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The Mask of the Medusa and the People’s Johnson

In a comment on another post I mentioned this article in which the Observer’s science editor reports on a new piece of insanity published in the Lancet. As so often, the insane nonsense we’re being fed is only revealed for what it is when it’s in a scientific article taken apart by other scientists. It’s as if you can’t get your money back on a dead parrot without an attestation signed by three taxidermists and the chairman of the RSPB.

In rolling out his test and trace campaign, the People’s Johnson suddenly and surreptitiously changed the meaning of social distancing by defining contact as being two metres away from someone for fifteen minutes. On my recent visit to England I observed masked ladies swerving off the kerb into the traffic to avoid being 1m 50cm from me for three seconds. And then gabbing away with their neighbour in the queue for Sainsbury’s (through their masks) for hours. Johnson’s announcement meant that they were out in their estimate of the danger of catching anything from me by a factor of 300. Back here in France, people I’ve noticed in our local boulangerie tend to be sceptical about the expert advice leading to lockdown, and to hide their nervousness about flouting official advice by talking very loudly and laughing a lot. They are obeying the letter of the law – just – but they’re not thinking straight. They are emitting a thousand times more potentially virus-containing emissions than they need to, and they don’t care.

It’s not that people are stupid, but rather that our masters have assumed that we are stupid, and advice has been given in such a way as to make us seem stupider than we are. In the beginning the explanations were simple enough; transmission is from contact, (so wash your hands and don’t touch your face) or from exhalation. Easy. We know we breathe in what others breathe out from smoking and halitosis, and we know what to do about it. Avoid touching or breathing on each other as much as possible.

Then it got more complicated. Droplets or micro-droplets? Could a virus survive on a plastic surface five minutes or five weeks? (Answer: it depends whether it’s continually bathed in blood plasma at 98.4°F or not. Just don’t do that to your credit card, and you should be alright.) To resolve these complex questions, strict rules were deemed necessary: two metres distancing for a Brit, one metre for a Frenchman, and zero for Dr Ferguson of Imperial College. Suddenly, a simple instruction that a five-year-old could understand (don’t breathe germs on people) became a complex set of rules for a giant interactive on-line game of “Keep your Rs down, Johnson’s on the prowl.”

With exceptions of course. Forming a crowd to heave a bronze statue in the river is ok (just don’t breathe heavily on your neighbour. His life might matter.) Stopping to pee on the road from Barnard’s Castle is most definitely not ok.

The mystery of human behaviour in situations of stress was studied in depth by many wise people at the beginning of the 20th century. One of them was DJane Harrison, who over a century ago in her “Prolegomena to a Study of Greek Religion,” summarised her insight into the origins of mythology:

First comes the ritual dance with the mask, then the monster to explain the mask, then the tale of the hero who slaythe monster.

Except that in this case the monster (the virus) came first, then the hero (your Trump or your Johnson) and the masks never turned up at all.

Dr Harrison had read Freud and Durkheim, making her probably unique among Cambridge academics at the beginning of the 20th century. Her point was that it helps in analysing mythic thinking to reverse the normal logical order of things. Instead of asking: “Why did the Greeks tell the story of Perseus slaying the Gorgon, and how did her magic head get attached to the goddess Athena?” ask: “What kind of a story would you have to tell to explain a ritual involving a magic snake-haired mask?”

For half a century or more the gap between the rich and the poor has been increasing, to the point that the working classes in the richest countries have seen no increase in their purchasing power for a decade or two. The parties of the poor, who haven’t found an original thinker to express their needs and desires for over a century, have taken refuge in the insanity of identity politics and adjustment of the planetary thermostat. The sub-prime crisis of 2007-8 and the measures taken to deal with it have revealed the phoniness of supposed free enterprise capitalism. The only measures available to resolve the crisis simply make the rich richer.

