Posts Tagged ‘facism’

I still pay for a television licence, but I can’t remember when I last watched a scheduled broadcast. I used to listen to the BBC on my morning commute, but not for years now. As for commercial radio you know how that goes? You eventually find a tune you like, but before you settle into it, it cuts to an advert followed by a load of verbal drivel from the DJ. So, if I want music I bypass the radio, plug in the Android and listen to MP3. If I want debate or current affairs, I go online, listen to a podcast on a topic that interests me. It cuts out the adverts and the false adversarial baying, and it restores a contemplative calm to the day.

I still have a TV, left over from the noughties, but I only ever cast media to it from other online sources. Broadcast media is expensive to produce and, in a bean-counter culture, the key performance indicators are listener numbers. How do you grow and hold an audience? You present a diet of inflammatory material with the intent to create outrage.

We see this in the mainstream TV and print media, where intelligent and genuine debate is obsolete. But its most prevalent on Social Media, where outrage is manufactured and monetised to a fine science. This was brought home to me when searching online for material on the history of philosophy. That search took me to Bryan Magee and a series of broadcasts he did in the nineteen eighties. What struck me was that such material would never find air-time now. If you want it, you have to go online, but to a layer of the web beneath the bubble-gum of social media.

Yes, the Internet is a repository for all that is the worst in human thinking, but also the very best. It now hosts some of the finest contemporary thought, and acts as curator of our past, preserving valuable material that would otherwise never see the light of day.

Culturally, we have reached a point of transition. We’re living in the so-called post-modern era, but post-modernism has stalled. It has lost itself in a tangle of ideologically defined oppressor/oppressed relationships and has birthed a bewildering spawn of identity politics and endless cultural wars that defy common sense. This basically means any one of us can identify as being the member of an oppressed group. It also means each of us can be accused of oppressing someone else, even if we’ve never met them. Heavens, I sound like a Tory!

The cultural periods of human history mark the stages of our evolution as a species. When evolution stalls, it back-tracks to the last known good position and tries another way. The chaos we see now is the vacuum left by evolution on its hasty retreat from leading edge post-modernism, away from the venal tribalism it has led us into.

Many thinkers have sensed this. Some are pessimistic and predict our demise in the flames of anarchy and planetary heat-death. Others see a glimmer of hope in various online voices. But that debate is complex and subtle and must avoid the outrage between artificially inflated tribal camps. It’s therefore not a debate you’ll ever find in the mainstream news broadcasts, or the magazines now.

Its nexus is an informal group of thinkers and facilitators, the so-called Intellectual Dark Web. Some of its voices, like Ken Wilbur and Jordan Peterson have been around for a long time. They come from a wide range of disciplines, from philosophy and psychology from spirituality and tech. The result is a penetrating analysis of our present ills and a potential way forward. But it involves breaking the post-modern grip. This is already happening anyway. We see it in the reaction of politics. Culturally, the leading edge has adopted neo-Marxist ideals, and the mirror-image of that is political authoritarianism, and proto-fascism. It’s a bewildering paradox to bear witness to.

One of the most influential voices against post-modernism in recent years has been Jordan Peterson’s. What’s striking about Peterson is the degree to which the mainstream pundits, both left and right, misrepresent him. Claimed by the right for his critique of the left, Peterson is a-political but possibly slightly left-liberal. To know him though you have to engage with his material, read his books, sit through his online-lectures. This also takes you to the heart of the intellectual dark web. If you’re looking for sound-bites to define this movement, you’re not of the movement, more the subject of it.

I’m very much of the left when it comes to my own politics, but the left has taken particularly ill to Peterson and that puzzles me because I find him tremendously enlightening, and I can only conclude it’s a tribal reaction to someone telling you something you don’t want to hear. Indeed, his critique of the radical neo-Marxist left, is sobering. As a moderate leftist who has never read Marx, I am mindful of its post-revolutionary slide into the Gulag. The radical Marxists who run our university Humanities departments, seem to have forgotten it. Instead, they have created for us a thousand identity barriers for us to trip over, while leaving out the fact we are, above all human.

As we become more polarized, culturally and politically, the moderates of both camps, left and right, find themselves without a home, find themselves de-platformed from the mainstream for wanting to discuss what, in post-modern terms, are now taboo subjects. So they’ve begun to coalesce around this intellectual dark web. Here the moderate leftists and conservative thinkers engage in meaningful conversation. Online, they are unhindered by sound-bite culture, and don’t need to curtail their presentations to suit a snappy TV editorial format. Peterson’s lectures can last for hours, yet he attracts millions of viewers, so there is a hunger for this material, a hunger for a way out of the bind we find ourselves in.

