deeper as Google invests heavily in the development of the Fuschia operating system, optimised for embedded systems, and Microsoft ports its flagship database system to Linux and promotes its cloud Azure services much more aggressively than its ageing desktop OS and has all but abandoned Windows Phone in favour, temporarily at least, of Android. Alphabet Inc. dominates search, video streaming and smartphones, while Microsoft prevails in core productivity software, keeps its grip on desktop computing and diversifies into Web services and artificial intelligence. Meanwhile the other main players, Apple, Samsung, Facebook, Huwei and Amazon use variants of each other's technology stacks. Samsung makes screens not just for their ubiquitous gadgets, but for Apple's iPhones too, which are mainly assembled in China using variants of the same components that Huwei installs in its more competitively priced products. Most of the world's estimated 3 billion micro-computers are made in a handful of large manufacturing facilities employing only a few hundred thousand workers at most. Smart automation will reduce these numbers further in years to come.

Our lives are increasingly run by a tangled web of tech companies and parastatal[2] agencies, over whom we have no meaningful control except by asking our governments to negotiate with our technocratic overlords, who in practice do not so much compete as agree to divvy up different market segments. Neoliberalism assumes vibrant competition both between companies and among workers. Yet modern technology requires massive investment only available to the biggest players and most workers compete for crumbs as their monotonous occupations give way to smart automation. This explains the shift in terminology from personnel and staff (the usual terms until sometime in the 1980s) to human resources, emphasising the need to employ real flesh and blood human beings rather than assign a task to machines. While people may compete socially and usually respond positively to financial rewards or other privileges, machines have highly predictable physical needs and do not compete with each other unless programmed to do so. Neoliberalism works when market forces and technological innovation demand healthy competition. It doesn't work when new scientific advances require both substantial investment only available to transnational organisations and multidisciplinary cooperation, while most consumers rely more on welfare than paid employment. This is already the case in the UK where the median annual salary is still just £29,000, which entitles most employees to working family tax credits meaning its often makes little practical difference if you work full, part-time or just claim incapacity benefits. The furore about the UK government's controversial roll-out of universal credit with thousands of severely disabled people deemed to fit to work masks the objective reality an increasingly dynamic labour market marginalises a growing section of the population unable to compete. The privatisation frenzy of the 1980s and 90s simply let large corporations wrest control of key public services from local governmental bodies. Private healthcare and education only empower the wealthy, giving them more specialised medical treatment and greater choice over how their children are educated. I've discussed in earlier blog posts how corporations behave more like states, with massive bureaucracies, legal teams and security services, than agile businesses focused on commercial success. A business may respond to customer demand, while a corporation seeks not just to manipulate customer demand, but to regulate customers. If someone provides you a service almost free of charge, chances are that you are their product. If you use Google's ubiquitous services, the search giant probably knows more about you than your spouse or close friends. In theory the main search providers track your search history to suggest products and services that meet your very personal and idiosyncratic needs. If you enquire about the causes of sciatica, you may well see ads for recliner chairs pop up on your screen on favourite news site, but smart recommendation engines can analyse the demographics of users who seek information about sciatica and guess you may be approaching retirement or be open to considering life insurance. And it gets more sinister if you investigate any contentious issues that challenge vested interests.

The problem is not Europe, but its Rulers

The great European ideal, as many of us understood it in the more upbeat 1990s, stood in contrast to the North American melting pot or the autocratic Soviet model with its extensive ethnic cleansing. If Europe means anything, other than being the Western section of the Eurasian landmass stretching from the Urals to the Atlantic, it is defined by a rich mosaic of interweaving cultures that have evolved gradually over many centuries rather than a new nation of recent settlers who have embraced a shared identity. Europe is simply not European without its constituent nations, and most important of all, cultural continuity linking us with past generations. When communities have deep regional roots, state planners struggle to mould new universalist identities. Britain and France took centuries to suppress regionalism, while Germany and Italy only formed unified states in the mid 19th century. Historically attempts to accelerate the gradual process of cultural convergence have involved some degree of coercion. That was naturally before the emergence of sophisticated modern advertising, global youth culture, radio, television and more recently the Internet. While the European Union may once have championed the continent's distinctive national traditions to placate popular opinion and appear more inclusive, its socio-economic policies have promoted mass migration, both within the bloc itself and more recently from further afield, undermining regional identity and social cohesion. While the towns and villages of poorer outlying regions have been deprived of their best and brightest young adults, the continent's main conurbations have been transformed by transient migrant communities often outnumbering the autochthonous inhabitants. While previous waves of migrants to Europe's richer cities usually assimilated with the dominant local culture (if we exclude ethnic cleansing in the wake of wars of conquest), today's migrants only find localised variants of global consumer culture with which to integrate. What does it mean to be French, German, Dutch, Italian or Polish anyway? Is it just about watching the same American movies, listening to the same pop music, buying variants of the same consumer products, adopting dialects of the same lingua franca or redefining human relationships and family structures at the same rate? Some may dream of a new pan-European community of hipster professionals joining forces to create a more egalitarian and socially just version of the United States of America. Alas the latter dream is eclipsing too as the once affluent middle classes struggle to make ends meet.

