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.
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 Â£1500 to Â£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 Â£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 Â£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.
Sex, as practiced for the last billion years, has been an awfully competitive and selective affair. Erotic desire drives much of human behaviour. It motivates us to keep fit, take care of our appearance, elevate our status by excelling at school and in our careers and show off our physical prowess and dexterity through sport, dance and music. Heterosexual men and women tend to adopt different strategies, for the inescapable biological fact that only women have babies. Both men and women may well enjoy sex. However, while men seek to satisfy their sexual desires with the most physically desirable partners, women tend to target higher status males better able to look after their children. These dynamics are at play even in advanced societies with low birth rates, extended childhood and adolescence stretching into our thirties with plenty of time for women to pursue careers and explore the world of leisure and intrigue. The trouble is we don't all perform equally well at this game. Not all women are blessed with the same innate beauty and perfect physique, though no doubt a healthy diet and active lifestyle help. Not all men are equally strong, charming, agile, good-humoured, wealthy, reliable, conscientious, agreeable or intelligent, though no doubt a good upbringing and a healthy diet help. Sure, in the real world things balance out and most of us find a partner sooner or later, though recent social trends have led to more and more people choosing to stay single for longer and only commit to more part-time relationships. However, the dynamics of sexual selection mean some of us may not only attract a wider range of affable partners, but can also fulfil our erotic ambitions more easily. Status acts as a powerful aphrodisiac. While some shy beta males struggle to attract the right calibre of young women, high-status alpha males may struggle to fend off unwanted female attention. Feminists have naturally always supported a woman's right to choose with whom to share her body and under what conditions. Bodily self-determination seems to me one of the most basic human rights. However, social biologists have long observed that natural selection proceeds largely through female sexual choice as detailed in William G. Eberhard's 1996 work Female Control: Sexual Selection by Cryptic Female Choice. Fertility clinics seek to emulate this strategy by presenting female customers with a choice of sperm donors, although currently successful males are less motivated to donate their sperm. The harsh reality many beta males would prefer to ignore is self-confident, healthy and attractive young women will always target alpha males. Many women do not even consider 80 to 90% of potential age-appropriate mates. However, when a disheartened young man strikes it lucky with a modestly attractive female, his self-esteem will soar. Women can exert tremendous power over the success of their male partners. Female attention can transform introvert young professionals into confident young men. This works vice-versa, but men and women have different interests. Men seek not just gratification, but validation as a worthy sexual partner. Women may enjoy sex, but focus more on the long term security of their offspring. Today such statements are almost heretical, but as recently as 1992 John Gray wrote a bestseller, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, confirming the truisms of male-female relationships that many would now seek to deny.
Social justice activists promote the concept of equality of outcome through positive discrimination to ensure, for example, that different groups of people are fairly represented in the major professions and decision-making institutions. They bemoan the relative dearth of female programmers or mechanical engineers. In North America and much of Western Europe more females than males now graduate from university and dominate primary and secondary school education, social work and marketing as well as many other caring and people-oriented professions. Men, on the other hand, are more thing-oriented. This is not just based on anecdotal observation, but is supported by voluminous research not least Simon Baron-Cohen's concept of systemisers vs empathisers and his theory that behavioural traits considered on the higher functioning autistic spectrum are due to an extreme male brain. This doesn't mean that gadget-obsessed men cannot socialise and women are not interested in technology, but men are more likely to be concerned with how technology works and what it can do, while women may appreciate an object's appearance as well as it functionality.
So let us just try a thought experiment. What if we applied equality of outcome to mating strategies. Is it fair for a minority of men to receive most female attention and indulge in the most exhilarating intercourse with the sexiest partners just because they are blessed with a superior physique, higher intelligence or greater wealth? If we follow the logic of social justice activists, this reality is grotesquely unfair. Naturally attractive young women should share their bodies and erotic passion with a broad cross-section of age-appropriate heterosexual males, irrespective of their body shape, disability, intelligence, employment status, income, sense of humour, personality or personal hygiene. Some anarcho-communists envisaged our sex life would evolve into free love with open relationships and communal parenting, as practiced in a handful of communes such as the one Otto Muhl founded in Friedrichshof, 80km from Vienna, which sadly exposed bitter personal rivalries over sexual etiquette. I suspect most feminists may disagree, but the free love fantasy may soon drive demand for sex robots.
As a species we combine social solidarity and shared culture with a strong competitive spirit. In a way these variant behaviours represent the true yin and yang of the human psyche, collectivism versus individualism or social cohesion versus self-betterment. One could argue that our social and technological reality would never have progressed without these instincts. Idealists have long envisaged a collectivist society devoid of competition at all levels in which our only motivation in life is to further the greater good of society as a whole and all rewards, both material and spiritual, are shared equally. Yet no modern society has achieved these egalitarian aims. As much as many of us may preach equality, at a personal level we remain highly competitive in our social interactions and choice of partners. All too often we preach social compassion in public, but practice social exclusivity in private.
Our technology inevitably relies on prior art or the acquired body of human knowledge accumulated over successive generations, while our social fabric and mores have evolved through centuries of experimentation and gradual adaptation. Social solidarity starts in the family where mothers and fathers sacrifice their body and soul to ensure the survival of the next generation and care for their living forebears. As societies evolved from small hunter-gatherer communities to larger fiefdoms and eventually nation states after the agrarian revolution, we had to share resources and infrastructure with a wider group of people with a common set of cultural traits and values. Yet societies remained profoundly unequal and riven by strong class chasms that prevented social mobility. If you were born a peasant and had to till the land from an early age with a rudimentary diet that stunted physical growth, you stood little chance of progressing to the professional classes or nobility, except potentially through marriage or adoption. The industrial revolution disrupted the feudal class system and later led to the expansion of state education and growing demand for a new class of literate and technically qualified workers. Much of the political debate since has revolved around two contrasting ideals:
Equality of opportunity: Here we allow healthy but peaceful competition in social interactions and in the labour market, but the state intervenes mainly to ensure a level playing field for all children by funding universal education and providing a social safety net to prevent extreme poverty. However, this principle cannot guarantee equal success, which may depend on inherent aptitudes and biological differences, e.g. success in athletics may depend on training and diet, but also genetically determined physique.
Equality of outcome: Here the state intervenes proactively to ensure everyone can attain the same socio-economic status through positive discrimination and massive investment to help underperformers. This principle identifies the least successful as victims of purported oppression, exclusion or prejudice. Here we should distinguish between giving everyone a fair chance to prove their worth and rewarding incompetence or demotivating excellence.
In truth neither approach has worked. As long as we have vast differences in wealth and culture, it will remain practically impossible to ensure a level playing field. The rich can always buy homes in the most exclusive neighbourhoods, shield their offspring from the worst aspects of today's anti-intellectual hedonism and hire childminders and private tutors. On the other hand the last 50 years of social engineering and positive discrimination in Western Europe, especially in Scandinavia, have failed to yield the results many envisaged in the 1960s. Men and women are not the same, at least according to most recent neurobiological research. Women continue to prefer people-oriented and caring professions rather than more technical or object-oriented professions, as revealed in one of the world's most gender-egalitarian countries, Norway. Likewise not everyone is academically gifted. Many of us are much more hands-on and prefer learning through a mix of practical experience and social osmosis. We can't all swat away for hours on end to pursue a career in engineering or scientific research, because the acquired knowledge would remain too abstract for many. Indeed that's problem with much of academia. They can develop mathematically correct theories and extrapolate internally logical conclusions based on selective facts or epidemiological data. The theoretical approach that drives so much of modern corporate and government policy making has one major flaw. It fails to take into account all factors that are either unknown or considered irrelevant. Back on planet earth simple practical people take such unknown and unforeseen factors for granted. Our daily experiences often defy academic theories, but are still dismissed as mere anecdotal evidence until they appear in an official report. So who's right? Theoreticians or practical laypersons? The answer is both in different ways. An academic may envisage a nanochip with a processing capacity greater than a human brain. A layperson may suggest that analogue human brains do not work in the same way as digital computers and they'd be right, but of our knowledge is fuzzy, i.e. based on a collection of associated concepts. However, cybernetic luddites have repeatedly been proven wrong. Advanced speech recognition, natural language processing, satellite navigation and even self-driving cars have long passed the proof-of-concept stage and promise to transform our lives. Cumbersome desktop computers gave way to more compact laptops, soon superseded by forever more sophisticated and versatile mobile devices in the form of smartphones, tablets, e-readers and watches. Academics may better understand the potential of cybernetic technology, but they fail to get to grips with the disruptive technology's impact on the lives of millions of ordinary people, who may soon be rendered either redundant or completely subservient to corporate control.
