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.
Nigel Farage is a fascist. Tommy Robinson is a fascist. Donald Trump is a fascist. This term, among many others, has been shooting from lips like bullets from muskets in the front lines of an infantry. At first, such terms were supposed to fire at volleys, in regimented formation, at the command of the officers. In practice, however, as battle ensues, each soldier fires a musket at their own discretion. Which of course brings total confusion to the battlefield, soldiers being enveloped by the smoke of the discharged rounds, hindering accurate shooting. Fire at will!
Language suffers most of all in this melee because what we are left with is a smoky vagueness. Let me explain. This is the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of fascism:
“An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization”
Here’s dictionary.com’s definition:
“A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce etc, and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism”
“Fascism is a form of radical right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe”
There’s a great deal of debate in academia over what fascism really means, but the one thing that everyone agrees upon is that it involves authoritarianism. The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of authoritarianism:
“The enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom”
The prerequisite to qualify for this description is to either be in power or to advocate for it in a way that will subdue personal freedom.
How can Nigel Farage be a fascist when he is a leader of a minor political party, and is unlikely to be in power for at least several cycles given the fabric of the British political system? How can he be a fascist when his political position over many years has essentially been at odds with a political power which has refused to acknowledge the will of the majority of the British people?
Tommy Robinson has no power and is in fact the subject of power, Big Tech removing him from their platforms under increasingly draconian hate speech laws, which are effectively suppressing the freedom of speech under the guise of “tolerance”. He has also recently served a custodial sentence, being found guilty of contempt of court by the British justice system for exposing decades long child rape gangs, something covered up by other branches of the British justice system, for which he already served 10 weeks in jail.
As for Donald Trump, he does have the power to qualify for the term, but unlike Big Tech, he is not enforcing strict etiquette in the modern marketplace of ideas, nor monopolizes it.
These huge companies have power and they’re exhibiting striking signs of authoritarianism by curtailing personal freedom through censorship. As is the British justice system, which is swiftly prosecuting someone who has exposed endemic corruption within the system, rather than swiftly prosecuting those who were preying on children. These profiles are more befitting of the term “fascist”.
The entire political discourse is awash with insults and accusations. A fog bank of pejoratives sweeps in, blurring meaning and covering up understanding. If those engaged in political debate are using words so flippantly and without context how can anyone comprehend the debate itself?
It’s axiomatic that in an intellectual tussle the first person who throws stones always loses. Not that those who try to control the lexicon are interested in winning debates. Their interest lies in suppressing them.
The funny thing about religion is that many of those who seem to be most swept up in it are those who believe it to be a fraud. At least that seems to be the case in our secular society. To be faithful today is to live in a hall of mirrors. For every person who believes their faith to be self-evidently true, in reverse images, there is a multiplication of those who equally believe that faith to be self-evidently false.
“Evidence!” is the cry from the Secularists. “We must have evidence”. This would appear an eminently reasonable demand if the Secularists themselves didn’t believe in a whole multitude of things that have not a shred of evidence. Haughty and muddled, they are like Stavrogin who “if he believes, he does not think he believes. If he does not believe, he does not think he does not believe” (‘Demons’ Fyodor Dostoevsky).
Because they are not commonly anchored by what they are, but unanchored by that which they are not, secular positions can be like shifting sand dunes in a desert. It’s an arid, barren land starved by mere repudiation. Nothing much of value grows there. If it does, it doesn’t survive long. The flowers that do survive tend to be the result of thousands of years of combined thought, not a few decades worth of musings from a sect of secular clerics; they tend to grow further away from pedants and their explanations, and nearer to the souls of simple people.
Our ancestors instinctively understood that the soul of discovery is a story, and the soul of a story is a personality. It was inclusive. Narratives and evocative stories are much easier to follow than, say, the existential phenomenology of Heidegger or the deconstructionism of Derrida. But in the same way the longshore drift at a coastline is constantly changing the fabric of the environment, rationalism eroded religious beliefs in proportion to the new secular illusions that took their place. Instead of warm metaphorical treasures it has left us with cold abstractions.
Many come to cherish them, holding them to their hearts as their forefathers did with their own foundational tales. And since they have a thirst for Truth, this is also a thirst for God, so they too have had their reward of illumination. But even in order to understand that reward, we must understand that for philosophers that reward is the completion of the incomplete. Because it doesn’t consider what Camus noted as the absurdity of the human condition. These truths are therefore no more eternal than those they dethroned. And they are no more objective. Because we can’t separate ourselves from the meaning of the universe any more than a dramatist can separate themselves from the meaning of a play.
If you want to learn about somebody’s morality, you’d do better to watch them in their private moments than to study their public pronouncements. Similarly, in the quest for Truth, I should think you’re more likely to find it in the unconscious conduct of simple people than you are in textbooks. More in the fables, which are the unconscious masterpieces of humanity, than in academic definitions. Those may be, on the face of it, of a more exceptional character, but by putting a premium on the exceptional, in terms of Truth, we grossly underestimate the unconsciousness of the normal.