We can’t vote for an alternative, because the politico-media complex ensures that no genuine alternative can emerge. We can’t strike against it, because our labour can be replaced at the stroke of a keyboard by outsourcing to India or AI. It took a virus to provoke the unconscious reaction of society at the end of its tether to the system that controls us and is out of control: Close it down.

The official story is that a virus arrived from Elsewhere and the Authorities reacted (too late, not efficiently, but they reacted) by closing down the economy of the Western world.

Try seeing it like this:

Our society, incapable of solving the multiple problems facing it, seized upon the virus as an excuse to liquidate itself. Stop working. Take the government’s subsidy and hunker down until it’s over. Work from home.

(I’ve been working from home mostly since about 1967. It worked for me, but I’m peculiar. I guarantee that it will provoke mass suicide among the Guardian-reading classes within a year. Tough.)

Our society does nothing, produces practically nothing of value except pop music, protected by copyright, and medicine, protected by patent (yeah, patent medicines.) And weapons of mass destruction. For decades China has been producing everything we want, and has transformed itself into the world’s second, soon to be the first, economic power on the planet.

Try seeing our lockdown as a perfectly logical unconscious realisation that our work is worthless; so let’s stop working. Our schools are useless, so let’s close them down. Because Chinese and African kids learn as much and as well as our children, at a fraction of the cost, so lets employ them. Because it’s not the size of the teacher’s salary that counts, nor the investment in technology. It’s the desire of the kids to learn. And learning in China or Africa counts for something – a better future. What politician in the West could pronounce those three words without dying of shame? Study till you’re 18 in Europe and you’ll be lucky to get a job that pays better than social security.

So, view the account of our current crisis as a mythological tale, and don’t ask: “Why is Johnson, or Trump, or the committee pulling Biden’s strings, saying this or that?” Ask rather: “What kind of a story do you have to tell to justify a society, supposedly free and democratic, where the masters of our means of communication measure their wealth in hundreds of billions, while you and I wonder what our salaries or pensions will be worth tomorrow?”

It’s got to be a catastrophic story, that’s obvious. For a long time, the catastrophe has been climatic and virtual. Now its upon us. We’re being told that our leaders will avert the catastrophe, as the mythic hero slays the monster. But without the monster, what’s the point of the hero?

29 thoughts on “The Mask of the Medusa and the People’s Johnson

  1. I think this is quite a profound insight Geoff. It turns everything on its head and then the crazy world suddenly starts to make sense. A myriad of possible conspiratorial conscious motivations on the part of the elite are replaced with an unconscious, emergent myth. Jung would be proud.

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  2. Geoff, great piece. There are rules for how these things work, what behaviours are associated with the emergence. And unfortunately, not all the emergences are, to use your phrase ‘logically unconscious’. We evolved to support these things because of long-term net benefit, but some emergences are most definitely ‘illogically unconscious’, so to speak, at least until they get more time to evolve into more benign forms. The reflections of fears and hopes and other emotions, are ultimately irrational. Plus some myths are not reactions to current social situations, but are buried and long-elaborated social memories; for instance the Minotaur myth is probably from the mis-remembered time when Greek islands used to send young athletes to Crete to take part in the sport of bull-leaping, from which some didn’t return. The Gorgon myth may (some theorise) represent a time when an anti-religious revolt or kind of iconoclastic movement in long-pre-classical Greece, did a Henry 8th and destroyed temples and stripped powerful priestesses both metaphorically and physically of their masks. However, your premise about emergent myths frequently driving society is nevertheless as sound as a bell – there are ways to separate this type of myth from the inherited ones that wrap old social memories, and indeed on occasion they can become entangled.

    Jaime, “It turns everything on its head and then the crazy world suddenly starts to make sense. A myriad of possible conspiratorial conscious motivations on the part of the elite are replaced with an unconscious, emergent myth.”

    Um… like everything I have been saying here and elsewhere for years, regarding the climate domain 😉 Albeit cultural emergence is mixed up with elite leverage and expression, so despite it is subconsciously arrived at one can still expect to see elite / public differences.

