Shiny Baubles

Manhattan Island, we are told, was bought for the price of a few handfuls of glass beads, some axe heads and muskets, and possibly a barrel of whisky.

Across the world primitive peoples, once exposed to the delights of modernity, have embraced it wholesale swapping bows and arrows for i-phones and loincloths for frayed jeans.

They have been cheered on by rationalists who point out, reasonably enough, to those who would prefer to see them left in peace, that they have every right to choose a life of medical care, availability of food and travel over their miserable stone age existence, nasty brutish and short.

But, looking at the bigger picture, would it not be true to say that all of us here in the West, have allowed ourselves to be taken in by the shiny baubles dangled in front of us by technology, and have blithely and carelessly given away our birthright of liberty in exchange for a mess of pottage in the form of clever toys of instant gratification, the internet of things, universal basic income?

Let’s take a look at the charge sheet:

  • Free and individual thought is crowded out by conformity of easy-to-hold opinions. Free speech is only allowed if people like what you’re saying.
  • Children are too rarely taught about self discipline. Instead their every act is praised to the skies and they grow up unable to deal with more challenging real life situations.
  • Universities have abandoned universality, and replaced teaching how to think with teaching what to think; in a depressing monochrome of wokeness. Contrasting opinions are effectively banned from campus.
  • The christian values, and especially dissent, which were responsible for enabling the creation of the splendour of our Western civilization have been forgotten except to the extent of a sort of whiny woke parody of religiosity. Just look at the sorry state of the Church of England. The real meaning and values have been lost, especially in the great cities where society’s consensus opinion is formed.
  • The sturdy self reliance of the frontiersman or the farmer is looked down upon, presidential candidates disparage the residents of flyover states with their bibles and their guns. Over here left wing politicians openly express the same contempt for white van man.
  • Vanity and self pity have become virtues.

This is not a new phenomenon. I think our civilization reached its peak during the Edwardian period leading up to the First World War. Many people think that the great flushing away of empires and the end of deference which were ushered in by that great calamity were good things.

And I would agree.

Unfortunately the baby was thrown away with the bathwater. Our civilization held its own until the 50’s, but after the Second World War the view had immovably taken hold that government’s wonderful efforts were responsible for winning the war and now they were going to win the peace.

It was at this point that our civilization lost its soul. It gave away its precious island in exchange for a few shiny baubles.

It was a short step from the nationalisation of the health service, the coal industry, the railways, the car industry and all the rest to a pervading belief that whatever the problem, the government had to do something about it. The massively over-centralised state got bigger and bigger and more and more monstrously inefficient, and ineffective. Here was the puppy chasing its own tail, on an enormous scale.

I would add here that the magnificent example of Germany, which addressed its own post war economic disaster by sending packing the American and British advisers who had been installed to run things, and instead adopted the great Erhard reforms which essentially liberalised and deregulated the economy and unleashed the Wirkschaftswunder which dominated Europe for the next 50 years. The lessons from this were studiously ignored until Thatcher appeared.

To add to these economic woes came the cultural catastrophe which was the 60’s when those old fashioned values which had stood us in pretty good stead for centuries, were gleefully thrown out of the window. Free love and rock and roll – fantastic. But if you don’t remember where you come from the consequences are disastrous.

Then came the idiotic French philosophers Derrida and the like. the Frankfurt school of cultural marxism. And Globalism.

Orwell was quite right when he pointed out the self-hatred that lurked in the soul of the fashionable parts of the British Establishment and it is that more than anything else which has brought us to the brink of the globalist hell where we find ourselves now. Up to the Edwardian period there was a substantial countervailing element in the Establishment which understood and respected what had been created. All too often this manifested itself in unwelcome ways such as economic protectionism, but the point is that you weren’t considered a freak or a throwback if you were proud to be British.

It was this attitude which was destroyed between 1914 and 1918, and the void this has left has been filled since 1945 by a kind of narcissistic moral vacuum.

It is a natural human failing to be lazy and to look for the easy way forward. It is that which has led to the astonishing engineering and organizational achievements of our civilization. But the downside of that is that it is all too easy nowadays not to be too bothered about the bigger picture. And this at a time when the establishments of the western nations are poised to take massive steps towards disolving our collective national identities. They are giving away our sovereignty to international bodies with no democratic accountability. AI risks becoming a serious threat to the human race as all the massive amounts of personal information which is collected every day will now be fed into what amounts to a massive machine which has the potential to know everything about everybody. Back when all this seemed to belong to an impossibly distant future, Sci Fi writer Isaac Asimov postulated his famous rules for robots:

  • First Law – A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • Second Law – A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • Third Law – A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

We would have done well to insist these same rules applied to AI, but that ship has sailed. Even now governments are contemplating autonomous fighting drones. The dangers are obvious, and appalling.

The moral constraints which might once have shamed governments into some sort of pretence of respect for human dignity, liberty and autonomy have been swept away by the covid fiasco. If ever a relatively minor sickness was instrumentalised into a grotesque power grab this was it.

You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist or to believe the WEF’s nonsense about a Great Reset to be deeply concerned. The fact is that a number of massive and deeply worrying developments are taking place all together, and there is virtually no debate. No concern. Because people are comfortable. Don’t want to rock the boat. Or be ridiculed as dinosaurs.

Thinking this through it has become clear to me that all civilizations contain the seeds of their own eventual fall. Ours is no exception.

If we don’t wake up, it may turn out that the end is sooner than we expected.

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