The French yellow vest protests took European observers by surprise. Just 18 months after Emanuel had defeated the leader of the country's main nationalist party, Marine Le Pen, in the presidential election, reaffirming France's commitment to European project, its squeezed provincial working classes have revolted taking to streets in their gilets jaunes. While their ruling elites extol the virtues of more globalism and accuse their indigenous peoples of xenophobia, the working classes expect their governments to protect their livelihoods and let their families thrive in their home regions. The emerging conflict is not between rival national identities, who are quite happy to coexist peacefully, but between the arrogant elites eager to socially engineer a more compliant populace and the demos, who just want to get on with their lives.

[1] Mac OS X is based on BSD Unix and thus behaves under the hood more like Linux, which provides some advantages for developers like me who target Linux servers, but may need desktop applications that have not been ported to desktop Linux. The alternative is often running Linux as virtual machine on Windows.

[2] Run directly by government or indirectly with corporate funding. Parastatal organisations may thus include local councils, service companies like Capita or Serco, charities, lobbies and research institutes.

Categories
Computing Power Dynamics

We cannot stop wars unless we tackle their causes

Police keeping

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 seldom 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.

Categories
Power Dynamics

Going with the flow against the Old World Order

Baby Trump Balloon

The affluent professional classes, along with their army of assorted victim groups and infantile self-righteous student types, have set it upon themselves to amplify the mainstream media's disapproval of leading proponents of the old world order of nation states, two-parent families and cohesive communities with shared values. Three weeks ago we saw a large demonstration against the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum with a sea of blue twelve-star flags. Our trendy elitists wanted to vent their anger at those who tricked the English and Welsh working classes into rejecting their beloved European superstate. This week they gathered to oppose a caricature of the US President.

Don't get me wrong, there are many good reasons for protesting the excesses of US imperialism with its endless series of destabilising proxy wars. However, I cannot remember any large demos specifically against the presence of former US presidents with the possible exception of small impromptu protests against George W. Bush. Before Donald J Trump entered the White House global media giants in North America and Europe supported the purported leader of the free world. Now they welcome colourful processions of virtue-signallers opposed not so much to US-led wars, but to the spectre of outmoded nationalism, which rather perversely US foreign policy has done much suppress over the last 70 years. Just over 2 years ago President Obama urged us to support the EU, while his administration armed and funded Islamic fundamentalists in Syria to break up one of the oldest countries in the Middle East.

Alas our motley crew of professional whingers expressed their disapproval of the President's alleged phobias against people of other races, creeds, sexual orientations, gender identities and disability statuses. Most notably they took a stand against his support for strong borders. Yet when Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, visited 10 Downing Street as an official guest of Her Majesty's government, we saw only muted protests. His regime not only jails homosexuals and stones adulterous women, it has singularly failed to accommodate nearby Syrian refugees while bombing North Yemen. By contrast Trump presides over one of the most ethnically diverse and tolerant nations on earth, which, unlike Britain, can truly claim to have been built on successive waves of immigration, but has traditionally expected its new citizens to embrace their new American cultural identity. However, we now live in an age of hypermobility, instant communication and, by any fair historic standards, generous welfare provision. The United States, despite its vast expanses, has a limited capacity for absorbing the tens of millions of immigrants who would love to live the American dream. 350 million US residents still consume more than Africa, India and China combined. The open-borders brigade effectively urge millions of opportunists to bypass legal migration routes, open mainly to talented professionals, and demand access to the US labour market and public services just as big business is investing heavily in smart automation. How are we supposed to tackle climate change and our overreliance on imported goods, if we welcome the mass movement of human beings from regions with relatively low per-capita consumption to countries where most of life's necessities are shipped from hundreds or thousand of miles away to warehouses and supermarkets?

