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SAM HARRIS – PODCAST #207 “Can We Pull Back From The Brink?

The murder of black Minnesotan George Floyd has been the catalyst for coast to coast protests across America. History casts the murder in a racist light – whether or not the Minneapolis cops were themselves racist. #blacklivesmatter and #defundthepolice have gripped the public imagination, passions for and against exploding onto the streets. Americans of all races have become mobilized by decades of unchanging injustice, refusing to obey arbitrarily imposed curfews. Violence escalated and police responded to protests about police brutality with more police brutality.

There was looting. There were more deaths by cop. Was it an extremist insurgency? Trump fanned the flames anyway. Legislatures, paralyzed by party division, did nothing. Protests shifted tenure, pulling down monuments to historical racism. Where will it end? Civil strife no longer looks as implausible as it should do, in saner, milder times. Are there forces at work willing to risk driving America into a race war?

Can we restore order? Can we return America to normality, despite all the desperate protests being misdirected by polarizing mainstream media messaging? Or will the unstoppable pressure from extremists of the culture war push America beyond a point of no return?

In other words, as Sam Harris asks in episode 207 of the Making Sense podcast: “Can we pull back from the brink?

The United States has been deeply affected by the sudden release of pent-up human emotion brought to the surface by recent police brutality in Minnesota. Anti-racism campaigns across the world responded to unrest in America with protests of their own. #BLM (Black Lives Matter) has emerged from the margins to lead an international call for an end to racial injustice.

In episode 207 of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris records a monologue to address his thoughts on the civil unrest convulsing the country. He explains it has taken a week to formulate an adequate response to the George Floyd protests, police brutality and the larger question of race in America. Like many academics, Harris voices concern about the future of the American republic. He says civil society is at risk of disintegration. He may be correct, but what a shame the opportunity to do good became, unexpectedly, a disappointing indulgence of white privilege.

Sam chose to focus his immensely popular podcast on debunking the messaging about racism propagated by the mainstream media. Specifically, police brutality as a feature of racist police departments. Legacy media and politicized new media are certainly guilty of twisting facts to suit their agenda, an egregious misuse of information. Moreover, there’s a good argument that some thought-leaders behind #defundthepolice are misguided; perhaps worse than that.

But Sam directs his rhetorical firepower exclusively on pushing back against the bad messaging about police brutality, perceiving it as part of an intersectional identity politics dividing the American Left and dragging its policy-making away from reasonable, moderate voices. His focus is not on defending the specific instance of police brutality on the George Floyd video, but on a defence of policing in the broadest sense, as custodians of the common good.

To that end, Sam devotes an hour to data “proving” police brutality isn’t only targeting against black and brown Americans. The problem with Sam’s monologue isn’t his fixation with attacking the bogus public narrative. It’s certainly true that the media and many of the protestors have become lost in identity-politicized racism. It is good to push back against dangerous populism, whatever its political color. What’s problematic is the way Sam frames the debunking: as if it’s a step in the right direction, as if by diffusing hotheads and correcting mistaken conclusions it’ll shift the needle back towards normality; which, Sam presumes, is where we surely want America to be.

Now, it’s fine to course correct misdirected public energy, if done as a course correction to address the real enemy. It’s not fine to peddle “normality” as if the very notion isn’t a white privilege paradigm. Why’s it white privilege, you may ask? Because if you were to perceive the “normality” as experienced by individual Americans, only white Americans have a better than 50% chance their “normal” life is good.

The proportion of Americans for whom “normality” is an objectively desirable life is decreasing. It has been decreasing faster since the financial crisis of 2008 but its roots stretch back decades. Sam failed to address the corrupted American power dynamics – a few passing sentences scarsely counts – and the omission is a serious one. It is the well-spring of the protests, the racism and the ticking time bomb of civil unrest; regardless of race or ethnicity. It’s a degradation of “normality” that’s slowly reaching its tendrils into the quality of life of the American heartland; white working class included.

“Democracy evolved as a counterbalance to the inevitable forces of power and capital converging on authoritarian government. Atomization has always been entrenched corporate capital’s strategy response to universal suffrage. It’s been the dominant strategy since the Clinton presidency in the 1990s. Its aim is simple: to turn those who, by rights, should be united by common interest against one another. Its standard model is to encourage a phony struggle of demographics over the spoils of an artificial scarcity. Race is America’s primary demographic profiler. Moral hazard is its main driver of accepting life as fait accompli struggle over finite resources. Competition is its word-delivery mechanism.” – Lee Ho Xinjiang (Capitalism or Commune?)

Sam’s choice of where to spend podcast monologue time was important. Most of it became an exploration of data – an objective aspiration, certainly – but to do this exclusively is to downplay the black experience at the heart of the protests – which itself is a critical symptom of the bigger problem – and, by absolving and not exposing the cause of racist police brutality, Sam encourages those who think the current gene pool of American “normal” is a good or ultimately safe place to be. It’s not good for many, and it’s not going to be safe for any of us.

Let’s assume all the data Sam cites is accurate. The entire thrust of his argument missed the point about the clear-and-present danger police brutality by race profiling exposes. The response to protest is more illuminating than the terrible murder of George Floyd in this regard. It has shown us the reality of state-sanctioned violence against citizens. If we take time to think about it, these torrid events give us a window into the everyday experience of those being profiled by race, and those who’s desperation brings them up against the strong arm of authoritarian law. Sam gives these considerations almost no time at all.

While lip-service was paid to many of the claims of the protest movements, it amounts to glossing over these defining forces in a way that covers against accusations of racist enabling but quickly draws the audience instead onto the question of misguided accusations of endemic police racism. In effect, it’s an act of misdirection, downplaying the real problem, undermining sympathy with the just causes of most protestors. The podcast amounts to divisive messaging of its own kind, more harmful in many ways than the self-serving mainstream media narrative Sam aims to debunk.

Maybe Sam Harris provides a comfort for those who’ve felt isolated and upset by the infectious but transparently stupid mainstream media, but at what price this comfort? It’s an exit lane for white privilege. It encourages passivity. It absolves us of needing to engage with the legitimate side of #blacklivesmatter by citing, with Sam’s authority, his patient debunking of bad faith extremism in the mainstream “police are racist” narrative.

It’s hard to waive responsibility for any affluent individual’s failure of empathy for the lived experience of so many millions of Americans. It’s doubly disappointing in a respected public intellectual like Sam Harris, given the exceptional “normality” enjoyed by white Californian millionaires. He risks becoming an apologist for status quo; and that is a status quo most realize is failing in its covenant with the American people.

The “normality” Sam calls us to pull back to is a “normal” that routinely oppresses over a quarter of the American population. It’s a “normal” that’s degrading in greater numbers, year on year, as government regulates less and exploits more. It’s a “normal” dominated by a profit-hungry corporate oligarchy pressing on with a relentless acquisition of power, people and perpetuity. It’s a “normality” that every American should fear, as an existential threat not only to their opportunity, but also to their freedom.

What Sam has ended up encouraging, whether by design or by accident, is a version of Edmund Burke’s wise words:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Whatever Sam’s private opinion about what’s being misrepresented and amplified by mainstream media (e.g. extremists calling on #defundthepolice to abolish all police because they’re racists), he’s using his influential platform to debunk a major catalyst for possible change. Catalysts are rare when a population is over-burdened by day to day necessity and increasingly divided against an all-pervading but faceless plutocracy.

It’s said that white privilege is a blindness that can afflict anyone, from the most intelligent to the most disadvantaged. There must be something in the epithet, when a public intellectual like Sam Harris is only able to see as far as the mainstream narrative when – rich or poor – we’re living in a system that’s collapsing under the sheer weight of wrong.

To be an apologist for this terminal status quo is irresponsible; and a little reprehensible.



WHAT IS NORMALITY? MINE? YOURS? THE AVERAGE POOR OR WORKING CLASS BLACK OR BROWN AMERICAN?

Normality is a degraded existence for tens of millions.

Normality is a life without opportunity.

Normality is ringfenced by hostile forces – appropriated justice, ghettoized neighborhoods, patrolling cops, gangs and drugs and crime, disinterested middle classes – with a future that’s poor, full of toil and devoid of basics like medical care, quality schooling, personal safety.

Normality is what’s given us Trump and Biden – two choices that are no choice at all.

Normality is red-lining, gerrymandering, unaccountable civic grift and voter suppression.

Normality is the school to prison pipeline, corrupted politicians, inhumane healthcare, militarized police, endless foreign wars, etc.

Normality has allowed democratically elected representatives to exploit a global pandemic to enrich the oligarchy by trillions of dollars; and meanwhile bankrupt millions and bring the richest nation on the planet to the brink of chaos.

Normality isn’t protecting the poorest third of society. Ten years hence, perhaps it’ll be a full half of society fallen off the map. Sooner or later, the bell must toll for you too. It’s in the genes of plutocracy’s perpetual growth.

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THE RIGGED RACIST DARWINISM OF THE AMERICAN DREAM

The difference between the United States and most countries is that America, more than anywhere else, is designed to be a never-ending winner-takes-all contest of wealth and power. It rewards winners with riches and power. It punishes losers with bankruptcy and servitude. This sometimes brutal war of high-stakes risk drove the great pioneering expansion of thirteen obscure colonies into the fifty powerful states that made 20th-century libertarian America the envy of the world.

Today, though America’s image may be tarnished, the allure, for migrants with a certain self-centered ambition, remains strong as ever. Economically, militarily and culturally America is a factor in every facet of world affairs.

What happens in America matters. What is happening across America – civil unrest, pandemic incompetence, polarized identity politics, looming threat of civil war race war – will impact the future of all countries, all races, all humans beings and all humans to be.

The everyday reality of the America’s survival-of-the-fittest society is complex. The demands of an expanding nation are very different to those of an advanced country of over three hundred million. From the latter half of the 20th-century and first twenty years of the 21st-century, power dynamics changed, hardening at the edges and polarizing away from moderation of competing interests to monopolies of wealth and power. Economists back in the 1970s predicted the dangers of unregulated capitalism playing through to maturity. Self-interest means profit. Profit became tied to growth. Growth in perpetuity needs an ever-growing sphere of exploitation. Corporations, immortal legal entities of unlimited size, make perpetual exploitation growth a reality.

It doesn’t require an evil cabal of billionaire lizards or a malevolent New World Order for systemic wealth to consume power (government, education, justice, regulations) until society itself is subordinated to the needs of economic growth. If profit is best served by an authoritarian consumer police state, the oligarchy of corporate wealth will make it so. As the most advanced capitalist timeline, the United States is going through the difficult transition to micromanaged plutocracy.

Since the establishment of government-corporate partnership in the 1950s, the cutting edge of American enterprise has been built on competing but increasingly pervasive tactics for exploiting the poor and persecuting the weak. It’s a capital v labor paradigm writ large.

The crucible of the American dream has become corrupted by unchecked, advancing exploitation. Exceptional individuals may occasionally withstand the forces but the vast majority find quality of life gradually eroded. The small percentage migrating out of the immediate clutches of systemic oppression are held up as an example, proof to all it’s possible to be welcomed into the ranks of the wealthy winners. But exceptions can only buy time if the lived experience of the rest keeps getting worse. It has been getting worse since the 1990s.

America has always been a Darwinian capitalism. Competition of interests is written into the Constitution as a prerequisite of individual freedom. In effect this has created a heritage of inequality and shrinking opportunity for half the population as factors historical and socioeconomic resolve generation to generation. For those lower down the ladder of society, life is a daily struggle to keep a head above water. Migrant brown and emancipated black populations were thrown into the survival game with established, experienced white European colonial lineages without provisions for safeguarding opportunity. The former were poor, handicapped, culturally ghettoized, facing a racialized battle from the get go.

America has always been a results based social order. Winners get to live rich and influential. Their progeny inherit privilege. Winners stack the deck for their successors. Losers get to die poor and powerless. Their progeny inherit nothing. In America, with such high stakes competition and a particularly divided racial ethnic heritage, the institutionalized legacy of past winners is an aggressively white-dominated social, political and economic landscape.

Race is the ultimate poor underclass profiler, by design and by consequence of generational wealth. Whether perceived by privileged whites or not, race is a defining influence on every interaction between state institutions and the individual citizen. How it’s defined varies. It’s a different experience for whites versus blacks, rich versus poor, old versus young.

Police brutality is the front-line of extant authority. Its purpose is the defense of wealth, property and opportunity of those entrenched higher up the ladder. Police enforcement is racist – despite the successful repeal of segregation in Civil Rights Act 1968 – because black and brown people are disproportionately poor; and therefore disempowered, at the bottom of the ladder. The police may not be racist to a man, but policing will always be aggressive enforcers of the hegemony and thus a recipe for white-dominance, for as long as white generational wealth owns the nation’s institutions. It’s a simple fact of a system of unregulated, absolute Darwinian power.

It’s worth noting that poor whites can be brutalized too, individually, just as black and brown Americans. The white underclass is part of the “weak loser” demographic in the American wealth-power dynamic. Arguing police brutality solely only in terms of skin color risks missing the bigger picture. It omits blaming an out-of-control plutocracy, susceptible to cheap counterargument citing non-black casualties of authoritarian excess. Truth is, police violence will attack any threat to wealth and is designed to target an entire poor underclass. Profiling means targets are disproportionately black and brown but there are always going to be plenty of whites in the mix.

The problem guess far beyond the police departments. The entire American justice system is set up to be a +1 for the “house”. Police, courts, bail, jail, prisons, probation, disenfranchising, national guard, civic enforcement, three-strikes rule, etc. Brutality works in defense of the winners at every stage; against black, brown, poor, weak. It’s the dirty engine of the glorious American dream, protecting vested interests from having to share their stake in the ownership of the world.

GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS

The George Floyd protests sweeping America are, given the endemic dearth of opportunity, an entirely natural explosion of pent-up energy from a vast exploited underclass, mostly black and brown, born into a reality that’s relentlessly oppressive. The deck of history is still stacked against them, despite all the fine words and promises of opportunity. It becomes clear to every young American of color that nothing is being done to improve it.

For tens of millions the rigged system is getting worse. For a hundred million plus the cost of living a decent life has become out of reach. The plutocracy that coalesced out of neoliberal economics and neocon social structure asserts itself against the population, to keep them in their place, divided: weak, poor, ideal fodder for exploitation. The top-down oppression is more intense today than any time in living memory, especially in the race-segregated urban ghettos.

Hence the breadth and the force of protest across America.

Hence the justification the protestors feel crying out against town halls, legislatures and police precincts.

But the protestors will need a plan of action that harnesses the energy of the disenfranchised millions. No atomized population will be strong enough to damage extant power dynamics and a roadmap for mass-action may be needed to achieve necessary unity. Without a plan, the protests will fail.

One of the most intractable problems faced by proponents of American democracy is the proper placement of race and police brutality, in the context of an ultimately anti-democratic plutocracy that’s coalesced out of the least scrupulous winners of decades’ unregulated corporate capitalism. The bigger picture is necessary, to direct the people en masse against the root causes of corruption, but without diminishing the catalyst for the violent passions motivating people onto the streets in the first place.

There must be a paradigm shift in the American institutions, government first and foremost, to force a just realignment of wealth and influence. It must happen without disintegration of social order. It mustn’t destroy the free market or diminish the entrepreneurial, pioneering spirit at the heart of the American dream. Both the need and the solution lie beyond the coarse party ideologies of Left and Right.

The advantages of entrenched power won’t ever be given up without a fight. Winners don’t become winners by showing mercy to the weak. But winners in the corrupt plutocracy aren’t the best of us, or the most foresighted. The corporate oligarchy resolution of civil unrest will inevitably be totalitarian.

If there’s no solution to equity across race and ethnicity and class, America is doomed. If a solution has to be imposed from above, American liberty is doomed. Whether by neoliberal inches, or by neoconservative convulsions, a police state would be the end of the United States.

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ART, INTERRUPTED

Glib liberal arts grads use social media to deride the stupid lower class sheeple for electing celebrities and fascist enablers to positions of power. Left and centre-left professionals (and students aiming to succeed them) safely self-congratulate the latest much-retweeted virtue signalling from their flare desks, organic cafes and rainbow dormitories; comfortable in their entitlement.

Meanwhile, the right wing exploiters and the left wing enablers unite in expectation of a future just like the present, both hollow ideology placeholders far enough up the socio-economic totem pole to see but not help extricate proletariat labor from the robots coming to make them obsolete.

Millennials bemoan their predicament: inheriting a world under threat of climate change, where power and opportunity to make a better world is denied by parents and grandparents who’ve decided not to pass anything on without a fight. Sure, life may have become less rigidly structured and more financially constrained than the easy self-indulgent credit rich Baby Boomers and lucky early Generation X children of Reaganite-Thatcherite greed but, kids, sharing an apartment isn’t the end of the world and maybe it’s better for friends to stick together longer. Share the burden of your perpetual peacetime.

And let’s not forget, the liberal middle class tries to help the disadvantaged; making a more equal world by fixating on open expressions of prejudice against genders, races, ethnicities, disabilities, etc. The altruistic soft left has been trying to help the working class for decades. Not for direct material gain. Not expecting gratitude. In fact, let’s call a spade a spade. The working class is never grateful. Or gracious. The ideological know the unwashed masses are their own worst enemy.

But how can the laboring classes be so fucking dumb? That fat opiate-addled herd, the bovine majority, the blue collar, the small-town white collar, the workers. Primates in the primary colors of local sports teams or else cheap knockoff versions of Kardashian Kanye sweatshop couture, voting for demagogues who despise them and will exploit them most thoroughly, spreading their genes with the brutal insouciance shared with a billion third world Catholics, Han Chinese peasants and Indian serfs.

Sometimes these morons protest. See them now: fat white faces denying climate change, blocking abortion clinics, refusing healthcare, infecting one another with coronavirus protesting against any billionaires arrogant enough to use some of their wealth to make the world better. Attacking immigrants, worshipping fame, repeating the same mistakes with the endless persistence of a plant. Played for suckers by the very sociopaths they somehow pray to for deliverance, spastic paroxysms in worship rallies for the sake of a drop of infantile self-importance. It’s a bleak pastiche, that’s for sure.

Flop, flip, gnash, yell, cry “JESUS JESUS JESUS” or some guttural nonsense loosed in waves, led by mega-church preachers demanding gold in many tongues. It’s a lunacy that’s somehow contagious, amplified cardioid microwaves emanating from gold-plated pulpits, corralling nickels and dimes in their millions into the cargo holds of private jets carrying the snake oil salesmen ever forward to the next retarded congregation.

Yes, the lower classes. Can’t live them. Can’t euthanize them. What a worthless crowd of mouth-breathing morons. It’s enough to drive less scrupulous, more right-wing graduates to believe in eugenics of the mind.

The doctrine, behind closed doors, gathers crackers, rednecks, scallies, cholitos, roadmen, working poor, laboring illiterati, itinerants, expendables, a different sub-species, maybe a throwback to the out of Africa migrations back in Pleistocene erectus times when they knew their place: naked and homeless and grovelling before tall trees and bright fire and the implacable face of the moon. These fools are living on borrowed time but you can’t tell them what’s coming or they’ll hate you and blame you and force you to electrify the fence.

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BORIS JOHNSON, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH AND CHAMPION OF THE PROLETARIAT PURGATORY

Daily Mail (2nd April 2020)
Boris’s school reopening plans in chaos as government scientific advisor admits there is ‘low confidence’ pupils can’t spread coronavirus and ministers have NO idea if it will trigger a second wave in ‘shocking and disturbing’ Commons car-crash appearance

Dear Editor,

Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for the UK government’s woeful handling of the coronavirus. Boris Johnson may an easy target but it’s Corbyn and Corbynism should, by rights, be in the crosshairs instead.

A little out of left field? Hear me out. I can make the case.

Anyone who’s been watching politics in the UK since late 2018 will know Boris Johnson is a front-man for a particular class of entrenched power, his own above all. He has been consistently loyal, since the start of his career, to his tribe of crony-capitalism “winners”.

BULLINGDON BORIS THE UNCONVENTIONAL

Media used to try identifying this phylum but got mesmerized by the upper class Bullingdon Club, of which Boris and ex-PM David Cameron were members in the 1980s. The ostentatious club’s devotion to old school aristocratic excess, exclusivity and exemption from accountability trapped journalist imagination. The raft of articles railing against toxic masculine white privilege got lost in the harmless look of things and left the dangerous substance untouched.

Boris wore the Bullingdon uniform for a time, but he was never in love with Conservative traditions. Boris isn’t a patriot or a lover of the discerning worldliness, gentle grace and respect for institutions idealized by the quintessentially English Conservative mainstream***.

Boris Johnson’s professional goal has always been to enrich his small subset of English County Conservatism. It’s an approach to political life most don’t seem to understand. If there’s entitlement at play with people like Boris Johnson, it plays out in the ease in which they integrate their public and private lives then subordinated both to their personal objectives.

Boris’s political power extends the tools available to him, for prosecuting his personal ambitions. Considerations like the expectations of public service as a “prime directive” felt by most members of Parliament, painfully aware it’s a rare privilege to serve in Parliament and that there’s great responsibility implicit in asking for, winning and then presuming to represent the trust of 120,000 constituents (or more, once in government).

Most pundits judge politicians by standards that assume these responsibilities are axiomatic. It’s a mistake to do so. Boris doesn’t operate by these rules. Power gained by public office won’t sober Boris into conforming to conventions of mature statesmanship. The thought won’t even cross his mind. Power extends the potential for achieving personal goals (including those of his confederacy of “winners”). More reach, a larger scale of influence.

Journalists, public servants, fellow politicians and political opponents fall into the “Great Power Great Responsibility” error all the time. We watched it happen repeatedly through most of last year and it gives Boris Johnson a significant advantage over his opponents. They limit their behaviour to fit the observed standards of peers and respond to circumstances constrained by a laundry list of conventional rules.

Boris, with no effort at all, probably without noticing the imbalance, acts and moves freely in pursuit of his goals. He can be conventional, or maverick, or whatever’s necessary to get from A to B. Nothing matters, except that which involves power and profit for Boris and the small class of “winners” he represents.

BORIS JOHNSON AND HIS ADORING PROLETARIAT BASE

It was obvious Boris didn’t give a flying fig about the plight of the general public before and after the general election of December 2019. It has been obvious before and after every election he’s contested. The “winners” subclass Boris champions has always walked a line straddling the reality of significant wealth and privilege, with the coarse fantasy of anti-elite anti-establishment lumpen proletariat. Boris is a paradigm of this apparent duality.

More typically called the “common touch“, this key populist trait can attract voters in their millions, especially if the opponents are bland conventionalists. Boris’s moniker among some close political allies is “Heineken Tory” i.e. reaching the parts other Conservatives can’t reach. Donald Trump is part of this subclass, as were George W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and a dozen extant demagogues across the world.

In Boris’ case, his feelings about the working class go beyond disinterest. He was brought up in a privileged but combative family integrated with Britain’s political and economic establishment. Like everyone from this amorphous class of upwardly mobile cosmopolitan conservatives, their experience interacting with lower class culture ends up affirming the orthodox British social hierarchy. The working class in England is a singularly degraded, wretched demographic.

Ten years working into the political centre of power from an albeit advantaged position on the periphery brought Boris into contact with plenty of intractable working class realities and it should be no surprise the self-sabotaging spiders in a jar lifestyle of the English proletariat offended Boris’s “winners” philosophy.

Despite ostensibly liberal, libertarian social roots and a laissez-faire attitude to grand social causes, Boris Johnson’s distrust (politically) and disdain (personally) for the working class has never been a secret. It might have been unremarkable, given Boris’s background, in a non-political profession but in public service, considering most of your own citizens an irrelevance is a sociopath recipe for imposing on and exploiting millions of human beings who deserve better.

Boris Johnson is not a man to be imposed upon by conscience about mere austerity-ravaged working class cannon fodder. It’s not the “winners” way to become bogged down by detail; or slowed down by sententious promises like “no man (or woman) left behind”. Boris is an ancestral Turk and there is no noblesse oblige in his pragmatic freewheeling term of office.

PRIME MINISTER WITH AN AUTHORITARIAN MAJORITY

Authoritarian majority was always Boris Johnson’s aim, once Brexit referendum and Prime Minister ambitions became credible. It was the surest route to the level of power necessary to best accomplish the goals of his in-group of Conservative populists. Boris publicized his intentions to make the United Kingdom a deregulated, corporate, investment friendly land of opportunity – a grift bonanza, in other words – precisely as planned by the Brexit confederacy formalized in mid-2016 prior to the EU referendum.

Getting Brexit Done has always been the aim. They sold it to the population using any means effective, whichever enemy, contradiction, fairytale or vanity-titillating promise proved popular got amplified by complicit media; any stories contradicting the Brexit objective quickly rubbished then shelved. It didn’t matter what nonsense was floating around the empty heads of the public so long as it played to the theme.

In Westminster, however, Boris and the ‘loyal’ Conservatives pursued the Brexit coda with single-minded determination, pushing through obstacles and riding roughshod over objections. Stakeholders in the business world supported the program, well aware of the stakes, and the unparalleled potential profit bonanza if successful.

It has been another theme of failing to understand Boris Johnson’s government that media and pundits continue to presume an outcome that’s bad for the British economy, in a national and average citizen sense, should influence Brexit policy. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the private enterprises (and wealthy individuals) with a stake in the Boris-led mission. This doesn’t change because some Institute of Directors publish a report warning of lost GDP.

It was never difficult for Boris to secure investment in anything credible promising to maximize the chance of success, i.e. opening the UK for systemic exploitation. This includes money to back his bid for Prime Ministerial power.

Boris’ disdain for the electorate has vindicated itself repeatedly, much to the chagrin of the left-wing social conscience. Nowhere more so than the convergence of support for the Brexit end-goal. Boris and his pals wanted to remove EU institutions (and law), to leave the UK at the mercy of their audacious wealth grab.

Most of the English voter public wanted Brexit done and dusted too and fell in line with Boris as the leader best representing this goal. Most of the working and lower class base roundly rejected Corbyn and Swinson, despite both prostrating themselves as public servants promising to help rebuild the welfare state and focus on those working-class communities most in need.

HONEST BORIS THE WINNER – HONEST CORBYN THE LOSER

The point, in any case, is Boris telegraphed his intentions from day one. Nobody can say he didn’t put his personality on the front-line for all to see. It is senseless to complain of government’s failure to engage coronavirus and keep the public safe. Let’s be fair to Boris. Duty of care for those in need was never on the table. It’s cloud cuckoo thinking to expect it to appear, suddenly because a bad flu is doing the rounds. Boris has a job to do.

On the opposition side, promises got made, to focus on wealth gaps and fix communities run into poverty by Conservative negligence. Duty of care, pushed front and centre, was the central plank of “Communist” Corbyn and his Corbynite cult. Cancelling Brexit and other shock-pandering grasping for votes defined the spoiler campaign of the Liberal Democrats. Opposition parties remained disunited against the so-called common threat of a Boris Johnson mandate.

None of these work-a-day “public servants” were credible to the lower and working class voting demographics, despite conditions that ought to have favoured their candidacies. Their failure, rather than Boris’ inspired campaign, made the December 2019 election a foregone conclusion. Boris was barely present throughout the lead-up to election day.

The choice boiled down to entitled nepotism versus unelectable idiots. Can we say it’s surprising the British voters handed the HMRC treasury keys to Boris Johnson? His subordinates, the coterie of in-crowd Conservatives, and his confederates, the big finance banker boys of the City, were winners by default. They won in the end by masterly inactivity.