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  3. “What kind of a story do you have to tell to justify a society, supposedly free and democratic, where the masters of our means of communication measure their wealth in hundreds of billions, while you and I wonder what our salaries or pensions will be worth tomorrow?”

    A story told by sages.

    Now what is it they call that body that advises the government on lockdowns and stuff?

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  4. Apologies for drifting off-topic but I’m told that a quip doing the rounds in the (British) Conservative Party is that Johnson couldn’t prevent a piss-up in a brewery if he wanted to.

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  5. Andy, I guessed that you would take my comment as an affirmation of your theory of dominant cultural influences at work in the climate domain. You may well be correct that it validates what you’ve been saying all these years re. climate change. However, I would point out that I think there is a difference between myth and culture. I think myths are, in their essence, culturally transcendent and, in their nascent form, they predate culture. They are as old as the human race and, rather than being a function of culture, they formed the backbone of culture as it flowered in its many forms across the globe. They became manifest as cultural narratives of course, but their basic form remains unaltered from one culture to the next. There is definitely a mythological element at work in climate catastrophe culture, but the theory of climate change and the dominant cultural narrative which has evolved along with the ‘science’ doesn’t appear to me to be primarily an emergent mythological framework; it’s a higher order thing, a peculiarity largely of Western culture and a distortion of traditional empirical science, which appears to have reached its nadir in Western society. Myths form the starting point and the end points of all cultures. That we may well be seeing the influence of an emergent myth in our ruinous response to Covid-19 is not auspicious.

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  6. Jaime,

    “You may well be correct that it validates what you’ve been saying all these years re. climate change. However, I would point out that I think there is a difference between myth and culture. I think myths are, in their essence, culturally transcendent and, in their nascent form, they predate culture.”

    You are dead right to highlight such differences, and not least because it’s a terminological minefield, even within academia let alone in more normal usage (although I would add that cultural behaviour must predate myths, because animals that cannot speak or write down any myths, display cultural group behaviours). And indeed as I indicate in my comment, and you reflect in yours too, the ‘legend’ end of myths (often having some real historical kernel per above for the Minotaur and the Gorgon too), are qualitatively very different from those that, as you note are ’emergent’ and drive social movements. And in fact these are the ones that, largely, *aren’t* truly emergent (more, very slowly morphing), although they absolutely can get pulled into the ones that are (frequently so in long-running religions). The latter type ’emerge’ via narrative selection, with the most emotive / existential ones winning, a process that is only very weakly applicable for the former ones. Our current anti-racist / climatist or whatever narratives are indeed *not* owed to legends, but *are* owed to emerging narratives that can be described in the vernacular as ‘myths’, and indeed often are, for instance the myth that there is a certain and imminent global catastrophe unless near net-zero avoids this. This narrative is not owed to ‘legend’, but *is* an emergent ‘story’ that makes sense of the otherwise inexplicable, exactly because “A myriad of possible conspiratorial conscious motivations on the part of the elite are replaced with an unconscious, emergent myth” (and much more, certain behaviours are attendant, such as consensus policing for instance). To complicate things, emotive themes in their most basic form, e.g. apocalypse and salvation partnered, can turn up in all sorts of completely different and more complex / detailed narratives, ultimately because they create the same emotive impact no matter what guise they are in.

    We have come a huge long way in the study of these things since the nascent ideas of a century ago that Geoff highlights. So, it’s a fantastic idea and ultimately very much on the right track, but wrong underlying mechanisms and characteristics, and indeed largely the wrong sort of myths. Progress via evolutionary studies (so, cultural evolutionary analogs to biological evolution, and direct links via bio-cultural evolution), models from game theory and economics and even epidemiology, huge strides in the examination of cultural phemonena such as religions, a vast amount of data not available a century ago from anthropology and archaeology and social psychology and more, even useful data and behaviours from business around group-think and team interactions, plus much more, has all meant vast progress since the beginning of the 20th century, albeit there are still more questions that answers.