Far from bringing about a more egalitarian and harmonious world, mass migration tends to exacerbate existing social divides creating more competition and rivalry among the underclasses. More important as Robert D. Putnam has amply documented after extensive fieldwork, culture clashes brought about by rapid demographic changes weaken social trust largely to the detriment of the weakest in society.

Ethnic diversity is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration. In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to 'hunker down'. Trust (even of one's own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities. Illustrations of becoming comfortable with diversity are drawn from the US military, religious institutions, and earlier waves of American immigration." E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture.

The most successful examples of peaceful and prosperous social democracies are all compact nation states with low levels of migration and a high degree of ethnic conformity (i.e. newcomers have to adapt to their new homeland and not vice versa). Bernie Sanders loves to cite Scandinavia as a model. Of course he meant Sweden, Denmark and Norway in 1970s, 80s and 90s long before mass migration transformed neighbourhoods and led to the creation of parallel communities that barely interact, necessitating an expansion of social surveillance and restrictions on the personal freedoms that Scandinavians cherish. The professional classes have hardly noticed because they have benefited most from recent economic trends. All over Europe the remnants of the traditional working classes are abandoning the social democratic parties that presided over the post-WW2 social stability pact. In Italy the heirs to the old Communist Party rebranded as the Democratic Party who once attracted over 35% of the vote have fallen below 20% in recent polls. The same trend has occurred in Germany where Martin Schulz's SPD has sunk below the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and in Sweden the Swedish Democrats, which the mainstream media smears as the anti-migration far-right, are now ahead of the Social Democrats in the polls with the affluent professional classes often opting for the Greens instead. The latter group promise a clean and tolerant world devoid of ethnic conflict or extreme inequality. Their only recipe is to tax the very multinationals they claim to oppose rendering us all slaves to the likes of Amazon and Bayer-Monsanto.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Parallel Universes

Shoreditch

When emotions trump logic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Computing Power Dynamics

Establishment Stitch-Up amid Shifting Alliances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
All in the Mind Computing Power Dynamics

The Emerging Age of Absolutisms

What do corporate globalism, Islamic fundamentalism, communist idealism and neo-fascist romanticism all have in common besides being abstract isms? If you look at their attitudes to the key ethical questions of our age, their notional position on the left-right spectrum or their virtuosity in the public mind, they may appear at variance or even diametric opposites. Communists may wish to abolish private property, while neoliberal corporates may want to stick a price tag on everything from childcare, healthcare, hygiene, clean water to fresh air and open spaces. Communists and neoliberals may welcome gay rights and non-traditional families, while fascists and Islamists may enforce heteronormativity by severely punishing digression from an official view of sexual morality. What unites these ideologies is not their exact interpretation of human morality, justice and freedom, but their advocacy of a universal belief system, the notion that we are collectively progressing on a way road to a better tomorrow. They represent variants of collectivism, defined as allegiance to large companies (corporatism), to a monotheistic religious cult (Islamism), to an egalitarian ideal that does away with private property and competition (communism), or to the resurrection of a historically successful civilisation associated with a specific national community (fascist romanticism). Each of these absolutisms expects its denizens to adapt their behaviour to the needs of economic growth or social development, rather than to serve the best interests of their family or close-knit ethnic community, which have historically been our primary motivators. Put another way, these belief systems beseech us to worship different gods, be it big business, Allah, the vanguard party or one's mighty fatherland.

