Wednesday, 24 February 2016

PEPPER'S GHOST IN PLATO'S CAVE: DISTRACTING THE MASSES



 

All the world’s a stage.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It

 
The reality of course is exactly the other way around.
Peter Oborne, The Triumph of the Political Class

 

As the narrator in Withnail & I reminds us, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. And so, although Jeremy Corbyn has said nothing beyond the ‘vaguely aspirational’ class of political non-statements, he did on one recent occasion accurately describe David Cameron’s supposed negotiations with the monolithic European superstate as ‘a theatrical sideshow’.

Mr. Corbyn is, of course, being somewhat slippery. Almost all political events in the West are now theatre, intended to distract from the dark clouds massing on the economic and social horizons. The political class and the media excel in this type of obfuscation by distraction. They also show a fascination with the acting profession, which is the reason the media rarely ask Roger Scruton or Thomas Sowell for comments on matters political, but are happy to broadcast the wisdom of Benedict Cumberbatch and Emma Thompson. It sometimes seems that, were the Western economies unanimously to fail tomorrow, the newspapers would turn to the cast of Downton Abbey for their opinion and advice.
And the failure of Western economies is, as politicians like to say, on the table. The West feels like one of those marked men in the gangster movies where any one of half-a-dozen players might take him out at any moment. Guillaume Faye, French theorist of the so-called ‘New Right’, wrote about a ‘convergence of catastrophes’.  Faye writes that

‘A series of “dramatic lines” are approaching one another and converging like a river’s tributaries with perfect accord (between 2010 and 2020) towards a breaking point and a descent into chaos.’ [Convergence of Catastrophes]

Simply because the media no longer mention Greece except in the context of the ‘migration crisis’ (itself a bit of political theatre) does not mean the European financial crisis is over. Italy, by some accounts, is the next economy likely to fail because of some piece of chicanery known to the alchemists of economics as ‘Non-performing loans’, or NPLs. This is accrued debt which is not going to be paid back. In what sense do you need a technocratic class to tell you this suspension of reality cannot last? I once attended a theatrical production in which a piece of scenery fell from the wall of the set during the play. The actors carried on without blinking, while there was a ripple of mild shock in the audience. Reality had come calling in its obdurate way, and while the actors remained calm, the crowd were uneasy. How like the West, where reality is about to put in an unscheduled appearance of its own.

If Faye’s convergence takes place, it will be entirely the fault of the political class and their twin obsessions with both technocratic political control and an illusory reality for which the media are their provisional wing. A good image for this is the old music-hall illusion known as Pepper’s Ghost.

In this classic illusion, two rooms are required. One is visible to an audience (usually a stage) and one is not. With strategic lighting and an intermediary pane of glass, a figure in the concealed room can be projected in ‘ghostly’ form on the stage. This image of using technological means to produce something which appears to exist but does not seems to have been tailor-made for the political class.

It is difficult to see what the political elites and their various scene-shifters and set-designers are trying to achieve, and it often appears that the desire to produce apparent alternative realities has metamorphosed into a mania, a genuine psychopathology which we must all follow whether we want to or not. The production of political theatre has become an end in itself. The play is now the thing.

It is no coincidence but a structural necessity that the shadowy figures in the cave of Plato’s Republic, the ones who hold the shapes which produce the flickering silhouettes on the cave wall the prisoners take for reality, are described by Plato as ‘actors’. Perhaps if our political elites could tear themselves away from the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd – a roar whose tone that same class should pay close attention to – we may pull ourselves back from the abyss these people are steering us towards.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

THE BONFIRE OF THE INANITIES: WHY THE LEFT NEEDS TO CLEAN ITS STABLES




“It would be great if you went away. White, middle-class men. We’d just walk in, wouldn’t we?”
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown


 [I]t is worth recalling the almost genocidal class hatreds of many leading liberal-left intellectuals…
Nick Cohen, What’s Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way

 
Writing in The Spectator, national treasure Nick Cohen marks the ten-year anniversary of the Euston Manifesto, a document intended to re-set the Left’s moral compass but now serving instead as a convenient wrapper for said compass prior to its being thrown overboard.