Few aspects of human nature are as socially competitive as our mating or sexual bonding strategies. Sex is both a social taboo and something we all intimately crave, when we're in the mood and with the right partner. Recreational eroticism has deep biological roots that ultimately seek to maximise our chances of passing on our genes and thus our cultural influence onto the next generation. We can transfer our cultural influence through adoption or through our life's endeavours, but until recently the biological family remained the primary means of preserving one's legacy for posterity. Naturally sexual desire is psychologically complex. Our erotic urges are much more powerful than our need to conceive more offspring than we can reasonably bring up. Such urges, especially among young men, merely satisfy hormonal impulses and boost our sense of self-esteem.
We thus have both sexual selection, a process that affects all sexually reproducing species, and erotic selection, in which we choose to win the affection and favours of the most affable mates to enhance our status or our gratification. Players in this game may vaunt their physical desirability or their socio-economic status. A young woman may delude herself that she has just fallen in love with her affluent married boss, with whom she first slept while attending a business conference together. A sociologist would ask why some women fall for guys 20 or 30 years their senior, who are way beyond their physical prime and have other family commitments, rather than men in their age group. Numerous studies have shown that women actively pursue the most successful men, who are inevitably both a small subset of all adult males and are likely to be older than most attractive women, typically aged between 18 and 30. Believe it or not there is no shortage of heterosexually inclined young men who would like to mate with attractive females in their age group, but not enough females who aspire to mate with low-grade males who have yet to prove their worth. This explains two key differences between male and female mating strategies even in cultures where both promiscuity and contraceptives are socially acceptable. A young man can boost his self-esteem and thus gain a higher status merely by virtue of scoring with a physically attractive female. By contrast young women target high status males, or at least those perceived to have a high status. In other words young men would be happy to score with most younger women, provided they are not grotesquely overweight or suffer from some other hideous bodily imperfection. Indeed some low-status young males are so desperate for sexual encounters they can easily reassess their physical desirability criteria and make do with almost any potential partner available. Young women tend to be much pickier and effectively disregard most men in their age group. As a result a minority of alpha-like males get a disproportionate amount of female attention. Luckily nature does provide some checks and balances. Not all women pursue the high risk strategy of targeting alpha males. If a woman seeks commitment, affection and economic security from a relationship, a mildly successful beta male is more likely to reciprocate, and more important, stay loyal. However, given women and men differing erotic needs, an open sexual market tends to empower females more than males. Men create most of the impulsive demand, while women control the supply. To make matters worse a strong cultural preference for males in much of the Middle East, India and China has led to a growing imbalance of males and females at birth. Worldwide we have 1.06 males under 15 per female of the same age group. In China that ratio rises to 1.2. Indeed male homosexuality may be a reaction to both biological and economic imbalances. Sex may well be more fun when both partners understand each other's erotic needs, do not seek to gain other favours in exchange and need not worry about unwanted pregnancies or potential parental responsibilities.
Attractive women can thus play two games: reproductive selectivity and erotic selectivity. The former is fairly easily to understand in purely sociobiological terms. More successful men are not only better able to provide for their offspring's economic needs, they are also more likely to pass on better genes. By contrast erotic selectivity rewards men who best meet women's other emotional and economic desires. Put another way, we could describe wealth and power as the ultimate aphrodisiacs.
Undoubtedly environmental factors play a significant role in determining available opportunities, cultural outlook and socio-economic success in life, but we'd be foolish to deny natural physiological and indeed neurological differences among human beings. When it comes to partner selection, nature can be very cruel. Culture may affect which attributes are most valued by members of the opposite sex, but some players will always be at a relative advantage in the mating game.
The old saying goes it's not what you know, but who you know , but at the end of the day some of us do require some hard skills that extend beyond social networking and communication. Many modern professions ranging from marketing, sales, project management, recruitment to psychotherapy, policing, social monitoring, public relations, media presentation and entertainment depend primarily on advanced social skills. These mean our ability not only to interact with people from different walks of life and cultural backgrounds, but identify their weaknesses and predilections in order to modify their behaviour. People managers need enough technical expertise to win the trust of their more practical team members and see their projects to a successful completion, but their main task is to ensure workers not only comply with business requirements, but do not hold the business to ransom. That's why many technical tasks are assigned to teams with multiple layers of management rather than to one to two competent engineers, who may get the job done faster and more efficiently. If business managers can keep engineers focussed on circumscribed fields of endeavour, they can hide the full implications of their projects from well-paid technicians, e.g. technology developed for medical purposes could be adapted for military use.
Ironically as we depend more and more on technology whose inner workings few of us truly understand, the world's major tech companies are busy investing more in psychoanalysis and social engineering than they are in hard science.
Humanity has always had a wide range of cultures, vocations and two biologically defined sexes. For most of our history we identified with our family, our tribe, our gender and our vocation. We had no choice over family and gender, seldom switched tribes and had a limited window of opportunity to find a vocation within the cultural paradigm of our era. To the above list we may naturally add status, something we traditionally acquired from a mix of our family's social standing and any natural talents we can exploit in a socially advantageous or entrepreneurial manner. One assumed, rightly or wrongly, that your family bore the primary responsibility for your success either by endowing you with a better-adapted brain and body or by instilling in you their acquired customs, knowledge and wisdom.
Long before biologists discovered DNA and sociologists undertook detailed studies on the influences of culture, class, ethnicity and gender on intellectual and professional performance, we knew both nature and nurture affect outcomes. In the real world nature and nurture do not so much compete with each other to affect our personality, intelligence or economic success, as they interact in a continuous feedback loop, e.g. culture and behavioural patterns play key roles in determining who gets to mate with whom.
However, these days not only are our three core identities (gender, vocation and ethnicity) considered infinitely variable, but our behaviour, personality, desires and learning patterns also form key components of our personhood subject to endless categorisation and psychoanalysis. So nowadays people do not just identify as a woman, man, girl or boy, as an Irishman or a Thai or as a mother, a father, a farmer, a nurse or a blacksmith. All of a sudden, within just a few decades, we have come to identify with our erotic proclivities, our favourite pastimes, our brand loyalty, our personality profile, our medical conditions, our fatness, our relative handicaps and increasingly by our assigned mental health label. Someone may well identify as a mathematically challenged, obese, bipolar, gay and diabetic Xbox gamer. Rather than pinpoint and try to overcome someone's relative weaknesses, we celebrate a diversity of equally valid traits. The afore-mentioned identifiers are naturally a mixed bag. Mood disorders interact with narcotics, diet and medication. For instance, an emotionally insecure person with an imperfect body unable to find their ideal partner might succumb to recreational drugs, which in turn trigger sudden mood swings with psychotic episodes, which lead to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the prescription of antipsychotics, which cause weight gain through binge eating, leading to a type-II diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle of online gaming. Without a strong focus on work or family as breadwinners or housewives, people can easily descend into a puerile state of monitored play and endless victimhood.
Traditional personal identities make practical sense. Your anatomical sex identifies your potential role in procreation and raising the next generation. Your vocation identifies your primary purpose in life. Your ethno-religious identity determines the essential ethical rules and customs by which you abide. Yet today we're blurring the boundaries of all three core identities. Rather than emphasise different aspects of our main occupation, we assume many different roles and identities at home, with our friends, with our neighbours, with our colleagues and as consumers. Someone may identify as a Manchester United fan, as an iPhone aficionado, as a diabetic, as a vegetarian, as a hiphop fan, as a disco dancer, as bisexual, as gender-fluid, as a keen online gamer or as a sufferer of mild obsessive compulsive disorder. All but the first of these identities would have bewildered past generations. The question is to what extent do these modish labels determine who you really are and to what extent are they malleable? Supporting a sports team is usually a way to bond with other members of your wider community and express your tribal loyalty in a controlled environment. Your choice of team would reflect your background. If you grew up in Merseyside you may support either Everton or Liverpool. Today spectator sports are run as sleek commercial operations whose only connection to their home city is their stadium's geographic location.
As the consumer age took hold in the 1950s, social marketers realised that if peer pressure can influence the sports clubs people support, then media promotion can affect our association with emerging musical genres and cultural scenes. By the early 1960s we had street fights between Mods and Rockers, identifying with rival commercialised countercultures. By the late 60s we had more middle class hippies experimenting in drugs and challenging traditional views on sexuality. In the 70s youthful rebellion found an outlet through the medium of Punk Rock, Reggae and Ska music. In the 1980s youth culture moved more to the narcotised Techno and House music scenes. Pop culture had come not just to dominate our lives way into our 30s and beyond, but to normalise a set of irrational behaviours in a regulated social context.
In the affluent West these new cultural identities mingled with the ethnic identities of new migrant communities. This set the stage for a new era of identity politics based on diverse characteristics, only some of which were inherited and thus immutable under normal circumstances. All of a sudden activists would equate prejudice against lifestyle choices and behavioural traits with racial or sexual discrimination. We don't choose our parents or, until recently, our biological sex. We do not really choose our personality either. It just evolves gradually through symbiosis of our neurological hardware and environmental software. Not everyone will be equally gregarious or equally conscientious, but social stimuli can certainly guide us towards more successful outcomes.
