I’m increasingly finding myself being sucked into the murky world of politics, where subjects so reliably produce a kind of hysteria it’s like everything is covered in plutonium. It almost seems foolish to add my voice to this largely unedifying din. Do we really need one more hand nurturing a cultural Marxist monster which feeds on division and conflict? I’ve answered that in the positive, or the negative, conditional on the tint of glass each of us sees the world through. I’ve resolved to speak and write openly and respectfully about truth, reason and justice, simply because it seems incumbent on the little people to shoulder that burden, such is the duplicity of the forces above us. Though we can forget about politics and those who wield the sceptre of power, that doesn’t mean power and its agents – some known to us and some not – will forget about us.
The novel Coronavirus, aka SARS-CoV-2, has completely saturated the airwaves of the world’s mass media in recent weeks and months. As ever, governments and the corporate media appear to be fathoms ahead of the actual story. But that’s alright. Because those who are paraded before us know that they’re often afforded total impunity to say and do as they please. If they incite hysteria, so be it.
Let’s apply some basic logic to this ongoing farce. Reports of this lethal virus first emerged from China back in late December. But by then, of course, it was very likely to have been spreading through the population undetected for several weeks and months. Because experts have claimed that:
This novel strain has an incubation period of up to 3-4 weeks;
Up to 20-30% of people infected will be asymptomatic;
Asymptomatic carriers can still infect others;
It would obviously take a number of serious cases in an identifiable cluster before the local health authority would have suspected anything unusual.
Allow for the usual delay for testing, results, conferring with higher orders, and so on and so forth.
We should also allow for the inevitable delay of the Chinese authorities admitting to the wider world that its population is being ravaged by a pathogen it’s struggling to contain.
A conservative estimate, then, would be that at least 4 months have passed since first transmission.
The World Health Organization (WHO), its virologists and medical experts, and those from affiliated organisations, repeatedly tell us that this virus is highly contagious, far more so than just the ordinary flu. And that it’s deadly. Researchers and public health officials determine how contagious a virus is by calculating a reproduction number, or R0. The R0 is the average number of people that one person will infect, in a completely non-immune population. WHO believes the R0 to be around 2.5. And of those infected, they estimate the mortality rate to be 3.4%, with risk increasing with age and for all those who have, for whatever reason, compromised immune systems. But if the WHO’s figures are correct, as of early to mid-March, we would surely expect to see more cases of COVID-19 and more deaths.
Wuhan is a travel and trade hub of 11 million people. In 2018 Wuhan Tianhe International Airport served about 25 million passengers. It was shut down by the authorities on January 22nd. So, in those key months at the onset of community transmission, millions of passengers were travelling unrestricted from the outbreak’s epicentre to all 4 corners of China, and to destinations in neighbouring countries and major airports around the world. This at a time when traffic was higher than usual on account of the Chinese New Year.
With all that in mind, let’s look at the latest global figures of this ‘highly’ contagious and lethal virus (as of the morning of 12/3/2020):
Total confirmed cases: 125,851; Total Deaths: 4,615
China cases: 80,921; Deaths: 3,046
Italy cases: 12,462; Deaths: 827
Iran Cases: 9,000; Deaths: 354
Then comes Republic of Korea with 60 deaths, Spain with 54 and France with 48.
The first recorded SARS-CoV-2 death in China was on 13th January. Italy’s was on 22nd February. Iran’s on 12th February. So, to clarify:
China have had 3046 deaths in just under 2 months (53 deaths per day);
Italy, 827 deaths in 18 days (46 deaths per day);
Iran, 354 deaths in 28 days (13 deaths per day).
I stress again that these are the countries worst hit by the outbreak. (All figures are subject to positive tests and presumably, some sort of Coroner’s report – in the UK all deaths are subject to a post-mortem if the individual has not seen a doctor within 2 weeks of death. It’s highly likely infection figures are much higher than recorded. In which case, WHO’s claims of a 3.4% death rate are questionable from only a cursory look at the current data).
For some perspective, let’s compare these to the mortality rates of the common flu (influenza). Which comprises strains that are said to be far less contagious – lower R0s – and far less deadly – 30-40 times less deadly than SARS-CoV-2 according to WHO figures (the studies will be linked below):
The WHO estimates that globally between 290,000 – 650,000 die every year from influenza, with 3-5 million severe cases. This is obviously including deaths that have been precipitated by influenza (as the SARS-CoV-2 deaths have been precipitated by contracting the virus – which is why the elderly with underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable). Influenza’s peak months are winter through to spring. The death toll changes every year, some years being worse than others. In many places this figure is quoted as being around 500,000 deaths annually.
The global population is estimated to be 7,800,000,000.
China’s population is estimated to be 1,439,323,776 – about 18% of the world’s total population.
We would therefore expect that about 90,000 people, which is 18% of 500,000, will die every year in China as a result of contracting influenza.
We recall that China has had 3046 COVID-19 attributed deaths in just under 2 months (53 deaths per day). At that rate there would be around 19,345 deaths over the year, significantly under what we would expect from the far less contagious and deadly common flu.
People will say that because the country is in lockdown mode, it has been somewhat successful in averting much higher numbers. This is self-evident. However, because these measures have no precedent, we have nothing to compare them to. We don’t know the impact, for example, these measures have had on seasonal influenza numbers. (In fact, throughout all of this current seasonal influenza numbers are conspicuous by their absence).
Others will say that the Chinese authorities have suppressed figures and there’s every reason to believe that they are much higher than reported. I agree. But with that being said, why should we believe anything coming out of China? Including ‘leaked’ footage of swelling hospital wards, women being pulled out of houses by their hair by men in biohazard suits, and tenement blocks being welded shut in efforts to contain the virus. Meanwhile, international airports remain open across the country. What’s wrong with this picture? (Similarly, Italy is currently on “lockdown”, yet its airports remain open).
China is ruled by an authoritarian regime. Very little comes out without the government’s say so. They have their own social media platforms, and a social credits system, with those displeasing the government losing social points. Lose enough and they can be denied travel, basic provisions and will be named and shamed in public places. We should therefore not apply western standards to a country which is alien to them. As a side note, I should add that another key difference is that, though all countries will be hit by an economic crash, China will benefit in relative terms because western nations are saddled with far more debt.
Over the 4 annual reports in Britain between 2014-18, 84,622 deaths attributed to influenza and “extreme temperatures” were recorded. That’s an average death rate of 21,155 persons per year – equating to an average of 58 deaths per day, with obviously higher prevalence during peak months.
We recall that Italy’s death toll since the first fatality equates to an average of 46 deaths per day. The UK population is estimated at around 67 million. Italy’s, 60 million. The Italian figures are therefore unremarkable. In fact, like China, you could argue that we would actually expect to see more deaths in Italy from the common flu in what is currently peak season, than what has been listed as a result of COVID-19. Especially when you consider that Italy has an older population than the UK. Again, the argument will be that the Italian authorities have probably been successful in suppressing the severity of the spread; but, I repeat, we have nothing to compare these extraordinary measures to, and what may have been their effects in suppressing seasonal influenza.
Short of having the Italian figures, let’s compare Italy to another Mediterranean country. In Spain for the season 18/19, 6,300 influenza deaths were recorded. That equates to 17 deaths per day over the year – with prevalence being higher in winter and spring. Its population is estimated to be 47 million. 78% of Italy’s 60 million. We recall that at an average of 46 people are dying per day in Italy. 78% of 46 is just shy of 36. Significantly higher than the Spanish figure. But nothing out of the ordinary. Because this is peak season and the Spanish figure was a yearly average.
It’s argued that influenza was already endemic when the flu season started, giving it a huge head start on SARS-CoV-2. And unlike influenza, we are dealing with a single geographic origin. There have also been efforts to contain its spread. But we don’t know how successful those efforts have been to also contain influenza’s spread. Because those figures are not being released. Moreover, given that there are obviously far more cases of SARS-CoV-2 than what is being reported, but not necessarily, significantly more deaths, the WHO’s 3.4% mortality rate of those infected seems scarcely credible.