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  7. P.S. “That we may well be seeing the influence of an emergent myth in our ruinous response to Covid-19 is not auspicious”

    Well for sure this domain does not have a long-term, well-bounded and dominant cultural entity as is the case in the climate domain. I don’t quite know where you’re going with ‘auspicious’. But that emergent stories driven by fears and anxieties and even hopes (of a ‘fresh start’, for instance, which other cultures like climate change are also seizing to get in on the act), is in part explanatory, indeed reflects what I was saying weeks and months back about the governments within many impacted nations not really being in charge, but instead reacting to events (that are being driven by these emotive stories). And which is why there is so much commonality of actions, whether or not they happen to be right or wrong.

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  8. P.P.P.S Plus note Geoff’s emphasis is not on actual legends like the Gorgon story, but a ‘new’ legend if you will that ‘justifies’ the current social status quo and especially elites. But the story is not explanatory in this kind of Freudian applied big sense, albeit emergent narratives are indeed strongly tied to elites, because these are the most productive transmission nodes. But bear in mind too it may not be the ‘old’ elite(s), but a new one(s) that may overthrow the old, and also the stories have an evolutionary trajectory that attempts to navigate, as it were, their *own* survival, potentially even at the expense of the host population or any of its sub-groups (albeit the stories are of course neither alive nor agential, this is all done via differential selection only)

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  9. What kind of a story would you have to tell to explain that every insurrection and revolution, from time immemorial, or at least from the Wars of the Roses, has organised and run by the haute-bourgeois — the wannabe-elite.

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  10. billbedford,
    That raises the question:
    How do royals become total?
    William the Conquerer is a great example of what you’re talking about. Then one could consider how a WWii Holocaust survivor with a shallow reactionary philosophy (kudos to beththeserf) but a bunch of billions gets to literally ruin economies for profit and also quietly fund a web of anti-democratic movements and buy politicians wholesale.
    Or that Bill Gates gets to buy expertise that just happens to be based on his buying experts to expertly tell him he’s an expert. At hearing what he wants to hear. Etc….ad nauseum

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  11. For half a century or more the gap between the rich and the poor has been increasing, to the point that the working classes in the richest countries have seen no increase in their purchasing power for a decade or two.

    This is totally not true. Or rather, is a meaningless extension of a purely academic calculation.

    In recent years many advancements have been free, so not costed into “purchasing power”. Because e-mail is free, it is deemed valueless. It isn’t. In reality both rich and poor get it, and the poor get the same quality as the rich — meaning effectively that their quality of life is increasing relative to the rich. The whole internet is a massive boon for the poor, precisely because it is basically free.

    Likewise, if NHS care is better for the poor they will actually have improved relative to the rich, even as the paper difference appears to widen — because private medicine will be only purchased by the very well off.

    If pensions are raised, the poor are better off relative to the rich because it raises their quality of life by a much greater percentage. It won’t show in purchasing power though.

    The rest is made up by not counting improvements in quality as meaning better purchasing power. Modern TVs, cars, phones, fridges, etc. Yet the car I have now is much better than the ones my dad could afford (for reference, I have the same occupation as my father, so it isn’t that). The cost of living indexes take no account of that at all.

    I think of what I had thirty years ago, when I was just starting to work, and what my children have and have access to. To suggest that they are worse off than me is ludicrous.

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  12. I thought this one would get ANDY going. As he says above (15 June 2020 16.28pm) I’m interested in using the insights of those who study myths to understand what’s going on here and now. Another time and place I’d love to have a conversation about Greek mythology. Thoughtful social scientists with a grounding in anthropology, psychoanalysis etc. take it as a commonplace that we can learn to understand our own society by examining more ancient or primitive forms, or more primitive ways of thought as embodied in myths etc. I’m guessing that the social scientists advising governments during the present crisis are not that kind. Committees are not conducive to discursive thinking.