Cohen’s piece mentioned his own excellent book What’s Left?, which gives an account of the appalling regimes, individuals, and belief systems the modern Left increasingly believes it is acceptable to support or to protect from criticism. Cohen is not yet David Horowitz, the American ex-Marxist who crossed the floor so thoroughly he has published an exposé of the American Left which runs to several volumes and gives no indication that the author has said all he wished to say on the subject. But Cohen – like fellow Spectator journalist Rod Liddle – is self-aware enough to recognise that although he is a creature of the Left, that Left has changed to something he can no longer take moral sustenance from. Still, Cohen’s What’s Left? is the nearest thing we have to Horowitz’s Black Book of the American Left.

Cohen was still writing What’s Left? when the Euston Manifesto was produced, but his Spectator piece reminded me not just of the book itself, but of a particular review which could be used as an object lesson in what is wrong with the contemporary Left at the precise time when their authentic, principled presence is needed more than ever.

The review took place on the now-defunct 18 Doughty Street, a passable online televisual forum I rather miss. Present with Cohen were Iain Dale, mild-mannered blogger and radio presenter, and the journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. They were there precisely to discuss What’s Left?

I will not dwell on Alibhai-Brown, except to say that P G Wodehouse’s finest comic creation, Bertie Wooster, would surely have described her as a ‘Gawd-help-us’. Brown is the type of Leftist journalist who, for example, expresses a wish that white men die out, then gets trembly of lip whenever someone expresses mild concern about a cause she herself champions. She is arrogant and boorish, an exemplar of the new brown skin female privilege.

Cohen is just as polite and mild mannered as Dale, and a discussion between the two of them (Dale is notionally a Conservative) would have been an enlightening pleasure to watch. Sadly, the producers allowed Brown to infest the studio. After ranting at the embarrassed Cohen on the theme of betrayal – having been given to understand that the book under review was a criticism of the Left - Brown finally dropped her bombshell; she hadn’t read What’s Left?

This small consideration didn’t stop her having plenty to say about the book, and in this she has become, for me, the unwitting (and, in her case, witless) totem of the flaw running through the 21st-century Left like a profanity in a stick of rock. She was opinionated, rude, overbearing and ill-informed. Everything, in fact, for the modern liberal-left lifestyle.

The Left demands ideological lockstep. It requires uniformity of thought and belief (one reason it idolises and excuses Islamism), and woe betide the Leftist who has not ticked her checksheet of faddish causes and displayed the correct attitude to anything not on that list. Among other things, this insistence on ideological homogeneity means that other viewpoints are verboten, and adherence to them is automatically heresy. You take the party line or you go to the Gulag; there is no room for discussion. As anyone who has taken part in genuine debate knows, anyone who was at university before the intellectual Great Terror began, without looking at a range of viewpoints, you are not debating, you are instructing.

This why our universities are now anti-intellectual hen-houses where free speech is banned. This is why politicians have to tread on egg shells lest they fall foul of the thought police of social media. This is why dozens and even hundreds of column inches can be devoted in any given news cycle to a public figure’s use of a noun or a verb on Facebook or Twitter. This is why there is now a form of ‘polite’ conversation, ‘polite’ coming as it does from the same root as ‘police’.

The Left’s obsession with policing language forces them to overlook the main problem of our Western age entirely; the problem of the elites. As soon as the Left and the Right – whatever they now are – unite in the realisation that they are on the same side against a powerful foe, then progress in rehabilitating the West may begin. But while the Right must learn to adapt and survive, so too the Left must shed its slavish adherence to the banning of free expression. Alibhai-Brown, it should be noted, went on record as being in favour of a controlled press. Her reason? The threat to humanity which necessitates a Goebbelsian political control of the media? UKIP.