We should also stress that the common flu spreads in a population where many people have either partial or full immunity from previous flu seasons. And for which many others will be partially immunized by taking a vaccine (interestingly, this somewhat aligns with the reported 20-30% asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 cases). This will keep numbers down. However, we can’t say the same for SARS-CoV-2. This highly contagious and lethal virus is purportedly spreading through a population with no immunity and for which there is no vaccine. This should unfortunately raise numbers significantly. Are we seeing this reflected in the current data?
In fact, none of the data looks in any way remarkable when compared to seasonal influenza. Of which there are many different mutating strains of varying severity. So, if this is a crisis, perhaps we should add it to the crisis we experience at this time every year, where hospitals are invariably swelling with patients suffering from the effects of the common flu.
Richard Hatchett, CEO, ‘Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations’, said recently on a television interview that SARS-CoV-2 was “here to stay”. It will apparently rear its ugly head periodically. Still sounds like the flu doesn’t it? He also said that “war is an appropriate analogy”. As has the Italian Health minister. Who has been quoted as saying that “we are at war”, and “a bomb has gone off in Italy”.
This analogy should make us pause for thought. War, and more importantly, the threat of war, has been used since time immemorial to keep the structure of society intact. Former president James Madison said it best:
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded…War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes…and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Most wars are entered into under duplicitous means. So, why should ‘this’ war be any different? In a world where politics, science and money can become the same, we should be careful not to be swept up in manufactured hysteria. (I will explore these points in further detail in a follow up article).
I see no convincing data that would support the conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 is radically different to the common flu. But, of course, everyone should still be prepared and should still take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their family. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones in recent times.
Stay safe and God bless.
*Figures are accurate as of the morning of 12/3/2020. We should expect figures to go up. But we are a long away from fears of exponential rises, despite claims that SARS-CoV-2 is spreading rapidly. As stated, after 4 months or more it is currently underperforming typical seasonal influenza figures.
Courage and nobility. Today those words often perish on our lips. But from 1940 in the Warsaw ghetto, in the midst of the dehumanisation and appalling degradation of hundreds of thousands of people, their meaning was still fresh and invigorating. Words Irena Sendler had, to a supreme degree, the power of making visible.
Irena Sendler, née Irena Krzyżanowska, was a Polish social worker who helped save thousands of Jewish children’s lives during the Holocaust. It is thought she was personally responsible for saving at least 450. It’s difficult to reconcile such heroism with the commonplace job of social work; but sometimes it’s only through periods of implacable difficulty that we’ll discover our powers. When human will and moral fortitude is adjusted to the scale of emergency. Extreme conditions have a way of evincing both the best and worst of what humanity has to offer. And Irena possessed the courage, the constancy, the enthusiasm, and the emotional energy to find a way of surmounting the will of a nation.
A rabid central European anti-Semitism took political root in the most horrifying of ways in Germany in the 1930s. The Nazis were one of several political parties that took advantage of a period of political and economic instability following the end of the First World War. Once in power, they brought matches and flammable materials to a place only too ready to blaze out into wickedness, exploiting people’s prejudices and fears by presenting Jews and communists as common enemies against whom the German people should unite. These groups, it was said, were an existential threat to the Aryan race. The culture was soon saturated with a grand doomsday narrative, cynically spun to manipulate the minds of the population. Pernicious ideas that were as diffuse as the light that fills up a room.
This met with such perverse success that by 1942, the Final Solution, the Nazi’s secret plan to kill all the Jews of Europe, was in its advanced stages. It was a plan that first deprived Jews of their humanity, marking them out as a people inferior to their Aryan counterparts; then liberty, isolating them from society by forcibly herding them into ethnic ghettos; before it, in millions of cases, deprived them of their lives. A plan that enlisted relatively few active participants, there being many more by-standers, unwilling or unable to help. The Nazis deceived their intended victims as they deceived the rest of society. Many did not believe that the Jews were doomed until it was too late.
One person who did believe was Irena Sendler. She saw the emergency and she helped make all the people around her see it; rekindling the flailing hope and courage in all those who were exhausted by hardship and privation. Passing through like a whirlwind, she purified the moral atmosphere, as a storm purifies the physical atmosphere. Her very presence was a fumigation of evil.
When Germany invaded Poland in the fall of 1939, Irena Sendler was a senior figure in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department. She soon joined the Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organised by the Polish underground resistance. Under the code name “Jolanta”, she headed the children’s division and, obtaining a pass from the Warsaw Epidemic Control Department, she smuggled food, clothing and medicine into the Warsaw ghetto. Efforts initially seemed futile. 450,000 souls had been packed into a small 16-block area and disease was spreading. Up to 5,000 were dying a month.
Slowly the ghetto was getting empty as the Germans were starting to transport the Jews to the concentration camps. Irena was desperate. Heading a division of 25, she hatched a plan to try and save the children. Many years later she recalled, “When the war started Poland was drowning in a sea of blood. But most of all, it affected the Jewish nation. And within that nation, it was the children who suffered most. That’s why we needed to give our hearts to them”.
In a race against the clock Irena and her team organised to smuggle out as many children as possible from the ghetto. Not only did they have to get the children out undetected, they had to find non-Jewish families who were prepared to hide them in their homes at great risk to their lives. No small matter for all involved. It’s estimated that 700 Poles were executed as a result of harbouring Jewish children.
A young mother herself, Irena found it tremendously painful trying to convince parents to part with their children. People thought that Treblinka, the next destination for many Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, may have been a relocation settlement, when in fact it was even worse than Auschwitz, containing little more than gas chambers and ovens. Irena and her team tirelessly pressed upon them the urgency of the situation, persuading thousands.
Small children were sedated to keep them from crying, then hidden in sacks, coffins, boxes, or in bags of old clothes, which were donated to convents and orphanages. Other children pretended to be ill so they could be taken out in ambulances. They were also smuggled out through sewers, underground tunnels, and through a secret passageway connecting the old courthouse adjacent to the ghetto. Irena even had her dog trained to bark on command to drown out any noise coming from the fugitives.
Irena buried a list of the hidden children in a jar under an apple tree in a friend’s backyard in order to keep track of their original and new identities. The goal was to reunite the children with their parents, if they survived the war. Sadly, of course, most didn’t. And on the night of October 20th, 1943, it appeared extremely unlikely that Irena would survive the war.
The operation had been compromised. She was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Warsaw’s infamous Pawiak prison. Irena was subjected to weeks of torture by her captors. Both her feet and legs were broken. Her arms were fractured. But at no point did she betray her confidences – not a single word passed from her lips. No amount of suffering would make her shrink from the course which she believed it to be her duty to engage in.
She was sentenced to death by firing squad. But on the day of her execution a colleague from Zegota managed to bribe one of the guards and Irena was smuggled out in a similar fashion to the many children she had saved. Though the guard listed her as one of the those who had been executed, the Gestapo later discovered the subterfuge. They sent the guard to the Russian front, a punishment considered worse than death, and Irena spent the remainder of the war in hiding. She continued her efforts to rescue Jewish children; but by this time the ghetto had been completely purged.
At the start of the second world war more than a million and a half Jewish children were living in Europe. By the war’s end fewer than 1 in 10 had survived. Irena was head of a network that saved at least 2,500 children from near certain death. The injuries she sustained during captivity were such that she required the use of crutches and a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Today, we are incredulous at how such extreme conditions could have developed in a modern industrial society; but history informs us that large numbers of people across the social milieu will remain unconscious of distortion and manipulation. Typically, those who reside in the upper echelons of societal success or in the lower echelons of intellect will maintain a high moral and self-righteous tone in the face of conflicting information to dominant narratives. One contributing factor is an overwhelming desire to think well of ourselves, our institutions and our leaders. A kind of patriotism, if you will. That we’re all in this together. We see ourselves as righteous, so therefore the corporate state apparatus functions in accordance with the same benign intent, a supposition that is common even if it is a transparent non sequitur.
Even so, one would think that such cruel and iniquitous conditions should have led to popular indignation calculated to bring down the strong arm of the law. Yet for most in Germain occupied territories, fortitude proved too weak for cowardice; sympathy too weak for fear; reason too weak for credulity. It’s to be expected. Cowards, whose fear of death and social ridicule is greater than their self-respect, can generally console themselves with the thought they are doing the right thing even when it is plain that they are not.
