Time was, ere yet in these degenerate days Ignoble themes obtain’d mistaken [ Lord Byron; “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.”]
There is a desperation afoot in the developed world. We are not living as we are supposed to be; we are not eating what we have evolved to eat; we raise our children in a manner that is inimical to their mental and physical health; we have stopped thinking critically and rationally about the world around is; war remains a vile prevalence and states are becoming increasingly powerful and dangerous to both civilians and foreigners. Immersed in more knowledge than ever before, we are blind to understanding the forces at work around the world. Values have been replaced by numbers, and numbers are what we are becoming - we have yet to shed the totalitarian dispositions that governments tilted towards in the twentieth century. We've merely computerised them.
The greatest threat as evinced in the unemployment, remaining poverty, incredulous debt levels, and continual wars and terrorism lies not with people but with states.
For a century and more, western governments have tried to manage their economies unilaterally and internationally through spurious economic ideas that, despite mathematical wizardry and emotive rhetoric, are as shallow as the latest hyped pop band; their policies have created chaos and misery for millions; and now the leviathans have the audacity to demand more and more from their weakened people. Government generated recession has impoverished millions and those who are sustaining the heavy burden of economies are increasingly being targeted by revenue officers. The freedom that many have aspired to over the past few centuries following the European Renaissance is in grave danger of being replaced by a slowly imposed enslavement to pay for astronomical government debt levels. Some people say we should not worry about government debt and that it is a vehicle for growth - apart from the obvious retort, “where is the growth and prosperity?” we can ask whether they have ever looked at the data.1 Unemployment amongst the young and restless is historically high and represents both a dangerous level in terms of the desperation that can ferment but also a grave loss of direction and potential. To be without work when so young sets new precedents for enslavement as the youth will mature they will have become habituated to dependency and will demand it again and again until their lives are no longer free. So our states have encouraged the youth into universities to keep them off the dole for a few more years and then they come out as indebted slaves to the job system. In turn, as voters they will clamour for chains: regulations, legislation, welfare support with governments (other people) paying for their education, their health care, their insurances, and their pensions. They will want want want and not understand that in so doing they further their enslavement as the conditioning sides of the box become more restrictive and onerous. Already we hear the old saying, "well, I paid into the tax system, so I should get my return." Except that the NI and tax systems are not investments - they are taxes which are raised and then spent, which leaves the currently productive part of the population funding the pensioned. When social security was created, 15 to 20 workers were to support 1 on a pension or unemployment benefits; today that is 3:1 and soon will be 1:1. That is neither sustainable nor morally healthy.
What is truly frightening is that few speak of their impending loss of wealth, freedom, and with it our health as a species; few dare think about what life may be like in a world governed by bureaucracies which subtly increase their jurisdiction over their lives and in which people become increasingly lazy and stupid.2
Yet history tells us what will happen.
We will falter, we will stumble, we will lose the greatness and creativity that we innately possess and which is currently doing wonders in the technological industries. Slowly those areas that remain productive - and truly exciting - will be throttled by economic needs that cannot support them, but grasping governments, and by an increasingly thoughtless and vacant population. The great Atlases3 who are currently working and improving the lives of millions through their commercial and technological endeavours may move to relatively freer nations to continue their labours as they have done through the ages, but when they retire or die, who will be there to replace them? Innovation and technological progress are not necessary conditions: many cultures have suffered Dark Ages - Europe following the decline of Rome, China, Islam… in each case following a decline in the Mind which ran currently with inflation, expansion of state activity and belligerence, rising taxes, and a shift towards prejudice and zealousness and the intense banal stupidity that characterises pogroms, genocides, expulsions, and witch hunts for anyone apparently different from the elites controlling the economic surpluses.
Indeed, we are in danger of entering a new dark ages--or a grey age--in which we stumble forward without plan nor vision of human betterment and creativity. The great potential of our Mind, the Great Conversation which we have been cultivating since the ancients, the passions and drives of our very being qua humanity is threatened with paperwork, regulations, mediocrity, and insipid thinking. In a word - irrationalism - the doctrine of anti-reason, a bland acceptance of fallacies and thoughtless choices, and a diminution of consciousness.
Not all is gloom though.
Hope lies forever in the human breast.
The industrial revolution began a new era for humanity in which unprecedented wealth could be generated by unleashing the latent talent and passion in millions of people striving to better their lives and world around them. We are still enjoying the fruits of their ingenuity, experimentation, and sense of human worth and intelligence. For those who grumble that the industrial revolution was built on the backs of the poor, which has much truth in it, tend to ignore the intense improvement in the lives of the poor over the past two centuries and sometimes hold an idyllic view of the past that does not hold historically. The past was brutal and that brutality marched forth with the industrial revolution which slowly but inexorably improved the lives of later generations. The poor did not have cars a century ago. Never mind mobile phones.
We should never underestimate human ingenuity but we need to be very mindful of the environments that we create which ultimately undermine that creativity. Environments are created by our ideas - by our Mind; our thinking can be twisted into evil purposes as when some arrogantly hold themselves superior to others or assume that other people’s income is theirs to claim or that governments can generate wealth from imposing duties upon future generations or that the effect of our industrial chemicals need not concern us. Our voices are legion and capable of rousing the fiercest passions as any war displays; far better they are aligned in support of human dignity, choice, and freedom. The computer and internet revolutions are unleashing so many voices, many of whom are keen on sustaining their freedoms to blog and discuss apparently radical ideas.
However, the danger is that we are slowly poisoning the springs and the fertile ground necessary for human flourishing, and the fact that much of the poisoning is done is by men and women with confident PR teams and smooth vocabulary and expensive suits: that readers will not know how to discern clear thinking from poor thinking, a competent judgment from a sarcastic quip.
As a civilised people, we will be facing challenges should we wish to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future. Every single one of us needs to question our values and to generate a vision of freedom and peace for our children and future generations. It's is normally the remit of environmentalists to provide visions of the future, and rush usually those visions are dour; so it' s about time a political philosopher offered a feasible picture of where we could be going and why.
The work I’m involved in is not just a reminder to us all that we cannot trust people in power, it is a manifesto on how to empower yourself and the lives of those around you, so that you can become part of a movement to make the world and life around you better and in harmony with the principles of self-determination and human freedom. It’s about education and self-mastery, about realising the forces around us that act to constrain and control us, and how we can raise our thinking to challenge them or to work with the better forces to help us grow. It's about focusing on abundance and growth rather than scarcity and stagnation, about harmony and love rather than conflict and violence.
The world has always been divided into masters and slaves … and no, I’m not becoming a Hegelian or a Marxist … but there are always people who have sought to manipulate others. The truth is that we do not need such a division - we are one people with one fantastic planet to live on: we can integrate and exchange and befriend whom we like…but governments often intend to stop our personal growth and development as well as cultural integration (unless it suits them). We don’t need to accept conditions as they are, whether its our financial indebtedness or assumption that we must destroy the planet to become wealthier (crazy logic, I know), or that we have to send our babies to nurseries and have our children reading by the age of 5 and our teenagers removed from the job market.
1 As of July 2013, the national debt stood at $16.7 trillion. As a percentage of GDP that represents ****%. The UK debt level was ****%,
2 Harsh adjectives but appropriate.
3 A reference to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged which chronicles what happens to the USA when its great innovators go on strike.