Most societies reward functional behaviour and penalise dysfunctional behaviour. They merely differ in their interpretation of which behaviours may be acceptable in which circumstances. Madness is simply unmanageable misbehaviour that is seen to pose a threat to social stability and may lead to heightened conflicts and cultural decadence. However, in the early 21st century the game has changed. As only a small minority of workers are responsible for providing essential goods, infrastructure and services, the powers that be are more interested in micro-managing people's moods and behaviours as subservient guinea pigs of a giant social experiment than promoting traditional values of diligence and self-reliance. Indeed many now view extreme interdependence as a virtue. The trouble with interdependence is some players contribute much more than others, thus empowering technocrats and bureaucrats at the expense of the underclasses unable to exert any real control over their techno-social ecosystem. In the emerging world of consumer slaves who depend either on insecure temporary jobs or welfare handouts, an interlocking diversity of identities is now seen a virtue that justifies more invasive surveillance and social intervention over an atomised populace.
Transgenderism serves mainly to blur traditional boundaries between well-defined types of people and create new subjective and infinitely variable categories. It conspires to normalise non-traditional families and to disassociate in the public mind the biological link between procreation and motherhood. Lastly, it may also helps redefine many complex psychological problems in terms of non-binary gender identities. Many youngsters may not identify as either males or females because they fail to meet the exacting standards of stereotypical alpha masculinity or femininity. However, divergent gender assignments may be only one of myriad alternative identities that may explain someone's inability to fulfil their personal ambitions.
Welcome to the World of Neurodiversity
Traditionally we viewed any kind of mental disability as unfortunate and reserved psychiatric diagnoses for extreme cases of dysfunctional behaviour. Today, we champion neurological diversity with celebrity endorsements of new-fangled mental health labels. Any human emotional or intellectual challenge can now be reassessed as a medical condition that requires some form of treatment and supervision. Any psychological traits that stray from an arbitrary range of normality now warrant attention, creating an almost infinite variety of problematic personality types in an age of self-obsession. The much trumpeted claim that one in four adults suffer from a mental illness at some stage in their life has served to normalise the concept in the public mind.
While nonconformist behavioural patterns and thought processes have now been pathologised, the NHS has ceased to classify gender dysphoria as a mental illness. So let us get this straight, if a young woman falls into a despondent state following a series of personal setbacks, spending more time alone in bed and failing to socialise with friends, an NHS psychologist may assess her as clinically depressed and thus suffering from a mental illness. If, however, the same woman believes her relative lack of femininity means she should assume the identity of a man and be allowed to take life-changing hormones or undergo genital mutilation, public funds should assist her in pursuing her delusion that her anatomically female body is at odds with her self-perception as a man rather than help her come to terms with her biological reality and deal with the real psychological causes of her identity crisis. We are literally normalising insanity, while redefining perfectly normal thought processes as somehow insane. However, identity crises do not only concern gender. A German woman, with a stage name of Martina Big (and since re-baptised as Malaika Kubwa), has invested tens of thousands of Euros in cosmetic surgery and tanning injections to transform her complexion and facial features to resemble a black African lady. While Ms Big's appearance may fool some, Rachel Dolezal from Philadelphia has only undergone a modest transformation, but nonetheless identifies as African American. Of course, many will remember Michael Jackson's expensive skin whitening treatment to give him more Caucasian features. More disturbingly, a growing number of able-bodied people now identify as disabled, a condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In 1997 Scottish Surgeon Robert Smith amputated the perfectly healthy lower left leg of an Essex man, which naturally impeded his mobility and personal independence for the sole purpose of emotional relief. The patient reported feeling complete and at ease with himself after the procedure. More commonly this disorder causes people to have a distorted self-image as too fat, too thin or with exaggerated imperfections and may lead people to undertake dysfunctional cosmetic surgery. How does body dysmorphic disorder differ from gender dysphoria? There are naturally rare cases of hermaphroditism or ambiguous genitalia, in which case any psychological problems reflect a biological reality that may require corrective surgery. Likewise many people have defective or diseased body parts, which may often affect their body image.
What's wrong with a society where more and more people cannot come to terms with their natural selves and wish to assume identities that are either at odds with their biological reality or upbringing? Rather than create more cohesive and tolerant communities of people with a diverse range of practical experiences and skillsets, current trends have produced an atomised collection of victim groups at the mercy of external agencies. Unlike traditional categories, identities based on behaviour or self-perception require some sort of social or medical intervention to ensure a person's viability, something only possible complex collectivist societies. To some these assertions may seem oxymoronic. How can we be both atomised and reliant on collective organisation? A troubled young man suffering from social anxiety unable to hold down a well-paid job may well be both isolated from his wider community and yet concomitantly dependent on remote organisations for his livelihood. More and more individuals in our increasingly interdependent world fail to get along with their neighbours, extended families or colleagues. Rather than find a practical niche within a small close-knit community, many now prefer the safety of virtual communities in which many dysfunctional lifestyle choices become the norm.
In our emerging brave new world of constant transmogrification of human identity, I suspect the boundaries between sexual orientation, transgenderism, transableism, neurodiversity and eventually transhumanism will blur until only a upper caste of intellectually superior technocrats and social engineers retain true freedom of action.
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.
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.
I wonder if John Lennon would welcome the new idealism embraced by the bankers and warmongers he once decried.
Human history has had plenty of upheavals, but I believe we have never experienced such a rapid rate of technological and cultural change with worldwide reach. In 1931 Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World not so much as a reliable prognosis of human development over the coming six centuries (as the story is set in the year 2540 AD), but as a warning of how our socially progressive trajectory could lead us to a dystopia of complete submission to a technocratic elite. Huxley failed to foresee the likely implications of artificial intelligence and nano-robotics. He had mistakenly assumed the underclasses, represented by deltas and epsilons, would have a role to play in the production process. Yet as I write Chinese industries are busy automating their manufacturing facilities despite the widespread availability of cheap labour. In Huxley's day geneticists had yet to discover DNA or understand the mechanics of bio-engineering and cloning, yet he had in my view correctly identified a direction of travel, that would only be temporarily set back by the rise of national autocracies, another world war and an uneasy transition from Western colonialism to national independence in the developing world. Indeed one may argue that some rivals to Western neo-liberalism as it emerged in Western Europe and North America such as fascism, Naziism or Soviet-style socialism were mere failed experiments, whose people management techniques could serve a future ruling class once we had the technology to placate the masses through endless entertainment and effective mind control without relying on their brainpower to keep the economy going. This has always been our rulers' main dilemma: How can they prevent the masses from shaping the future of our society and gaining greater personal independence?
We can set six simple tests to track our progress towards this Huxleyan dystopia:
1) Pervasive Surveillance
We can still retreat to our private spaces and shield ourselves from electronic surveillance by logging off or taking basic precautions to protect our privacy. However, slowly but surely as cybernetics invade our domestic life and natural language processing evolves, more and more of our informal communication is monitored. People have already been arrested, fined and jailed for politically incorrect comments on social media. Facebook now analyses messages via NLP to filter posts and add links to fact-checking sites to correct suppositions that threaten certain vested interests. Meanwhile governments are keen to prevent citizens from using any indecipherable form of encryption. For the time being it appears the technically savvy can easily outwit any restrictions imposed by technically illiterate politicians, but the tech giants are already colluding with big government to police cyberspace. Just imagine how such techniques could evolve once we routinely have bio-chip implants capable of monitoring our thoughts.
2) Mind Control Through Entertainment and Stupefaction
The leisure and entertainment sectors have grown in leaps and bounds over the last six decades. Once upon a time commoners would make do with rudimentary means to amuse each other at communal festivities. Today entertainment is a multibillion dollar industry that pervades every aspect of our lives, whether recreational, educational or professional. However, we still have a wealth of choice and may filter out forms of commercialised distraction that do not suit our tastes or high standards. In many modern settings we have to little choice but to consume genres of music and cinematography that clearly have psychological impacts. Some of us have been desensitised to such audiovisual ferocity that we hardly notice it. We could treat stupefaction as a separate facet, but it is just another means of mind control and people management. Human beings have long experimented with psychotropic substances to regulate mood and foster harmony and connectedness. We could argue that caffeine, cannabis, opiates and khat have long helped make our lives bearable in different ways. However, such crude substances have undesirable side effects that may harm one's physical or mental health, trigger social unrest and weaken our current rulers' grip on power. Psychoactive substances are thus regulated, i.e. suppressed where their adverse effects may unduly harm public health or social stability and encouraged where their mood-altering properties can suppress undesirable moods or behaviours. While smoking rates have declined swiftly in much of the West over the last 3 decades, the prescription of antidepressants, stimulants and antipsychotics has grown as more and more people are diagnosed with a growing array of conditions that psychiatrists believe require such treatment. Psychopharmacologists recognise that people not only react to drugs in different ways, but psychoactive medications inevitably interact with food, drink and numerous artificial additives as well as naturally with recreational drugs. We do not yet have a universal Soma-style drug that can reliably pacify citizens by suppressing negative thoughts and erasing unpleasant memories, but we're getting very close. Arguably other means of pacification are more effective, such as action-packed movies, fast-beat music and online gaming that entertain our senses and distract our minds from real world events. Recent moves to legalise, commercialise and regulate marijuana in a number of countries, states and provinces may harbinger a near future where most people are no longer required to undertake any intellectually or physically demanding tasks, but merely stay happy, inspire their friends and relatives and act as consumer guinea pigs.