But Irena Sendler was different. Instead of an ordinary life of sensation, she lived a deeper life of reflection, which has the effect of unanchoring us from the negative thoughts and opinions of others. Her independence of character and strong powers of thought stirred within her, instilling a predisposition to rebelliousness that is the lot of every proud and passionate nature. This was merely raised to the surface when outward conditions contrasted sharply with her inner moral conviction. Nazi power amounted to such a tyranny that Irena’s conscience insisted she be placed as victim rather than inadvertent inflictor.
She understood that as a moral being, we’re morally powerless if we depart from our own conception of life and character. Indeed, if we are to surrender our own judgement and unthinkingly adopt the standards of the day, we’re no different to a brute animal, which reacts to stimulus instinctively. As such, individual morality is quite superfluous to collective morality. We cease to choose our moral path; we have our path imposed upon us. With the system paving all the broad paths which led to the same destination: an extreme agenda. Irena, however, did not suffer from vertigo, so she went along the narrow path across the cliff edge to see what had hit the rocks below.
As a Pole, her ability to distinguish between the reality of Nazi power and its outward appearance wasn’t especially remarkable; what made her extraordinary was that she possessed the courage to act on it, notwithstanding the consequences. She had the singular vision and tenacity of purpose of someone who was impressed with the truth of what she was doing, and who had no dread of consequences. Thus, she conquered every fear out of necessity. She subdued every weakness by simply understanding that we can do all things if we will.
For decades the enormity of her actions lay hidden from wider public attention. It remained just one of many footnotes in a period of history awash with yarns. But I suppose recognition and acclaim themselves are not impactful, merely an echo of actions which may or may not have been. Irena to her eternal credit saying: “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory”. Her heroism was matched only by her humility.
Still, justice did eventually prevail. Her story was picked up in one of the most unlikely places: a high school in Kansas. The students were so struck with her story they were inspired to write a play based on her life. ‘Life in a Jar’ was such a phenomenal success that it spilled out of Kansas and propelled the now the 90-year-old great-grandmother to national attention. In a hyper-individualistic generation starved of heroism, and one rightly mindful of the historical suppression of female empowerment, it was such that, in the years following the play’s premiere in 1999, Irena Sendler was in high demand. She achieved such fame that a movement began that aimed to put her name forward for the Nobel Peace Prize. And so it came to be that at 97 years young Irena Sendler was nominated for the 2007 addition.
She didn’t win.
The prize instead was shared by Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their work in raising public awareness to the dangers of rising greenhouse gas emissions. It seems the world is faced with a new great peril; one that poses an existential threat to every living thing on this planet. Evidently, the Nobel panel thought that this “climate emergency” was more current than the astonishing heroism of a Polish woman 65 years previous and thus, more deserving of the accolade.
Time has been kinder to Mr Gore than it has to the wild predictions he made in his 2006 film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, which led to him being awarded the Peace Prize. They’ve proven spurious, alarmist, fantastical; far removed from the mundane reality of the actual temperature readings post 2006. But present needs have seen to it that a collective amnesia has swept over the world of polite opinion, as if it a were a storm purifying scrutiny, as well as apparently resetting the doomsday clock. Mr Gore and his backers have emerged from this storm quite unscathed. Some of the critics, however, must always be braced for backlash, often facing slurs against which there is little recourse, an inhibiting factor which dissuades many from entering the fray.
Like many high-profile people, Mr Gore, in spite of his proud claims of being carbon neutral, regularly uses private jets. What he really means by “carbon neutral” is that he ‘offsets’ his emissions – compensating for his extensive carbon footprint by donating money to reduce emissions elsewhere. One wonders about the efficacy of ‘carbon offsets’, which can take up to 30 years to take effect, in a world “on the brink of environmental collapse”. But carbon offsets are essentially a rich man’s fancy. Rich being the operative word. Mr Gore’s investment company, Generation Investment Management, which sells carbon offset opportunities, is the largest shareholder of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). His estimated worth is $325 million. Most of which he’s accrued since leaving party politics and taking on the mantle of international climate change guru.
From such a position, when he speaks of the common good, you should immediately feel a haughtiness and coldness in the air, as if he were an imposing statue made of metal, high above the day-to-day affairs of ordinary people.
The Nobel Peace Prize was steeped in irony in 2007. In fact, it’s steeped in irony every year. Alfred Nobel, the benefactor behind the Prizes which takes his name, made his many millions from his invention of dynamite, the manufacture of war munitions and from his family’s investment in oilfields along the Caspian Sea. At the time of his death, his business, one of the principal suppliers of both sides during the Crimean War, had established more than 90 armaments factories. Mr Nobel was as hypocritical in life as he is in death. Said to be an unassuming pacifist, he bequeathed his entire estate to institute the Nobel Prize, which, according to an impressive bronze plaque I remember seeing at the ‘Nobelmuseet’ in Stockholm, was “for his legacy”.
It is true that in lionizing things – people, groups, institutions – we’ll assume the presence of qualities that are in fact not often to be found in them. Take honesty. It may seem inconceivable that large numbers of people could be involved, say, in a movement ridden with lies. But this a childish misapprehension, which assumes honesty is commensurate with prevalence. Indeed, honesty is one thing and society is another. It’s the same as in farming: the beauty of nature is one thing and the income from fields and crops and animals is something quite different. This also has its truth, as it were, but only insofar as it profits the farm. And clearly if the pigs discovered that their role was to provide bacon it would jeopardize the whole operation. But as we know, it’s easy to dupe animals which are occupied not by what is but by what it appears to be.
Only animals and idiots are totally sincere. Once civilisation has introduced into life the need for duty and responsibility and economic dependence, and once resources are unevenly distributed, for instance, then sincerity is quite out of place. Yet so many of us go on as if sincerity is that ungovernable force that guides human relations, when all the world tells us, if we start to think for ourselves, that it is a governable force subject to necessity and expediency. If everyone was sincere the present system would quickly fall to rack and ruin. Because plainly there is little room for sincerity in a world where a narrow class of individuals hoard almost all the wealth and resources.
The onward march of humans is to rise above the mental level of the generation before them. And the onward march of democracy is one that moves inexorably toward reform of a system of extreme inequality. Because such inequality breeds resentment, which must constantly therefore be co-opted by those with everything to protect. Power and authority has always presented narrow interest to be in the wider interest. It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at history to establish this basic axiom.
Social organisation depends entirely on the goals of the system and the individual characters of the rulers. A competitive and avaricious system regulated by the winners clearly holds latent dangers. In theory, therefore, one should not yield to the edicts from on high before a thorough examination of their content.
Indeed, surrendering personal judgement is attended with reduced consciousness, and obedience, the partial sleep of thought, amounts to the gradual submergence of our own personality by another, which could indeed be an abusive spouse or an abusive political system. In the latter case, we find that this isn’t the exception but the norm. In fact, it’s the glue in social cohesion. So, for depressingly large numbers of people, authority’s ideas will be their ideas. If it thought Jews were an inferior race and posed an existential threat to the German people, they thought the same. If it believes the world is on the brink of environmental collapse because of carbon emissions, so do they. And how are we to forestall this pending catastrophe? By increased taxation and the further centralisation of resources.
The introduction of every new financial liability, under present conditions, merely serves the cause of entanglement in a system controlled by a wealthy class. The people are entangled in a great chain, and when you introduce new impediments and restrictions you are not cutting through the chain but entangling them still more by addition. New standards increase the number of needs, on top of those that already exist. Control comes closely on the back of needs, and power comes closely on the back of control. We really don’t have to follow that many breadcrumbs to understand who benefits from an increasing financialization of the economy.
We are apparently sitting on the verge of a precipice; but this, immediately, instead of being a call to action, should be a reason for circumspection. The claims of establishment science, detached from accurate, testable predictions, are too closely pressed upon by necessity to be prudent. Its pervasiveness inducing a kind of mania that has turned many a nation wild. In history, without exception, all points of uniform extremity have more than a hint of menace. With perhaps no better example than what took place during Nazi Germany. We should therefore take our lessons from the past and be ever watchful that we are not consumed by the folly with which all ages unfold.