We are all a mixture of good ideas and bad, we all hold a piece of the truth. Therefore, the way ahead can only be the vector sum of all the truths, as articulate, thinking individuals open themselves up in non-adversarial discussion. But to get to that point requires a degree of sincere debate that is no longer possible via the usual mainstream channels. If you vote conservative I call you a right wing nut job, and you call me a lib-tard commie bastard, both of us intent on nothing more than saving face. That’s a zero sum game, and we should all know the extremes at both ends lead to murder and to lost generations.

With the rise of social media and surveillance capitalism, the Internet looked set to ruin us, and it still might. I don’t know to what extent the Intellectual Dark Web can influence the debate back to common sense, lurking as it does beneath a surface scum of click-baity dross. It seems an unlikely place for the intellect to regroup and to pivot post-modernism away from the disaster it seems to be openly courting. But for now I am lending it my optimism.

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iateol cover second smallA dystopia is a nightmare vision of the future. It is Orwell’s 1984, it is Huxley’s Brave New World, it is the shock of what might yet be, and therefore, like the future itself, never actually arrives. Yet the world of 2019, would have seemed dystopic had we seen it coming in the 80’s, and though the 80’s were by no means the halcyon days, there is still a certain innocence attached to them, give or take the threat of mutually assured destruction. But there were no surveillance cameras perched on every conceivable vantage point, watching ordinary people going about their business, no cameras reading faces and putting names to them and we did not all willingly carry portable tracking devices that could read our minds and influence us by subliminal suggestion. Nor did we have governments willing to suspend the workings of parliament in order to push though controversial policies that might easily threaten our health and well-being.

As sinister as all that would have sounded in the 80’s, it’s perfectly normal to us, living now. We are it seems, an eminently adaptable species and this is perhaps one reason for our evolutionary dominance. We readily adapt to hardship, even those hardships we have created for ourselves, or are inflicted upon us by our fellow man. Today’s outrage is tomorrow’s normality. Yet we go on as if the ever more brutish externalities of our existence are of only secondary importance, for surely otherwise we would do something about them, especially when they start to hurt.

Many of us have long been conscious of a certain pathological polarisation in world affairs, fuelled by the rich man’s ever more desperate scramble for loot. This has led in turn to a Zeitgeistian volatility, aided and in large part amplified by our networked communications technology, a thing that can make a deafening amp-squeal out of even the most trivial dissent, or which can be used to distract us with candy from the contemplation of things others – the data-barons and their masters – would rather we ignored. In the UK, where I live, this volatility has of late of course been focused around the closely contested and highly controversial referendum to leave the European Union. In the three years since the vote, it has caused untold division at every level of society, unleashed the most intemperate language, and ushered in an era of utilitarian, political chicanery like nothing else I can remember.

Personally, I view it as a disaster on many fronts, and it has undoubtedly coloured my fiction writing. My current novel, The Inn at the Edge of Light, follows the life of a man from his twenties, in the 1980’s, through to old age, and his journey into a near distant dystopia, a future not too difficult to extrapolate from current trends. Needless to say his externalities do not improve much with time, but that he weathers such things so stoically shows what truly drives us are the same things that have always driven us – a place of our own to call home, freedom of relationship, of love, and something else, something irrational that gives us hope in the face of adversity, that even at the eleventh hour as the hangman approaches our cell, we hold out for a miracle, a last minute reprieve. Better still we shrug and say it doesn’t matter, that the truth, the essence, the meaning of our lives lies elsewhere.

There’s nothing I can do about the constitutional crisis, a thing so freely heralded this week from all but the usual swivel-eyed right-wing orifi, who, on the contrary, consider it all fair play and a bit of a wheeze. Yes, I can sign the petitions, register my objection, refute here and now, and even with touch of spittle-flecked vehemence, the somewhat condescending Moggian accusation of there being an air of “confection” in my dissent. But having done all that, I then turn back to seek a more soothing music in my words, and in the archetypal chatter in my head, and the ever beguiling images of my dreams.

At what point do we wake and realise we’re living in a dystopia? The truth is we never do, and anyway by the time it’s arrived it’s already too late to do anything about it.

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