Blasts from the Past

Some academics have predicted that given current demographic and cultural trends within the Muslim diaspora, much of Western Europe and parts of North America may become part of a global Caliphate. Like communism and neoliberalism, Islam has universal ambitions. However, it relies on technology developed mainly in the non-Muslim world to feed, clothe and accessorise its growing army of followers. Should our current society collapse due to cultural decadence and a growing concentration of power in a technocratic elite, Islam may be poised to fill the void, but I doubt our current ruling classes would be very happy about handing over power to a technically illiterate theocracy. whose inability to deliver the goods, i.e. manage an economy that can satisfy their people's needs and desires, would lead to a never-ending cycle of civil wars just as we see in much of the Islamic world today. However, the spectre of Islam may serve other purpuses that suit the interests of our leading multinationals, who now need compliant consumers and malleable participants in social engineering experiment more than dependable workers. The growth of culturally incompatible parallel communities empowers the state to monitor every aspect of our lives lest we transgress.

The demographic transition of the West from mainly white European Christian countries to multiethnic, multiracial and multifaith societies has already begun to trigger a backlash from nostalgic nationalist or conservative opposition groups, aiming at least to slow the rate of cultural change. This can lead to strange alliances between those more concerned about the decline of family values among the native populace, mainly Christians, and those who fear the influx of migrants with divergent cultural backgrounds may reverse the liberal gains of recent decades on women's and gay rights. To explain the cognitive dissonance of the progressive alliance that embraces both Muslim immigration and trangenderism, critically thinking conservatives have coined the term regressive left, i.e. wishful thinkers who turn a blind eye to widespread sexual abuse within the growing Muslim communities while dismissing working class natives as low-information voters at best and knuckle-dragging racists at worst. Unlike Europe, the USA has maintained two important intellectual traditions, the libertarian right and small-government conservatism. Both groups are often critical of US foreign policy and crony capitalism. Libertarians may oppose welfarism, but support individual liberty and alternative lifestyles, e.g. favouring the legalisation of narcotics. Their attitude may overlap with some conceptions of anarchism. American Conservatives want to redress the balance of power away from central governments and large corporations to families, community organisations such as churches and small businesses. While conservatives support their country's right to self-defence as good patriots, they oppose military adventurism abroad unless they can be persuaded a foreign country poses an immediate threat to national security. However, both of these groups are now often labelled as alt-right or even far right for their politically incorrect views on welfare, immigration or sexuality. Growing sections of American working class now identify more with conservatives than with cosmopolitan liberals. We see a similar pattern across Europe too. The real divide is no longer left vs right, but conservatism vs radicalism. The multifarious strands of the traditionalist opposition disagree about which aspects of our cultural heritage we should conserve. A tiny minority of Americans and Europeans sympathise not with inclusive and philanthropic liberal traditions, but with negative nationalism and/or white supremacy, i.e. the notion that some ethnic or racial identities are not only superior to others, but have a right to subjugate and suppress other ethnic or racial groups they consider inferior. Some may sympathise with defunct dictatorships, downplay or deny their crimes or wish to resurrect racial segregation, all requiring state intervention and restrictions on individual liberty at odds with either social conservatism or libertarian capitalism, which have many African Americans such as Thomas Sowell or Ben Carson in their ranks. However, today's power brokers have long abandoned European ethnocentrism or Anglo-Saxon cultural hegemony in favour of a multicoloured universalism.

I suspect our social planners and business leaders view anachronistic white nationalists in the same way as they view regressive Islamists, i.e. a bunch of useful idiots whose feelings can be easily manipulated and whose spectre serves to justify more censorship, surveillance and social conditioning. The Trump phenomenon pandered to a mix of social conservatism and American exceptionalism. The perceived threat of gun-toting hillibies and latter-day apartheid supporters serves to justify more surveillance and counterbalance the threat of radical Islam. I can't help but notice how YouTube now interjects short videos against both Islamic extremism and Far-right extremism before videos critical of globalisation and/or Islam. Are the authorities worried I may join ISIS or a tiny Neo-Nazi sect of Hitler admirers or do they want to suggest that any alternatives to their narrative means siding with unpalatable genocidal extremists?