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in recent years, comprising of a set of warnings given to me concerning someone to whom I was about to be introduced. It has happened several times. Curiously, it is almost always women who feel it necessary to issue this political weather warning.  ‘Such-and-such is okay’, they will say, ‘but he’s really Right-wing’. Now, viewed through a certain Leftist tragic mask, ‘Right-wing’ may mean pondering whether quite so much immigration is an economic necessity, questioning whether certain cultures should be afforded quite as much respect as they are, asserting the self-evident supremacy of Western culture, having pro-life beliefs, or any conventionally Christian belief, defending free speech and a host of other ‘micro-aggressions’. I understand the impulse to warn. Back in London I have friends who would say exactly the same thing, mutandis mutandis, concerning an acquaintance they deemed to be of the far-Left, the ‘far-Left’ being a perfectly acceptable and appropriate grammatical construction you will never hear on the BBC.

I hope Cohen goes on and on. He is the precise antidote to the intellectually club-footed Alibhai-Brown. The Left, if it is to retain any claim to guard whatever is left of the national conscience, needs journalists of the calibre and integrity of Cohen just as much as it needs to jettison posturing charlatans such as Brown.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

DESIRE FOR AGGRESSION: LORD OF THE FLIES



The bit of truth behind all this – one so eagerly denied – is that men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment.

Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents

 

“Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat – “

William Golding, Lord of the Flies

 

 

Much like a self-proclaimed film buff who has never seen Casablanca, I consider myself well-read while at the same time being uncomfortably aware that my CV has some outrageous omissions. One of these is – or was – William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

The plot is familiar. I saw the 1963 film many years ago and the novel has a claim to be one which has worked its way into the British psyche, like 1984 or A Clockwork Orange. The tale of schoolboys marooned on an island, the battle between civilisation and savage instinct, Piggy, the conch, the pig’s head, the parachutist, the painted boys. These things are at least vaguely familiar to a certain generation of British people.

A gaggle of schoolboys on a tropical island, then. Foppish firebrand Ralph takes command, blowing the famous conch to chair meetings which are among the most memorable scenes in a memorable, brutally atmospheric novel. The older boys jostling for position in the pecking order, the physically hopeless but shrewd Piggy, Jack Merridew and his hunters lurking at the periphery both of the ad hoc community and, later on, moral boundaries.

Ralph makes a plaintive plea for adult authority, but the only adults the boys can call to their aid are the ones they must find – or not – within themselves. This is what makes the novel captivating. Another famous fable of shipwreck and European man in the state of nature, Robinson Crusoe, features the unforgettable title character as homo economicus. But Crusoe is alone before acquiring Friday. There is no question here of who gets to hold the conch. More importantly, Crusoe is a man. Ralph, Piggy, Jack Merridew , Simon and the littluns are boys, some very small boys. They must learn fast.

There are many pivotal points in the novel, but the extinguished fire, the missed chance of escape, and the discovery that Jack and his boys were hunting pig – a gory success – instead of tending to the fire is the first intimation of a simple truth which provides Lord of the Flies with much of its dynamic. Although Ralph enjoys the adult-free licence of the island, ultimately he wishes to be rescued, as does Piggy. Adults may have created the war that has cast them adrift, but ultimately they need to return to the adult-run world.

Jack and his malevolent band, though, allow the fire to go out surely because Jack recognises a kingdom in their licence, not an exciting interlude. Jack wants to stay. Is Ralph the ego, Piggy the censor and Jack and his hunters the id? As you like. Lord of the Flies is a glorious game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey for lovers of symbolism and the figurative in literature.

In terms of symbolism, Lord of the Flies is a treasure trove, although symbolism is an over-used toolkit for the post-modernists. What it does treat of though is power. The trappings of it, the symbols and improvised synecdoches. It’s enough to say that themes writhe and turn throughout the book. A structural viewpoint doesn’t, in fact, hurt, in my humble opinion. The disruptive points in the narrative – the fire, the killing of the pig, Piggy’s missing lens, Jack’s vote against Ralph, Simon’s semi-mystical ‘conversation’ with The Lord of the Flies, the killing of Simon, Piggy’s death and so on – are soaked in meaning whether one is a technocrat, Rousseauist, Libertarian or any other sect with a doctrinal approach to human nature. They also interconnect to give the book a tight internal framework, each small incident or image ratcheting up the tension.