    The above article obscures the basis of my thinking, as usual. The frantic, irrational behaviour around the virus, as around the supposed climate crisis, suggests an establishment engaged in massive displacement activity. What are they trying to avoid? What are they deliberately not talking about?

    It seems to me the two major developments of the past half century are the social tensions provoked by the increase in economic inequality, and the rise of China.

    Rationally, one would expect the protests against inequality to push the left into power, instead of which it has disintegrated almost everywhere. The second great economic crisis of the 21st century was already underway in September 2019, when the Fed started intervening in the overnight repo markets to save the banking system. No-one noticed.

    China’s economic progress has led quite logically to its growing political influence. Leading the developing world out of poverty has been one of the prime objectives of the democratic left since WW2. Instead of which the task has been taken up by the Chinese. Again, very few people noticed.

    The West has no project, no plan, no vision. Britain’s role in the modern world is to talk English to foreigners, loud and clear so they’ll understand, and play silly buggers in Salisbury, Cambridge and Hong Kong.

    The links of the current crisis (and the climate crisis) to China are obvious. The way they are being presented suggest the grounds are being laid for war. And economic inequality is being addressed, not concretely with an economic programme, but virtually, via virtue signalling about greater susceptibility of BAMEs to the virus.

    What’s all this got to do with Johnson and masks? I’m not sure. The virus is forcing us at least to glance at what’s happening far away. We see capitalist Japan and Korea and Communo-capitalist China making a better job of dealing with the crisis than we are. And poor Africa failing to collapse into helpless chaos without Western aid. It should make us rethink our vision of the world. Does anyone see a sign of that happening? We can’t make or even successfully import masks and blouses for our nurses, but we sure can stick pins in the Cummings voodoo doll.

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  13. Geoff,

    “Rationally, one would expect the protests against inequality to push the left into power, instead of which it has disintegrated almost everywhere.”

    Well I’m no political expert, but I think Western societies are more ‘left’ than they’ve ever been. But this is as you indicate not via the formal power of strongly left-wing parties. It is due to most orgs (including indeed practically all of academia and most of the teaching profession) plus values and parties all having shifted leftwards on the spectrum, including even a much larger slice of the business world and for instance all of the main internet giants. Which means in turn that there’s also some right reaction, but the net is still more left, so far. I recall here in UK, even before Covid there was comment that outside of Brexit, Boris was much towards the left of his party and especially on economics (so big government spending on infra-structure already a thing). I don’t think a lot of youth even know what right-wing values are, feeling only that they ‘must be bad’ and hence not wanting to be potentially contaminated by trying to find out more, or even worse just writing them off as fascist. In the US the right reaction (grass roots and not right establishment) launched Trump, but a US that even got in sight of a decent chance for Bernie Saunders is probably more left (albeit also more polarised) than its ever been. Notwithstanding which the modern values of left and right seem to be evolving rapidly anyhow, so our traditional comprehension of these may no longer be a particularly good measure of the system.

    The fight against poverty has also seen dramatic success in the last few decades. Despite more financial inequality (in some countries at least), there are simply far fewer people in the world who are poor in an absolute sense, and it is global market economics not philanthropy that has driven this (in fact policies of permanent aid are sometimes impeding improvement). Yet from the messages of doom and gloom one would not know of this much improved condition, as indeed Rosling showed when he tested people on such knowledge. This must surely impact the global left – right equation, and also enormously expanded middle classes in some nations must surely mean a big political expression from same too; I’ve no idea what that actually means in practice though.

    “The frantic, irrational behaviour around the virus, as around the supposed climate crisis, suggests an establishment engaged in massive displacement activity.”

    Only if the establishment is driving the stories (as random flak). Whereas, largely, the stories are driving the establishment.

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  14. CHESTER DRAWS
    Whether and to what extent inequality is increasing is a complicated question, I grant you. I’ve got official statistics on my side, for once, but they are unreliable. Inflation figures are useless for measuring the cost of living across social classes. The increased cost of basic foodstuffs is offset by a huge reduction in the cost of computers and iphones. But the poor and the old don’t use new technology, and rightly observe that they’re worse off.