Capitalism morphing into Corporate Communism

For many decades we've largely bought the myth that the system we have is a mix of liberal democracy and free market capitalism because whatever its flaws it has afforded us not only the fastest rate of technological innovation ever experienced, but the illusion of greater personal freedom, which is something we all yearn for alongside good health, security and social bonding. Today freedom is often mistaken for indulgence in commercialised activities, but such synthetic escapism is only made possible by technology we cannot fully control. A long-haul air passenger is at the mercy of sophisticated jet propulsion engines and aircraft guidance systems. A motorist relies not only advanced automotive technology, but on an extensive road and fuel delivery network as well as on coordinated traffic management. You may loathe big oil or oppose nuclear power, but how are we going to generate all the energy we need to facilitate our modern high consumption lifestyle? Moreover, demand is rising as millions of people in what we used to call the Third World now want to emulate the materialistic lifestyle they see via a multitude of media, observe in the wealthier suburbs of their cities and hear about from friends and relatives who have moved to Europe or North America. Just as billions seek to live the American dream, millions of low and medium-skill occupations are being automated. No sooner have hundreds of thousands of new immigrants gained temporary employment Uber cab drivers undercutting traditional taxi drivers in cities as diverse as London, New York or Paris as Uber itself, once a great proponent of relaxed migration controls, announces plans to phase in driverless cars. It's only a matter of time before many other mundane jobs that involve a degree of mental and physical dexterity beyond the capabilities of first generation domestic robots give way to smart automata. As time goes by, I forecast only three categories of remunerative jobs will remain outside low-tech backwaters:

  1. Research and development
  2. Social monitoring
  3. Persuasion (consultancy, change management, awareness raising, marketing, entertainment)

All three overlapping sectors of human enterprise will require either an exceptionally high IQ or outstanding talents. This effectively means within the next generation (usually around 25 to 30 years) only a small minority will pursue competitive careers to boost their status and/or income. Underemployment is the one problem that laissez-faire capitalism cannot address. Unless capitalism, albeit with large conglomerates and substantial state intervention, can motivate most of its economic participants, it will implode as the workless masses fail to respond to its incentives.

Universal Welfarism

Now, more and more big business leaders are coming out in favour of universal basic income, which could transform most adults from active participants in a competitive economy to passive consumers and guinea pigs in a giant social engineering experiment. In reality most citizens of Western countries struggle to compete in the labour market and the hundreds of millions of third worlders aspiring to the American way of life may never get a chance to earn a living. Currently in the UK you have to earn more than 35K a year on average to contribute more in taxes than you consume in services. The maths is not that hard. Public spending stands at a whopping 780 billion for the year 2016/17, that's 23 thousand per worker in direct and indirect tax. Yet the average wage is still around 28K. That means most workers are already subsidised and rewarded more for compliance or good behaviour than actual work that really contributes to society. The range of jobs available at the lower end of the salary scales becomes more absurd by the day. Rather than serve customers at checkout tills, shop assistants now monitor automated checkouts. Soon rather than stacking shelves, supermarket workers will monitor shelf-stacking robots. More and more work not only in customer relations, but in the mushrooming awareness raising business. That's right, people get paid for promoting a concept or a lifestyle option rather than a tangible good or service. Expect this number to grow as the boundary between voluntary political activism and subsidised lifestyle evangelism blurs. Who could seriously believe that the likes of Oxfam, Save the Children or Medicins sans Frontiers are funded mostly by voluntary donations from cash-strapped private citizens? Who decided to use their finite resources to hire ships to facilitate mass migration from Northern Africa to Europe, often against the wishes of local authorities on the ground. Well-funded NGOs have been caught colluding with people traffickers within Libya's coastal waters, effectively acting as a ferry service under the pretext of saving lives. To understand the scale of the problem before us, just consider the population of Nigeria alone is rising by 4 to 5 million a year and is projected to hit 300 million by 2036, almost entirely due to a high fertility rate that has not fallen in line with a massive decline in infant mortality and an equally impressive rise in mean life expectancy. Worse still Nigeria is now a net importer of food and domestic demand for energy is growing faster than the proceeds of its substantial but finite oil reserves. It may soon be unable to sustain its increasingly urbanised citizens. Could we not better empower Africans by promoting sustainable development through lower fertility rates? There are two ways to attain these ends. One is through more military interventionism, e.g. meddling in the many civil wars erupting in countries under significant environmental stress or forcing local governments to implement the LGBTQ+ agenda. The other approach is simply to leave these people alone and let them find their own route towards a more sustainable future, but without us relying on their natural resources. Unfortunately, isolationism and protectionism have earned a bad name. Simple leaving the Middle East and West Africa to rot in their own environmental nightmare will not prevent civil wars and human misery, but it may stop such mayhem spreading to the more stable societies of Western Europe and North America, thus preserving the liberal traditions we hold dear and setting an example for others to follow. Besides coercion is not necessary to transition from high to low birth rates. Most European countries now have fertility rates below replacement level as the relative cost of raising a child rises. As we adapt to a future where only highly educated professionals can earn a living through their own endeavours, why would we have more children than we can reasonably nurture? If we rely on the State to bring up our children and inculcate in them new cultural values at odds with our instincts, why should we bother having children at all?