That The Lord of the Flies is symbolic (the title itself is derived from the Biblical Hebrew phrase for Beelzebub, an incarnation of the Devil), is alive with symbols, the author himself was in no doubt;

‘The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue at the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island.’ [From a questionnaire sent to William Golding by his American publisher].

Authority and its handmaiden control versus savagery and its familiar, anarchy; in what sense is this opposition symbolic of anything except itself? Lord of the Flies is not symbolic of the razor’s edge on which mankind in the state of nature walks constantly; in an important sense it is that edge, the escalating small crises mapping and pointing to the smashing and rotting of skulls attendant on the licence that seems at first to be a game. The children revert to savagery because, as they see it, there are no adults to keep them on the right side of their collective psyche. In one of the book’s most poignant scenes, the boys lament the absence of grown-ups;

‘“We’re all drifting and things are going rotten. At home there was always a grown-up. Please, sir; please, miss; and then you got an answer. How I wish!”

“I wish my auntie was here.”

“I wish my father – O, what’s the use?”

“Keep the fire going.”’

Keep the fire going. Keep the dark interior of the Freudian psyche lit, or who can say what abominations will take place down there, down in the dark? It is the dark interior where the greatest danger lies, not out there, projected onto the world as when the children flee in terror from their mythical ‘beast’.

Lord of the Flies has much in common with Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s genius work of civilisation displaced and the awful consequences of that displacement. Indeed, in the novel’s penultimate paragraph, Ralph gazes inwards in his grief;

‘And in the middle of [the boys], with filthy body, matted hair and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart…’

Lord of the Flies is terrifying once again because Europe is about to rediscover its heart of darkness. But this time it takes no desperate journey upriver or freak plane crash. The Western dream may well have reached the awful point in Golding’s masterful novel in which there is no return from consequences set in motion. After the boys have play-acted a pig-hunt and the death of the quarry, they congratulate themselves on a good game;

“We ought to have a drum,” said Maurice, “then we could do it properly.”

Ralph looked at him.

“How properly?”

“I dunno. You want a fire, I think, and a drum, and you keep time to the drum.”

“You want a pig,” said Roger, “like in a real hunt.”

“Or someone to pretend,” said Jack. “You could get someone to dress up as a pig and then he could act – you know, pretend to knock me over and all that – “

“You want a real pig,” said Robert, still caressing his rump, “because you’ve got to kill him.”

“Use a littlun,” said Jack, and everybody laughed.

Monday, 15 February 2016

A HERO OF OUR TIME: WHY THE NEW LEFT EATS ITS OWN



Totalitarian movements always, but always, rise up in rebellion against the liberal values of the West. That is their purpose.

Jamie Glazov, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror

 
“I AM real! Said Alice, and started to cry.

From Alice in Wonderland

 

Peter Tatchell has always been something of a hero of mine. He is the fearless gay and human rights campaigner who, among other acts of cultural and literal bravery, has been beaten up while trying to arrest Robert Mugabe in Paris, beaten up (to the extent of suffering brain damage) demonstrating against homophobic laws in Russia, and threatened with more than a beating by members of a Music of Black Origin audience incensed at Tatchell’s stand against homophobic lyrics in various sub-genres of black music. I may not always agree with everything Tatchell says or everyone he defends, but I don’t require uniformity of thought between myself and my heroes. There are some, however, who do require uniformity of thought. Worryingly, they increasingly infest Western places of higher education.

Fran Cowling is a chemistry PhD student at Nottingham University. She has ‘no-platformed’ Tatchell, to use one of many ludicrous phrases beloved of the student body, for the twin heresies of racism and transphobia. She will now no longer speak at a conference at which Tatchell is also scheduled to speak. When the Western world has recovered from the loss of Ms. Cowling’s expertise, it may want to ask itself what this extraordinary spat tells us about the state of our universities.