It’s worth adding a warning to the opposition: if you stay blind to this failure, you will never find success. Failing to win the working-class votes was not evidence of Boris Johnson’s statecraft but evidence of Jeremy Corbyn’s intransigent conceit alienating the very people his manifesto presumed to want to help.

What happens today is a consequence of what happened days prior. Boris isn’t Prime Minister working on plundering the United Kingdom and virtually ignoring the coronavirus crisis in a vacuum. Boris is conforming to type, carrying out the same plans, same approach as always. Coronavirus neglected by government is inevitable if the country elects a government with no interest in wasting time on public health. The Conservatives also conform to type. If anyone’s to blame for coronavirus, it must be Jeremy Corbyn and not Boris Johnson.

CLARITY ON CURRENT EVENTS – CORONAVIRUS AND CRONY-CAPITALIST “WINNERS” LEGISLATING INTO POSITION

NOTE: in late 2019 the coronavirus wasn’t yet even an obscure report of a discolouration on a diseased bat’s wing. It was not in the popular consciousness at the turn of the new decade.

Now, six months later, tens of thousands (or more) are dead from COVID-19. Britain, despite being one of the richest, most high-tech countries on the planet, continues to find itself ravaged by the spread of corona. Govt response has been a lazy mix of disdain, incompetence (though disinterest) and a steady stream of bullshit. It’s not impressive. It’s rather bleak. But let’s call a spade a spade: Boris and his cabinet’s flimflam has been EXACTLY as expected. Also, given the lack of meaningful progress since being “caught unaware” by the first outbreak, it should be clear that conditions will get worse before they get better.

If you’re an average citizen, the medium-term economic pain will be a torture that’ll make austerity look like a picnic. For as long as coronavirus is fact, the Govt will exacerbate infections, deaths and disruption; not because they’re doing the wrong thing but because they’re not interested in spending money or taking responsibility for systematic fightback against it.

Government focus is elsewhere. Their only sincere interest in coronavirus is the opportunities it gives to slice profit out of the HMRC purse masked by an additional category of legitimate projects turned into big finance grifts. There’s easy money to be made in testing, personal protective equipment, fielding the infected, treating the sick, deals with big pharma for drugs and vaccines, the list goes on.

These opportunities for grift, in the guise of legitimate public services, are in accord with the recent explosion of public-private partnerships (PPPs). It’s a form favoured by the UK government because PPPs can face public scrutiny and look fit for purpose but, via tried and tested steps, be adjusted into taxpayer-funded, unregulated, unaccountable revenue streams for the big capital cabals.

Coronavirus is incidental to the Government profiteering dynamics, however much it occupies media attention and forces inconvenient public press conferences. Deregulation and public-private wealth redistribution objectives carry on with or without coronavirus.

Boris Johnson will continue to drive forward the legal plunder of UK institutions for the next 4-5 years (at least). For Boris and his crony-capitalists, the real aim of Brexit had always been deregulation, stripping away layers of accountability, and unshackling restrictions on the government’s freedom to grift**. Coronavirus has changed none of that.

“Impoverishing many, enriching a few.”

We’ll be leaving a pig’s breakfast for the future, impoverishing many, enriching a few. The principle is nothing new. British government grift in the 2020s is only different to the big capital partnered nepotism of the 1980s in scale.

And let’s not forget, it’s all thanks to Corbyn and his politburo of far-left sociopaths. Cheers, Jezza!



* Public-private partnerships can insert itself, with the full force of Govt authority, anywhere in the UK’s vast multi-trillion pound GDP economy. Legislation can ring-fence their business from competition and oversight. Newly appropriated companies can profit like a private enterprise, enjoy guaranteed revenue from a Govt-directed flow of taxpayer money, without being accountable to market forces. The only accountability becomes the Govt, who’re part of the profit-share.

** Deregulating government-corporate activity can become a neat, flexible, profitable form of inverse taxation, i.e. tax money goes from the citizens to HMRC to the wealthy corporate families (and Govt enablers), not from citizens and corporations to serving the nation e.g. public services.

*** The Bullingdon Club is a private all-male dining club for Oxford University students. It is known for its wealthy members, grand banquets, boisterous rituals, and occasionally poor behaviour, including vandalism of restaurants and students’ rooms. The club is known to select its members not only on the grounds of wealth and willingness to partake, but also by pre-university education.


If you’re curious about the Daily Mail / Sunday Mail in the UK market, here are some representative snapshots of headlines and front pages. It gives a fair impression.


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contrarian, society

21st CENTURY FAIRYTALES: THE NATURE OF BORIS, JEREMY SPOKE IN, AND CIRCE CASTING PEARLS BEFORE SWINE

Greetings friends and neighbours!

Welcome to tonight’s etherside chat.

I’d like to tell you three stories. I’ve picked two fairytales and one Victorian version of an ancient Greek story, all three sourced in a country called England in the British Isles. You’ve probably heard of this island nation. It’s where Harry Potter was born. Game of Thrones, set in Westeros, is an England mashup and the book’s plot was in-part inspired by the English War of the Roses between the Houses of York (Stark) and Lancaster (Lannister). England. Not to be confused with Britain, but I don’t need to tell you that.

I’ve titled the first fairytale The Nature of Boris. It’s about a Scorpion called Boris and a frog who’s supposed to represent the English electorate. The fable is an ancient lesson, but our version is contemporary. The second fairytale, also based on an updated classical fable, titled Jeremy Spoke In, carries on where Boris concluded. Together, the pair make an allegory for England today.

The third story is the longest. It’s a reworking of the Ancient Greek myth called Circe Casting Pearls Before Swine. It’s somewhat tragic.

THREE FAIRYTALES FOR THE 21st CENTURY

BORIS

There’s an old fable called the Scorpion and the Frog. It’s about a Scorpion who wants to get across a dangerous stream. The charming Scorpion asks a Frog to carry him over on its back, promising not to sting the Frog in return.

The Frog believes the Scorpion because it’s in the Scorpion’s best interest to keep his promise. The Frog knows if the Scorpion stings him mid-crossing, it would be both of them drowning.

The Frog sets off through the water with the Scorpion is on his back. Halfway across, the Scorpion stings the Frog, paralysing him.

As they’re both drowning to death, the Frog asks “Why?” and the Scorpion, with its shock of dirty blonde insect-hair, replies “It’s my nature.


JEREMY

A bearded man is tending an allotment on the bank of a stream. He’s watching the short-lived cooperation between the frog and the scorpion turn to tragedy.

His plan was to work with his tomato plants and soon as he arrived; he had set his old iPhone 6 counting down from 30 minutes. 30 minutes was the precise time he allowed himself for allotment tending. 29:59:59.

He had to check the stakes and the cages, boost the soil with nitrogen, adjust mesh that supported the plants so the tomatoes grew healthy on properly spaced stems. 29:59:50.

The man noticed one of his tomato plants had fallen over. At once he set to work, placing an upturned hazel V over the plant, threading mesh around the cage supports and then the tomato stems, to lift it into a recovery position. 29:58:33.

Next to the man is a fishing net on a pole. He used it sometimes, to fish tadpoles from the stream, to teach his children about nature.

The bearded man spots a frog struggling across the stream. He watches its progress while he treats his allotment soil. He sees the scorpion stinging the frog and, clicking his tongue knowingly, mumbles “mother nature is a cruel mistress.” 29:56:04.

He remembers the fishing net on a pole. The pole would be long enough to scoop the frog and the scorpion out of the stream to safety. The bearded man looks at the phone’s countdown. 29:54;58.

The man’s coarse fingers work expertly at the tomato-plant mesh. He tends to his young, promising tomato plants one at a time. 14:35:20.

“Be a fine crop by harvest,” he says.

He puts the rest of the half hour to excellent use, working the allotment and pondering how to best divide up his product between the local church collections.


CIRCE CASTING PEARLS BEFORE SWINE

Circe ranks as one of the greatest witches of mythology. A beautiful enchantress – she likes nothing better than to turn men into pigs. It is only when Odysseus the wanderer lands on her island, she finally shaken out of her psychopathic pastoral revenge.

After the Trojan War, Odysseus was on his way home from Troy. He survived a nasty brush with a one-eyed giant, Polyphemus the Cyclops, but not all of his men were so lucky. The Sea God Poseidon was angry at Odysseus for having blinded his son, Polyphemus, and destroyed all his ships except the one he was sailing in.

Now he and his men sailed on across the wine dark sea until once again they caught sight of an island. They slipped their boat into a snug little harbour, and there they slept for two entire days.

The following morning, Odysseus said they should explore the island and discover who lived there. At these words, his men grew afraid. They remembered the terrible Cyclops who had kept them prisoner in his cave, and had devoured some of their companions.

Odysseus divided his men into two groups, so that if one should get into trouble, the other could come and help. He was leader of one group, and Lord Eurylochus (Yuri-Locus) was the leader of the other. They drew straws to see which group should go and explore first, and as Eurylochus drew the short straw, he and his men had to set out and explore the woods.After walking two or three hours, the men came to a clearing. They saw a little house surrounded by wild beasts—wolves, leopards, and lions. One leopard sprang towards Eurylochus. He thought that he was about to die, but instead of eating him, the leopard rubbed up against him like a cat and purred.

The window of the house was open, and inside a woman was singing. Her voice was mysterious but very beautiful, and the men felt themselves being drawn towards the house, for they all longed to see if the woman was as wonderful as her voice. They walked past the fierce-looking beasts, who in fact were really quite tame. Inside they were greeted by a tall and elegant woman, her black hair done up in braids – she did indeed look very lovely.

Her name was Circe, and she invited the men to sit down at her table and drink some of her soup—they readily agreed.

As they drank the soup, Eurylochus said: “When I drew the short straw I cursed my evil luck, but how wrong I was! Our hostess is not so terrible after all, eh men?”

They did not realise that though she was beautiful, Circe was in fact a witch. She had slipped a magic potion into their soup, and when they had finished drinking it, she rapped the table with a magic wand and said: “Now you swine, be off to the pigsty where you belong.”

The men looked up, astonished. “Madam—Did you just call us pigs?” asked Eurylochus. But Circe just laughed in reply, for the nose of Eurylochus was already growing into a pink snout, and his hands were becoming hairy trotters. In fact, all his men were swiftly turning into pigs. They tried to weep and cry out, but all they could do was to snort and squeal.

“Now do as I say,” cried Circe. “Pigs belong in the sty, not in my kitchen. Be off with you!” And off they trotted to their new home.

When the men did not return to the ship, Odysseus grew worried, and he decided to go and search for them. He set out across the island in the direction of the smoke he had seen from the cottage. While he was walking through the woods, he met a young man – more of a boy, whose beard was still soft and downy on his face.

“Stranger, what are you doing here?” asked the young man.

“I’m going in search of my men who are lost,” said Odysseus.

“No doubt they are guests of the lovely Circe. You won’t find them in her house, but outside in the pigsty. Beautiful though she is, she is really a witch, and she turns men into beasts. If you step inside her house, she will turn you into a pig too.”

“My men—turned into pigs!” exclaimed Odysseus. “Is this how you treat guests on this island?”

The young man did not reply, but took a small plant out of his knapsack and handed it to Odysseus. Its stem was black, and its flower was as white as milk. “Eat this,” he said. “It will make you safe against all magic tricks and potions. The name of this plant is molly. It is dangerous for mere mortals to pluck, for only gods can take it out of the ground safely.”

When he spoke these words, Odysseus realised that this was no ordinary young man, but Hermes, the messenger of the gods. He ate the molly plant and went on his way.

Soon he came to the house in the woods that was guarded by wild beasts. Circe’s lovely singing voice drifted out through the window, and Odysseus walked boldly past the beasts and into the house.

Inside he was greeted by the beautiful witch, who told him to sit down and try some of her soup. While she was heating it, she slipped some magic potion into the broth, for she intended to turn Odysseus into a pig like the others. She gave the soup to him, he drank it all down, and then she took out her wand and rapped the table with it.

“Now be off with you to the sty, pig-face,” she cried.

Odysseus did not turn into a pig, but instead leapt to his feet, drew his sword and rushed at Circe. She, terrified, let out a shriek and fell to his feet begging for mercy.

“Please great Lord—do not take such offence. It was just my strange sense of humour. It comes from living alone for so long, here in the woods with nothing but wild beasts for company. It is many years since I have seen a strong, brave man like you. Come, let me kiss you…”

Odysseus let the beautiful witch kiss him, but all the time he was watching to see that she tried no more of her tricks. She called her servant girls and commanded them to prepare a bath for their visitor. They brought hot and cold water and mixed the bath until it was just right. When Odysseus had bathed and rested, he found that they had prepared a delicious meal for him.

“Come, why do you look so sad?” asked Circe. “Let us eat together and wash the food down with honeyed wine.”

“How can a leader eat,” asked Odysseus, “when he knows that his companions are living outside in the muddy pigsty?”

When he spoke these words, Circe knew that there was no use pretending any longer that she was anything other than a witch. She went out to the pigsty and rubbed a magic ointment onto the animals. Then she waved her wand, and they changed back into men, only younger and better looking than they were before. They wept, for what they had been through was truly terrible.

When they had recovered, Odysseus went back to the ship to fetch the rest of his men. They were all united at Circe’s house and sat down to a wonderful feast of celebration.

The Greeks stayed with the witch Circe for an entire month—and she tried no more of her magic tricks on them. One morning Odysseus spoke to her: “Oh beautiful enchantress—too long have we enjoyed your hospitality. We must continue our journey to our home on the rocky island of Ithaca, but unfortunately we are completely lost. We do not know these seas. Can you direct us by the safest route?”