3) Artificial Reproduction and Managed Life Termination
While the first two criteria are common to other dystopian visions, artificial reproduction defines the Brave New World scenario. Despite our evolved intelligence, natural procreation remains the primary driver of human behaviour and organisation. However, it relies on clearly defined biological genders and competition for the most desirable partners. So far we have only made tentative baby steps towards state-controlled procreation. IVF normalised the concept of using fertility clinics to produce your offspring. Originally billed as a way to help heterosexual couples who failed to conceive naturally, the technique is now available for single parents and gay couples. As the proportion of children born to single parents grows, the authorities have phased out heteronormative terms such as mother and father and even replaced the term parent with caregiver. Meanwhile, social workers play a greater role in monitoring vulnerable parents and may take children away from problematic parents and assign them to new substitute carers. We already have the technology to bypass natural mothers and fathers altogether. In 2015 the British government authorised three parent babies produced by inserting one's mother's artificially fertilised egg nucleus in a donor oocyte (egg shell), a technique known as Mitochondrial replacement therapy. Moreover, artificial wombs are no longer science fiction. Some Swedish women have already borne babies in transplanted wombs, a technology which could also help men and male-to-female transgender people experience pregnancy. The next logical step is to enable embryos to grow in artificial wombs. It would only be a matter of time before extracorporeal gestation became the norm for healthy women too as a means to avoid all potential medical complications for baby and progenitors alike. The first successful human cloning may soon reach the public domain, but merely copying imperfect human blueprints will not satisfy our elite's lust to enhance their intellectual superiority. The real breakthrough to look out for will be the perfection of gene-editing in embryos, paving the way for designer babies, who combined with machine-augmented intelligence may form a kind of super-race.
Phasing out Senility
Senility presents a massive people management challenge as modern medicine has extended our live expectancy. The elderly with mild to medium forms of dementia are not only staid in their ways, but can impair the effectiveness of socialisation techniques aimed at the younger generation. Currently euthanasia has only been legalised tentatively in a few jurisdictions, but in the Netherlands some people with severe mental illnesses have been allowed to opt to terminate their lives. More disturbing is the rapid shift in public policy and attitudes over the last 15 years. The Netherlands has seen a rise of state-sanctioned mercy killings from 1815 in 2003, 3136 in 2010 and to 6091 last year (2016), which is around 1 in 30 of all deaths. Lawmakers are now considering euthanasia for healthy people over the age of 75 through legislation ominously known in English as the Completed Life Bill.
4) Sex for recreational purposes only
In human beings sex has always played a role in intimate bonding, often as a reward for loyalty to one's partner and conscientious behaviour within a relationship. It's also the ultimate expression of positive discrimination either for high-status partners or superlative physiques. All societies have sexual taboos, for while eroticism may reap many rewards, it can also cause psychological and physical harm as well as yield unwanted babies. However, once all procreation is achieved through artificial means, i.e. without either copulation or gestation, mutually pleasurable stimulation of the erogenous zones can take on a different role. In just 50 years attitudes to non-heteronormative expressions of sexuality have shifted dramatically in much of the world. Yet our private actions are increasingly subject to scrutiny in a deluge of confusing and conflicting mixed messages as surveillance encroaches on our private lives. In keeping with the contemporary mood Huxley foresaw recreational sex as lighthearted consequence-free fun between men and women and failed to speculate on the normalisation of acts that most traditional societies have deemed either perverse or only permissible in special circumstances. Of course, we could not only use genetic engineering to let us enjoy carefree sex, but also to suppress potentially harmful or unhealthy sexual urges or unleash our erotic desires on life-like sex dolls as envisaged in the 2015 movie Ex Machina. In George Orwell's 1984 the all-powerful state frowned upon sexual liaisons between lovers as such acts may form lasting personal bonds that weaken the Party's grip on power. Orwell, I suspect, remained a techno-pessimist as he contemplated the aftermath of a barbaric world war and the spectre of a nuclear Armageddon. Our attitudes to sexuality are likely to adapt rapidly to technological and cultural changes. However, our ruling classes will seek to exploit our natural desires both to pacify us and as another pretext to spy on us.
5) Division of humanity into bio-social castes with differing neurological profiles
Eugenics remained a common theme within the Western intelligentsia before the second world war. Anthropologists did not shy from ascribing different intelligence profiles to different subgroups of humanity. Among the keenest advocates of eugenics, i.e. state intervention to discourage the intellectually impaired from breeding, was the former Fabian society president and renowned novelist George Bernard Shaw. The Fabian society has long been at the heart of orthodox British progressivism, believing that the state exists to guide both the economy and the people to a better more prosperous tomorrow through benevolent social engineering. The main distinction between Fabian gradualists and revolutionary Bolsheviks was that the former believed they could bring about a more egalitarian society by subverting the current system, while the latter believed we need first to overthrow capitalism before a vanguard party could guide the workers to new communist utopia. Fabians recognised that only free enterprise could create the kind of sophisticated technology they will need to transition to a form of collectivism that satisfies all our existential and emotional needs .
The defeat of National Socialism with its concept of Aryan racial superiority and the emergence of Anglo-American social liberalism thwarted the plans of eugenicists. To counter the appeal of Soviet-style socialism, the dynamic mixed economies of the West had to champion equality of opportunities for all. By the 1960s mainstream academia and social policy makers had consigned racial eugenics to the dustbin of imperial history as the last vestige of white European supremacy. It is admittedly hard to win public support in a nominally democratic system if you deem a large portion of your electorate intellectually inferior.
Yet elitism, or the belief that intellectually superior upper class should guide social progress, has never really gone away and neither have our enlightened rulers abandoned eugenics altogether. Instead they peddle the mantra of equality and diversity, emphasising how people may be both equal, but have different neurological profiles that presumably have genetic roots. In our everyday lives we meet people who use their intelligence in radically different ways. Simon Baron Cohen, head of developmental psychopathology of the University of Cambridge, popularised a spectrum from extreme systematisers to extreme empathisers in his best-selling book, The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain. One may interpret his theory as confirming sexual dimorphism applies to neurology as well as to anatomy, but also redefining autism no longer as a rare developmental disorder but as spectrum that stretches into mainstream humanity in the form of Asperger's Syndrome or high functioning autism. The theory appears to imply there is some sort of trade-off between cold-blooded systematic analysis and the kind of advanced soft people skills that have become so important in our networked society. However, others disagree. We may use the same intellectual skills to negotiate personal interactions as we apply to scientific analysis. Human relationships are subject to many unwritten rules and often require contextual adaptations as we try to guess another person's intentions and feelings. Psychologists often refer to traits such as agreeableness or conscientiousness alongside openness to experience, extraversion and neuroticism. The growing focus on mental health with the psychiatrisation of every conceivable personality flaw such as depression, anxiety, shyness, hyperactivity or compulsivity have led researchers and medical professionals to explore the distribution of these traits ad infinitum. Market researchers and policy makers take a special interest in neurological diversity. They are no longer content to segment markets only by age group, gender, ethnic background or educational attainment. They want to build complex character profiles to ascertain your susceptibility to different marketing approaches, e.g. are you a conformist who merely follows fashion or do you try to swim against the tide and seek counter-cultures ? More ominously techniques pioneered for market research can help identify groups of people with problematic mindsets who may hold opinions at odds with our ruler's social engineering strategy.