This storm in a tea-cup (or should that be an LGBT cup?) seems innocuous, but it is indicative of a wider tendency that can have nothing good to offer. Mr. Tatchell’s transgression was to have signed a letter defending free speech - that quaint, archaic old phrase – from people like Fran Cowling, who would like ‘free speech’ to be a purely titular affair, a sort of ceremonial title which refers to nothing still in existence. For Ms. Cowling and her ilk, they may not agree with what you say, but they will defend to the death their right to silence you should you say it.

 Fran Cowling is one of a new breed of student agitator which has found their new enemy not to be men, or the system, or capitalism, or fascism, but freedom of speech. Peter Tatchell would defend the ongoing erosion of that right. This is where the new Left will begin to encounter white water. Just as Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, was bemused and irritated to find various anti-Franco, Communist sects at war with one another more than with their common enemy, so too the new Left’s wild cats are beginning to turn on one another.

Any self-respecting and united Left would be proud and humble to have a man of the calibre of Peter Tatchell avowedly among its ranks. Instead, a new Left is emerging, a doctrinaire, authoritarian, intolerant rabble of shouted slogans and short-eyed lack of imagination. Ms. Cowling is exemplary among these new, anti-Enlightenment shock troops. And yet how well, exactly, does she compare with Peter Tatchell? Tatchell was beaten unconscious demonstrating in Moscow against homophobia. Cowling, according to her grudge-ridden CV, ‘Helped organise campaigns and protests including All I Want for Christmas is Equal Marriage and SportsGay outside the Russian Embassy.’ Outside the Russian Embassy. Not in Moscow. Ms. Cowling has also ‘Run workshops… including: campaigning, feminism and LGBT history.’ As Alexei Sayle, himself rabidly Left-wing, once quipped; If you go to a workshop and there are no spanners, it’s not a workshop.

It is worth reading Fran Cowling’s CV, or resumé, and you can do so here. It is a pity that, if free speech is indeed under attack – and I believe it is unquestionable that it is - that the enemy is not a more worthy one.

 


 

 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

I AM THE LAW: THE COMING VIGILANTISM



I am the law!
Judge Dredd, 2000 AD

[Note: This was written in November 2013.]

Few writers are quoted with approval by both the political Left and Right; George Orwell is one. Orwell, and particularly 1984, seems to be everywhere as creeping totalitarianism steals across the West. Newspeak, Doublethink, thought crimes and Big Brother are familiar, but one of Orwell’s lesser-known pronouncements in this most quoted of books may be about to take its turn in the limelight. ‘If there is hope’, writes 1984’s hero Winston Smith in his clandestine diary, ‘it lies in the proles’.

1984 had the working title The Last Man in Europe, and European proles are beginning to show signs of unrest. Dutch newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden reports that 22-year-old Erwin Wisser was badly beaten by up to 20 youths ‘of Moroccan descent’, in the north-eastern Netherlands town of Assen. In contemporary Europe, this is now as entirely unremarkable as a British Midlands child sex grooming gang, a ‘carbecue’ of blazing automobiles in the Parisian banlieue or an eviction of Greek squatters by the fascist Golden Dawn Party. In Holland, as elsewhere, police and security services looked on but did nothing, but it is the reaction of Wisser’s father that holds the attention.

Koos Wisser has warned police that if this type of attack continues, he and a group of like-minded friends, operating under the name ‘Dutch Attack’, will begin to dispense vigilante justice, and it’s difficult to fault his logic. After all, it looks very much as though the European judicial system is turning a blind eye to sharia, so why not another scratch legal system to enforce justice? And this self-mobilisation of the citizenry is not confined to Europe.