Al Gore is one of a small class of people who’ve not been discouraged from combining the so-called climate emergency with personal pecuniary advancement. Nor is he, for that matter, inhibited by any sense of false modesty. Whereas Irena Sendler was a paradox of great humility in the matter of her accomplishments merged with great ferocity in the matter of her virtue. I would suggest, therefore, that a Nobel Peace Prize means much to the character of the former, and little to the character of the latter.
Moreover, it should be obvious by now that awards – especially prestigious awards – are not awarded for moral qualities or even abilities, but for service to the arbiters. As in journalism, they are explicitly a political job. In fact, it’s the same in all fields that have the capacity for a large audience. The primary purpose is to push cultural orthodoxies. And since most mass media outlets are owned by a handful of mega-corporations, it’s very easy for an elite to saturate the airwaves with a specific message.
Society is set up for us to follow and glorify leaders who’re often least deserving of exaltment, while those who are most deserving can be neglected and sometimes even, chastised. No matter. Truth and goodness always shine. Similarly, though a cloud and shower may pass by, the sun is behind, always existing. In such a dishonest and cruel world, then, where truth and goodness can remain hidden, for morality to have any real meaning, it is this: to live a virtuous life even when you know nobody is watching.
The world is more tolerable for all of us if we’re witness to the kindness in others. It’s infectious. Each kind act can and will multiply exponentially; its lasting effect, which is invariably unseen and unheard, can hardly be tabulated. Take Irena’s case. Her father was a physician who raised her to love and respect all people irrespective of their ethnicity or social status. When she was 7 a typhus epidemic broke out in some of the poorest Warsaw districts. Irena’s father risked his life to treat the afflicted, the only doctor in the area to do so. He was one of many to cruelly succumb to the disease. As he lay dying, Irena later recounted, he told her, “If you see someone drowning, you must jump in and try and save them, even if you don’t know how to swim”.
She didn’t forget.
After his death, the Jewish community in Warsaw, many of whom had been treated by Irena’s father, offered her mother financial assistance. She proudly declined the offer, though one feels that Irena certainly took notice of the gesture.
Again, she didn’t forget.
We can all be delicate and sickly to painful impressions. Children are particularly susceptible. The pictures, ideas and conceptions of character assimilated into the mind of the child, are destined to be reproduced in deeds many years afterwards. What the Jewish children of the ghettos went through can scarcely be imagined. A piece of suffering stamped into their very existence. But Irena was at least an unfading light in the darkness. Not only did she help save their lives, but through her courage and compassion, she had shown them, in the midst of evil, humanity at its very best.
Though the history books haven’t recorded much of her exploits, they were certainly memorable enough for those whose lives she touched.
Irena’s story is one that should make each individual conscious of his or her powers as a complete moral being. That in service to others an otherwise ordinary person can achieve the extraordinary. Changing the world for the better one act of kindness at a time.
Whether Aesop’s personage is of history or legend, the Greek fabulist, which legend dates to the 7th century BCE archaic Greece, is credited by posterity with numerous allegorical tales, known collectively as ‘Aesop’s Fables’. These fables represent wisdom thousands of years old; probably long predating Aesop, and certainly long predating their current truncated form.
The fables are characterised by animals that take on human characteristics; they interact, solve problems, and are used as a vehicle to impart fundamental truths, not merely about what it is to be human, but, more pertinently, what it is to live in a society constructed by humans. Over thousands of years the context may have changed, and the technology, the wizardry, the gadgetry has certainly changed, but the types of methods used by the predators who live amongst us, against the naïve, have not.
There are a number of fables that really do pertain to our political situation. I thought I’d share one of them today and cogitate a little on how it reflects on our current reality.
There was once a house that was overrun with Mice. A Cat heard of this, and said to herself, “That’s the place for me,” and off she went and took up her quarters in the house and caught the Mice one by one and ate them. At last the Mice could stand it no longer, and they determined to take to their holes and stay there. “That’s awkward,” said the Cat to herself. “The only thing to do is to coax them out by a trick.” So, she considered a while, and then climbed up the wall and let herself hang down by her hind legs from a peg and pretended to be dead. By and by a Mouse peeped out and saw the Cat hanging there. “Aha!” it cried, “you’re very clever, madam, no doubt; but we will not trust ourselves with you, even if your skin was stuffed with straw.”
Moral ~ If you are wise you won’t be deceived by the innocent airs of those whom you have once found to be dangerous.
In our personal lives we tend to observe, to judge, and if it so happens that we should fall foul of some trick, we will generally not trust that person again. The above fable speaks of that. But when we apply this basic wisdom more abstractly, say, to an entity or an institution, the whole of society seems to be at odds with it. Take statism and all those who participate in the sacrament of voting. Politicians have rarely if ever shown themselves to be trustworthy, the entire political system even less so, but people will still queue at the voting booth, ready to have their good faith be taken advantage of.
Ironically, the more cynical amongst us, who rightfully question the legitimacy of this process, by way of an answer, invariably endorse a politics that will extend and not subdue the powers of the state. They seem to forget that in a society where power is proportional to wealth, and not official position, and where power is an extreme state of inequality, extending the powers of the Cat is therefore something entirely different to extending the powers of the Mice.
On countless occasions the official version of events has proven bogus. Indeed, a complete inversion of reality. Often at the direct expense of all those most caught up in the entanglements and iniquities of social life. Yet when we question and probe such matters – as we should – we are usually met with condescension and scorn. Immediately, our abilities are questioned, and we’re associated with names that have a bad smell. In light-hearted scenarios, the term “conspiracy theorist” is aired, in more serious ones, an ‘ist or ‘ism or ‘obic is thrown, forever to our detriment.
But if we were to ask the name-callers to prove some official dogma, without a referral to higher authority, they would be quite dazed, like somebody who was asked to defend their name. Because they haven’t really thought about it at all. Their knowledge is built upon taking things for granted; when in fact, if we’re being more observant, there’s every reason to not take things for granted. As long as honesty is rare, suspicion should be common.
To doubt the truthfulness of those who show themselves not to be trusted is wisdom so basic even a young child can grasp. But we need not be surprised if it’s repudiated by upper society and its sycophants; like an abusive lover repudiating a spouse’s well-grounded concerns by deceitfully flipping them on their head. Because it is simply gaslighting to denigrate timeless human wisdom as peculiar. As strange. As hateful. As suggestive of paranoia or even psychosis. Of course, gaslighting doesn’t work on all people. But it does work on enough of them to keep the Cats in business.
Honesty will always rankle with dishonesty. Whenever power is corrupt – and it is an abiding feature that it is – innocence and integrity are sure to be targeted. Such attacks will deter the thin-skinned amongst us who are unduly stung by opprobrium. But the thick-skinned, who are impervious to rebuke and ridicule, know that an attack on the person is never a reliable barometer of ultimate truth.
Nor is the schooling system and the various institutional frameworks through which society works itself, for they are in the image of Cats, and not in the truth which is independent of them. During an arduous, prohibitively expensive and time-consuming period of re-education, each Mouse is trained to think like a Cat and to be one that pretends ignorance when it comes to the threat of the Cat.
They no longer have the wisdom of the uneducated Mouse, which thinks for itself. They begin to have too much of the knowledge of the half-educated Mouse, which allows the Cat to do its thinking for them. Put together, they are no longer unsophisticated Mice that are sceptical of the Cat’s entreaties, they are sophisticated Mice that are trusting of them.
But whether the Cat is harmless or not is almost always to be ascertained. It requires an intellectual autopsy to see whether its skin is indeed stuffed with straw. If we are really to find out what power intends, we will surely find it, not in the self-examined fur which is sold to the public, but in the innards which the public examine.
Aesop’s tales still have relevance and meaning, and can impart wisdom all these thousands of years after they were first conceived. That probably says something; something about the immutable fabric of human organisation and management, and something about the type of things that are excluded from our attention, and the reasons why they are kept at a distance. Instead of being swept up in the hysteria of new political movements, we should take pause and reconsider what humans have always understood.