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

Communism for the Masses and Liberalism for the Elite

If you ever aspired to democratic socialism, the last 40 years have been very disappointing, as mainstream social democratic parties have embraced big business and the USSR collapsed. Nothing ever seems to change unless banking cartels and tech giants want it. Have they concluded that the masses can no longer compete in the free market?

It saddens me to admit it, but I once hoped capitalism would give way to anarcho-communism, a patchwork of egalitarian communes in a utopian world devoid of armies and extreme concentrations of wealth. In my naive adolescent mindset the Soviet Union, the People Republic of China, Cuba and North Korea were at best deformed workers' states and at worst despotisms antithetical to the kind of laid-back sharing society I envisaged. Ironically the only viable examples of communalism have always sprung from close-knit and culturally homogenous communities, i.e. people who share an elaborate set of ethical rules and customs. Once such societies grow beyond a basic level of complexity and have to accommodate a wider range of cultural backgrounds and social attitudes, they inevitably have to adopt more coercive means to maintain social stability. Yet if such societies fail to grow out of their rudimentary forms, they will inevitably fail to develop the technological means to improve people's quality of life and to correct the cruel injustices of mother nature. Ever since the industrial revolution, no system has succeeded in raising people's material living standards more than capitalism. Even China abandoned its Maoist command economy to embrace state-managed capitalism. Today, the State accounts for a larger share of the economy in most of Western Europe than it does in China. Yet as corporate cartels behave more like governments via their NGOs and transnational organisations, we may soon see a merger between the Chinese and European models with democracy reduced to little more than choreographed consultation exercises. Competition will work on two levels. The professional elite of technical whizz-kids, scientists, social planners, media executives and entertainers will continue to compete and lead parallel lives in a liberal bubble with exclusive access to secluded resorts and gated neighbourhoods. Meanwhile the masses reliant on UBI (universal basic income) will be rewarded for their compliant behaviour. Some may attain relative privileges by acting as model citizens, while others will be relegated to a closely supervised life in an urban jungle of interconnected megacities. Those who fail to comply, especially those whose dissident ideas attract a following, may be treated as sufferers of mental disorders. The hate speech laws now being enforced in countries as diverse as Canada, Turkey, Germany and China, could effectively disable you as a citizen in our basic income panacea. Just imagine the option of either repenting one's conservative views on the sexual dimorphism of human beings or having one's bank account deactivated and access to social housing and employment denied. This dystopian future is no longer just a fanciful science fiction, but a reality the Pentagon is preparing for.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Just gimme some Truth

On the importance of intellectual freedom

Hardly a week passes without a brand new high profile campaign against the Orwellian concept of hate speech, perceived public ignorance or the spectre of unofficial fake news. Naturally ignorance no longer denotes an absence of knowledge, but a failure to internalise a specific worldview or cultural attitude. By the same logic we need not worry about officially certified fake news, because no doubt experts wiser than we have sanitised the truth for the greater good of humanity, while evil dissidents probably have ulterior motives.

Presumably all enlightened progressives should welcome the arbitration of third party organisations over all contentious social, scientific, historical, economic or moral issues. It's a truism that none of us, no matter how wise or intellectually gifted we may be, could conceivably fully comprehend all controversies that affect our lives. At some stage we have to place our trust in someone who has had the time, intellect and resources to gather hard evidence and present it in a succinct and readable format. Who is qualified to decide on issues as complex as nuclear energy, arms sales to foreign regimes, support for rebel militias in entangled ethno-religious conflicts, genetic engineering of human embryos or sex education in primary schools? Can we trust the general public to reach rational conclusions on these matters based on incomplete data and swayed by emotions?