The missing piece in this human jigsaw puzzle is of course IQ. While being more or less gregarious or more or less conformist does not necessarily make you more or less valid as a human being, a biologically determined and thus immutable IQ is the one factor that can justify privilege and greater power. In the US SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Tests) serve as approximate IQ tests. In the UK standardised national literacy and numeracy tests serve more to measure a pupil's receptivity to teaching methods than their culturally neutral analytical intelligence. However, mental health screening, which may soon become mandatory, reintroduces true IQ tests through the backdoor. Rest assured similar initiatives are afoot in other countries too, all under the pretext of helping vulnerable young people overcome mental health issues. Meanwhile we've seen a marked rise in the proportion of youngsters with severe learning disabilities, i.e. boys and girls who are not merely a bit weird, geekish or boisterous but who have not mastered some of the most basic life skills and will in all likelihood require constant assistance as adults. Learning disabilities now cover a very wide range of perceived intellectual impairments. In some cases it may be hard to ascertain if they are caused by psychosocial rather than mainly biological factors. Since the 1990s special needs education has mushroomed. In England and Wales alone there were 471,000 assistants by 2014 employed to help pupils with special learning challenges. While teaching aides may sometimes just help pupils whose home language is not English get up to speed in the default language of instruction (around 1/4 of English school pupils have foreign parents), extra language help would usually only be a temporary requirement especially as young children tend to absorb the dominant language from peers, television and online media. In some mainstream schools special needs pupils may only be a small percentage, but in others, especially in deprived areas, this proportion can rise significantly once we include pupils with ADHD who are routinely medicated with the stimulant methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin. In some primary schools as many as 1 in 4 pupils are on such psychoactive drugs. Dyslexia is another phenomenon, often ascribed to whole-word teaching of English spelling, that may fall under the broad umbrella of learning disabilities.
Educationalists prefer to explain our growing awareness of learning disabilities in terms of a more inclusive and caring society that wants to help people who in previous generations would have fallen by the wayside, ended up austere institutions or suffered early deaths through neglect. As a result health visitors and paediatricians are much more likely to refer children for diagnosis. However, other factors may have contributed to this rise, most notably the much higher survival rate of premature babies, greater use of IVF for conception, higher preponderance of multiple births (in the US this has risen from 1 in 53 in 1980 to 1 in 33 in 2014 ) and medical advances that enable severely disabled children to survive into adulthood. Whether you like it or not, in traditional societies before the advent of modern medicine any child with a severe neurological handicap unable to undertake basic life tasks would have been left to die. While many view our greater generosity towards weaker members of our community as a sign of social progress, it does bring with it a dilemma. We now have to acknowledge that some people may have a significantly lower intellectual capacity and thus be less able to fully participate in the organisation of a complex society. When the neurologically handicapped made up less than 1% of people, we could easily accommodate them as a vulnerable category exempt from the normal responsibilities of life. It seemed common sense, at least based on our traditional emphasis on greater self-reliance, that we should prevent such people from procreating as they would be unable to look after their offspring. However, now both consensual sexual activity and parenthood are viewed as rights rather than privileges or responsibilities. Few have pondered the implications of allowing the proliferation of intellectually impaired underclasses. Indeed even to mention the subject invites instant derision as a latter-day eugenicist. Yet the normalisation of dysfunctional personality profiles and dysgenics through the higher survival rate of the neurologically impaired may well lead to the emergence of submissive human subcategories akin to Aldous Huxley's epsilons and deltas. In a near future where smart robotics has relieved most of humanity of the need to work, happiness, social integration and compliance (extreme agreeableness in psychology) may be more highly valued than analytical intelligence.
6) Suppression of Free Will and Independent Thought, except as personal preferences and behaviours subject to psychoanalysis
Many high profile intellectuals believe free will is a mere illusion. However, our whole conception of individual liberty, self-determination, human rights and common law is founded on the premise that we all have independent minds capable of critical thinking. Psychiatry reduces human ideation and emotions to biochemical reactions or a complex combination of biological and environmental stimuli. By this logic homicide is not so much a crime as a behavioural malfunction that leads to an unfortunate death. I guess that's how we would explain the erratic behaviour of a robot that destroyed another robot.
Free will lies at the heart of what it means to be human, but we usually only ascribe full responsibility to adults of sound mind, i.e. only a mature mind has gained enough experience to make independent decisions. In most legal systems parents or other responsible adults are held accountable for the actions of minors and are thus entrusted with their discipline. However, the current trend to explain aberrant behaviours in psychiatric terms effectively infantilises the whole of humanity, except an elusive cabal of experts and higher authorities.
Psychoanalysts can even explain beliefs and political opinions as predictable reactions to environmental conditioning and neurological profiles that affect the way we process information. It is certainly easy to see how social conditioning can affect our opinions but some of us can and do think out of the box and challenge orthodox thinking. By dismissing unwelcome viewpoints as reactionary, populist or childish, the intellectual elite imply that we may not participate in the decision-making process unless we accept their presumed expertise. Thus in a referendum on a contentious issue such as nuclear power we decide which set of experts to believe. Yet the elite still needs to give us the illusion of democratic accountability just we like to take ownership of our ideas, which are seldom original and inevitably rely on prior art. In a dictatorship the appointed government and business classes exercise power on behalf of the people, who have to be conditioned to accept their authority. By contrast in a nominal democracy, the ruling classes manufacture consent for a range of acceptable policy options. Nonetheless we have witnessed rapid cultural change despite the conservative instincts of Western electorates. Most of the baby steps we have taken so far towards the Brave New World scenario have not been openly discussed until they are presented as ineluctable aspects of modern life. The point is while earlier technological advances have certainly transformed our societies, the next stages in the ongoing bio-engineering and artificial intelligence revolutions may transform what it means to be human.
How disease-mongering turns patients into customers
The closest thing modern Britain has to a unifying state religion is universal admiration of the beloved National Health Service or NHS for short, although its remit has expanded considerably since its early days when it aimed to provide essential healthcare to all irrespective of income. As a proportion of national wealth NHS spending has risen from 3.5% in 1960 to over 9% now, that's over 18% of government spending. The fastest rise occurred in the frenetic spending spree of the early years of the new millennium, indeed as recently as 2000 it accounted for just 5% of a smaller GDP, see UK Public Spending . And yet perversely many attribute the failings of the NHS to cutbacks rather than misplaced priorities, crippling bureaucracy and an obsession with targets. As a result of the pervasice tickbox culture millions of older and vulnerable patients are given immune-system-suppressing flu vaccines whether or not they want them or address any of the real medical issues a patient may have, while many real life-threatening diseases are either misdiagnosed or go undetected. It must seem ironic that elderly patients are left in death pathways, while younger NHS customers receive cosmetic surgery such as breast enhancements to combat the perceived curses of low self-esteem and depression. The growing number of clinically obese adults may be entitled to expensive gastric bands because their addiction to high-fat foods is allegedly beyond their self-control, while old people die in freezing homes because their neighbours could not be bothered to check. We have the technology to keep people technically alive in a semi-vegetative state until they are brain dead and to appease any perceived physiological inadequacy. Gender realignment treatment used to be a rather extreme measure, eligible for public funding only in rare cases of genuine hermaphroditism. Nonetheless, as surgical techniques improved many, clearly unhappy with their anatomical gender, opted for private sex change surgery. One Iraqi-born millionaire even underwent two gender reassignment operations, and many others have suffered from greater emotional turmoil because of dissatisfaction with the outcome of their life-changing surgery than they ever had when they felt trapped in the wrong body. Yet despite widespread public scepticism of its effectiveness, this invasive surgery is now available on the NHS and to suggest otherwise is now deemed transphobic, a term coined on the back of homophobic. Another growth sector is the murky domain of mental health. According a Nuffield Trust report, mental disorders cost the English NHS £12 billion in 2010, more than double the total spend on cancer. A longer term but welcome trend since mid 20th century has been longer life expectancy and a greater survival rate from diseases that would until recently have been irredeemably terminal, so one way or another health spending has risen in most wealthy countries.
The last European elections even saw the emergence of a new party, the National Health Action Party (NHA), which fielded candidates only in the London region. It has a very active campaigning team both online and among London-based NHS staff. They not only oppose privatisation, but also all cutbacks in NHS spending. This stance appeals to a large cross-section of left-leaning public opinion. However, their simplistic analysis has one small flaw. Government spending on healthcare has increased dramatically since 2001 and has continued to grow even under Conservative and Liberal Democrat alliance. The figures are publicly available. In real terms UK healthcare spending doubled from 2000 to 2010 and has continued to grow very modestly since, currently some £130 billion or 18% of public expenditure or 9.1% of GDP. To be honest this is largely in line with healthcare spending in countries with comparable living standards. But mileage or rather value for money varies. The USA has the highest level of healthcare spending in the world, but yet many much poorer countries have a higher life expectancy. Most notably Cuba and the US have the same mean life expectancy, but in US dollar terms US healthcare spending is astronomically higher. In the US an estimated 100,000 people die every year of inappropriate prescription medication, competing with Unintentional Injuries and Alzheimer's disease for the fifth most common cause of death.
Clearly if we expect our health service not only to cope with the challenges of an ageing population, but also to meet growing demand for lifestyle medicine (cosmetic or performance-enhancing treatment), we must be prepared to pay for it. The recent rise in lifestyle medicine, especially cosmetic surgery, has transformed beauty and wellbeing from gifts of nature into commodities. As a result fairly average imperfections, from misaligned noses and teeth, undersized breasts, balding hair, erectile dysfunction, once considered just unfortunate facts of life, are now treated as major causes of depression and prime targets for medical intervention.