The shockwaves are still reverberating around Britain after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s announcement that they intend to step away from their current role within the Royal Family. Though there’s understandably a measure of scepticism about the importance of the movements of, in truth, minor royalty, ‘Megxit’, as it has not-so-creatively been dubbed by the press, is in fact as culturally significant as Brexit, if not more so.
Despite all the extraordinary trappings and privilege a Royal life has always been one that has existed inside the stillness of a gilded cage. It’s a life of public service, handsomely rewarded. But in the modern world few want to be imprisoned in anything but the limits of their own nature; they want no guides other than the sometimes-wayward choice of their own passions. In such a world, if the Duke and Duchess consider freedom more important than service, frankly, who are we to argue, if they grow the wings to fly beyond the days and weeks and months of stuffy protocol. And to sing their own tune of brave self-reliance. Meghan – the feminist diva; and Harry – the artist formerly known as Prince.
The problem, however, is that this flight of freedom is dependent upon the buoyancy of that which they seek to renounce. In what is an astonishing act of sheer chutzpah and ignorance, they are unilaterally plotting to effectively commercialise the Family’s legacy, and by implication, the country’s heritage, in order to feather their own nest. It appears to be an act of treachery which has been brewing for some time.
It has emerged that back in June 2019 the Sussexes applied to trademark ‘Sussex Royal’. Under intellectual property law they will have the option to attach this brand to an eclectic mix of goods and services, ranging from magazines to sports goods. It also didn’t escape notice that back in July, Meghan Markle was guest editor of the September edition of Vogue magazine, where she was described as a “changemaker” who “is breaking barriers and setting the agenda across the globe”. “Changemaker” is the United Nation’s speak for globalism, which is essentially the gradual dissolution of national boundaries, power centralised under a network of regional bureaucratic proxies, with huge combinations of transnational capital operating behind the curtain.
On their plush new website, which, judging by its polish, has clearly been in the offing for several months, the Sussexes have spoken of wanting to “balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter”. In other words, keep the privilege and relinquish the duty.
That they “intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent”. But, of course, by this they mean only independent of the Sovereign Grant, which accounts for about 5% of their income, and not independent of the allowance from the Duke’s father, the Prince of Wales, who gets most of his income from the Duchy of Cornwall. This is estimated to be several million pounds a year, not a dime of which originates anywhere other than the public purse because it is money made from commercial activities off land that the Royals hold on trust. They also don’t want to give up their round-the-clock security which the British taxpayer pays to the cost of £7.6 million a year, and it will surely only increase if their activities bestride continents.
Perhaps the most symbolic statement of all is that they want to “carve out a new progressive role within this institution”. A progressive monarchy, however, is an oxymoron. Responsibility, duty, and tradition are anathema to modernism. By definition.
Let me explain. It can be summarised as the contrast between the classical world – the world of antiquity from which Monarchy is derived – and the modern world of industrial globalism – from which Liberalism is derived. In the classical world the fundamental question of self was how to conform one’s soul to the divine meaning and purpose embedded in the world, and thus be drawn up into eternal life. The answer was through prayer, virtue and wisdom. That was the central concern of pre-modern, or what we may call, classical man. They believed that the world was full of divine meaning and purpose, and thus every person was born into a world of divine obligation. We were all obliged to conform our lives into a harmonious relationship with that divine meaning and purpose.
For the modern person, however, the question is completely inverted, because they have redefined the world through the lens solely of science, which reduces the great human drama to nothing more than biological, chemical and physical properties. The modern person asks how one conforms the world to one’s own desires and ambitions. And the answer involves tapping into those institutions that operate by the mechanisms of power and manipulation, namely science, technology and the secular state.
That’s the key difference between the traditional world and the modern world, the religious world and the secular world, and the nationalist world and the globalist world.
What’s happened as a result of this paradigm shift is that we’ve gone from a communal life, centred on the moral obligations inherent in family and church and community; and instead moved more into a contract based life, where we have no moral obligations apart from those we enter into through self-interested, rational contracts.
The notion of the modern autonomous self is that it has no more obligation than what the sovereign individual imposes on his or herself. This stance clashes with the classical world of duty and self-sacrifice – to subsume oneself within tradition and culture and divine obligations, of which the Monarchy is an embodiment. It was this sense of the divine that was the axis on which revolved all other elements – the relations of child and parent, of husband and wife, of brother and friend; life was, in its essential relations, throughout of a divine purpose. But in the world of industrial globalism the social framework is moulded by the character of the sovereign individual. It breaks prior boundaries.
It’s no secret that Meghan Markle is an ultra-liberal: she’s a self-avowed feminist, she’s pro-abortion, she hates Trump. And she’s on board with all the typical liberal talking points. Woke, in a word. It seems evident that it’s this self-identified left-wing liberalism that is clashing with the traditionalism of the Royal family. The clash is of our times. It is fundamentally irreconcilable.
Within the framework of the institution every possible concession had been made to make the couple happy. The Royal Family facilitated glamorous tours to Australia and Africa. The Queen allowed them unprecedented privacy for the birth of their child, Archie, far more so than any other royal birth in the past. And her Majesty accommodated their request to move from Kensington Palace to Windsor. Frogmore Cottage – more of a mansion than a cottage – which is owned by the Queen, cost the British taxpayer £2.4 million to renovate to the couple’s specifications. At the property, which they fully intend on keeping, “so that their family will always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom”, they had a housekeeper, two personal assistants and two palace orderlies, before public pressure led to them dropping the staff and, in a recent development, repay the public purse for the refurbishment. But one must ask, will they be paying any rent on this multi-million-pound crown property other people had to vacate for their accommodation?
“What Meghan wants, Meghan gets” is the Duke’s now infamous refrain to orderlies, many of whom were reportedly dispatched by the Duchess’ high-handedness as quickly as they were summoned. For a minor Hollywood actress she has certainly taken to the role of difficult and spoilt princess with considerable aplomb. And I’m sure that had this sorry affair been dramatized she would have been in line for several prestigious nominations. The one position in the household that did appear safe from the axe was that of chef, as it was reported that the Duchess preferred to prepare her own meals. Now, there’s a surprise. Often is the case that in the curious compound of character the flavour is sometimes disagreeable in spite of excellent ingredients.
Prince Harry was one of the most popular members of the Royal Family. Blessed with the common touch, like his mother, he has the ability to bring people together. He is human. Approachable. And it’s been evident that behind the bravado and charm is a damaged and sensitive young man for which the public has every sympathy. But since Harry fell for an American actress, he’s undergone a radical transformation. From a boyish, emotional, wayward, fun-loving Prince; to a boyish, emotional, wayward, subjugated Duke.
Harry is the moon-struck slave of Meghan. Not merely deeply in love with her, but completely steeped in her, as if she were his place of refuge in a lifetime of distress. Because his love seems to be attended by a despondency hitherto, we have not associated with him. It’s almost as if some dim unrest has been brought into vivid consciousness by her influence.
To understand the man, we must follow his growth. A love paradoxically mingling with his peculiarly tense and gloomy character seems to derive from the fact that Harry is reliving his life with his mother through his relationship with his wife. An Oedipal transference of a son’s love to a man’s love. Meghan, who is an independent and successful woman three years his senior, appearing to provide him with the Jocastian fusion of conjugal love and maternal belonging. And perhaps after winning the ring, Meghan was pregnant with not only Archie, but Oedipus and Jocasta’s offspring, Antigone. Because the struggle between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Royal family mirrors the struggle between Antigone and Creon. It represents the struggle between elemental tendencies and established customs by which the outer shell of self is painfully being brought into harmony with its inward needs. Indeed, this is rather unravelling like a Greek tragedy – immutable causality and inexorable development are fundamental aspects of this tale.
Meghan is calling the shots. Not only has Harry learnt the lexicon of Woke, her introduction into his life has led to the breaking of boyhood friendships, many of whom weren’t invited to the wedding or evening reception, apparently their much-valued place being taken by more photogenic international celebrities. These are the aristocrats of the modern day. A-listers mingling with one another as the blue-blooded Royal households of the past forged alliances by intermarrying. It’s a hierarchical network of publicised friendships, each feeding off the other; with lesser lights, in a pitiful pecking order, scavenging after resource rich targets like seagulls circling as they search for food.
