Tuesday 1 September 2015

Myth and Money

It would be quite a feat to outdo the experts in most fields when it comes to being comprehensively wrong about almost everything. Every, sodding time. I know, I have made a study of experts in their natural habitat, their natural habitat being the media where they may freely display their colossal detachment from reality without any obvious self-awareness or embarrassment; I’m guessing the fat pay cheques make up for the lack of real-world credibility.

Yesterday, on the radio both to and from work I heard some frankly astonishing utterings from people supposed to be experts in their fields: On Beyond Belief, in the afternoon, a gaggle of the credulous – mostly religious folk, with one dull exception – earnestly discussed, as if it were not a children’s fairy tale, the existence and manifestation of beings from beyond. The muslims talked of djinns, the christians referred to ghosts and others talked about spirits and apparitions and ‘place memory’ in almost scientific, proved-beyond-doubt terms. Even the confirmed atheist claimed to have seen a ghost.

The possibility that these visions were mental aberrations was brought up briefly, but only as if it were a fringe theory amongst the many afterlife explanations. But this, of course, is the art of the expert; despite the many known and documented examples of human hallucination – through dreams, drugs, mental illness and in times of bodily change and great stress – the expert pretends to a greater insight and freely accepts the sort of outside-the-box theses that otherwise only children would believe.

When my father was going blind he had two frequent recurring ‘visitors’ that were as real to him as if they were holding his hand. So complete were they that he felt compelled to try and communicate with them on occasion, but unlike the experts, he no more believes he saw ghosts than he believes he will enter through the pearly gates and sit on a cloud strumming  a harp. But then I suppose people who believe in an afterlife and a heavenly father are naturally predisposed to gullibility. At least they are, for the most part, harmless in their intellectual infancy.

Earlier on, however, on the bank holiday Today programme an altogether less benign species of expert had held audience. Economists. Now, a study of the economy is important and a grasp of basic economic principles is almost essential to make sense of human interaction at every level, let alone mere trade, but you can have too much of a good thing. And the economic expert is a dangerously persuasive type of apparition. They don’t exist in our world, the real world, but certain incantations can cause them to appear and speak in tongues.

Whereas world leaders only pretend to listen to religionists for the purpose of vote-garnering they actually do listen to economists and base their policies on their pronouncements. Mere concerned citizens like myself can only look on in horror as the entire course of a nation’s prosperity and security is based on a sect of highly-educated ‘experts’ marked out primarily by their inability to agree on almost anything. Once again the subject of inflation raised its head; a bad thing, surely? But no, apparently it is simultaneously both good and bad and Mark Carney is waiting for the elements of the economic zodiac to align before making a decision on interest rates.

Debt, also, has both advocates and detractors and you regularly hear the clash of these big beasts locking horns with diametrically opposed theories on the big issues, culminating in the announcement of their beliefs in either the apocalyptic or nirvanal outcomes of intervention – some would say meddling – in global affairs to create or oppose the growth of markets and influence the activities of we mere mortals who have to tackle the consequences.

Ed Balls' daughter... Crystal.
I can see your consolidate debt future...

Through all this we are supposed to remain stoic and make informed choices about who we wish to see govern us and lead us to the promised land of milk and honey? Maybe to politics and religion we must add economics as impolite guests at the dinner table. Snake oil selling, myth-propagating, heretical hearsay and downright nonsense, what are we to believe? No wonder the electorate is so confused. But at least with the religious nutters the insanity is clear to see... and there is also the weather forecast to believe in.


  1. "Experts" I never believe a word they say.Good article.Experts are the ones who do "research" and look at the rubbish they come out with. Are universities funded to tell us not to eat butter? Get on with your friggin work and do something useful.

    1. An expert is just somebody who has persuaded the gullible to pay heavily for statements of the bleeding obvious, or to try and draw spurious conclusions from incomplete data.