That means we need to decide as a society which categories of healthcare we should socialise and which categories are best left to personal discretion (or in my humble opinion actively discouraged as they destroy social cohesion by emphasising the power of money to transform one's body beyond essential medical need). Certainly if someone endures a tragic accident or succumbs to a debilitating disease, it seems very unfair for their prognosis to depend on their bank balance or ability to pay into a generous health insurance scheme. Socialised healthcare means if you fall victim to injuries or illness beyond your reasonable control, then society as a whole will pick up the bill. However, by redefining physiological imperfections and emotional distress as illnesses, the multibillion pound medicalisation business has significantly boosted healthcare costs. As these costs spiral out of control, we risk throwing the proverbial baby away with the bath water. We all need essential medical care at times in our life. If we are generally healthy, this may mean just regular checkups with the odd vaccination (another controversial topic) and for women a short stay in hospital to give birth. Natural human diversity means we are not all blessed with perfect bodies or physical performance potential.
However, socialised medicine also requires social cohesion and solidarity among the different groups within society. While we delegate responsibility to medical professionals, at all times they must serve our needs, not those of disease-mongering pharmaceutical multinationals or invasive state apparatuses. We should not become mere customers or guinea pigs for medical experiments, but be empowered patients, who just want an honest diagnosis and impartial evaluation of medical options. If we expect others to subsidise our healthcare, then we have a responsibility to look after ourselves as best we can. If I decide to engage in a high risk activity for my own pleasure, it seems reasonable that I take out additional insurance. Why should others foot the bill for expensive restorative surgery, if some daredevil motorcyclist decides to jump over 10 double decker buses ? The point is as medical technology evolves, we must clearly define genuine medical needs, otherwise we will just sleepwalk into the collapse of the National Health Service as we knew it and healthcare will be just a profit-making business. Indeed this is already happening albeit underwritten by taxpayers and banks. As Professor Allyson Pollock reminds us "Virgin landed a £630 million contract for community mental healthcare, with no previous experience, while RBS, Serco and Carillion, to name but a few, are raking in billions in taxpayer funds for leasing out and part-operating PFI hospitals, community clinics and GP surgeries. A private company now runs an NHS hospital. US private medical companies are now involved in the privatisation process, such as HCA and United Health. HCA is in a joint venture with University College Hospital London, where it provides cancer treatment, but only for those who can pay. Both New Labour and the current Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition have turned the NHS into a front for a rapacious biomedical business.
While some of us may seem very self-absorbed thanks to generations of social atomisation and disconnection from our palaeolithic roots, most of us are wired to adore new life. All but the most callous of us have a soft spot for babies or at least are wise and socially responsible enough to give them special dispensation as future citizens for the survival of our community and ultimately of our species, but the world hardly lacks young people and hundreds of millions roam the streets destitute or laze at home with few employment prospects, largely because we have become entirely reliant on big business and big government. Now some want to depend on big biotech (an offshoot of big pharma) to let them procreate when they discover they can't have babies naturally. Based on a narrow interpretation of human rights, this sounds fine. Why should we all not be entitled to have children of our own and why should we restrict such rights to fertile young heterosexual couples?
Historically only the fittest survived. We gave each new member of our community a chance, but when disease or other calamities struck, we just accepted our fate and wished others would survive in their memory. As a result for millennia the global population grew only very gradually with plenty of regional fluctuations, periods of relative prosperity and growth followed by periods of disease, famine and warfare. Pre-agrarian communities needed large areas of bountiful terrain, usually in coastal areas or near rivers, and had to keep their numbers in check. While many hunter-gatherer communities survived into the modern area, with some remote tribes surviving into the 20th century, they were in a matter of generations either outnumbered or assimilated into agrarian societies, who developed the technology to cultivate crops, rear livestock, irrigate and, more important, store surpluses for later re-use. This enabled the specialisation of labour and the growth of non-productive administrative class, making us increasingly interdependent. While in feudal times many still had direct contact with the means of food production, most had to hand over a large proportion of their yield in return for a plot of land. With the advent of the industrial revolution, we could no longer simply draw on nature's bounty, but had to compete for control over storable and stealable resources produced by others by selling our labour. In the post-modern era we sell not so much our labour, as ourselves, for money that we can exchange for the material goods we either need or simply desire. Now, children have become not just another great marketing opportunity for our growth-obsessed business leaders, but also a commodity in and of themselves.
Recent reports in the mainstream media have lamented the refusal of some NHS trusts to provide IVF. Let us set the record straight. In-vitro fertilisation is a relatively new technology, unavailable to previous generations, and not only is it extremely expensive, it is statistically more likely to lead to premature births, birth defects and multiple births at a time when we are struggling to feed the world's 6.9 billion human beings. I know, for some socially responsible women, it must be distressing to see other socially irresponsible women produce offspring with great ease with little thought as to how they will provide for them. However, a little intellectual honesty would be welcome. Infertility has become an issue because many women postpone motherhood to pursue their career or because they wish to start a new family with their new partner. Some men also want to spread their genes with their new partner. With so many children born to parents unable to care for them, why can't infertile couples adopt?
Let's briefly consider the huge changes in family life and social welfare over the last century. Once considered a safety net enabling the downtrodden to find their feet again and ensuring all children had a fair start in life, the UK's benefits system has encouraged the breakup of families through generous handouts to single parents and teenage mothers, attracted widespread abuse of incapacity allowances and created a general culture of entitlement among the descendants of the country's once proud working class. Official unemployment figures mask the reality that over 5 million more people of working age are not in employment, education or training and neither are they full time housewives, so effectively true unemployment stands at 7.5 million. Technological advances have not only reduced infant mortality, but also automated many tedious domestic chores and manual jobs that occupy vast swatches of working classes. Housewives were not unemployed, but a crucial part of a family team, replaced now by myriad teachers, social workers, child psychologists and carers. Neither were chimney sweeps or cobblers useless, they performed essential duties, now often assigned to recent immigrants. The drive to get women into work has led millions to swap the tyranny of housework for the tyranny of low-paid office, retail and care work. Only a privileged minority of women pursue genuinely rewarding and intellectually stimulating careers, most make do with dead-end jobs in supermarkets or care homes, often juggling paid employment with their parental duties. As a result instead women have traded economic dependence on their husbands for subjugation to state handouts or large corporations. Back in the 70s and 80s many hoped to see a new era of leisure with the average working week reduced to 30 or maybe just 20 hours and extended maternal and paternal leave. However, 30 years of neoliberal policies, heightened competition in the labour market and rampant consumerism, mean without benefits and on typical salaries, both parents have to work 40 hours a week, often with long commutes of 2-3 hours a day, or rely on state handouts. The largest portion of a typical family's expenses go on mortgages or rent and since 1997 house prices in the South East of England have tripled, way in excess of the official retail inflation rate. To qualify for the latter a parent has to claim to have no other source of income (e.g. a spouse's salary). The biggest scam of all is housing benefit, effectively subsidising ripoff landlords and enabling the workshy to afford accommodation in areas of London. Hence the birth rate in the UK is highest in three groups:
Ethnic minorities with a religious and/or cultural commitment to large families, willing to work harder, proactively seek all welfare benefits and sacrifice luxuries for the proliferation of their community.
Workless underclasses who see children as a means of obtaining benefits.
Upper middle classes who can easily survive on one salary and/or employ a childminder.
In the middle are the masses of honest hardworking adults on modest salaries, who simply cannot afford to have more than 1 or 2 children, unless they split up and have children with their new partners, hence the growing demand for IVF. Many educated adults delay having children until they have established a stable relationship and pursued a career, by which time one may have become infertile, but rather than adopt one of the millions of unwanted children born to mothers unable to provide the love and attention all children need, they succumb to biological emotions to further their own kind. Thus IVF is often marketed as means of boosting a woman's self-esteem. The availability of IVF creates an emotional need that could otherwise be met by adopting, fostering or simply looking after nieces, nephews or neighbours' children, but in an increasingly atomised and fearful society we dare not trust anyone else with our children. Indeed the authorities don't trust us to raise children unless we collaborate with a whole bunch of busy-body supervisors (community nurses, social workers, teachers) etc.. Being able to bring up your children as you see fit has now become a luxury reserved for the wealthy and residents of isolated rural communities, for only these groups can afford options such as private education, homeschooling or have access to small rural schools. Everyone else's children are sent to mainstream schools, exposed to thousands of hours of media promoting high-consumption fun culture and, should their behaviour or attitude raise suspicion, referred to child psychiatrists (often mistakenly renamed psychologists) and labelled with ADHD, OCD, depression or autism spectrum disorders or simply given anti-social behaviour orders. In short even if you do have biological children, they are not really yours as the corporate establishment through its media and education systems guides their development. Recently primary school teachers have become concerned that children start school without being toilet-trained first ( see Head Threatens to Ban Pupils Who Are Not Potty-Trained). Some parents responded by claiming toilet training was the responsibility of social care workers. Why have children at all if all you can do is let the state and big business bring them up? If you want loving offspring who respect you and may care for you when you grow old, you need to spread your love and values, not your genes.