Circe replied: “Lord Odysseus, if it were up to me, I would keep you here always—but I understand that you must be on your way to your home and your lovely wife, Queen Penelope. There is no safe route for you and your men to return home; for when you leave here, you must pass through a narrow passage between the rocks of Scylla and the whirlpool of Charybdis. Both are perilous—for Scylla is a many-armed monster who yelps like a dog. If you sail close to her cliffs, she will reach down and grab some of your men and shove them into her mouth. But if you sail too close to the whirlpool of Charybdis, your entire boat will be sunk down to the bottom of the sea and all of you will drown. It is a terrible choice to make but you are a leader – so plot your course as you see best. Next, if the gods permit you to pass through that dire strait, you will come to the island of the Sun where the great Sun God, Lord Apollo, keeps his herd of sacred cows. Do as I say—steer clear of the island and do not land there. Nothing and nobody escapes the eyes of Apollo as he looks down from the sky. If you value your lives, avoid his island!”

So Odysseus and his men said farewell to the lovely Circe and sailed on their way. After three days, just as she had foretold, they reached the narrow passage that she had described. Up on the cliffs they could hear the monster Scylla, yelping like a dog that has been left tied up for too long. As they drew nearer, they could hear the terrible gurgling sound of the whirlpool, Charybdis.

“This is indeed a terrible choice”, thought Odysseus, “but is it a lesser evil to lose some of my men, than for all of us to drown? I must therefore chart my course closer to the cliffs than the whirlpool.”

He did not tell his men about Scylla, in case they lost heart and put down their oars. All his men’s eyes were on the dreadful whirlpool, gurgling like a cauldron. The men rowed as hard as they could, but as they passed beneath Scylla, she reached down to the ship. Odysseus fought her with his spear, desperately trying to stab at her arms, but he could not prevent her from snatching up six of his men. The others rowed on, crying for their companions.

Once they passed through the strait, they saw the island of the Sun, just as Circe had predicted.

“Thank heavens for land!” cried the men. Odysseus tried to tell them it was no good. They must not land, but sail on – for Circe had warned him of terrible danger should they set foot on the island belonging to the great Sun God, Lord Apollo.

“Are you a slave driver?” cried out Lord Eurylochus. “In your rush to reach home, you deny us all rest. We are still grieving for our six lost companions. You cannot order us to sail on. We will surely die of sadness and exhaustion.”

Seeing that the men meant rebellion, Odysseus allowed the ship to land with great misgiving in his heart. They found that the island was covered in green fields, and that fat cattle were grazing. The men waited for Odysseus to fall asleep and then killed two cows and ate roast meat on the beach. When the sun rose in the morning, bright Apollo saw what they had done, and said to Zeus, who is Lord of all the gods:

“Great Lord—I am wronged. Those rascals and ruffians who crew the ship of that tricky Greek, Odysseus, have killed the sacred cattle that bring joy to my heart. If you will not punish them, I shall go down to the land of the dead and light up the gloomy underworld. No more shall I shine in the skies above the world.”

When Zeus heard these words, he replied: “It is indeed a crime to take what rightly belongs to the gods. When these men set sail tomorrow, I shall hit their boat with a burning thunderbolt.”

The next day, Odysseus told his men to set sail. When they were out at sea, the sun disappeared behind a black cloud. The angry skies filled with lightening and an electric flash shot down from the hand of Lord Zeus and hit their boat, ripping it into two. All the men fell into the raging sea. Odysseus clung for his life to the broken mast of the ship and somehow survived the storm. The sun shone once again on the now calm waters, and Odysseus saw land. Using his last strength, he swam into the shore and staggered onto the beach where he fell down, exhausted.


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contrarian, society

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP IS TAX-FUNDED GOVERNMENT SPENDING GOING TO ENRICH THE ONE PERCENT


PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP is a long-term arrangement between government and business, to provide key services or improve civic operational capacity in the most economical way. The concept borrows from the axiom that market forces are the best way to balance the highest quality for the most cost-effective price.

In recent years the public-private partnership model has been a magnet for financial sector heavyweights, lured by the prospects of large-scale profit guaranteed by government funding. Corporate power over government, focused by entrenched, super wealthy investors, has proliferated an effective method for subordinating government and public-private partnerships to crony-capitalist grift.

Big capital’s exploitation of public-private partnership has always been a necessary incentive – else why would business be interested at all – but as the model gets applied to essential public services and the government role shifts from regulation to allocation, the service inevitably degrades. Those who depend on it feel the consequences most e.g. the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged.

Lately, that traditional exploitation has ramped up to the next level. It’s no longer merely taking advantage of easy government contracts. Today, it has evolved into an organized program of wealth redistribution. Society is realigning its institutions and its social services to bleed the public through pricing monopoly and profligate use of tax revenues. It’s not only enriching the wealthy but creating an absolute division – growing ever wider -between rich and poor.

Public services provide for all citizens, but in the real world it’s the most financially disadvantaged who gain the most from state provision. It exists to help level the playing field, for the benefit of all. Coupled with progressive taxation that in principle it serves to trickle wealth gently down from rich to poor, the measures aim to find an equilibrium to keep society stable and dynamic.

If it’s honest, public-private partnership is potentially beneficial, dealing with the practicalities by using private enterprise to meet a needed service; a soft landing for public spending, as part of a bigger business picture. In an ideal version, it’s regulated by sound fiscal practices, balanced books, and subject to the best of market forces, honing the partnership’s activity so it’s efficient and competitive.

Besides the advantages of responsible business practices, public-private partnerships should be accountable to Government; and therefore, the electorate. Accountability to the voter-public means it must satisfy its intended social provision rather than maximizing shareholder profit. Being subject to civic authority means strategic planners can look further forward in time, when developing services, rather than being at the mercy of the next shareholder dividend.

Public-private partnership in its current corrupt form inverts the “for the people” government revenue paradigms. Instead of trying to provide a safety net and opportunities for upward mobility, the new objective appropriates taxpayer money into the hands of the wealthiest corporations (and their billionaire owners).

The corrupted public-private partnership model uses the same framework as the honest version, subtly altered into a mechanism for grift. It’s difficult to spot the corrupted from the authentic, from a distance.

Following the money is the only workable strategy for unearthing the details of the grift, and it’s not an impossible proposition. Much of the financial detail is public record.

The scale of current public-private partnership means it’s become an engine for massive legal wealth redistribution. Big picture, it’s an orchestrated assault on national resources, taking billions from the taxpaying public, laundering it through legitimate-looking government “investment”, to enrich the private wealth of business owners and corporations.

Public spending — taxpayer money, federal dollars — in the United States and United Kingdom is increasingly finding its way only into those public-private partnerships already subordinated to big capital.

Every national crisis becomes an opportunity for expanding the grift. Coronavirus policy, for instance, is only a failure if viewed through the lens of public good. It’s been an unmitigated success if you are part of the 1% as wealthy oligarchy becomes the ultimate beneficiary of “necessary” government investments. It’s a dream come true.

It’s necessary to manufacture some crises. Brexit is, in reality, an enormous deregulation scheme to liberate the British government from rules and legal constraints constraining free use (grift) of public funds. They had codified these regulations in the reciprocal treaties and agreements of the European Union. Brexit exits these treaties to give crony-capital in the United Kingdom the same free rein it enjoys in the United States.

Post-Brexit, the UK joins the USA in becoming a 21st-century smorgasbord of government grift opportunities. They can deregulate regulations. They can circumvent protections. They can bypass accountability. Capital transfer from public to private wealth is an established precedent but through new public-private partnerships this deregulated unprotected unaccountable model puts trillions of dollars into the hands of a small cabal of Neocon-Neoliberal backers.

The grift is happening before our eyes in 2020. Stimulus packages worth hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars, have been passed by Congress. Ostensibly in response to economic impact of government-engineered lockdown, in reality these eye-watering sums fund the biggest public-private partnership investment in American history. Not only does this shovel tax dollars to the 1% but it incurs astronomical federal debt as it prints currency to keep the system liquid. Inflation may hurt the average American, but billionaire confederacy gets richer and richer.


Power dynamics inevitably define the relationship between citizen and state. Not all government must be an enemy to its own citizens. Authority need not always be abused. History teaches us, however, how difficult it is to keep the relationship in equilibrium. Capitalism may be the best and most dynamic engine for human prosperity, but it’s a hard system to keep in check.

If the state is in thrall to a billionaire class, it inevitably means citizen freedom (and future) becomes precarious. Citizens are at the mercy of authority and authority is serving the needs of big capital, not average citizens. The public becomes a resource to be exploited. This can’t end well for the individual American!

If the stranglehold big capital has on government power isn’t loosened — at the very least so oligarch corporations can’t perpetually enrich themselves relative to the shrinking financial resources of everyone else —there will be no freedom for anyone who’s not entrenched in the 1%.

Automation, surveillance, technology integrated to impose social regulation and, eventually, compulsory subordination to government authority, will inevitably converge on a dystopian future from which there will be no escape. Ever.


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contrarian, people

“SEE IT, MOCK IT, DISMISS IT”

A little overkill? Anti-lockdown protestor armed with a ROCKET LAUNCHER and two pistols in giant holsters becomes an internet hit as he takes time out from North Carolina demonstration to order a Subway (Daily Mail, 12th May 2020)

Maybe these people are idiots. Maybe the fake rocket launcher is a dumb flex. But responding with see it, mock it, dismiss it approach, however tempting, is a bad habit to indulge. It can become a system of confirmation bias. By excluding everything disagreeable, we end up engaging only with the agreeable i.e. confirm what we already knew and block out any chance of learning something new.

The world, if we try to take in its entirety, can be information overload. We’ve no choice but to curate the data we engage with.

What should we use as criteria for curating the world of stuff that won’t descend into confirmation bias or alienation? Popularity is one metric. But the ultimate in popularity is viral content, and we know what’s viral is often bullshit.

Popularity is also highly subjective, but from the perspective of an individual at its epicentre, a popular belief feels like fact, e.g. in the country of Atlantis, the citizens believe in X. In every other country, the citizens believe X is nonsense. X becomes an accepted fact in Atlantis, and a strange custom of delusion everywhere else. This shouldn’t be a reason for hostility towards Atlantis.

Being locked into seeing world only from a first-person perspective is limiting. Most of our beliefs come from facts of life we absorb unconsciously, on trust, from our peers and our surroundings. Some people were lucky to have had an upbringing with both access to facts and an education in the tools needed to test them. Some were unlucky. It’s crass to deride the latter, uncivilized to show sympathy only to the former.

It’s good to practice seeing through other people’s eyes. Imperfect, but worthwhile. Find the point of empathy with the person behind a dispute is the key to sympathy (which makes communication better) and solution (if there is a way to reconcile the disagreement).

We must put popularity in its place. It is never a justification, if you care about ideals like truth and fact and moving forward in life. The popularity of a thing may be the reason you know about it, but should never define how much time you much time engrossed in it.

It’s up to you to pinpoint objective reasons to value the popular thing, independent of “everybody else is into it”. There’s only so much time in the day. We must make choices about what we engage. Use familiarity and not popularity to decide how much time you give.

Rule of thumb: if it’s not familiar, make yourself familiar if it’s significant enough to deserve your finite time. If it’s familiar, give less time or no time at all. No point thinking over things you’ve thought through before. It doesn’t make you smarter and reinforces confirmation bias.

How much time should depend on how important it is to your life and how important it is to other people’s lives – if those other people are important to you. There’s no point researching an unfamiliar thing that’ll never affect your life and isn’t important to anyone else you love (or hate).

If we apply see it, mock it, dismiss it” to everything outside an immediate circle of everyday familiarity, it’s a recipe for never evolving beyond the orthodoxy. As time goes by, a brain limited by orthodoxy becomes a brain marked by ignorance.

Cults commonly teach see it, mock it, dismiss it” to cult-members as part of brainwashing, protecting against truths that risk undermining the cult’s agenda. Polarized society eventually absorbs the same brainwashing. It is tribal loyalty self-policing the edge of in-group orthodoxy, ring-fencing them against a better understanding of anything and anyone identified as out-group.

By making out-group connections less and less likely, polarization grows. Everybody loses in that dead-end dynamic.

Take these protestors in North Carolina. Life experience (peer pressure) conditions them to use see it, mock it, dismiss it against threats to their team’s orthodoxy.

They invent vaccines to enforce socialist-like collaborations and then make injections compulsory to drug the gullible population. They impose indiscriminate lockdowns as a power play, to control people. They using the ‘we are in this together’ lie to train citizens to be subservient sheep. Meanwhile, a shadowy transnational cabal continues to lay the foundations of the New World Order.

There is a constant stream of media to define the orthodoxy. Daily news cycles respond to the need for detail on how to respond to every topic (according to your team or tribe). Conformity is a form of unquestioning, docile acquiescence, and through this truth gets rewritten by a political agenda. Common sense data on virus spreading, infection demographics, lockdown pros and cons: servants to the orthodoxy never engage.

Combine total conformity and constant social media conditioning and the individual drowns in cruel pastiche: whining social justice warriors, virtue signalling cryptofeminists, gun-toting anti-vaxxers, flat earth religious fundamentalists, Antifa bullying the elderly and the solo journalist, white supremacists enslaved to self-important conspiracy theories.

We can do better.

Let’s take a hot button issue with established orthodoxies: gun control. The Second Amendment is not a simple subject but most people have chosen a simple answer “no guns! guns are a prison!” or “yes guns! guns make us free!”. Opposing orthodoxies reframe every opportunity for nuanced thinking into a purity test for in-group, out-group tribalism.

The gun hating orthodoxy disallows empathy with the right to bear arms and the gun loving orthodoxy disallows sympathy with outgroup good faith. When every subject is cast in this polarized dynamic, society becomes perpetual lockdown in the same unchanging stagnant pattern. Individuals naively questioning an orthodoxy become casualties of the mob.

How do we push back?

Reforming an orthodoxy from within is, ironically, far more difficult than making personal connections with people and beliefs outside of the ready-made in-group answers. To a point, you can research without being noticed.