International super stardom is essentially all the obnoxious elements of monarchy shorn of its redeemable features. And it seems that the Sussex’s plan for modernising the monarchy is for it to essentially be all the obnoxious elements of celebrity shorn of its redeemable features. Exactly what talent are they selling?
The more they flog their Royal titles for personal gain, the more they devalue it. Even if they have now lost the HRH, they still plan to crassly trade off the back of the Dukedom of Sussex, which is part of the country’s history and legacy. This destroys the whole raison d’être of Royalty. It breaks the divine bond with the public which will therefore owe them no favours and no obligations. And, of course, the liberal world owes the Sussex’s no favours and no obligations – with incessant exposure the appeal of a picture-perfect lifestyle will fade with time, like a photo left out in the sun. By flying the nest in this manner, they are cutting off the branch on which the nest was built.
The reason for their departure is that this lavish lifestyle they’ve enjoyed to date has made them rather unhappy. On the couple’s tour of Africa, the Duchess confided to a Royal reporter that “it’s not enough to just survive”, that you have got to “thrive”; that she has “really tried” to adopt the British stiff upper lip before concluding it is “internally really damaging”. Apparently, nobody asks her how she feels. The Duchess was speaking just after attending a centre which caters for children who have had their limbs blown off by landmines.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, and who you’re with, in our society if you say that you’re not ok suddenly you become the centre of attention. You’re irreproachable if you play the mental health card. It’s classic narcissism, born of an inherently narcissistic ideology. And it speaks to the extraordinary levels of an entitled and self-absorbed victimhood culture that these comments can be uttered without shame and, more to the point, taken seriously. But liberalism is essentially a parasitic ideology, seemingly immunizing many people to their own self-awareness.
It is certainly the crowning glory of liberal civilisation – the sight of somebody who has everything in grief. Naturally, the Duchess received some criticism for these comments. But since the Sussexes have announced that they intend to step away from Royal life left-wing liberals are claiming that the press have hounded the Duchess out of the country. Because the country is racist. Apparently. On the contrary, apart from a few examples in this regard – which doesn’t make the country racist – the public have been very welcoming to Meghan Markle. Had she been white and British the coverage would have been brutal. She’s escaped much of that on account of being a “woman of colour”, which increasingly people wear as some sort of Woke shield, protecting them from legitimate criticism. People are just so frightfully worried of being called “racist”, they’re hesitant to ‘go there’, even when criticism is deserved. Because as soon as that word is uttered you become a kind of social leper.
So, you can trash a country’s culture, its heritage, disrespect and threaten the Queen, by suggesting that you will do a candid interview if you don’t get your way, and help to turn one of its most precious, historic institutions into a crass circus, but left-wing liberals will still present you as the victim. To which the public get no right of reply.
Presently, moral obligations don’t exist prior to the sovereign individual having chosen them. Unless of course you happen to be a white man. In which case you’re obliged to walk on eggshells; where a special set of moral obligations exist in the present as a result of choices made by people hundreds of years ago in the past based upon shared skin pigmentation and sex. Other groups inherit concomitant grievances in proportion to these moral obligations. So, liberals will reject the idea of inheriting responsibility or duty or loyalty, but they’re eager to inherit some abstract grievance. This aspect of Woke culture, the ranking of groups in ascendant victimhood, is not liberal; it’s neo Marxist. The moniker Liberalism is merely a smokescreen which hides the guilty.
The entire ideology is rife with contradictions and phoniness, which is primarily why many high profile, self-identifying liberals are insufferable hypocrites. Preaching, say, to everybody about the importance of making lifestyle changes to counter the purported perils of anthropogenic climate change, while regularly going off on jaunts in private, carbon guzzling planes. And nothing says environmentalism quite like intending to set up a lifestyle that has you flying across an ocean on a private plane multiple times per year! But irrespective of the claims of hypocrisy, to hold court and flaunt your moral virtues as the Sussexes have done, is simply vulgar; like flaunting the fact that you are wearing the latest designs from New York. Something the Royals have always commendably avoided.
The Sussexes are essentially part of an elite class of individuals who proselytize to each other in what is little more than a fanciful game. In truth, they are the enablers of all that they oppose. They take as a mistress the very lavish lifestyle they advocate against, and yet they act as though they have moral superiority. It’s shallow; transparent. Mostly because in the liberal world of industrial globalism words carry little burden outside of contractual obligations. Thus, words and actions and combined endeavours are often debased to such a point where only their outer shell is left, which remains intact for the sake of appearances.
Of the two, Harry’s conduct has been far more abominable. It is, after all, his family, and his country. He is still, though, in spite of everything, very much a product of his environment. It seems the duty he had to family and country has merely transferred to the woman he loves. This chivalry towards his wife has strong and deep roots, derived from a background of duty and piety, and no doubt wanting his marriage to succeed where his parents’ marriage failed; but the double-irony is that this chivalry, in his own search for love and happiness in a wider world, has effectively severed him from his roots, and it will most likely lead to the breakdown of his marriage.
Chivalry relies upon the purity and chastity of its recipient – a state of utter subjection to the will of a disdainful lady is clearly not a wise approach. And especially not if the object of the devotion is a left-wing feminist with history. As soon as this lady had the child, she had the leverage to change a situation she chose to participate in, and to take Harry along for the ride. It seems feminists are so miserable that not even a Prince is good enough. In fact, nothing will be. Ever.
Harry will find that his wife will keep turning the screw. The more he yields, the more he’ll weaken their relationship and reduce their sexual polarity. They’ll grow to resent one another. If he doesn’t yield, she’ll think he’s being unreasonable because she’s become accustomed to getting her own way. It’s a catch-22. In the meantime, Harry will grow resentful of being removed from his station in life. That would be a kind analysis. If we’re being unkind, we would say much worse.
Either way, the marriage has no future. Which is fine. Because marriage has essentially been degraded into being little more than a social contract. Certainly, it’s this sense of having a retreat which sterilizes much of the meaning of the vow and its significance. Everywhere in the liberal world there is this dogged effort to obtain gratification without paying for it.
The great flaw of Liberalism is that it unanchors people from a sense of allegiance; a unifying principle. The ideological by-product of industrial globalism, which has broken down barriers to trade and growth, it has taken the very basic idea that we are born into some fundamental unit of existential solidarity, from which we derived meaning, and replaced it with an inordinate patchwork of contractual reciprocity.
It is devoid of the sense of the sacred. Tremendous economic growth has not been matched by individual, social and spiritual growth. Everywhere people running about with nothing firm beneath their feet. With no law but the inclination of the moment. No warrants for treachery and cruelty. No sense of social shame. Not a great deal binding people to the past or to each other. Liberalism is an ideology where selfishness takes possession of a culture.
On the other hand, lives simply woven together by divine trust and love isn’t enough to keep a civilization alive. Because it mostly depends on a small, static society that never looks outside or beyond. Such as ancient Sparta, which in anxiously trying to hold on to its own social order, was already imploding before it fell to the Macedonians. Successful societies have never drawn a curtain; instead, have invariably looked outward, never ceasing to develop.
Megxit does in fact reveal this clash between core values – one which we can trace as far back as the 13th century when the church became part of the international banking system. It’s the clash between monarchy and liberalism, traditionalism and secularism and of course nationalism and globalism. And it’s precisely these kind of tensions that we can expect to see more of as that clash only promises to intensify.
It takes all sorts make the world. There are those walking quite calmly in the sunlight, who appear to be at home in the environment, and there are those pacing quite angrily under a cloud, who appear to loathe everything about the environment; their deepest disdain, rather poetically, often being reserved for themselves. If we want to know from whence such differences spring, as far as anybody can know it, we must begin at the sources of the river, and not merely dilly-dally in the swamps where it straggles away into a final confusing, labyrinthine delta. We should observe simple origins, not complex conclusions; thoughts, not things. For readily understood but quickly forgotten, it’s our thoughts that shape the world, not the world that shapes our thoughts.