Mexico is hardly Holland, but there may be similarities. Unofficially ruled by lawless drug cartels and with a toothless government operating minimal law enforcement, some Mexican proles have had enough too. We all know Winston Smith’s famous vision of the future; a boot stamping on a human face. Possibly. But in Xaltinguis, a small town near Acapulco, the boot is on the other foot.

Two months ago, 100 of the town’s citizens were sworn in as members of the policia communitaria, a locally organised police force which included some of the town’s housewives. They were all issued with guns. They made trouble for the local drug lords, and they were not alone. Other Mexican towns followed suit and, predictably, when the government could no longer ignore this devolved response to the nightmare of the drug barons, they acted in the town of Aquila. They acted, of course, in the same way as they will act and are acting in Europe. Government forces rode into town looking not for los narcotraficantos, but for the policia communitaria.

Perhaps the drug wars are what make so many Mexican citizens want to try their luck in North America, legally or otherwise. But, across the border, they may not find it as easy to get into the USA as they might if the job of border control was left to government.

Arizona’s Mountain Minutemen have been unofficially patrolling their state’s borders for years and, although their numbers have dwindled, those cells that remain are said to be more extreme than ever. Humanitarian group Humane Borders leave water stations for would-be border crossers, but the Minutemen are not keen. Juanita Molina of Humane Borders says: “It’s not uncommon for us to receive threats or to have our offices, our trucks, our water stations vandalized, stabbed, shot.” It seems a far cry from London’s Westminster, where I have seen volunteers on tea and soup runs for eastern European immigrants verbally harangued by local residents, but the impulse is the same and the difference is one of degree only. Resident populations have had enough of government-sanctioned immigration and have decided to take action on a local and extra-legal level.

In the UK too, it is the citizenry who fight back who are more likely to attract police attention than those they oppose. Take, for example, the apparently short-lived organisation Letzgo Huntin’. Members of this group targeted paedophiles online in the Midlands, duping a man into meeting what he thought would be an under-age girl in a local park. Group members chased the man and filmed the chase, posting it on YouTube. Four days later, the man was found hanging in his garage. Police, notoriously unable to protect the innocent from child grooming gangs in the Midlands, are now concerned. Detective Inspector Martin Hillier, of Nottinghamshire Police, said his police force was encountering "a worrying increase in those who think they can take the law into their own hands when it comes to internet grooming cases". He added that posting videos of alleged offenders online could "compromise any subsequent criminal proceedings" and lead to the collapse of court cases. It could be argued, though, that from the point of view of this type of group justice has been meted out to Gary Cleary in a way that the British judicial system could never provide. Letzgo Huntin’s YouTube promo bears the legend: ‘If the police are failing us... who can help us?’

Vigilantism is what Western governments fear. In the UK, radicalised mosques spook the government far less than radicalised pubs, even though groups such as Islamic Emergency Defence, and the various Muslim patrols targeting drinkers, gays and scantily dressed women in the east end of London, take much more direct action than the media whipping boys of the newly leaderless English Defence League. And to look at media archives, you could be forgiven for thinking that the so-called ‘sharia patrols’ began and ended in January of this year. As soon as the compliant press realised what it was reporting, the reporting stopped. The Muslim patrols, however, have not.

Even more worrying for the UK’s political elites must be their hold on their public sector attack dogs. Having emasculated the nation’s police force – not least by re-branding them a ‘police service’ – and hobbled the army to the point where vocal demonstration by high-ranking officers has occurred at Conservative party conference, how confident can the current bunch of fungible coalition administrators be that the police and the army would fight for them in a civil war? One of the least reported incidents following the hacking to death of Drummer Lee Rigby by Islamists (which they were, according to everyone bar Prime Minister David Cameron) was the appearance of two soldiers from the local barracks, in full dress uniform and within an hour of the murder, at the local police station. They wanted more information. I’ll bet they did.