How do we make sense of the daily deluge of confusing and conflicting information about our rapidly changing world? Surely we need some sort of independent verification service to help us sort the wheat from the chaff. This begs the question, whose interests do these non-governmental fact checking outfits serve? Do they just want to give us raw data and let us make our own minds up or do they want to discredit any evidence that runs counter to their preferred narrative and may lead a larger cross section of public opinion to rebel against the policies that major corporate and state organisations are seeking to implement through deceptive means ?

Indeed as soon as someone accuses the government or big business of deceiving the public, they may attract the epithet of conspiracy theorist or tinfoil hat wearer. We've gone a long way from the days when these slurs were mainly aimed at quirky nostalgics uncomfortable with the implications of modern science and technology. Some Americans genuinely believe the Lunar Landing was a hoax staged in Iceland or possibly in film studios. Others believe extraterrestrial creatures have landed on our planet. Without evidence, this remains nothing but wild conjecture and given the sheer size of our galactic neighbourhood exceedingly unlikely. Most UFO sightings may be exactly what the term suggests, unidentified flying objects, in all likelihood meteorites or military aircraft. However, now it's often those of us who doggedly insist on scientific truth who fall foul of the new postmodern orthodoxy on subjects as diverse as gender identity to the sustainability of rapid mass migration.

On Wednesday, Labour MP, Sarah Champion, resigned her position on the front bench for having told the truth about mainly Muslim rape gangs targeting mainly white (or at least non-Muslim) teenage girls in a popular tabloid newspaper, the Sun, which the left, myself included, has long despised. I could think of few cases that could better exemplify the problem with politically correct censorship of both open debate and objective investigation as this. Her Labour colleagues have accused her sensationalism bordering on racism and collobarating with the hated Murdoch press, yet at the end of the day what matters is not what the liberal intelligentsia believe today, but what diligent historians will conclude tomorrow. Who's right, obedient Guardian columnists who pretend there are no irreconciable cultural differences between sizable sections of the growing Muslim community and the indigenous population or tenacious journalists such as Douglas Murray and Raheem Kassam, author of No Go Zones, who challenge the new orthodoxy? Should we await an official report to reassure us that our benevolent authorities are looking after our best interests or should we challenge media bias and demand both truth and common sense solutions? Now imagine a near future where the truth about rape gangs is no longer contested by rival sections of our media, but is flagged as hate speech and all Internet searches on such issues point to fact-checking services that essentially obfuscuate reality through selective statistics and emotional arguments.

So let us for the sake of argument agree that both racism and sexual abuse are morally reprehensible, but we have a logistical problem here. If the main concern of the police and social services were the welfare of vulnerable teenage girls, it would be an open and shut case once they had sufficient evidence to prosecute the perpetrators. Don't get me wrong in all such cases we need to corroborate evidence on the ground to prevent the police from arresting innocent participants in consensual sexual encounters. However, the recent trial of a Newcastle-based grooming gang follows a familiar pattern seen up and down the country. Young playboys, mainly of South Asian Muslim descent, lure working class non-Muslim teenagers to sex parties plying them drugs such as cannabis and mephedrone. As detailed in Peter McLoughlin's book Easy Meat: Inside Britain's Grooming Gang Scandal, these organised gang bangs have been going on for some time, but the establishment colluding with the regressive left have done their best to hush up and downplay the scale of this phenomenon. When the Rotherham case first hit the news, many viewers of mainstream news programmes could be forgiven for thinking it was isolated to one town. Ever since the authorities have been in damage limitation mode. Yet Channel 4 journalists have known about it since the suppressed 2004 documentary Edge of the City.

An online campaign has been launched to try and stop Channel 4 from airing a documentary that features claims Asian men are grooming white girls for sex. Edge of the City, set in Bradford, had been shelved in May after police warned it could incite racial violence ahead of local and European elections. The Black Information Link website asks readers to lobby Channel 4, police and the Culture Secretary to stop the film.

Some wishful thinkers may prefer to believe that Britain's growing Muslim communities are integrating just fine with the settled population and share our wonderfully enlightened liberal values on women's rights, sexuality and tolerance of diverse lifestyle choices. They may prefer to disregard the higher fertility rate of Muslim families or their higher dependence on social welfare (a consequence of larger families and widespread inbreeding). Indeed any problems that cannot be easily swept under the carpet are often explained away as by-products of past Western imperialism or of despotic regimes, which our enlightened governments opposed.