Hardly a day passes in the modern mainstream British media without a peadophilia-themed scandal, whether it be police discovering hundreds or thousands of child porn images on some poor soul's hard drive, a young woman's revelation about her parents' role in childhood sexual abuse, a high-ranking official or celebrity using his (or her) credit card to view child porn, a young female teacher seducing a 13 year old boy, a 13 year old girl, claiming to be 18, being groomed by a 50 year old male, claiming to be just 24. At times the hysteria reaches such extremes that one wonders why we don't just arrest every adult preventively on suspicion of child abuse?
Many others have commented on and indeed satirised the media's preoccuption with rampant paedophilia. It seems literally that one is hiding under every child's bed. Such is the hysteria that anyone ringing alarm bells at the Draconian legislation passed to combat this phenomenon (e-mail snooping, telephone tapping, psychiatric screening and the maintenance of extensive databases with confidential information) is soon accused of downplaying the paedophile threat, tacitly condoning the activities of sex fiends or even conniving with these social outcasts in the abuse of vulnerable minors.
Some of us seem to have short memories. As media stories about sexual abuse in religious and state institutions in 1970s and 80s abound, one wonders why we heard so little about it then. Was it because, as some might rather naively assume, few were prepared to speak out against this social taboo for fear of upsetting respected institutions such as the Church, the Scouts or social services, and only now in more enlightened times can we protect our kids from domestic and institutional sexual abuse. I would be the last one to downplay the effects of any form of physical and/or sexual abuse on children in key stages of their emotional development.
As the long-term effects of sexual abuse are mainly psychological, if we leave aside extreme cases with significant physical harm, early sexualisation promoted by the media and peer pressure tends to create an enviroment in which atomised children can easily make themselves vulnerable to atomised and sexually repressed adults. Indeed the whole notion of sexual repression is yet another misunderstood concept. Most of us maintain a considerable degree of sexual restraint, mediated by societal norms and expectations. We may view a person's sexuality from multiple perspectives. I may appreciate the sexy physique of my teenage daughter or younger half sister, and indirectly consider their suitability as a lucky man's girlfriend or spouse when the time is right. Indeed deep in the subconscience of any heterosexual male is the sexual desirability of any young girl. When you contemplate the beauty of your three year daughter, you consider her potential adult physique. We could think of children as adults in waiting or in the making, rather than mini-adults attempting to emulate the behaviour of their parents and media role models. The current emphasis on genetic psychiatrics leads us the mistaken conclusion that paedophiles (and I take the media's usual modern definition of this word) are somehow a subspecies. We simply need to identify, isolate, rehabilitate and/or chemically castrate them. But as all men are potential rapists, I submit that all sexually interested adults are potential child molesters. There has always been a sexual underclass, those who for physical or psychological reasons find it harder to satisfy their biological needs through consensual relationships with age-appropriate partners. On a personal note I've experienced both periods of frequent intercourse and period of relative abstinence, yet it has never dawned on me to exploit a vulnerable person, always seeking to establish an emotional bond and mutual understanding of the role of sex in the relationship. Certainly I've witnessed rival males, in the crude terminology of sexual competition, score with minimal effort. I've learned to take a philosophical approach, but understand some other males in a sexually obsessed society feel an urge to pursue every possible avenue for sexual fulfilment.
Whatever the media tells you, there are surprisingly few cases of loners lurking behind the bushes by playgrounds waiting for the right moment snatch and rape a child. In the vast majority of cases of childhood sexual abuse, children fall victim to adults who have won their confidence. Indeed in an alarming number of cases they are not fully aware of the consequences of their actions. Such is the hysteria surrounding paedophilia that there have been more cases of teachers falsely accused of sexual abuse than teachers who have actually sexually assualted a child. In the narrowest definition of the term, sexual assault of children by teachers is statistically a very rare occurrence, but age-inappropriate sexual liaison has thanks to early sexualisation become increasingly common. A number of cases have emerged of false accusations lodged against unpopular teachers, especially those that students consider uncool or too strict, while some female teachers have seduced teenage male students. In modern Britain most children over ten are not only aware of the birds and bees, but also of numerous sexual practices (fellatio, cunnilings, anal intercourse etc.) and orientations and with mounting media and peer pressure to go out and score with an alpha male or hot babe. That certainly was not true in the relatively carefree 1960s and 70s. At the tender age of ten I showed zilch interest in porn and on reaching puberty limited myself to private exploration of my sexuality until I met a consenting partner. Although we had some sex education at school, we learned most through gradual discovery of sexuality, mainly from older friends and relatives (ideally cousins and uncles rather than siblings or parents) or perhaps through books available at the local library or in the family bookcase. Around 1978 (at the tender age of 14) I learned an awful lot about sexual positions from the Sunday Times supplement complete with sketches. I can cite a couple of unfortunate experiences, a male seven years my elder, who forcibly penetrated me with my reluctant consent (considering myself at the time bisexual and theoretically open to experimentation) and a one night stand where my female partner was simply too inebriated to reciprocate, an occurrence that, I suppose, is all too common for today's partying youth. Yet despite times of considerable emotional instability, I had a clear view of the bounds of acceptable behaviour, whatever my wildest fantasies might have been. I became aware of non heterosexual orientations mainly through school taunting, a few media allegations about public figures and later involvement with fringe neo-Trotskyite groupings. In all honesty the concept of paedophilia completely escaped my attention before my mid teens and continued to play an exceedingly peripheral role until the great paedo-scare raised its ugly head in the mid 1990s. Did my father secretly abuse in the bath at the age of seven? To the best of recollections, the only fear I had was the prospect of shampoo seeping into my sensitive eyes for sex in any form meant absolutely nothing to me. Shame of the human body and prudishness are learned and thus culturally mediated behaviours for reasons of social control.
To put it bluntly, the paedophile scare is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we obsess about it, the more we warn children of insidious adults harbouring paedophile tendencies, the more it becomes a problem that needs be addressed by all conceivable means. Childhood innocence is a treasured time in our lives when we need not worry the huge emotional wranglings that erotic desire and sexual competition unleash. Why should a seven year old girl, often encouraged by her cool parents, want to dress in a sexy manner? Why can't she just be a cute girl, completely oblivious to her potential eroticising powers? Rather than protect vulnerable children, which thanks to a large increase in the numbers of single parents abound in this country, the paedo scare empowers institutions to regulate family units. Consider the outgoing Home Secretary's latest proposals to combat the paedo danger. Not only will some paedophiles be offered drugs, yet another boon for big pharma and the psychiatric lobby, but a mother will be able to find out if her new partner is in the sex offenders' database. In what kind of society do we need to rely on the police or social services to ascertain the moral integrity of our partners, friends and family? The term police state springs to mind. Just imagine the scenario:
Enquirer: Hello, my name is Freda Blogga, ID card number AB 2334543892 HU. I have a new partner I met at the new casino in Manchester last week. We had such a good time and I'd like him to come and live with me and my 13 year old daughter, but I'd just like to check he's a safe pair of hands. His name is Fred Bloggs, ID card number XY 6789400 HY.
Police helpline assistant: Thank you, madam. I'm just bringing up his data on my computer. Apparently we can identify your new partner, the sixth one you've had in the last 2 years according to our records, as low risk on our standard paedophilia risk assessment criteria. We have no records of any paedophile-related behaviour. Over the last five years he has spent only 4.7% of his online time, as monitored by AOL, accessing adult sites, all of which are certified, 27.6% accessing first-person shooter gaming sites and 54.3% playing poker and backgammon, again as far as we can ascertain all via certified service providers. I can also reveal that in 1999 he received a diagnosis of ADHD, which if unmedicated may statistically represent a risk factor. He seems like a typical fun-loving guy, although he did once visit a conspiracy theory site, a little out of character I suppose.
Morality, criminality and illegality have long been nuanced concepts. Illegality clearly refers to infringements of the law as it is applied in your local jurisdiction. Duplicating copyrighted music is technically illegal, but apart from denying musicians and record companies of revenue it hardly infringes anyone's basic human rights. Running a licensed casino in modern Britain is technically legal, but many (myself included) would argue its activities are immoral, a giant scam designed to strip people of their hard-earned income while raising their material and emotional expectations. As discussed elsewhere the higher our hedonistic expectations, the greater the disappointment when we fail to attain them. Criminality may comprise either acts infringing basic human rights or acts defying the law of the land. Thus the legality of bombing civilians in another land is simply a technical issue with little bearing on the act's morality or indeed its criminality if we apply the juridical interpretation of the word.