The coming vigilantism is not spurred on simply by xenophobia and fear of the other, but by biased financial profligacy. Take Denmark, where a 5% Muslim population receives 40% of the country’s unemployment benefits. Something must give when indigenous populations and the support systems funded by their taxes have been pushed to breaking point by the open-door immigration policies of successive governments. These governments, in turn, are in thrall to the politically correct, morally relative, multicultural diktats of the political class and their courtiers in the media or, as Pamela Geller calls them, the enemedia. Any hope of change, rather than hope and change, may have to come from the proles.

Which returns us to the Blair it’s okay to like – Eric Blair was George Orwell’s real name – who might have agreed with an adage from the Prime Minister in office before the somewhat less popular Tony Blair. John Major was an ineffective PM, always resembling a cricket commentator who had wandered accidentally into Downing Street. But he did say that the essence of Englishness was as follows: Step on my foot and I’ll apologise. Step on my foot again and I’ll apologise. Step on my foot a third time and I’ll knock you down.

For the proles of the West, the third time may be here.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

THE QUESTION CONCERNING TECHNOCRACY: HEIDEGGER AND THE RISE OF THE ROBOTS



Early in Martin Heidegger’s essay The Question Concerning Technology (actually a revised lecture), the author points out that to question technology as though that questioning itself was a technological exercise may betray the original sense of the word which funds technology, technique, technicality and others. This is not the place for detailed analysis of Heidegger, except to say that there is a distinct attitude throughout the essay that we have too much technology, are over-technologised. We will return to this.

Heidegger traces the word ‘technology’ (German; technologie) back to its Ancient Greek root; technē (τέχνη). The scope of the term for the Greeks was far broader than the rather narrow sense of scientistic manipulation of the external world we find in the modern term ‘technology’;

‘[T]echnē is the name not only for the activities of the craftsman but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Technē belongs to bringing-forth, to poiēsis; it is something poetic.’

Technē is a far broader concept than the post-Enlightenment work the West has put it to. It includes within its horizon the broad, experienced, capable ethos of the famous Renaissance Man. We will not follow Heidegger further down the path he wishes to take; that is for another day. We note merely that technē is a powerful concept for Heidegger;

‘From earliest times until Plato the word technē is linked with the world episteme. Both words are terms for knowing in the widest sense.’

Technology, technique, technicality. For us, at this remove from Plato and on the other side of the Enlightenment, these words summon up the ability to create and maintain, to master the world by the application of scientific reason wedded with the apparatus of production. The words imply precision, science, measurement. They bring us into the world of the engineer. But what concerns us is not the literal engineer, the man of engines, but a more recent class of engineers, those who treat the political, cultural, social and media spheres as though they were machinery. These are the elites, the gauleiters, those men and – increasingly – women who have made a category mistake, who now believe that the affairs of people and nations can be manipulated, maintained and repaired in the same way as machines can, and using the same engineering skills. These are the technocrats.

The idea that citizens can and should have their lives run by an expert elite is not new. It could even be said to be the model of most societies history has so far produced. But what if the ruling elite had the wrong idea about what the technocratic approach is or ought to be? What if it had failed to heed Heidegger’s warning in The Question Concerning Technology? What if their attempts to maintain and engineer the people of the West were based on poor choices, incorrect working models, and a misunderstanding of, perhaps, a wise Greek word whose reputation needs rebuilding? What if the elites, the wisest of the tribe, have made a mistake? Or, worse, what if they have made no mistakes. What if their overall plan is going well…

Technocrats are defined by their adherence to the mechanical model. Again, the prevalence of this model and its presence everywhere in Western culture are a subject for fuller consideration, particularly with the possibility of the organic as a model to use in opposition to the tyranny of the mechanical, the leadership of the engineers. Stalin was nick-named ‘the engineer of human souls’.

Technocrats solve problems. They never pre-empt them and make politics, as Enoch Powell suggested, the provision of an end to preventable evils. Firstly, they cannot and would not know where to begin. Secondly, without the low-level rumble of ongoing ‘problems’, little mirages of apparent importance actually without worth and intended simply to distract and take valuable media time, their inabilities would be exposed. No, technocrats are the people you go to when there are problems to fix, and they know all about the problems, having caused them to begin with. So the technocrat has a goal; the answer.