    And I grant that official definitions of poverty (as a certain % below the median income level or whatever) are useless. Of course, quality of life, measured by internet access, modern appliances etc. is far better for almost all of us than for preceding generations, and the Pareto distribution is not a hot topic in the dole queue. There’s general agreement that the differences between the middle and the bottom of the social ladder are diminishing, as the middle classes are taxed to pay for the social services for the poor, while the differences at the top end of the scale have increased to an absurd degree. The 10% of the wealthy are now the 1%, or even the 0.1%. This has effects that are not immediately obvious. (Well, they are to me. My son has a secure job working for a manufacturer of private and military aircraft, while my daughter has been laid off at Airbus.)

    Your example of free email for all is interesting. New technology always has a levelling effect. The railways allowed the poor to travel at the same speed as the rich (though in less comfort.) But you have to pay the internet connection, which comes with the TV and telephone. Once upon a time you could live for next to nothing, as long as you could pay rent and buy bread. Regular outgoings deducted from disposable income now include rent or mortgage, electricity, gas, water, bank charges, insurance and internet connection, as well as local and national taxes. And basic needs have a huge flat tax added (by VAT in the UK.) Becoming poor via unemployment or ill health means not just eating less, but ejection from society.

    And the bureaucratisation of our lives has an important effect on culture. You can’t do a Hemingway and live for next to nothing in Paris on an overvalued dollar nowadays. There’s no place for the starving poet in our society. Culture has been Sovietised, with artists composing odes and erecting sculptures to climate mitigation on foundation grants and academic sinecures. Real artists, as always, starve in garrets (or their parents’ spare room) but they’re more likely to be composing video games or pop music than doing anything culturally worthwhile.

    While the concerned middle classes are focussed on the problems of the poor, it’s more interesting I think to look at the effects on the rich. When British shipbuilding was wiped out deliberately by Thatcher and an overvalued pound, someone pointed out that all was not lost; 10% of jobs on Tyneside could be saved – constructing luxury yachts. The unspoken implication of this logic is that you need a constant supply of millionaire customers. Which our society provides.

    Bankers have effectively been on strike for the past ten years, while continuing to draw their salaries. They no longer lend to productive industry, and instead use their talents devising financial instruments to enrich the already rich. Someone at an ad agency once told me that the company’s accountant made more profit playing the markets the weekend thanks to the global carry trade than the other 150 employees did making ads. The workings of capitalism are no longer of interest to anyone on the left, who are now literally on their knees before their sacred cows, or shibboleths or whatever. Which brings us back to myth and ritual.

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  15. “The workings of capitalism are no longer of interest to anyone on the left, who are now literally on their knees before their sacred cows, or shibboleths or whatever. ”

    Yeah. But they’ve also gotten a great many of the rest of society upon their knees to said shibboleths, including many of those who are theoretically driving the engine of capitalism. Corporations are falling over each other to announce their prostration.

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  16. ANDY WEST
    To what extent our society has moved “left” and whether the terms left and right mean anything nowadays – these are vital questions, though less fun than discussing Gorgons and Johnsons.

    I’ve tried to formulate my comments here in a way that avoids pointless political point scoring, and so far it seems to work. (See Chester Draws’ sensible criticisms above.) If I count myself still “on the left” it is entirely because of the idea that the drive for greater fairness, justice and economic equality in society is still vital for preserving … something (civilisation? our culture? – you name it…) despite the futility and insanity of almost the entire political left in the West.

    Certainly absolute poverty is being reduced in the world. Economic growth continues in Asia, Africa and South America, independently of crises in the “developed” world. A poor African whose kids are getting an education and health care that he or she didn’t have has hope for the future. Whatever practical problems they may have (far worse than any we normally experience) they live in a different mental universe from that inhabited by the poor confused Brits or French I see interviewed on the telly every day, who don’t know what they want or who to trust.