We are the master storytellers. So, we should take great care over the stories we tell. Events take on added significance when they converge with the narrative within. It’s from this convergence where we take the materials to build our reality. Palatial retreats or squalid slums – where we reside in our heads is entirely up to us. The world will ultimately be in alignment with it, as the planets are in alignment with the sun.
We therefore should regularly reflect on what ideas are in our heads at present, and in what way they are likely to mould the future.
“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”
– Hosea 8:7
Commonly, we dwell on the unpleasant, the irritating, the ugly; on the unfair and the unfortunate; on what we’ve lost, on what we can never have. We can spend inordinate time complaining, moaning, whining; often, we’ll only begin to appreciate something by bemoaning its loss. But we should remember that every mind is like a God. We create our reality by bringing it into existence. Only playing the bad hands would not make for an effective poker strategy. The same is true of life. A lifetime of tolerating or resisting that which we perceive to be doing us wrong, while ignoring that which is doing us good, is sure to lead to ruin.
Instead of a persistent, nagging recognition of all that blights us, we should be grateful for the blessings within our reach, and not take them for granted. When we do so, we’re at ease with the world, not at odds with it. Gratitude is the gift of levity, without which we can be weighed down, carrying our sullen impressions about like a lumbering stone statue.
By being grateful we are arming ourselves with a cheerfulness, a lightness of touch, an exuberance, which will allow us to hurdle obstacles as if our feet were kissing the ground. Successful people, who seem to enjoy the fruits of happiness and good fortune, have not faced an absence of problems, they’ve merely acquired the ability to deal with them. Optimism – a child of gratitude – is common to all. And frankly, if we’re not practising gratitude, there’s nothing much to be optimistic about.
Hardship is universal, but there’s no doubt some of us have been fated to endure more than others. Still, I’ve never met anybody who hasn’t got things to be grateful for. And what could be better, artistically speaking, than an optimism breaking through anguish like a fiery gold encircling the edges of a black cloud. To be grateful in a world constantly trying to bring you down, is truly one the greatest accomplishments, and always rewarded. Because it is through an honest, sincere appreciation of the blessings in life where we start to calibrate ourselves to a more favourable future. Indeed, if our lives are beset by difficulty, even more reason that we adjust the settings on our metal detector, for the thing we find will invariably be of a kind with the things we sought.
We are governed by what we choose to think about. If we commit ourselves to every doctrine of insanity and despair, we give Torment the keys to our life, and make it sovereign. But we have the power to take the reins, at any moment, by independent action from within, and not mere reaction to without. To act positively and to desist from reacting negatively is the difference between being the architects of our daily experience, and not merely being the instruments of the things that happen to us.
But the ungrateful appear to imagine that affliction was a yoke mysteriously imposed on us by life, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all of us on ourselves.
To take the proverbial phrase, is the glass half empty or half full? If it is half empty your thirst will never be quenched; but if it’s half full, truly, you’ll never want for a drink. Thus, when we are being grateful, we always have enough; when we’re being covetous, we never have what we need. And so, a grateful person can be the richest person in the world with very little, but no amount of wealth and riches will make the ungrateful anything other than wretchedly poor.
To sit in the driver’s seat, and to tip the scales in favour of abundance, simply, we must be more grateful than ungrateful. We must focus more on the positive than the negative. If a loved one, for instance, is suspicious of a kind gesture or of being the subject of our sincere appreciation, it’s probably a good sign that we should make more of a habit of practicing gratitude. It will change our life.
One observation of modern society is to note the increasing infantilization of its culture. It almost seems as though everything is designed to be loud, shiny and short lived, as if intending to capture rapidly diminishing attention spans. It is of a narcissistic character: attention-seeking, selfish, demanding, self-centred. Indeed, personified and it would be a child – there’s no demographic more narcissistic than children. But, in fact, in many ways it would be too high and hopeful a compliment to say that our culture is becoming more childish. For one of its main flaws is to undervalue the wisdom of children, at the same time as over emphasising the intelligence of adults.
It is in paradox that we see life smiling back at us, and this, one of the strangest paradoxes is, by lived experience, one of the most reassuring. It is that often the more we look at a thing, the less we see the world, and the more we learn a thing, the less we know the world. Those who study something and practise it every day will see less and less of the significance of other things. In the same way, many of us will be so bonded by daily routine that, unless we make a habit of goading ourselves into gratitude, we’ll see less and less significance of the trees, the birds, and the sky. We become obsessed with trivial things and quickly forget the beauty of consequential things.
However, children are full of awe and wonder for the things that typically induce awe and wonder, and they’re rightly bored at the things that typically induce boredom.
When we are asked to perform certain tasks, we overestimate the significance of those tasks and, by inference, underestimate the significance of others. As if we were carrier pigeons with blinkered vision, we become immersed in detail and therefore our outlook is narrowed by detail. Because with age comes a degree of specialisation. We start to know more and more about less and less, until we know close to everything about nothing. There’s little room for mystery.
But children generally cast their net further and further afield. They know less and less about more and more, until they know close to nothing about everything. The world is full of mystery.
Our imagination is limited by social mores and conventions. When we reach a certain age many of us think we have all the answers and talk at great length about things we know little about. But much of the time these are merely socially reinforcing statements. For we don’t dare speak out of turn, knowing that there are certain opinions of certain things that we must take. We are proverbial gardeners tending to flowers in somebody else’s garden.
Children’s imagination isn’t limited in the same way. They are full of questions and have few answers. They are unshackled from the opinions of others; the pull of social conformity does not exert as strong an influence. And so, their opinions grow naturally, like flowers in a field.
Socialisation is the process by which children turn into adults. It’s the internalisation of behaviour deemed acceptable in society. Naturally, there’s a correlation between societal success and degree of socialisation. The more successful in society tend to be the most socialised and the least successful the least socialised.
The drive to fit in and be popular is at core a game with rewards and punishments. In social groups you generally score more points the more you assimilate. Because despite all the cultural clamour for “diversity” smaller social groups always gravitate to uniformity. We mix with people we share commonalities with or share common goals with and we clash with those we don’t. That clash will either be respectful or belligerent.
The adoption of social masks is essentially a compromise between individual and society of what a man or woman should appear to be. We grow so accustomed to wearing masks we wrongly believe it to be our authentic self; when in the design of which others invariably have a greater share. Of course, unlike adults, when children wear masks, they understand that they’re playing; that they are becoming someone else. And indeed, as they grow older, they do become someone else. They compromise. They conform.
Without conformity civilisation is impossible – it’s the glue in social cohesion. Certainly, it’s always been an important quality to help us get through this life; for one thing, there’s often little sympathy for those who go on to act upon their own intuition. Society will soon crush into submission all those with a rebellious streak. Most of the time this is quite unnecessary. Youngsters quickly learn that a happy life involves doing what your fellows do. Going against the crowd risks social alienation; or worse, draws a conspicuous target over one’s head.
As we grow older, we lose what it is to be a child. Indeed, it’s largely through socialisation. Much of that intoxicating blend of awe, excitement, wild abandon, unbridled imagination, freedom from judgement, dies when we reach a certain age. Letting go can be hard.
Adults hankering for their childhood is an incongruity in the sense of a contrast. But perhaps the contrast is deceptive. For we humans have only recently developed the upper lobes of the brain and cannot stand using them all the time. It is necessary, therefore, when opportunity arises, that we let them rest and animate the lower centres. In other words, it is necessary that we take a step back into childhood and play. As for those who play all the time, we do have a word for such people: morons.
The problem, however, as mentioned, and as Shakespeare put it so eloquently, is that the world presents itself as one large stage full of players (actors), and though children can generally distinguish between work and play, adults have become so accustomed to games that they fail to make this basic distinction in their work and private lives. As children innocently play in the garden, full of joy and wonder at the world around them; adult play is tedious, cynical and downright dishonest. There are whole industries that are presented in the aspect of enormous fortresses of lies. The automatic result of economic forces, like all our behaviour, the individual strategizes their ascension through the ranks with no more conscious thought than the digestion of his or her food. It is in such a way that the game of self-preservation is won and lost.
