Good afternoon dear reader, to the next instalment of my blog. I hope the holiday season has left you cheery, in rude health, gregarious and prosperous.
Today, I crave your forgiveness for indulging myself in some pretty philiosophical discourse. Usually, I take the opportunity to use empirical evidence and or just plain ranting when writing but I hope, nevertheless, my musings have some meaning and chime with you in some way.
As an IR (International Relations) and politics student of old, for me the world we inhabit today is fascinating but also horrifying at the same time! You know how it is it is like observing a car crash or a very rotund person undressing, you know you should not watch but somehow you see it through to the bitter end without even batting an eyelid. However, this may say more about me than you dear reader!
Now to my indulgences! I am struck by the timeless nature of philisophers, people like Adorno, De Tocqueville, Foucault, Camus who identified the faults in society and with democracy exceedingly perceptively. We have most famously perhaps, Plato and Socrates, who wrote with such accuracy centuries ago about the flaws in our politics and democratic systems.
As Alexis de Tocqueville used to say “History is like a gallery where there are few originals and many copies.” Somehow, we human beings seem programmed to keep repeating the same mistakes and blithely believe that we can obtain different results. I’m thinking of fascist ideas most prominently here but others can also cited. I have already expounded at length in previous articles about the modern day fascist wannabes who litter our American and European landscapes right now, and my feelings towards them, so I won’t go into further detail here about that!
What I want to dwell on is the increasing and troubling disdain we seem to have for ‘checks and balances’ and expertise in our body politic. The slick and nefarious used car salesmanship tactics of Trump, Farage, Le Pen et al has been used to misdirect the ire of the masses towards the minorities in our societies.
Take the example of Brexit, where those campaigning to leave the European Union (EU) narrowly won the referendum with 52% to 48% but have behaved in a zero-sum fashion to the Remain side and treated their views and concerns with unabashed disdain and miserly contempt. Brexit highlighted the deep seated schisms in British society which had hiherto been papered over and allowed simmering resentments against foreigners, women, liberals and homosexuals to boil over and see the light of day. The UK government is now in a defensive position and scrambling desperately to control the flames it fuelled when it called this ill fated referendum. Now those who won the referendum, the naysayers and merchants of doom I like to call them, believe they are empowered by this nebulous concept of ‘the people’ and bash the judges, diplomats, journalists, economists, academics, politicians and civil servants who dare to challenge and provide a check on the falsehoods that they peddle. No prominent UK politician has had the spine to stand up and defend these last bastions of reason and virtue in our politics, nor dared to even challenge and confront the ill informed and ignorant views of the right.
Across Europe, illiberal and populist governments in Poland and Hungary, but increasingly in the U.K., France, Spain, Italy and Germany governments are succumbing to the pressure of these enraged and bitter right wingers and are hurriedly pushing through measures to appease them. In my adopted home country, Spain, the government is trying to regulate gatherings of people and control the use of Internet memes. In France we see a Socialist PM desperate to scapegoat ordinary Muslims and banning the burkini (used by only a tiny minority of people) to placate racist sentiments and win votes.
Now im going to steer onto a more unexplored philosophical territory which I have not touched on in my blog before.Theodor Adorno, who had fled Nazi Germany for USA, was always an intriguing writer for me but his opinions always seemed to strike a chord with me. A left winger, he argued that the populace at large was kept dumb and distracted about politics by what he called ‘the cultural industry.’ He once famously described Walt Disney as the most dangerous man in the world! Through skilful advertising, flashy consumer goods, lowest denominator pop music, glossy gossip magazines and mind numbing, thoughtless TV programming the population was kept ignorant and simple about critical political, economic and societal decisions. This fed the rise of fascism and left society particularly vulnerable to the clutches and predatory nature of populism, even during economic good times. He even said we should be more attuned to the early signs of a fascist, whihc are often displayed in bullies, and ensure there was a thorough psychological analysis of such persons to make sure they were mentally stable and if so, that they were given the proper education to drill these habits out of them at an early age. This guy is well worth a read is all I can say, even if, like myself I must add, you don’t agree with him entirely.
In the same vein of thought, we have Emile Durkheim. A Frenchman with expert diagnostic skills of societal weaknesses he analysed the problems inherent in modern capitalism and democracy. Rather than seeing setbacks and misfortune as a fact of life, modern society makes us see it as a sign of failure on our part if we can’t achieve the lifestyle or ambitions mapped out in countless magazines and TV shows. Similarly we as human beings need a sense of clan or community. We crave it apparently along with a sense of belonging. Tribes, religion, family and close friendships used to offer us those but with the advent of new technologies and consumer goods we have moved to richer, individualistic free thinking societies but are unable to process the many decisions we now have to take e.g. Who to marry, where to live, what job to have, what religion to follow etc. As a consequence we often believe that we are too busy, too unsure or too uninformed to make educated and rational decisions in our lives. If we fail in our decisions, capitalism can take a harsh a view, and we are said to have failed in life. We therefore, have more malaise and suicides in society.
Again, not everything is agreeable to me but it make sure for interesting reading and is worth a thought.
I can go on dear reader, but I shall leave you there and hope to be back again soon with some more of my thoughts and ponderances on our lives and politics! Till the next time!