    What you describe as a move to the left seems to me to be simply a bureaucratisation of our society, as described by Max Weber. Sure, leftwing governments tend to increase bureaucratisation, probably decreasing overall efficiency, as conservatives note, and often without doing much to help the poor. But that’s not the aim. Is it the inevitable result, as conservatives claim? The NHS is a typical socialist institution, bureaucratic and inefficient. The free market way of improving efficiency has been to bring in private consultants from McKinsey’s at a thousand pounds an hour to advise closing beds and sacking nurses. Which is ok, because the nurses find jobs in the private sector, looking after the kind of people who earn a thousand pounds an hour. It’s a system that works after a fashion. The unproven faith of those on the left is that once people understand how it works they’ll tear it down and create something better.

    I don’t understand your point about irrational behaviour on the part of the establishment only being displacement activity if they’re driving the stories. Surely displacement activity occurs when one is faced by a confusing situation imposed from the outside?

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  17. Geoff,

    “What you describe as a move to the left seems to me to be simply a bureaucratisation of our society, as described by Max Weber.”

    Possibly. As I said I’m no political expert. And I hope you don’t think I’m political point scoring. I am and have never been either a creature of the left or a creature of the right, nor religious, nor committed to any ideology that I’m aware of. It was a genuine impression of how I see the current position, and indeed as caveated by the fact that neither left nor right seem to stand for the same values they once did. For sure I didn’t think you were point scoring here either. Indeed it has occurred to me before now that some of your descriptions of the current left must be quite painful to express, given the current ‘futility and insanity’ you note above and your historic support.

    “Surely displacement activity occurs when one is faced by a confusing situation imposed from the outside?”

    I thought you meant the kind of displacement activity that governments do indeed sometimes consciously enact, to draw attention away from an agenda. But most of the frantic / irrational activity around climate change is actually being driven by the narrative (of imminent catastrophe). And likely this is in part true of the covid situation too. As I noted way back when, for better or worse I think the governments of many impacted countries were likely not the originators of lock-downs, so to speak, but passive actors reacting to their own publics and media who demanded one, choosing from of the wide range of science available an option that matched this demand. Hence such similar action across many countries. And hence too any ‘agenda’ as such, belongs to the narrative rather than to the governments, albeit for such a long-running saga as climate-change the two have become almost indistinguishable (I guess the XR end of the narrative is still somewhat more extreme than the government).

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  18. ANDY
    My point about political point scoring wasn’t at all addressed at you. I know you don’t do that. Few people here do. It’s very current at WUWT and Climate Etc. Apologies. I made the point simply to explain my round-about-the-houses way of expressing myself.

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  19. billbedford,
    That raises the question:
    How do royals become royal?
    William the Conquerer is a great example of what you’re talking about. Then one could consider how a WW2 Holocaust survivor with a shallow reactionary philosophy (kudos to beththeserf) but a bunch of billions gets to literally ruin economies for profit and also quietly fund a web of anti-democratic movements and buy politicians wholesale.
    Or that Bill Gates gets to buy expertise that just happens to be based on his buying experts to expertly tell him he’s an expert. At hearing what he wants to hear. Etc….ad nauseam

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  20. Harlan Ellison, being Harlan, examined myths from the godly perspective.
    He wrote a series of stories about the idea of new gods taking over from the old gods. This aligns rather well with the idea of new frameworks for old myths. The stories were anthologized in “The Deathbird Stories”, in continuous publication for many years. I find them insightful to ponder during these times.
    https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59606-085-2
    I would hope that the late Mr. Ellison would find the reality of new gods making a strong run at ruling to be disturbing to live through.

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  21. @billbedford re the haute-bourgeois
    As Ed West wrote at the Unherd, your observations is bang-on with good company sharing it.

    “The rich have always paradoxically been radical, something G.K. Chesterton observed over a hundred years ago when he wrote “You’ve got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists: they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.”