The answer to a problem faced by a modern technocratic elite has a definable structure. The elites are often criticised for being thinkers and not doers, but they do act in the face of the crises they bring on themselves, even if their actions are deliberately designed to partially solve the current crisis whiloe creating various sub-crises to move onto in synchronisation with the press cycle.

And there are various structural elements, in the proper sense of ‘structural’, not the faddish version, to the workplace of the technocrats. The problems favoured by the elites have the following characteristics:

The problem will be self-imposed and sustainable. The European migrant problem is the most obvious current example. Government creates a dysfunctional situation the management of which will require more government. This management will be deliberate mismanagement, and this will create a new series of problems to be solved. It is a perpetual-motion machine. For now, at least.

The problem can be solved by the technocratic elite, and only by them. The only opinions required from those outside the elites are those which have been pre-approved and put into place via the media. The impossibility of anti-elite commentary, except from the marginalised, and the promotion of intolerance towards untrammelled free speech are also essential components for the problem-solving to continue its damaged course and decaying orbit. Also, the elites are able to boost their Progressivist and multicultural agenda by including, or appearing to include, minorities in their solving of the problem.

The problem must, ultimately, be synched with a Progressivist cause. So the mass migration into Europe is caused by poverty, climate change, white colonialism, never by poor governance, or a failure of Islam. This setting into place of the problem with the necessity of a firm adherence to various hallowed causes allows later options for attacking opponents of the solution to the problem, to which we now turn.

The solution to the problem will require new bureaucracy. This helps in the creation of unnecessary jobs, jobs a truly competitive arena would not sustain, jobs essential for maintaining the grip of the elites. Paying for these valueless posts also enables taxes to be kept artificially high to pay for an ever-expanding public sector, along with the generous pension arrangements put in place long ago, when there was money around. The money extorted also, of course, supports the political class, their lifestyles and their subsidies, expenses and perks.

Anyone opposing the solution to the problem – particularly those in the mainstream media – is to be placed in the pariah class, the control of which runs from insults and smears to potentially career-ending accusations of racism, sexism or homophobia. The media, in particular, must provide a lot of information, positively presented with a little permitted dissent for the sake of verisimilitude, and make sure that this information is both plentiful and constantly repeated. Media is all about time and space, and the elites wish to micro-manage both by deciding the ‘news’ agenda. Everyone must be onside. Technocrats cannot abide dissent any more than the mechanic can abide grit in her engine.

Finally, the solution to the problem should, ideally, be mismanaged to the extent that a supplementary problem will take its place. Flooding in Britain is an example of how the mismanagement of water in a famously wet country can be allowed to flood great, populated, ‘First World’ plains.

In the end, there are only two alternative endgames for the current technocratic elite. Either they have failed, and their incompetence has created a series of overlapping situations which will decimate and possibly destroy the Western world. Or, they have succeeded so far and there is to be more of the same. The possibility remains that the governments of the Western world are not incompetent; this is simply what competence manifests itself as to their understanding of what it is and should be to be human.

Is it possible that these Midwich Cuckoos, these Enlightenment freaks, are mentally unstable? The psychopathology of the Left is a topic for another day. Here, we merely note the possibility of the quasi-autistic nature of the Western ruling elites, their oddness, their unfittingness to be considered fully human, their sociopathic lack of compassion for people outside their favoured class. The elites of Europe may not be in the rudest of mental health, but it does not necessarily help the victim to diagnose his assailant as he is being beaten.

Something is beginning to become clear. Where we have criticised and ridiculed technocracy, perhaps applause would be more in order. Our assumption was that the elites wanted the best for people, but were just going about it in an immature and overly-idealist way. But what if the escalating crises worldwide – crises which may soon link arms – what if these crises were all put in place precisely to wage war against the people, the great bane of the lives of the technocrats? We recall those science fiction films in which the robots rise up and attack humans. What if they were there along, only they didn’t look like robots, but instead looked exactly like people?