However, if objective analysis of hard facts revealed that not only have hundreds of thousands of British non-Muslim girls been systematically targeted by gangs of mainly Muslim young men, but such behaviour is deeply engrained in their culture, some may conclude that in the interests of community cohesion and indeed the safety of vulnerable teenagers (some boys have also been targeted), we should restrict further immigration from mainly Islamic regions without extensive background checks. You see in our private lives we'd behave in more rational ways. We may welcome our new neighbours and be pleased for them to play with our children, as long as we can agree on a core set of shared cultural values. Until recently we did not need social workers or pervasive surveillance to manage community affairs. Neighbours would look out for each other and any transgressors would soon be identified and dealt with. Within a culturally homogeneous community people know the bounds of acceptable behaviour. Tolerance is a wonderful word when applied to diverse cuisines, music or literary traditions, but not when when our naive tolerance blinds us to hateful intolerance and we become an ethnic minority in what used to be our parents' homeland. Indeed the whole concept of homeland is anathema to globalists, who imagine the world as some sort of playground or university campus interspersed with national parks and connected by airports and high speed rail.

The trouble is the truth is seldom convenient and often ugly. Human beings can be violent, selfish, vindictive and morally corrupt, but we can also be loving, resourceful, creative and conscientious. In different circumstances the same human beings can behave in very different ways with radically different outcomes, but we are not all the same. Some of us cope very well with stress and take heightened competition in our stride. Others thrive best as loyal members of a team learning mainly through social osmosis. Indeed creative or critical thinkers often make very bad team players, but our modern world would be very different without the innovations of a non-conformist and often reclusive minority. Successful societies need to harness the best of both mindsets. If we rely exclusively on experts endorsed by our dominant institutions, we risk closing our minds to institutional bias that serves our true rulers' agenda.

Shaming Dissenters

Speaking out against organised rape gangs may seem a no-brainer in a society that almost universally condemns such acts, but not when it conflicts with other priorities, such as facilitating cultural change to undermine the self-determination of all viable national communities. When the progressive media starts talking in terms of Islamophobia, transphobia (a term that only entered the Oxford Dictionary in 2013 after a petition) and hate speech, alarm bells should ring. As soon as one dissents on issues as diverse as the environmental sustainability of mass transfers of people from poorer countries or state-funded fertility treatment for lesbian couples, one is labelled a hater. People are named and shamed for defending hard science on building viable communities and respecting natural biological differences.

Can state planners really want to simultaneously promote tolerance of an ideology, Islam, that abhors sexual deviance and treats women as sex slaves, while teaching young children that gender is a social construct rather than a biological reality? Today in Canada one may be arrested for protesting against Islamisation of one's neighbourhood, but also for failing to use the correct gender pronouns for a tiny minority of transsexuals who fail to identify as either male or female. While Islam and transgenderism (or the LGBTQ+ agenda) would seem to lead in opposite directions on sexual ethics, both dogmas push us towards more social interventionism and greater surveillance. I suspect what we lazily call the globalist elite for want of a better word, will only tolerate the rapid Islamisation of many European and North American neighbourhoods until they devise means to subvert this culture too. Indeed most Muslims today would feel utterly ashamed of the grooming gangs that blight towns and cities across Britain, the Netherlands and other Western countries with large concentrations of randy Muslim males. Maybe these young men have been corrupted by exposure to Western decadence. Maybe the guardians of their female victims failed to protect their daughters against dangerous sexual predators. Whichever way, the multicultural experiment is failing the underclasses, namely those least responsible for Britain's imperial past.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/d5IZ16UpE7U

I wonder if John Lennon would welcome the new idealism embraced by the bankers and warmongers he once decried.

Categories
Power Dynamics

Disturbing Scenarios of the early 21st Century

Bury Park, Luton

Could globalisation trigger regressive ethnocentrism and religious hatred?

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

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

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

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

Rebels against Post-modernism

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

Rebels vs Conformists

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

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

Islamocentrism

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

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

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

State-sanctioned ethnic cleansing

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

Cognitive Dissonance

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


What Is Social Engineering

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

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