The protestors in North Carolina weren’t violent. They were polite enough to ask permission to eat at Subway. They were intelligent enough to be aware their armaments could threaten; and sensitive enough not to want to intimate the Subway staff.

The opposing orthodoxy casts them as “neocon right-wing” protestors i.e. gun-toting, racist, anti-vax luddites. They show no sympathy. No mention in the public conversation of these protests being against erosion of freedom, that it’s an undemocratic enforced imprisoning of an entire population. Surely even if you disagree with the protestor politics, the ideal of freedom championed publicly by individuals should be worth more than being part of a censorious bandwagon condemning the individuals in a deafening cry of conformist subservience.

Small wonder the protestors become defensive, their tribal orthodoxy reinforced by the relentless mob negativity. The anti-lockdown protests may be misguided, but it shouldn’t be hard to find a point of empathy with the corresponding stereotype of “sneering, blue-pilled liberals” serving the agenda of a perverted New World Order lizard-leadership.

The protestors are ideologically but not socially conditioned so their public display is childish, e.g. contrast of fake rocket launchers and polite survivalists needing lunch from Subway. By accepting reductive ideological polarization, we feed into it. The protestors wear the weapons in a pig-headed (but not insincere) attempt to connect. It’s easy to dismiss them as infantile, potentially dangerous morons. We should resist doing so.

We’re led to practice see it, mock it, dismiss it to the North Carolina protestors. Much of the media works to reduce them into out-group caricature, to coerce us to dehumanize the individuals. Good luck finding sincere reporting on the protestors putting their case. Nowhere in articles will the “reporter” offer anything to understand the protestors (or their protest). Perfunctory soundbites don’t count. They will repeat the same ones in a thousand outlets, typically cherry-picked to play to the stereotypes.

It’s a depressingly common misuse of mainstream media. Their gig is to turn stories into orthodox-serving clickbait for the good for the owner’s politics and the profit of the organisation’s advertising business. Provision of news is secondary. Truth subordinates to corporate direction, which is simple: political agenda plus profit, unless political would mean no profit, in which case profit comes first.

Ultimately, none of these cartoon versions of the world are helpful to the honest citizen, whatever their political tribe. Both comic strip orthodoxies ring-fence confirmation bias, conditioning the protestors in North Carolina and the conformity-police condemning the misdirected expression of public spirit. Different sides of the same echo chamber.

It should be counterintuitive for us, as individuals, to subordinate ourselves to media business model and uniform tribal identity. Yet we do, because the media model and the in-group out-group orthodoxy are ubiquitous. Two sides of the same divide-and-rule coin, both reinforces the stagnant, unchanging pattern of polarized society.

As freeborn individuals (for now) we’re not forced to have such low, xenophobic standards. Divide-and-rule is an authoritarian axiom, to atomize a population. If we don’t resist it, future generations will exist in an ever-decreasing circle of free choice.

Reach out. Listen. Research. Understand the out-group, ideally from their in-group perspective. It’s easy to do, and it does not mean agreeing with the out-group. It’ll reveal new (and better) reasons motivating both sides.

Put yourself in the group and find the angle that’d satisfy you, personally, as motivation for public protest against lockdown in North Carolina, with a prop rocket launcher on your back and a conviction the government was not governing in your best interests.

Take yourself beyond the slogans to the actual substance of why one side is right and the other side is wrong; or why both sides are versions of right and wrong. Also, it humanizes the out-group individuals in a way that undermines the agenda of divide-and-rule authority as nothing else.

Nothing in the real-world is black and white, but many things are swathes of gray and silver.

The “see it, mock it, dismiss it” mindset is a lazy affirmation that goes nowhere but divide-and-rule tribalism. When you use it, you are training a corrosive, tardive dyskinesia of the brain – the in-group, out-group habit – that eventually becomes chronic and irreversible.

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contrarian, society

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN RELIGION IS THE SOURCE OF WESTERN MORALITY … NOT

Judeo-Christian religion is the well-spring of our Western civilization. It’s the founding stone of our shared morality, progenitor of ideals like born free and equality before the law, etc.

This observation is often qualified by “whatever you may think about the literal truth of religion” i.e. subjective faith is personal but objectively, the Judeo-Christian Church’s role in Western civilization is undeniable; and overwhelmingly positive.

What’s more, the Catholic Church has been a major force in shaping world history for almost 2000 years and, in no small part, it “…codified and safeguarded many of the fundamentals that ultimately made the West the dominant socioeconomic and cultural force of the last three hundred years.

Well, maybe.

But consider the following:

  1. Ancient Greece and Roman literature came centuries before Christianity and their art, literature, law and civics had all same morality, concepts of individual rights, ideals of freedom, etc.
  2. China developed a full moral, legal and civics code long before Christianity was a blink in John the Baptist’s eye. Whatever China’s govt is today, the people know what freedom, equality, human rights and morality means.
  3. India, from which a lot of the moral codes and human rights used by monotheist religions (like Christianity and Islam) was taken, had written up and widely proliferated all these concepts long before Christ.
  4. What’s more, as far as India goes, there’s moral teaching far beyond any of the religious doctrines. Take Jainism for example. All life is sacred, everyone is born free, vegetarianism, pacifism, self-sacrifice, etc.
  5. In Europe, the Catholic Church (with the Pope at its head) was the dominant moral, judicial and legislative force for around A THOUSAND years. Figure from Constantine the Roman Emperor converting to Christianity on his deathbed in the 4th century, into the 15th-century and the spread of the Reformation. 1521 was a bad year for the Pope: Martin Luther did his 95 Theses (fuck the Catholic Church, let’s go Protestants) and Henry VIII became Defender of the Faith (fuck the Pope, I want more wives). During those 1000 years the “Judeo-Christian” religion (Catholicism) was a relentless force in controlling education.
  6. Pre-Christian knowledge was “lost” as it undermined the Christian message. This meant losing touch with Greek and Roman arts and sciences, mathematics, civics. It subordinated knowledge to perpetuating the feudal state model (absolute monarchies, endless squabbling nation states). Progress was, in many ways, put on pause.
  7. We view the Magna Carta today as one of the key documents underpinning most “Western” legal systems, devolving power away from the King towards the people (albeit nobles). The Judeo-Christian Catholic Pope nullified the Magna Carta, backing the despotic King John. This happened repeatedly to subsequent attempts to codify laws limiting absolute King and Papal power.
  8. The Catholic Church – and other religious authoritarians peripheral to the Catholic sphere – looked on all the early model Parliaments as apostasy. Muslim Sharia Theocracies of today would applaud.
  9. The Judeo-Christian Catholic tradition advocated such judicial nonsense as “trial by ordeal” and “trial by conscience” and “trial by champion”. Jury trial, unless that jury be ecclesiastical (or similarly fait accompli authority), was not favoured. Trial by jury of one’s peers was a concept only becoming integral to the legal system after the Magna Carta, against Church resistance. Remember, the Pope had declared the Magna Carta null and void. In the Catholic nations of Europe (i.e. not England) it wasn’t until the end of 17th-century that Napoleon made trial by jury mandatory.
  10. The Catholic Church tortured scientists, burned reformers as heretics, hid access to knowledge deep in monastery vaults, persecuted dissent and whitewashed away the West’s natural heritage (Ancient Greece, Rome, Hindustan, Persia, etc).
  11. The light of the “Renaissance eventually broke the 1000 year dark age” at the start of the 14th century. It was fought against tooth and nail by the Church. The Renaissance transformed Medieval Europe. It was the rediscovery (release) of a tidal wave of Classical and global art, literature, science, mathematics, philosophy, political thought, etc. Hence the name “Renaissance” which means rebirth, renewal, revitalisation.
  12. The Renaissance may not have happened at all but for the uncovering of ancient ruins from the Ancient Greeks and Romans periods. The prevailing spirit of rebellion against orthodox religious dogma (by dint of the growing Reformation) embraced the Classical revelation. Architecture and art once discovered and publicized couldn’t be denied. The Church couldn’t put the genie back into the bottle.
  13. Monasteries were forced to give up their treasure trove of classical manuscripts. Gutenberg’s printing press (and successors) proliferated information to every city and university. To the lay 14th/15th-century Europeans it must’ve been like us today discovering an alien civilization buried underground, with tech way advanced of our own.
  14. By the 17th and 18th-century, the Renaissance led to the Age of Reason and Enlightenment. This is a turning point in the history of the human species. It’s the rebirth of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. It signalled the rediscovery and formulation of the scientific method. The Judeo-Christian Church (Catholics, pre-18th century Protestants, Muzzies, Orthodox Jews) resisted every step of the way.
  15. From the start of the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, the modern world starts to come together. Europe (soon joined by America) accelerate towards the Industrial Revolution. In the early Renaissance, the Muslim caliphate was at the same level (or slightly higher level) as medieval Europe. By the Age of Reason, the Muslim theocracies had blocked the flow of knowledge and free-thinking science. Europe (and America) industrialized, innovated, evolved; and took over the world.
  16. The drive for freedom unleashed by widespread enlightened resistance to Church authority (and absolute monarchy) released an explosion of pioneering, independent individualism. The new libertarian technological spirit transformed European and American society. The colonisation of the New World had been a gentle agrarian trickle for centuries but, by the mid-18th century, it had been nourished on the same expansionist pioneering spirit.
  17. The 13 Colonies flourished. Progress was rapid. Americans of the late 18th century were an educated class to match any European equivalent. Independence from stolid old King George III was inevitable; and as popular with England’s cosmopolitan middle class as it was in America. Church influence was sidelined. Catholic Church hegemony was over. All bar one signatory of the Declaration of Independence were Protestant or non-Catholic.
  18. The Founding Fathers were all Protestant. Thomas Jefferson, in framing the Declaration of Independence and the new American Constitution, wrote that he based it on Aristotle & Cicero (Classical Greek/Roman, pre-Christian), and Locke & Sidney (Republican non-Catholic English). It’s a neat symbolism of the union of the two great threads of “Western” history of thought. The Classical restored to create the free-thinking Enlightenment. The first, from before the Judeo-Christian Church stranglehold, the second, after its grip had been broken.
  19. America wasn’t the only place to accelerate during this period. The “Glorious Revolution” in the UK came in 1689. The French Revolution happened in 1789. Dozens of smaller countries went through similar paradigm shifts, from absolute monarchy to some form of representative government (fledgling democracies).
  20. This altered 18th-century world of European and American proto-industrialized nations, embracing a new culture of science, education, innovation and individual freedom, owed everything to the momentum of the Renaissance and its eventual explosion into the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, fuelled by a unique release of energy that had been stifled by over 1000 years of Jude0-Christian Catholic stagnation.

“I don’t think Judeo-Christian values or institutions are responsible for the Western moral compass. I don’t think Judeo-Christian values or institutions were responsible for our defining cultural, technological, social or economic dominance of the world.” – a student of history (2020)


On the right, the Judeo-Christian middle-ages masterpiece Pope Innocent III. On the left, the portrait of Pope Innocent X shows Renaissance painters have integrated the rediscovered Classical knowledge.

[note: Interestingly, there was no Catholic ambassador from the Pope (Vatican) in the United States until 1848. The young American government wouldn’t accept a priest of a Catholic theocratic state as a valid ambassador. The Founding Fathers weren’t simply anti-Catholic, they were anti-theocracy. With good reason.]


[interesting notes, perhaps, even if you’re not a Catholic (or Christian) by faith.]

Matthew 16:18 – Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Peter in Ancient Greek is Petros, from “petra” which means ROCK. Simon Peter is referenced. It can confuse people. Why two names? Simon in Aramaic is “Kepa” which is a literal translation of “petra” i.e. ROCK.

Rock Rock peddled his proto-Christian message for 34 years after Christ’s death and eventually by 64 AD had turned up in Rome – capital of the Roman Empire – to preach his gospel. He was unlucky enough to arrive at the same time as the Great Fire of Rome, which burnt a bunch of Roman landmarks. Emperor Nero blamed the “accursed Jew” and promptly executed Rock Rock. He was crucified upside down – an homage to Jesus, an exhibition of humility, and good fodder for the martyrdom.

300 years later after the apostle’s crucifixion, Simon Peter Rock Rock’s burial place became the site of the first San Pietro (St Peter’s) Church. This most holy of churches stood from the 4th to the 16th century.

Around it the Vatican City was built. The Vatican, an independent nation, is the seat of power of the Catholic Church. It is the Apostolic Palace, residence of the Pope. The Pope is the current head of the Catholic Church, in a line of apostolic succession stretching back almost 2000 years to St Peter himself. He’s known as “the Vicar of Christ on Earth” and Bishop of Rome. The Vatican also houses the college of Cardinals and marks the capital of the Holy See. Whatever the fuck all that means.

The magnificent San Pietro Church we know today was constructed in the high Renaissance, in the 16th century. It remains a formidable work of human enterprise. It’s the largest church on the planet. Its walls and ceilings are covered in masterpieces, e.g. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. It houses the Vatican vaults, the Church record, the resting place of dozens of Popes. It’s perhaps the richest collection of manmade artifacts (not to mention gold, silver, precious gems) in the world.

If Hagia Sophia is the iron fist of Islam slammed down on the Golden Horn, at the nexus of Europe and Asia, then San Pietro is the Christian rock of ages, built on foundations around the tomb of the apostles, to flip the bird at the dark hordes of Mohammed, the Turks, the Persians and the billions of heathen Asians swarming thousands of miles East through India, China, unto the Pacific Ocean.



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contrarian, psychology, society

GOOD GUYS vs BAD GUYS IS COMPELLING GROUPTHINK, DESIGNED TO MISDIRECT PUBLIC ATTENTION, TO CONCEAL AMORAL PROFIT-FIRST EXPLOITATION BY ENTRENCHED POWER

Friend versus enemy, faithful versus corrupted, good versus evil: choose your favorite dichotomy because it doesn’t matter which you pick. They’re all versions of the same lowest common denominator melodrama, designed to misdirect our attention (and our faith, our emotions) in dead-end rhetorical battles. Governments, corporations, institutions, vested interests, city halls, interest groups, lobbyist organizations: all use the same methodology.