For example, if Moses had said he saw God as infinite energy, I should think words were being put in his mouth. As he said he saw a burning bush, the event has more resonance. It also seems more reasonable that Moses found the one true God on a mountain, than if he had said: “Energy is eternal; it’s a pervasive and impalpable essence which connects all things”. If he had said this, I’d think it more probable that he had taken a lecture in quantum physics than conversed with God.
Bronze age stories are quickly dismissed for being the crude imaginings of simple folk. Yet despite their seeming improbability they stand the test of time. And are even, in some respects, reinforced by the sophisticated cogitations of advanced science. I wonder, will Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity stand the test of time?
Religion is criticised by Secularists as being an archaic method of population control. Yet they would have to admit that there are certain views of certain things that they must take even if their private thoughts happen to conflict with convention. Which is a set of beliefs in the same way religion is a set of beliefs. As ever, the more diffuse the belief, the more likely it is that it derives from or is buttressed by that class of persons with the greatest reach. So, in the interests of fairness, are we to criticise notions like “diversity is our strength” and “the war on terror” as being methods of population control?
There are many mutually incompatible religions, say the Secularists, so what does that incompatibility say about religion? There are many archetypal stories. If they were more unique, they would be less archetypal. One example would be two brothers fighting over a woman; another, lovers separated by Fate. Are we to suppose that because these stories are common to Legend, brothers were never estranged over a woman or lovers parted by circumstance? These stories are surely not made more improbable by their recurrence; rather, point to a hidden truth about what it is to be human.
There are a variety of theories for an ideal society. From Plato’s Republic to More’s Utopia. And on the most equitable distribution of power. From Hobbes’ Leviathan to Rousseau’s The Social Contract. They all share certain themes – the desire for the betterment of the social condition – and oppose each other in certain others – the elusive formula in how we are to reach this standard. But surely the abundance of mutually incompatible theories is not preclusive of society ever improving social conditions. If anything, like the Bible, they suggest the human tendency to yearn for a better condition.
The Three Wise Men’s Hope for something better was embodied by an eternal and majestic light in the dusk, which they followed to Divinity, but many Secularists fall under the influence of that starry impulse which leads people to take a great deal of trouble about quite useless and passing things. As society is itself predominantly secularist this impulse has become quite feverish. In fact, opinions often read like a list of symptoms. As if we were all huddled together like inmates on Poveglia island, people do not form these opinions; the opinions form themselves.
Disavowing religion as dogma, the modern world, the product of the enlightenment, ridicules the ascetic monk in a monastery as an eccentric madman; but as the whole modern world would now seem like a lunatic asylum, one might almost be driven, in the pursuit of sanity, to take refuge in a monastery.
We rightly shudder at the blood-soaked religious fanaticism of the past. Many of us think that religion must be bad because it leads men to do wicked things. But causes are of a different nature to results. It is perfectly possible that the cause was just and the effect unjust. After all, people commit crimes for good and bad reasons. The peasants of France, who had liberté, égalité, fraternité upon their lips, a motto inspired by the likes of Rousseau’s The Social Contract, were full of good reasons for social reform in the run up to the French Revolution; but the eruption of anger and violence that ensued, less so.
Fanaticism has nothing to do with religion. There are philosophical theories which can produce enough fanaticism to fill the world. Over 100 million people were slaughtered by their own governments in the 20th century, more than all the wars combined. You would think the philosophy behind this carnage would be renounced by all and sundry; but many Secularists, though they will be quick to denounce religion as harmful nonsense, are equally quick to approve the varied produce of this philosophy as anything but harmful nonsense.
Perhaps it would be erroneous to distinguish religion and philosophy in many instances. Most sincere attitudes take on a religious bent. Indeed, in many cases the complete loss of religious belief has made political positions become quasi-religious. Frequently, these are not arguments about society. They are statements about absolute values. They are ideals about how we should live our lives. This is not a debate where evidence is adduced – if you disagree you are considered fundamentally wicked. Because people are now treating their political opinions as though they were creedal formulations; to dissent from them is heresy.
Much of this is done under the banner of “tolerance”. While some people really are tolerant, clearly others are fearful and tired. How many is hard to say. Since alternative views are rarely given a significant platform, nor expressed. But judging from a strong undercurrent of online frustration, it appears modern tolerance is as deaf as intolerance.
But all this is very familiar. When something is put before enough people that seems enormously valuable, the chance of having it, the chance of losing it, can drive them quite mad. It has a similar effect in the moral world as pursuing gold in the economic world. It can create a kind of gold rush. People want to reach Nirvana ahead of their fellows. And are extremely disdainful of those who don’t want to reach it at all.
Though this story is as old as the hills, its age doesn’t make what it reveals about human nature any less true. We have an innate need for justice and meaning. A need for purity and perfection. A need to transcend the limitations of self. A predilection for in-group conformity and out-group belligerence. We are predisposed to crusade for these things. But while the ancients had the humility to supress their ego, the wisdom to not put themselves at the centre of the drama and to be subordinate to something much greater, the gold hunters of today seek wealth in their own name, not His; they don’t do it for His glory, but their own.
This is a huge difference and one I thought that was worth mentioning.