Wednesday, 23 November 2016
The biggest problem in trying to explain what is happening to the west right now is the sheer number of commentators trying to explain what is happening to the west right now. Yesterday I linked to this piece by Paul Mason in The Guardian. Reading it again I am struck by the way he seems to happily contradict himself, and tie his argument up in knots, determined to try and make ‘the facts’ fit his novel thesis that Brexit is a result of a fear of freedom and not the forty-year-long desire to attain that self-same thing. But as all good Orwellians know, freedom is slavery in the same way that ignorance is strength.
I blame psychology, sociology and all the other second-rank ‘ologies masquerading as science and practising the art of making something simple into something complicated. Add enough questionable theory into the process and you can make a career out of it. An ant colony is complex, but its constituent parts are pretty simple. I grant you a human is more complicated than an ant, though in all fairness, not a lot. But we are suckers for flattery, so tell a mob of simple shaved apes that they are marvellously sophisticated and you can lead them quite a long way up the garden path for a pat on their bony skulls.
Leaders have, of course, been exploiting what we now refer to as psychology for ever. Inspire loyalty, fear, loathing and common purpose in the mob and they will roll over to have their tummies tickled. Trump knows this and can appeal to the normal human instincts for self-preservation and unity and a defence of the values that bind ordinary Americans, despite himself having travelled a long way from ordinary. This is why the left-leaning intelligentsia both despise him so much and despair at his popularity. Why, with their superior, big caring brains, were they not able to persuade people against?
See, the trouble with psychology is it works both ways. While you were busy studying away inventing subtle explanations for simple things, we simple things were just getting on with it. After all, somebody has to keep the vending machines filled, put goods on the shelves, move money around and manufacture all that stuff we seem unable to do without. Every now and then we looked up and scratched our heads and wondered what on earth you lot were thinking, but we always imagined, or hoped, you’d grow out of it and come and join us in building a decent society.
But no, the ‘ologies are a rich seam to mine and as you dug deeper into the psychological bedrock you uncovered the fools’ gold of ever more nuanced reasons to feel grievance and hurt. Whatever ails you, you had a reason for it; you’re in the wrong body, the patriarchy is keeping you down, glass ceilings, self-esteem... daddy issues. The worst thing was to invert the simple truth that in most cases what you make of your life is up to you and instead you managed to seduce yourselves into believing your own codswallop, that everything is somebody else’s fault. And that only your acolytes were clever enough to see it.
The left: comfortably numb, uncomfortably dumb
If your investigations had been confined to the merely academic, the findings laid out in dusty, infrequently consulted tomes in library archives then fair enough. Like phrenology, your studies would have been interesting and amusing relics of a bygone, Freudian age. But you managed to persuade the gullible that your complex version of humanity, contrary to your own advocacy of egalitarianism, was superior to the reality of the masses. You succumbed to ‘the precious’ of your own devising. The funniest thing is that as you now reap what you sowed – the disdain of those you disdained – your imagined massive intellects are none the wiser as to how we got here. I think a whole lot of us are going to enjoy Trump’s presidency.