    The wider Great Awokening, of which the 2020 disturbances are a part, is a very elite phenomenon, with progressive activists nearly twice as likely as the average American to make more than $100,000 a year, nearly three times as likely to have a postgraduate degree, and only one-quarter as likely to be black. Likewise with the radicalisation of American academia, with the safe spaces movement most prevalent at elite colleges, where students were much more likely to disinvite speakers or express more extreme views.”

    The divide is opening up before our very eyes:

    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2020/06/13/2020-divide-producers-vs-parasites/

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  22. I forgot Ed West’s most telling point:

    Meanwhile, the expansion of the university system has created what Russian-American academic Peter Turchin called ‘elite overproduction’, the socially dangerous situation where too many people are chasing too few elite places in society, creating “a large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable… denied access to elite positions”.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I find the Ed West / GK Chesterton takes best for unlocking the “extent inequality is increasing” and how-much-it-matters puzzles. I’ve long felt that envy of young tech billionaires eats up many with degrees but millions times less dosh to show for their cleverness (not least those ending up in less exalted and lucrative coding roles, including tweaking climate models). This is not a problem for the poorest, who have been busy emerging from their desperate plight in an unprecedented way all through my adult lifetime, as Geoff rightly acknowledges in response to Chester Draws. And thus they have the wonderful gift of hope for their children. (I did think this aspect of reality was not emphasized enough by GC in Have We Won? I think it was that one. But I didn’t say anything, because of the other strengths.) Anyway, it’s the would-be or failed elitists’ search for significance that can end up generating the dangerous tripe we see close to dark fruition today, both in the climate-industrial complex and what James Lindsay and co call grievance studies.

    I’m in a mutual-follow relationship on Twitter with a woman from Hull (sounds weird) due to our common interest in seeing extreme trans activism defeated (thanks in passing to those French feminists in Le Figaro this morning who definitely helped). Anyway, ‘isabelle tracy’ asked an interesting question today but not of me so I didn’t jump in:

    Once I saw the evident respect for Rosling from Hewson (and I forget who he is) I did chip in:

    I could have been much ruder about the bananas UN mysticism trying to keep the climate bandwagon going of course. But Rosling is himself such an interesting data point to work from. Too much progress – so very privileged people feel they can’t cope and must ‘burn everything to the ground’. Hmm.

    Sorry if this doesn’t properly relate to the rest of the thread. GK Chesterton made me do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. John Gray’s The woke have no vision of the future in Unherd has subtitle “Like medieval millenarians, today’s SJWs believe all that needs to be done to bring about a new world is to destroy the old one”. It includes this rather thought-provoking passage:

    Yet the impulses that animate the woke uprising are different from those that energised Lenin or even Mao. For the Bolshevik leader — an authentic disciple of the Jacobin Enlightenment, or so he always insisted — violence was a tool, not an end in itself. In woke movements such as Antifa, on the other hand, violence seems to be mainly therapeutic in its role.

    One may abhor the type of society Lenin aimed to construct as much as the methods he adopted to achieve it, as I do myself. Tens of millions were enslaved in forced labour camps, executed or starved to death in pursuit of a repellent fantasy. Even so, Lenin attempted to fashion a future that in his view was an improvement on the past.

    Woke activists, in contrast, have no vision of the future. In Leninist terms they are infantile leftists, acting out a revolutionary performance with no strategy or plan for what they would do in power. Yet their difference from Lenin goes deeper. Rather than aiming for a better future, woke militants seek a cathartic present. Cleansing themselves and others of sin is their goal. Amidst vast inequalities of power and wealth, the woke generation bask in the eternal sunshine of their spotless virtue.

    I accept the distinction Gray makes. But Lenin is said never, in his whole life, to have visited a working-class district of any city in which he lived. I think we surrender the progress made by the poorest in the last 44 years, since the death of Mao, by indulging in delusional destruction, at real moral peril.

    Liked by 1 person

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