Take the election circus. Competing forces appear locked in fierce debate over the vital well-being of the electorate. Frontline politicians argue diametrically opposing positions based on cherry-picked versions of the facts, driven by conviction they’re essential to fulfilling their own predictions of future triumph; or else doom. Party supporters work hand in glove with media local affiliates, regulating info flow, amplifying “loyal” pro-active useful content. The band had never expected its fan base to last so long.

So much energy, so much coverage, by so many people.

It becomes impossible for individuals like you and me to ignore; yet the entire paradigm is a waste of time. Every moment spent locked in the polarized tribal dynamic is a moment surrendered to a designed misdirection, energy better placed elsewhere but consumed by ephemeral ‘storm-in-a-teacup’ rhetoric.

Democracy is a much-abused concept.

It’s used to justify specific actions that affect a population, but for which no direct popular mandate exists. “Extended coronavirus lockdown is the democratic will of Americans,” say governors and government. This is patently nonsense since no election involving the coronavirus has occurred.

It’s used to misdirect an absence of democracy in the decision-making power dynamics of government. “The British electorate chose Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in 2019, therefore, because Boris Johnson wants the UK to become a deregulated cash-cow for a cabal of big capital corporate raiders, the government will declare that the British public wants to cut up the National Health Service for sale, grifting trillions of dollars in tax revenues into the hands of private business.” No voter voted for that.

The reality of universal suffrage in most modern democracies, especially those with a winner-takes-all electoral system, is soft-face authoritarian government by corporate political party monoliths.

America, Britain and most of Europe use versions of this corrupted democratic model. They’re saved from the most egregious extremes of totalitarianism (e.g. China, Russia, North Korea) by a slender drop of real democracy: every two, four or five years (depending on the country) the citizens may vote. Election day is the only day America and Britain can claim to be democratic societies.

The correct definition of democracy isn’t the vote. It’s the accountability.

Entrenched power uses misdirection to amplify the democratic moment – the election day – into its frontline tactic to keep the public narrative busy. It coerces public discourse to fixate on the voting day, dredging up arguments about electoral college, party tribalism, constituency boundaries, etc, to frame the ballot in the tried-and-tested polarized, oppositional terms. Same old, same old.

The correct definition of democracy isn’t the vote. It’s the accountability.

Contrary to whatever superficial ephemera is occupying the front pages of public debate, it’s the evasion of accountability that’s the fundamental agenda of government and “opposition” – of all power dynamics. Nothing else matters unless this accountability is ring-fenced away from the electorate; especially on voting day.

Democracy without accountability has become a ‘lie in the title‘ paradigm, and democracy without accountability has created today’s world. Election day IS a moment of risk, for entrenched power, but never one to miss an opportunity, the ballot gets appropriated into fuel for the engine of propaganda misdirection, i.e. an absolute mandate for the 364/365 days wielding power without accountability. Democracy in name only, a ‘lie in the title‘ paradigm.

We elected Donald Trump, President of the United States, in November 2016. Trump rhetoric has dominated the public face of politics in America ever since and it’s easy to get lost in the nonsense excess of his hyperbole. Sometimes it translates into policy, but often not. Most of the legislation enacted during the Trump first term has been bipartisan, kept away from public scrutiny (and therefore accountability). Trump is a useful cat’s paw for evasion of accountability.

It may be helpful to see the national conversation as an organically developing pantomime, set in motion decades ago. It’s populated by a comic-strip cast of self-serving professional salesmen and saleswomen, heading up a vast propaganda machinery, working for big capital and entrenched lineage corporate wealth.

The drop of democracy (election day) becomes a stamp of legitimacy, the consent of millions of faithful suckers, used as a robust modern-day stability mechanism built to sweep Americans from one election to the next; without having to account to them in any genuine sense. Keep the public busy. Keep the public away from interfering with the plans of entrenched power. So long as this continues, the unelected corporate aristocracy can run the country, exploit the public and grow in wealth (and power) with no meaningful check on their ambition.

But let’s say a group of like-minded, enlightened citizens wanted to affect these established power dynamics. Perhaps they want to help a demographic of poor, disenfranchised Americans. The task would be challenging.

Organised, entrenched power and its monopoly of institutional machinery of authority, including politicians, law enforcement and the media, can resist push-back from the population. Resistance, if there’s a threat, is aggressive and ruthless.

The enlightened citizens will have to compete with extant power in the arena of public propaganda. Focus will resolve into a battle on election day, if the enlightened citizens don’t get bought out or stamped out beforehand. The electorate will face media-curated versions of the citizens as insurgents, rebels, immoral, scandalous, faithless, whatever dirt that sticks.

On the other side will be the establishment candidates, advocated as safe, devil-you-know choices, backed by grand public-facing facades of political institutions and playing on ingrained conventions. Mistakes by the enlightened citizens get highlighted, transgressions punished by police enforcers and court-imposed letter of the law.

The structures of control, under the command of an authoritarian class, enjoy the implicit threat of standing military force. Don’t make the mistake of being lulled into a false sense of security by the feeble politician-salesmen. The establishment is not a weak setup. It is well-manned, well-managed, and it knows the territory intimately.

Meanwhile, with or without a non-establishment candidate on a particular election day, the atomized public remains perpetually mesmerized by arguments between manufactured tribes. Individuals get inevitably drawn into a team identity, kept in line by the respective team enforcers. It’s a lowest common denominator groupthink.

Options are limited. Long-term infiltration of established authoritarian structures by honest public servants is highly unlikely. Grift and in-group out-group tests will exclude the honest candidate as a likely disruption. All-out rebellion is implausible. It would be ineffective. The only workable point of push-back is that rare election day, if it offers an honest choice at all. It’s the only window of accountability.

Needless to say, party political activity reaches fever pitch around the election day, converging its considerable resources (media, influencers, politicians, party machines, local foot-soldiers, canvassers, etc) to nail down the desired result – if possible – but, above all, work in conspiracy with the established political establishment to resist accountability.

Good versus Evil tribalism is the frontline of entrenched power’s misdirection of the voter public. It’s the go-to dynamic for pushing an electorate into dead-end polarizations. It’s an inertia guiding debate into harmless internecine, propagated by media-friendly channels. It’s organic, sympathetic to the need for clickbait personality headlines – gossip fodder, engaging without needing to know anything – and a perpetual catalyst for personal flashpoints of conflict that quickly subsume the original disagreement and, in so doing, emphasize the tribal battle-lines. What a dirty, cynical dynamic; and difficult to resist.

Until a significant proportion of the electorate sees through the false polarization bullshit, throws away groupthink tribalism, and, instead, somehow holds public discourse steady on interrogating facts, exposing demonstrable details and above all apolitically imposing ACCOUNTABILITY, the current authoritarian exploitation of cannon fodder voter-millions will continue. Without end.

Welcome to the House of Fun.

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contrarian, pushback, society

POST-MODERNISM HAS POISONED THE ANGLO-AMERICAN-EUROPEAN TRADITION OF DIVERSE GENIUS AND INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM

THE ORIGINS OF POST-MODERNISM

From innocuous roots in late 1940s post-modernism has spread like a steady but relentless virus. It’s become a kind of formalised absolution from having to hold oneself to challenging interpersonal standards while at the same time calcifying lack of ambition and an intolerant denial of excellence. It is kept virulent by successive generations of committed well-trained advocates from a cabal of universities, media and other socially influential institutions, fed by a seemingly bottomless well of intellectual vanity and tenured self-interest.

Perhaps it’s an inevitable phase in the adolescence of universal suffrage, facing off the freedom to choose passive subjugation to predictable self-indulgence against the unpredictable dynamic world of science and progress. The former is the fantasy domain of the many, the latter a reality dominated by the few. We can’t all understand the calculus of relativity or the complex nuance of Shakespeare. Post-modernism has expanded precisely because it serves as a simpatico doctrine of the many. In a nutshell, that’s its temptation but, unless we want Western society to reverse itself blithely into terminal decline, it’s a temptation we need to expose and eradicate. Urgently.

Individuals aspiring to creative genius will largely fall short of that standard. Some, like intelligent university professors, will have the critical thinking necessary to see this failure as their own, to recognise in themselves personal shortcomings or, most telling, an insurmountable lack of talent. How could these scholars, accustomed to success, reconcile falling short of genius when it’s the thing they worship more than any other human characteristic? Post-modernism became the answer. It was the means to an end and it has served successive generations of post-war career academics – and their students. Just as the Nazis had bastardised Nietzsche to justify Aryan eugenics, the early post-modernists corrupted Heidegger’s rollback of temporal ontology (as the defining way to think about the world) to legitimise a rejection of the significance of all individual human beings, genius included, in the creative process. The poison entered the veins of post-war academia.

Reality is neither the subject nor the object of true art which creates its own special reality having nothing to do with the average “reality” perceived by the communal eye.

Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)

POST-MODERNISM BECOMES A SICKNESS

In the years after the second world war, societies in great flux demobilized into an altered citizen spirit. Postmodernism was not at first a pervasive dogma. It incubated in the universities as a convergence of genuinely blue sky sociology studying conditions in the immediate aftermath of war with philosophy turned introspective in search of meaning in a post-industrial relativistic universe. Philosophy and sociology might have kept themselves uncorrupted were it not for the arts faculties – far more numerous and influential in an everyday sense – having been caught between a Joycean rock and a Woolfish hard place. Post-modernism calcified into a cross-faculty movement that’s been consolidating power ever since. Vladimir Nabokov, the most famous emigre after Einstein, warned us what was going to happen in his greatest work, Pale Fire.

Career academics, their fragile conceits needing a system of protection against the genius of modernism, were driven to post-modernist ideas which they quickly and self-servingly appropriated. Back in the 1950s “Beat” poetry was emerging in Columbia University and it clashes almost immediately with the academic authorities. Colleges closed ranks to dispossess the new wave. Some version of this dichotomy played out in a hundred academies: tenured professors in the halls, modernist genius in portraits on their walls, the vital individuals who might’ve been their natural successors shut out, excluded, forced outside the institutions.

Battle lines were rapidly arranged. Post-modernism formalised into the armour chosen by the academy. The shut out was successful and it didn’t take long for the new ideology to spread.

The early motivation of academics may have been wrong but to counteract the poison we mustn’t see it as an incomprehensible weakness of character. Perhaps if it had been able to admit a little nuance – like humility – the future would have been different. It wasn’t able to do this, however. Committed to a reductive perversion of an intellectual relativism, quick to define the opposition in counter cultural terms, increasingly partnered with state expediency, things only got worse. The next generations of academics were well-organised cherry-picked successors greedy for authority but trained to play by the rules. Professional iconoclasts, some in pursuit of misguided but sincere notions of democratising the academy, established hostility to received wisdom and acted – in teams – to bring to heel outlier excellence. What began as a movement contained within a handful of university faculties marched forth like a new religion.

Post-modernism is particularly pernicious, once sufficiently widespread, because it gives faithful advocates a multipurpose toolkit designed perfectly for its continued spread and consolidation of degraded culture. The toolkit is subtle and subject specific, cynical and utilitarian, honed – ironically – by thousands of extremely clever social engineers, the most effective personnel of corporate academia. It covers jargon and linguistics, provides litmus tests to gauge friends and enemies, divide and conquer transformation of universities into safe zones promising accreditation and widespread publicity so long as there’s no gainsay of post-modernism’s unwritten rules. Like in a masonic lodge, would-be employees of current post-modernist doctrine (and goals) receive informal schooling in identifying one another and formal education in suitable, utilitarian techniques.

…for better or worse, it is the commentator who has the last word.

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)

POST-MODERNISM AS NEOLIBERAL FREEMASONRY

Post-modernism cross-pollenated into the outside world through successive waves of graduates to colonise mainstream media. Its spread and tenacity is testimony to a lasting only too human appeal. Temptation to succumb to one’s worst instincts, when the alternative is complex, difficult and uncertain, will follow a person throughout their career. It’ll remain readily at hand should an academic or artist or media hold-out go through periods of self-doubt or crises of confidence. Taken as a movement, this system of pressure and solution builds to an inevitable coda: the choice between principled, independent hardship alone and acceptance, plenty and security in the welcoming club. From the universities to the mainstream, neoliberal economics became the vehicle for post-modernist pragmatism that needed no guns and cudgels to exert pressure and achieve its ends.

With a few exceptions, it had been left to America to take the lead in cutting edge academic and cultural continuity from the 1950s until as late as the 1970s. Its indigenous faculties had been bolstered by a diaspora of talent from Europe before the Second World War and this continued once it was over. The professionalisation of American universities as a vocational training rather than a nurturing of autonomous intellectuals brought market forces into the global academy as never before. Europe and now East Asia may no longer be behind North America but the parochial dollars-and-cents ambitions of the baby boomer period has impressed itself deeply on the institutions. Post-modernism was and is the mechanism of delivery, free market neoliberalism the lubricating economics, knowledge serving consumerism the marketing ambition of its moving parts.

But why is this particular club so bad? Isn’t post-modern neoliberalism better than communism or totalitarian fascism, for instance? Couldn’t post-modernist principles be liberating for young minds stifled by the straightjacket canon of past generations? These questions could have been debated until the 1980s, though even then the post-modern authorities were  children of diminished progenitors. Sadly, the nature of the temptation offered by today’s post-modernism is too strong for most to resist. Early post-moderns began as pale fire apologists, cowed by the very proximate challenge of modernist genius. The later gatekeepers were schooled from the outset to see the world through a lens predefined to obscure past genius – strip individuals through group identity conflations – and focus increasingly on well-branded more up-to-date alternatives that looked right and received official accreditation but were stripped clean of any off-narrative ambiguity.