The multi-generational winners of this game that own and run the world wish everything to remain as it is. In fact, their sole motivation is to amass more power. As one of the functions of ownership, these winners control culture and determine taste. They glorify the moron – the man or woman who has emotions and not brains – and thus much of the culture is directed toward the creation of an artificial childhood. By debasing the culture, to put it starkly, their goal is to weaken and degrade those upon whom they prey, like a thief who gets their victim drunk before they rob them.
Children are far easier to control than adults, which is why people are increasingly acting and behaving like children. There’s an entire generation of adults who’ve been socially engineered to be emotionally incontinent wrecks; not wishing to relinquish their grip on their reassuring childhood, presumably because of their sheer terror of adulthood. It can be seen right across the cultural spectrum, from movies, popular music, tv shows. It appears as if popular culture is becoming more and more low brow to meet the needs of an audience frozen in a state of arrested emotional development.
Equally, the cultural advancement of personal truths over objective truths is the cultural equivalent of throwing a cold bucket of water on the burning fire of reality. Like children, many people are increasingly incapable of dealing with their own problems and are being encouraged to seek the solace of comforting illusions, safe spaces and, if all else fails, are redirected to the safe harbour of prescription medication.
Incessant escapism is a survival tactic for people who haven’t learned how to survive. Pain can never be released; real growth can never therefore be attained. People become trapped in self-destructive circles which, in the temporary alleviation of pain, makes them dependent on the very pain that they are trying to alleviate.
These cultural developments are somewhat organic but coexist in a rich ecosystem which is managed and engineered by the class that owns it. The intention behind them is akin to the one behind the emasculation of men. It’s for people to embrace their weaknesses. Power wants us confused, emotional, subordinated and child-like.
Socialisation is the process by which children transition into adulthood but ironically, in many ways, it’s also the process by which adults are regressing back into childhood. I think society would be greatly improved if it really embraced its inner child, rather than be comprised of adults who merely act like children. Because children are always engaging with a world that adults are increasingly escaping. They love their childhood whereas many adults are progressively fearful of adulthood. And as children are free to choose, adults are compelled to imitate. It’s a voice in the valley as opposed to echoes in a cave.
“Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions (perceptions) without concepts are blind”
In ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’, Prussian German philosopher, Immanuel Kant outlined his theory of perception. He propounded that our understanding of the external world has its foundations not merely in experience, but in both experience and a priori concepts (reasoning that proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation). In a nutshell, he said that the external world provides things that we sense. Our mind processes this information and gives it structure, enabling our comprehension; in part, because space and time are pre-conditions of the mind. Therefore, in what he called the “transcendental unity of apperception”, “the concepts of the mind (understanding) and perceptions or intuitions that garner information from phenomena (sensibility) are synthesized by comprehension”.
He maintained that without this synthesis of understanding and sensibility the world would be quite unintelligible. Which is to say that abstractions without perceptions are nondescript; perceptions without abstractions are featureless and unrelatable.
In a Kantian sense, our understanding of objective reality is tinted by our intuition. There’s no way of separating objectivity – the external world – and subjectivity – the internal world. Both are dependent upon one another. Because awareness of the external necessitates the internal. And so, in simple terms, perception of our surroundings is akin to wearing green-tinted glasses. All our experiences are filtered through them. We therefore cannot reliably conceive of an outside world that’s truly independent of the way we perceive it, just as someone who unknowingly wears green-tinted glasses would not be able to conceive of a non-green colour. The thought would be alien to them.
The summation of Kant’s ideas on perception can be found in his doctrine of transcendental idealism. He said that space, time and causation are mere sensibilities. Unlike George Berkeley’s subjective idealism, Kant’s theory maintains that the external world ‘does’ exist, but that its objective nature is unknowable.
Kant’s transcendental idealism concerns metaphysics (a branch of philosophy that examines first principles and the nature of reality). But we can surely apply much of his ideas on perception to how we process information in a more practical sense. In terms of personal preference and bias.
It seems all humans crave certainty – our unconscious abhors message incongruity. When a message is not internally consistent or does not fit surrounding information, a clash occurs. This clash can cause psychological discomfort. We will instinctively try to remove this discomfort by either eliminating dissonant thoughts or by incorporating them into our current belief system. Psychologists call this process ‘cognitive dissonance’. In other words, a mind with disunity of thought is a mind at war with itself. Sooner or later one side wins and imposes its tyranny.
Similarly, if a new message does not match preconceptions it will hit a defensive wall of incredulity. But if it does, it will be let through the gate of credulity. Psychologists call this ‘confirmation bias’, which is one example of ‘cognitive bias’.
All of us are prone to bias of every shade. We’re all guilty of having our opinions colour and shape our thoughts to such an extent that what we wish to see can hardly be differentiated from what we end up seeing. So, in some ways, the green-tinted glasses metaphor, which clarifies the Kantian position on perception and the interplay between understanding and sensibility in a metaphysical sense, can equally be applied to all of us in a cognitive sense.
Our mind can be rather like a cookie cutter tray making the same shapes and designs. These tried and tested cognitive patterns have the allure of being able to be used in every circumstance, which has the effect of whittling the vastness of the world down to a more manageable size.
In fact, I’m quite sure life would be unnavigable without an inner compass pointing to our north star. It gives us certainty which cultivates action, whereas uncertainty cultivates inertia. The problem, however, is that reasoning requires inertia, and action negates reasoning. This paradox has been the bane of the human experience; for while the wise tend to be full of doubts, the foolish tend to be full of conviction.
Perhaps there are none more foolish than those who are locked up in the prison of ideology. In the cognitive sense, this is the ultimate manifestation of Kant’s green-tinted glasses. A one-stop shop for every problem, every situation. Ideologies feel good because they are familiar to us; they appeal to sentiment, not reflection. A kind of turbo-charged certainty fuelling a basic psychological need.
One method to unravel ideological thinking or extreme bias is to use somebody’s own argument against them. Because often every reason articulated to discredit an opponent’s position is one that will discredit their own. Essentially, an intellectual boomerang. Such as accusing somebody of indulging in conspiracy theories before proceeding to indulge in a conspiracy theory. Or saying, for instance, that women are exactly the same as men, but then insinuating, by effectively invoking special status for women, through the support for some diversity quota, that they’re different.
Thus, the ideological will naturally protect their ideas with huge impenetrable fortresses of doublethink (self-contradictory positions). Only that by some accident of arrangement the fortresses’ pieces of artillery are almost always set up with the tails pointing at their adversaries and the mouths pointing at themselves. This is most unfortunate because the most ideological are always the most defensive, and the greatest line of defence, of course, is to attack. Commonly, attacks are projecting and self-deceiving. Such as accusing somebody of being hateful while screaming at them. Or accusing them of being science deniers but maintain a position, on other fronts, that denies basic human biology.
To be ideological is to think in a general way, wanting to tackle complex social and economic issues with a broad sweep of the brush, rarely going to the trouble of being specific. This is because specificity requires a high degree of cognition, whereas ideology allows you to remain in that state when you are not thinking of anything and yet your thoughts come into your head by themselves, each more pleasantly self-affirming than the last, without even causing you the trouble of chasing after and finding them. In other words, ideology not only provides us with the comfort of certainty, but also the ease of laziness.
To find faults with ideological thinking, therefore, it is not so much through the Critique of Pure Reason, but merely through a critique of poor reasoning.
This is by no means to point fingers and declare myself immune. On the contrary, to a lesser or greater extent, we are all ideological. We all wear Kantian tinted glasses. Because what we see and hear are always pre-conditions of our mind. That’s how we make sense of the world. And of course, to make any kind of sense of it we must be confident in our own ability to do so.
Certainly, confidence is at the heart of it. As is optimism – ideologies invariably offer the reward of idealism. To metaphorize appropriately, then, we should say that we wear rose-tinted glasses. For often we are pretending to know a lot about things we really don’t know enough about, believing that to blindly follow these ideas it will lead to a future more advantageous than the present.
Whether everything is tinted in red, green or blue, or every hue in between, we can only begin to dim this tint by challenging and testing our own opinions at least as much as we challenge viewpoints which are at variance with them. This is the only antidote to ideological thinking that I know of.