So where does paedophilia stand in moral stakes? In a society obsessed with virtual murder and revenge killings, the whole theme of the Kill Bill, it appears homocide is a lesser crime than child molestation. Certainly many Sun readers have been conditioned to consider the murder of a convicted paedophile a lesser crime than paedophilia itself. While first person shooter addicts and marketers alike have perfected the argument that no gamers would ever dream of reenacting their fantasies, the same argument does not hold true in establishment circles for occasional viewers of child porn, however defined. Personally I think both extreme child porn (i.e. depicting penetrative intercourse rather than certain body parts or mere poses) and virtual violence (i.e. glorifying and justifying mass murder) affect a person's behaviour, just like any other experience, whether first-hand or simulated, but someone cannot be convicted because of a mere fantasy or obsession until they act on it. The real answer to the moral equalivalency issue all depends on the severity of the acts performed. Does it refer simply to viewing images and fantacising underage sex (or perhaps fantacising oneself engaging in such acts as a child)? Is it confined to cases of overt intimate contact with aroused sexual organs? May it comprise fondling whose sexuality may not be obvious at all to immature and sexually naive children? Unfortunately the witch hunt mentality of the media lets us make few of these distinctions. A person may, in their eyes, either be a sex fiend or not. As a result many parents, teachers, close relatives and family friends now habitually avoid all comforting physical contact with younger children, something hardly anyone in the pre-paedo-scare era associated with sex. Just consider that in much of the world nobody bats eyelid about children sleeping their parents' bed, often into their early teens and in crammed living quarters a logistical as well as emotional necessity. Pre-school children sleeping in the matrimonial bed is the norm not just in Iran or Zambia, but in Italy and Spain. Your average 7 year old feels more secure tucked up in bed hugging mum or dad, than partitioned in a cubicle replete with technological wizardry. Yet surprisingly few young Italian adults take their parents to court over alleged child abuse. In the vast majority of cases it was the child, not the parents, who wanted to snuggle in with Mum and Dad. Then what about having a bath unclothed with your five year son. Again this was pretty normal behaviour until recently. Now the paedophile smear is at the back of every parent's or even every adult's mind. I've noticed some pretty odd behaviour in public toilets, with grown men sneaking into cubicles to avoid the embarrassment of temporarily exposing themselves in the presence of young boys, as if the boys minded, and actually inconveniencing others who might actually need a cubicle to dispose of solid waste. Certainly at the age of seven I was totally unconcerned about older men pulling out their willies to urinate. It was just the norm. To become offensive or abusive, an organ or act has to acquire a sexual value and the victim has to be intimately aware of abuse. Certainly any penetrative or otherwise painful acts could not escape the attention of any young child, however aware he or she might be of sexuality. These acts are indeed an extreme perversion, but most societies have successfully marginalised such activities by channelling sexual expression into meaningful consenting relationship between adults, however defined, all without the help of an all-powerful state overseeing every aspect of personal conduct.
To combat the very real dangers of emotional and physical abuse, we should first address the real causes, social instability and atomisation, rather than spreading fear in an already terrorised populace and turning us all into suspects.
"Today we're dedicating our hate hour to an evil man, suffering from a chronic psychopathic sexual disorder. He deserves only contempt and should bury himself under the nearest rock. This man was caught viewing paedophiliac images on the Internet. We don't have any evidence linking him to real-life sex crimes, but are in no doubt that anyone casting their malevolent eyes on images deemed paedophiliac will sooner or later commit such a crime. It is imperative that we apply the preventive principle to avert any repetition of the Soham murders. Indeed as a precaution all teachers who have not been certified as "non-paedophliac" should be witch-hunted out of schools."
This is more or less the tone of media coverage over the Paul Reeve case. As soon as the key terms "child pornography" and "Internet" are mentioned in the same breath, we suspend critical analysis. These key words represent the ultimate evil and any measures, however draconian, should be taken to protect our children from sad depressed lonesome weirdoes glaring at pixelated renditions of underage sex. How could anyone sink to such extremes of depravity and how could anyone forgive such perverts? These are questions we are asked to address.
No doubt in the coming weeks Channel 4's hate season will feature a documentary on a purported paedophile gene, causing some chemical imbalance and remedied by a new variant of Risperidone or Zyprexa. Next we'll hear calls for early intervention. I've already seen posters depicting a teenage male baby sitter and a caption suggesting he's a paedophile. Maybe some of your neighbours are closet paedophiles. Go on, spy on your neighbours, you know just in case!
Then the omnipresence of depravity dawned on me. If child pornography is such a unique evil (and definitions please, lest the police sequestrate photographs of my three year-old daughter playing on the beach), then why not arrest the director general of Channel 5? In depressed moments late at night I have occasionally briefly switched over to this channel, now available to most TV sets in the UK. My random sample would indicate a certain obsession with documentaries on the porn industry including footage of a famous North American porn star claimed to be under 16. Next why not arrest the owners of Wanadoo Internet or the predecessors Freeserve? When I had an account with this ISP and was stupid enough to use Outlook Express with inline images enabled (I've since switched to Firefox and Thunderbird on Linux with most spam pre-filtered into my online spam folder), I was deluged with spam. First it was Prozac, then Viagra spelt in numerous creative combinations of comparable characters, then adult sites, farmyard sex and worse, which I personally find exceedingly distasteful. I tried to delete these unwanted HTML-enhanced e-mails, but often images would briefly appear on my screen. These bitmaps are actually stored in your temporary Internet cache, even if you delete them straight away. I used filters and disabled images, but eventually dumped Freeserve, frustrated that some genuine e-mails had been blocked. Many porn sites can be accessed within two clicks from many high-profile news and sports sites. Just click on any link to a gambling site and chances are it will sport a link to an adult site, which in turn will cater for all tastes, mature, hetero, homo, bi, teen and early-teen and not quite teen yet. With all the media outrage over kiddie porn you'd expect the government to clamp down on the porn industry, but that's not quite the case. In 2004 the UK government granted its friends in the entertainment business licences for the provision of adult content, a euphemism for hardcore anal, oral and multiple-orifice frollicking, on 3G phones and terrestrial digital TV.
That child sex abuse can have severe long-term psychological implications is beyond dispute. It seem a bitter irony that the same establishment promotes the bio-genetic model for personality disorders like schizophrenia rather than looking at environmental factors closer to home, despite a wealth of evidence linking child abuse in various guises with psychosis later in life. But there must be a distinction between gaining pleasure from viewing or interacting with virtual reproductions of depravity and committing such acts. I'd argue that exposure to media trivialising or desensitising us to various forms of depravity, be it sexual abuse or physical harm, does make us more likely to commit such acts in real life, but only if we are otherwise psychologically unstable and believe we can get away with it, i.e. there are no counteracting social forces. Thus it is argued that people can play first-person shooters six hours a day, but never dream of killing in real life. This begs the question as to why such games need to feature blood-soaked murder, rather than other pursuits that test your hand-eye co-ordination and strategic skills. If you like target-practice, you need not fantasise targeting a human being, you can play darts instead.
Likewise one can consume large quantities of porn, of dubious taste and realism, perfectly legally. Rape of over 16 year-olds is still, as far as I can tell, a crime in this country. I suppose rape of an under-16 year-old is a more severe crime, but rape of anyone is a crime nonetheless. Besides promoting the notion that anyone not particpating recreational sex at least twice a week is erotically deprived in need of more partners, sex toys or drugs, the media encourages everyone, especially women, to flirt proactively and be obsessed with their body image so they attract the right calibre of partners. So what happens if someone fails in the shagging race and cannot control his libido, but is exposed to perfectly legal media telling him both gang bangs and first-person shooting are positively cool. So if kiddie porn promotes child abuse, then all pornography promotes rape. And if you think all legal pornography portrays acts between consenting adults, think again! Much shows re-enactments of unrequested penetration with the victim first repelling her assailant and then revelling in it.
We are supposed to believe that someone who has not only been cautioned by Police for the crime of viewing a depravity and admitted such a caution to his employers, would overstep the mark by abusing his position as a PE teacher by actually fondling teenage students in a sexual way! Suppose Mr Reeve had been a Manhunt addict instead, would he want to kill his students? I don't think the grotesque violence portrayed in Manhunt would help stabilise any psychological weaknesses he may have had, but 99.9% of teachers would be in no doubt what constitutes immoral behaviour in a changing room and most enlightened enough to realise that nudity is not, per se, sexual. The harsh reality is that it's getting harder to recruit teachers who can deal with the level of intimidation and defiance exhibited by many students in UK secondary schools and teachers are increasingly targets of false accusations. Indeed in some cases the alleged victims, and we're talking about 14 and 15 year-old girls here, have taken the initiative on male teachers on whom they have a crush, encouraged by gossip in girly mags, peer pressure and fantasies of wealthy boyfriends.
Anyway I'm off to the police to hand myself in as a potential serial killer for having endured "The Terminator II" during a long-distance bus journey. I will then ask to be placed on the sex offenders' register for having viewed multiple-orifice copulations in Playboy at the tender age of 14. I haven't raped or killed anyone yet, but you know just in case!