Half a century later the post-modernist network is well established throughout the world, organised in a macrostructure that resembles – more than anything else – the cooperative imam-led cells of Islam than any prior cultural movement. The academy has been locked in a stranglehold in the same way as certain industries were dominated by secret freemason lodges. Outsiders, outliers and would-be rebels can be pinpointed and delegitimised with remarkable precision, without compromising any individual mason. Moreover, there’s no need to instruct how to exculpate rebels as late as the time of their actual rebellion. Everyone in the lodge has the toolkit and already knows how to use it against objectionable targets, singling out early signs of trouble and reacting to quell problems long before any public manifestation.

… just as early industrial capitalism moved the focus of existence from being to having, post-industrial culture has moved that focus from having to appearing.

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (1967)

TRUTH IS LIES – LOVE IS HATE – PEACE IS WAR – PLENTY IS STARVATION

Nowadays, cultural conformity has aligned with conservatism to appropriate tradition, hardened to the task by inevitable periods of counter cultural push-back. Converted to the tenets of post-modern anti-individualism, the institutions have been ready from early-on, to defend against any flash of genius threatening to be a legitimate successor of those modernist luminaries e.g. Jack Kerouac and the beats, Tennessee Williams and the Southern renaissance, James Baldwin and the civil rights movement. Individuals like these were corralled onto the front line and forced into confrontations with authority having been tarred with the counter culture brush and therefore singled out as a threat. The post-modernist arsenal learned to aim using those first waves of targets. The insidious schism between the academy and the individual was transposed onto a global narrative of culture versus counter culture that’s been polarising ever since.

The battle for the hearts and minds of the many academic institutions and plethora of media outlets, print, radio, television, film was irreparably divisive by the end of the 1960s. Vietnam, hippy anti-nationalism and student protests against corporate consumerism (e.g. the Situationists, the Weather Underground) brought the power of the state into direct conflict with the individual. The timing was fortuitous and an ideological conflict already well developed within the universities made post modernists natural and instructive bedfellows for those pushing the agenda of state authority. Both saw their chance: to permanently marginalise dissenters, including untrustworthy writers and auteurs and non-conformist professors; to train subsequent generations properly as ‘good’ future citizens, to nip any discord in the bud. Worst of all, anyone slipping through the net and presuming to exhibit genius out of context became a threat to the mainstream social order, same as those early ‘rebels’, subject to a takedown by every means available in the formidable state sanctioned post-modernist playbook.

The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

DEATH OF THE AUTHOR GONE MAINSTREAM

Roland Barthes, French philosopher and literary critic, provided the seminal concept that allowed post-modernism’s craven iconoclasm to market itself into mainstream culture. His 1962 work Le Mort d’Auteur “Death of the Author” gave credibility to the academy’s anti-individual disdain of virtuosity in art, letting them claim the hard won life-works of artists and scientists without having to acknowledge those responsible; and this evade the challenge of their implicit high standards. Celebrity was permissible, even desirable, but was not allowed to be a democracy of talent. There would be a risk of making influential off-narrative platforms if it boiled down to a meritocracy ‘won’ by genius and hard work. This couldn’t happen. Personal contributions had to be aggregated into group identity unless the individual was a signed up member of the academy. Barthes and other misrepresented thinkers were tailored to meet these necessary terms.

The #metoo phenomenon is the latest diseased manifestation of the post-modernist toolkit. It was born of feminism and a genuinely authentic attack on misogyny and endemic patriarchy, turned into another way to bring down experts and excellence unwilling to confirm to the post-modern dictates of entrenched groupthink – in this case selected by and aimed at dominating anything involving gender.

There are islands of resistance to post-modernism dotted around the academy, media and mainstream culture. There remain leftover schools of thought, created out of sincere, useful ideas and not seeking to feed the growing monolith, like structuralism, post-structuralism and deconstruction. These more authentic strains in philosophy and literary theory went through their own smaller conflicts and in most cases ended defeated or compromised by the powers-that-be. Leading lights like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Noam Chomsky were marginalised in plain site, separated from the mainstream of the academy into esoteric ‘special’ departments — a standard measure in the post-modernist manual when dealing with intransigent voices grown too noisy to gag or too marketable to de-platform off the public stage.

What the public wants is the image of passion, not passion itself.

Roland Barthes, Mythologies (1957)

The most expedient aspects of post-structuralism and, increasingly, any new idea cropping up in academic circles, are identified fast then, notwithstanding having to deal with those stubborn individuals refusing to bend knee, censored of anything off-narrative and brought into the post-modernist mainstream. Post-structuralism was cannibalised into one of the most insidious movements of the latter culture war years: identity politics.

Feminism, civil rights, the fight against homophobia, legitimate movements all but in the hands of post-modern spin doctors were twisted to serve different goals and increase the firepower of the academy and its allies, the ambitious arbiters of culture. In fact, these particular appropriations have been the most significant criminal abuses of the post-modernist cabal.

The appropriation of feminism, sexuality and race should be a practical warning of the ultimate bankruptcy of post-modern ideology. Great women or great gay artists or genius who happen to be non-white aren’t freed from the shackles of traditional racist homophobic white male-privilege, to aspire to whatever greatness might be attained by their individual unfettered potential. Instead this potential is cut away, just as it is with any other presumption of genius, not by legislated prejudice but by the infinitely more subtle methods of the neoliberal post-modern toolkit.

I didn’t fight to get women out from behind vacuum cleaners to get them onto the board of Hoover.

Germaine Greer (1939-)

Women are demeaned into ciphers, gays are flatlined and remade as icons all face no substance. Black writers, worst of all, are forced to be poster boys and poster girls, ring-fenced into representing only a narrow race-brand identity that’s more loathsome an apartheid than any township ghetto because it’s intellectual and cultural rather than just an segregation of wealth and physical space.

Stereotypes that never represented reality become lowest common denominator polytypes on which an identity is anchored, and against which anyone presuming to be part of the group must be judged. Transgender communism is one such corollary of identity politics: children forced into binary choices because they’ve shown a certain preference, transgender adults tied to levels of ‘worth’ defined only by the extremes a person will go to fit the ‘trans’ identity monolith.

Crossover regions where multiple post-modern identities must reach consensus to occupy unchallenged are seamlessly integrated into their respective groupthink politics and, even here the difference between an authentic movement and an identity political oppression using divide and conquer is clear: mark the considered responses of genuine feminists like Germaine Greer versus the misrepresentation and standard teardown tactics of self-appointed transgender leaders.

At best the new oppression is coercive rather than violent but great art and science is often inspired by oppression. It’s certainly always created by distinctive individuals and to be deprived of these outliers is to make mediocre currency of great potential. It’s ironic that the casualties of this battle are the very people those advocating identity politics pay lip service to be freeing and defending.

Great spirits have always encountered the most violent opposition from mediocre minds.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

WHERE DOES “DEATH OF THE AUTEUR” END?

From innocent beginnings in the late 1940s, through first and second generation consolidation, post-modernism in the 21st century has evolved into a freemasonry of entrenched anti-intellectual mob legitimacy. It is positioned in the mainstream, confident and on the attack. It has appropriated a dozen counter-cultures, rebranding and often inverting their original good, turning them into cultural sticks to beat society and stand-out individuals into submission. Feminism was perverted by gender politics, anti-misogyny into #metoo, anti-homophobia into queer theory, the civil rights movement sullied by affirmative action, free speech constrained by political correctness.

Post-modernism has become ubiquitous, unarguably legitimate as it bears the stamp of academy credibility. It continues to spread, from the institutions through society, by brigades of well-taught neomasonic graduates. These days there’s only one line of defence against the self-serving end-game society continues to be driven towards and it must come from the independent individual.

The bastard form of mass culture is humiliated repetition… always new books, new programs, new films, news items, but always the same meaning.

Roland Barthes (1915-1980)

The individual is problematic, however. Disorganised, unusual, independent, mostly atomised and often contrarian, the individual presents a disunited self-centred front – easy target for patient groupthinkers – but it’s the only other game in town. Complete victory for the post-modernist cabal will mean a society without genius, truth subjugated to expediency, cookie cutter people disallowed individuality and defined instead by group identity that’s tantamount to living caricvature. It’ll become a safe zone so widespread it looks the same as obsolescence and no-one left will be sufficiently ‘woke’ to notice.

Post-modernist generations pass the latest literary, linguistic and philosophical theory – especially in the early years schools of thought coming out of France and Germany – through the prism of democratised merit and everyman relativism to construct an extremely effective popular legitimacy serving the conceits of the tenured academy and their progeny. The career academic and journalist has an ever-evolving arsenal fit for the destruction of reputations and the exculpation of non-conforming genius. The success of this “death of the author” spin, cloaked in the complex language of post-structuralism and other extant obfuscating theory gave the post-modernists a commanding position by the end of the 1960s. This hegemony expressed itself into mainstream culture through successive waves of graduates. Its advance towards total eclipse has not once been checked.

The strength of the post-modernist academy comes in having bound itself hand in glove with state authority, underpinning its propaganda by an intellectual neoliberalism sold to the prospective members and the general public as responding to the vocational demands of the free market. Anything of substance seeking to thwart the academy or the increasingly polarising state narrative can be tarred with the ‘counter culture’ brush, ornery youth ever the frontline victims (e.g. the beat generation, hippies, gender fluid glams, punks, crusties, environmentalists, libertarians, pacifists, new athiests, trolls, intellectual dark web personalities, etc). Soon anything off-narrative will be subject to the same process of rapid marginalisation (in the case of individuals) and appropriation (in the case of movements).

I believe in the value of the book, which keeps something irreplaceable, and in the necessity of fighting to secure its respect.

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

What little resistance remained in the arts faculties was picked off in the post-Vietnam decades, neoliberalism and consumer capitalism natural bedfellows with post-modernism in a way that solidified in the 80s. Entrenched interests integrated branding in the 90s and their rulesets became received wisdom — unquestioned, presumed part of the natural order — by the millennium. Small wonder this cynical cultural regulation adapted quickly to take hold of the internet as soon as it blew up. The ring-fencing of social media, turning it into a vehicle for population control with clever echo chamber isolation of contrarian thinkers, is a paradigm of adaptive big society power in action.

As any historian will affirm, there was no way post-modernist culture would allow itself to be challenged by changes to the dynamics of society. Vigilant, pro-active and anti-individual to the marrow, the mainstream must remain committed to proven methodologies. This is the state of society in 2018. Outliers must be kept away from the public; and through technology this becomes possible, despite the interconnected nature of the online world. No genius can be allowed to turn a platform into a pedestal. No expert can be given credible authority over truth, however many facts might be marshalled in support.

The rotten core of the post-modernist movement has remained throughout and these days it’s forced to great lengths to prosecute absolute authority over its chosen territories. Methods have become more ruthless and its corrosive impact on Western culture grows more extreme each year. Today it weaponises such awful characteristics as toxic envy, blind outrage and endemic narcissism. Mediocrity has been branded so it’s synonymous with common sense, conformity trained by an intellectual communism whose prime directive is the denial of individual free thought. Power dynamics are abused daily, inverting expertise to a sin, spinning traditions of excellence as oppressive patriarchy, individuality subsumed – whether you like it or not – into a ‘know your place’ identity politics. Outsiders, and transgressors in particular, face dire potentially lifelong consequences.

The petit-bourgeois is a man unable to imagine the Other. If he comes face to face with him, he blinds himself, ignores and denies him, or else transforms him into himself.

— Roland Barthes, Mythologies (1957)

The post-modernist end-game is achieved, by default, using a mix of populism and passive aggression. There can be leaders, in the post-modern paradigm state, but these must be caricatures, salaried celebrities or pliable accidents of ethnicity. What used to be meritocracy is turned into a lottery – and lottery is an easier sell to a public convinced of its own worth and conveniently conditioned against critical thinking and inconvenient self-examination.

Death of the author – the pro-active exclusion of individual genius – post-modernism wed with neoliberal identity politics results in an everyday life lived as if it was a reality show – authenticity kept ever at arms length – and it’s an easy fit with slogans of democracy and disempowering parables inculcating universal median values. Ironically, equality itself has become a twisted principle: not so much equality of outcome, which is commonly and correctly singled out as impossibly injudicious, but more disastrously an equality of process. It’s nothing less than a cultural coma.

The whole warped system is delivered efficiently through, appropriately enough, exploitation of the very worst of human traits: vanity, egoism, outrage and opinion over tolerance and complex nuance. At best, it’s a recipe for mediocrity, a disconnection with centuries of intellectual and cultural tradition that may not ever be restored. At worst it’s dictatorship by the mob imposed by kangaroo courts of public opinion, a descent into intellectual and cultural barbarism. In this multifarious world, if we accept the broad sweep of modern history as a symbiosis of the enlightenment West and the utilitarian East, the former is at risk of becoming permanently obsolete.


We’re quick to call out the authoritarian nightmare of a dystopian East when we hear about China and its surveillance state – social media scorecards for a billion citizens – but the West is heading for worse. At least China gets productivity and hive-triumphs, some of which are genuinely creating prosperity. The post-modernist culture of regulated mediocrity – defanged of personal challenge – is a creeping death and the Anglo-American West will increasingly fall behind. It will be the worst possible outcome if the West is pushed to emulate the groupthink Chinese model as the rest of the world moves forward, economically, technologically and culturally.

For a few hundred years Western traditions have nurtured individualism, freedom and — until recently —encouraged a diverse meritocracy of creative talent to flourish, despite conventional inertia driving an anti-intellectual Dunning-Kruger conservatism. Anglo-American culture, in particular, has a history of safeguarding original thought, nurturing reactionary genius in the face of the docile Judeo-Christian mainstream. All of this is at risk if the post-modernist social order achieves complete victory.

Soon enough the voices of protest and their cries of “Shakespeare” “Socrates” “Rimbaud” “Tchaikovsky” “Bacon” “Bacon” “Newton” “Mozart” “Jefferson” “Darwin” “Sartre” “Dumas” “Einstein” “Eliot” “King” “Kant” “Clemens” “Keynes” “Tesla” “Feynman” “Proust” “Goethe” “Johnson” “Bronte” “Curie” “Nietzsche” “Fellini” “Marx” “Locke” “Penrose” “Kerouac” “Kafka” “Orwell” “Swift” “Dostoevsky” “Lincoln” “Voltaire” “Aristotle” “Chaucer” “Boccaccio” “ Blake” “Poe” “Davis” “Liebniz” “Dante” “Dali” “Gallileo” “Milton” “Ali” “Ibsen” “Michelangelo” “Shelley” “Heidegger” “Rilke” “Freud” “Fermi” “Marlowe” “O’Neal” “Gogol” “da Vinci” “Auden” “Thoreau” “Tolkien” “Turing” “Rodin” “Turner” “Jung” “Picasso” “Kusturica” “Chomsky” will die away. What remains will be the echoing hubbub of an outraged mob that amounts to nothing more than an irrelevant cultural silence.

There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah.
” – Leonard Cohen


Selected bibliography (English translations):

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archive, contrarian, people, society

POSTMODERNISM – BLUEPRINT FOR WESTERN IRRELEVANCE

Postmodernism has evolved into much more than just a school of Western literary theory. Today, three full generations after its birth in the 1940s, post-modern thinking has permeated every anglophone academy and every corner of the media (social media included). It’s uniquely degraded democratisation of creative ambition has redefined the tastes of “respectable” society and culture.

Postmodernism has subordinated originality and culture to consumer-capitalism in an insidious marriage of entrenched power and disempowered enablers that’s built itself into the socioeconomic roots of Anglo-American individualism. It’s a recipe for future obsolescence.

The various precepts of post-modernism influence every aspect of our lives in subtle but myriad ways. It has extended far beyond its origins as an art-literary movement. Understanding post-modernism’s roots and its early development (mostly within universities and literary social circles) is important. It’s the only way to see the wood for the trees, today, as we’re bombarded by the full arsenal of popular culture, mass and social media, hypernormalisation, divide and rule atomisation, advanced propaganda and – defining the front-line of our relationship with the world – consumer stick-and-carrot designed to fill every moment of every day of our lives.

Here’s a bullet point summary of today’s post-modernist reality in Western culture (Anglo-American all along its cutting edge).

  • disdain for expertise (by reducing it to abusive power dynamic).
  • democratise excellence (make it defined by consensus, not individual discernment).
  • obsession with idiosyncrasy of form (to sideline the complex fundamental truth of substance).
  • fixation with best mobilised common denominators (subordinating merit to subjective contemporary reaction).
  • disinterest in an artist’s individual aims and context (no need to reach out beyond the echo chamber).
  • reject respect for incremental standards of expertise and developing understanding (everything gets judged in perpetual reboot, perpetual infantilism).
  • populism rules the rights and wrongs of reality (facts no longer transcend prejudice, but pop culture sweeps all before it).

As the post-modernist agenda became writ large across the national conversation, it spread an anti-intellectual subjectivity like a disease. Honed rapidly throughout the 1950s and 1960s in sympathy with human social instinct, post-modernism serves both the worst instincts of a lazy consumer population and the best interests of immortal corporations, wealthy authoritarians, and entrenched political cabals. This alliance of profit and authority ensured post-modern thinking found a welcome in the power dynamics of society, allowing it to accelerate into and subsequently defend conquered territory as a ready-made orthodoxy. It has proven an effective divide and rule formula.

In the post-modern world, the objective reality of another’s truth is less important than personal faith and consensus feeling. It might sound an innocuous distinction but played out as a dominant culture across three generations, it’s been more corrosive to individual creative autonomy than any comparable sociological movement, social media included.

The widespread adoption of post-modern doctrine reaches a kind of inverted herd immunity – a herd susceptibility – once a critical mass of adults, trained in the post-modern paradigm, becomes the guiding institutional force teaching, managing, and governing a nation. It’s navigating by dumb luck inertia. Ultimately, this puts the country on a collision course with cultural bankruptcy, the best and the brightest locked out of the public conversation.

Innovation, scientific progress, sociocultural understanding, institutional foresight, global influence for the greater good: these key components of a dynamic, growing society have been eroded, year on year, by the post-modernist sickness. Also, there’s no sign of effective push-back. If anything, the pace of anti-expert populism – a springboard for cult of the personality demagoguery – is speeding up.

This societal bankruptcy ends only one way: our permanent obsolescence. The torch of human progress will pass to China, India, Japan, Russia, and the ambitious Asian tiger nations. The increasingly isolationist West, absorbed in self-cannibalisation, may not even notice the inevitable transition. The post-modernist fait accompli is an ugly fate; locked in a banal and protracted descent into permanent irrelevance.

“We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing. We take it for granted so simply that in a sense, by the very act of brutish routine acceptance, we undo the work of the ages, the history of the gradual elaboration of poetical description and construction, from the treeman to Browning, from the caveman to Keats. What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read? I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable.” – Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)

The seeds of what’s become the global post-modernist juggernaut were unusual for such a significant cultural movement. Most movements arise spontaneously. New skills, transformative inventions, original techniques driven by particularly fecund communities of creative energy that converge organically – a sum greater than its parts – to create societywide phenomena.

Post-modernism is a different beast altogether. It originated as a calculated iconoclasm, a dogma ready-made by critics as opposed to creators. It’s the defining cultural force of the long peace after the Second World War yet, unlike prior movements, post-modernism offers no displacing alternative.

Post-modernism began humbly enough in English-speaking and certain European university Arts and Humanities departments as a self-serving reaction to the perceived death of objective truth; an over-correction response after Einstein’s new general relativity world-view, only half understood, shattered the confidence of academic empiricism. Tenured academics asked themselves the same question: If everything’s relative, what’s the point of being in thrall to wilo-the-wisps like artistic standards, why bother struggling to understand the challenging creations of other human minds?

Within a few years, the energy of this collective tantrum had legitimised itself to the world with terms like Jean-Paul Sartre’s “existential nihilism” and found common cause with an army of bourgeois academics (e.g. Midwestern college professors of the “New Criticism” school) whose long-standing antipathy towards individual genius fit post-modernist critic over creator agenda. The world had just been liberated from totalitarian fascism, now the academy could be freed from the oppressive literary canon.

Antipathy toward individual genius existed, simmering below the surface, for centuries. Familiarity breeds contempt. Post-modernism created a cover story that elevated the academic (critic) and demoted the individual artist. It spread throughout the academic world in the late 1940s and by the 50s and 60s had made significant progress in the wider community.

It’s natural to envy talent possessed by others and must have been galling to be duty-bound to teach the works of greater artists. The ignoble instinct can turn envy into hatred, if there’s no escape, day after day, from the challenge implicit in great art and literature.

Can’t write like Virginia Woolf? Can’t live like James Joyce? Won’t risk the dangers of foreign countries trying to understand people other than your own? Threatened by the self-sufficiency of angry poets (Kerouac) and combative complex novelists (Mailer)? Simple solution: kill the author, deride the genius, misuse concepts like Einstein’s relativity and Sartre’s existential nihilism to twist the axiom of ‘everyone is equal’ into the post-modernist ‘everything creative is of equal value’.

It’s a blueprint for terminal cultural mediocrity and a license for generations of esoteric academic flimflam. Today, the degraded world of modern art owes its dubious existence – i.e. subordinated to market forces, transformed from artistry to mere adornment – to the cultural dominance of post-modernist doctrine. It’s an excellent fit, with a world dominated by the forces of consumer capitalism.

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contrarian, scribble, society

Conspiracy Theory and Nationalism – Mechanisms of Non-Conformist Conformity

It’s an interesting phenomenon: the conspiracy theory.

Interesting not because of the specific conspiracy – these have always existed, filling the unsettling gaps in knowledge of the world with comfortably inclusive explanation – but because of the influence this type of thinking now has on the real politics and real power structures defining society as a whole.

Social media has enabled two marginal minorities – the egocentric dumbass and the egomaniac troll – that’d previously been too fragmented to be heard, to coalesce into support groups of like-minded individuals that quickly grew in confidence, distilled their messaging and reasserted their opinions, amplified.

By working as a dunce confederation, the conspiracy theory and the mischievous trolling are propelled into the mainstream, given airtime in the media-feeds of all demographics. No longer marginal.

Conspiracy theory is the research and learning for lazy thinkers who don’t know how to study a subject, don’t care to be an apprentice but wants to claim expertise, having given in to the vanity of “knowing the answer”.

Vanity is a fragile thing and intellectual vanity – as opposed to trained intellect – is characterized by fear of contradiction and an avoidance of scientific method. It amounts to Dunning-Kruger certainty, more stubborn than susceptive, like a castle in the air without solid foundations. Any perceived challenge must be countered with defensive aggression for fear the hollow interior might be exposed.

Conspiracy theory advocates are forever talking about persecution. Playing the oppression card lets the ‘victim‘ occupy the moral higher ground (in their own mind) and, by fighting straw man principles like an attack one’s very freedom of self-expression, self-examination can be dodged indefinitely.

Victimhood is, ironically, built on real vulnerability – the fragility of the conspiracy theory if properly scrutinized, for instance – cleverly conflating the genuine weakness of substantiating detail and questions threatening to expose it into an aggressive resistance to anything remotely touching on subject.


The popularity of conspiracy theory in a society increases as its faith in authority and trust in political class goes down.” – Dharmapuri Thirumala Venkata Manoj Anantharam.

Conspiracy theory is an unexpected corollary of consumerism.” – Umberto Eco

Consumerism trains a population to parse the world in terms of sentiment, slogan and superstition. Consumer egoism – being at the eye of the goods and services storm – puts the individual consumer on a pedestal, the most important customer in the world, while at the same time conditioning a resistance to having that importance undermine. By facts, in particular.

“Consider the tagline about a washing powder brand that “gets your whites whiter than white”. We know this isn’t possible and anyone who’s used the product will know it does what any washing powder does: cleans. It doesn’t restore lost color. Whites don’t even get restored to their original whiteness. You’d have to be a moron to believe the tagline is truth. In a world where facts are as flexible as an advertising slogan, “I feel it is…” eclipses any other method for determining truth.

Conspiracy theory is consumerism of sociocultural and historical phenomenon. It’s worth noting that consumerism superseded religious doctrine as the best responsive, robust society and even the authoritarian world-view has had to include consumerism as its primary social modus operandi.

Conspiracy theory is a good fit with the information overload 21st century as the Ptolemaic egoism, where the universe revolves around the individual human being, informs the selection (and interpretation) of popular contemporary and past events that remain familiar to the collective unconscious.

Conspiracy theory goes a step further than material consumerism, which has to validate the Ptolemaic self-love relative to other human beings. Conspiracy theory feeds the ego with “knowledge” as the individual consumer consumes “I’m right where so many are wrong” exceptionalism. It’s a thrill and a prop.

BELIEF + “I am right” > FACT + “I don’t know”


In response to being asked many times about “flat Earth” and how it can be proven or disproven by a regular person without having to rely on “NASA says X” or “go circumnavigate the globe”, here’s a method any of us can do on our own.

  • Take a telescope.
  • Focus your telescope on the planet Jupiter (fake or real, doesn’t matter).
  • Make sure Jupiter is in sharp relief. Perfect picture of the planet.
  • Without any change to how the telescope is focused, swing it onto something on Earth like plane in the sky or the Moon.
  • If Jupiter is a similar distance away to, say, the Moon, then the Moon will stay sharply focused (or close to focused) in your telescope. Similar distance away.
  • If Jupiter is a lot further away, the Moon will not be in focus at all.

Want to check further? Bring a little mathematics to the party.

  • If you have time to check the telescope focus to distance ratio, you should be able to figure out how far away is Jupiter than the Moon.
  • You can repeat this process once focused on the Moon by focusing on a plane in the sky.
  • Since we know planes fly at 40,000 to 60,000 feet, this gives you enough info to work out how much further away is the Moon than the plane; and how much further away is Jupiter than the Moon.
  • If Jupiter and the Moon are on the sky (surface) of a dome that encloses a flat Earth, the distances will work out similar to one another.

Or, if you have someone you trust a few thousand (or more) miles away from your telescope location…

  • With Jupiter in the telescope focus, find someone a few timezones distant e.g. if you’re in Los Angeles, somebody in New York would be a good choice.
  • On a flat Earth, everyone should see Jupiter a certain angle and a measurable similar distance.
  • You can use this angle and distance to make a triangle with You, Your Friend and Jupiter at the three points.
  • If the Earth is flat, the triangle should be accurate. You should find its measurements using simple trigonometry match observation and the known distance between you and your friend in a straight line.
  • If the Earth is curved, the triangle won’t be accurate and you’ll find the measurements observed only work if you take the curve into account.

Jingoism and nationalist pride are crutches for paralyzed individualism.” – The Tin Horn Patriot

The real world metaphysics of “India” “France” “China” “America” “Britain” is way, way too complex to be subordinated to silly ‘better than’ or ‘richer than’ arguments.

If you define yourself by the mob fantasy of a nation-state or connect your self-worth to a presumed connection with the happenstance of arbitrary local history, you’re corroding what’s left of your individual personality (and birthright). You’re another degraded sucker at the table of life, toiling for entrenched power structures to whom your life means less than nothing.

Nationalism, at the top, is the plaything of billionaires and born aristocracies. Nationalism, at the bottom, is the reliable opiate of a billion self-deluded servants. Add pride to the mix and regular citizens turn into asses, braying about how much they love their country and would die for their flag. Meanwhile, languid ruling classes mock you behind your back and play dice over your abdicated future.

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