Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Beyond Belief

We should take with a pinch of salt the reversal of the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) claim that the Brexit vote would slow down Britain’s economy. The fact that they now say “in practice this has not happened” proves only one thing; that economic forecasts are as accurate as ten-year weather forecasts. Or as accurate as, say, Remain victory forecasts in the run-up to the referendum. Economic forecasts act more like push-polls, designed to affect behaviour, rather than to predict it; because nobody actually knows the future and people are fickle.

But, if Leavers gloat over this pronouncement they reveal themselves to be no better than the more fervid Remainers who repeatedly and almost gleefully use any gloomy news as evidence of the folly of Brexit. And both sides have used the “we haven’t even left yet!” argument to refute the others’ claims. It’s as if nobody has even heard of confirmation bias; a very real and demonstrable phenomenon which affects/afflicts us all. If you can acknowledge this very human bias and admit to being prey to it, you have a chance of, if not avoiding it, at least recognising when you’ve been guilty of rejoicing in supposed evidence that affirms your conviction.

For example I give you Michael Heseltine. So convinced is he that the EU is a sacred cow, without which we – especially fabulously wealthy landowners – will suffer, that he is prepared to sell his entire Conservative past up the Swanee and suggest we now need Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. Because Hezzer’s cognitive dissonance is so unbearable he has attempted to achieve consonance by a mental contortion which involves the belief that Corbyn is a remainer – despite decades of opposition to the EU - and that a humiliating UK climb down and the acceptance of a ‘soft Brexit’ is somehow a prize to be sought.

When we believe something despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary we construct barriers, we deflect, we do anything to reinforce that belief. Or, far less often, we admit we were wrong. It is believed to be a survival trait, this willingness to believe the unbelievable; it’s the herd mentality, which drives mobs to act against their individual better judgement. But we expect more from those who would lead us, don’t we? Shouldn’t we?

Unfortunately, it is the case that we like our leaders to be afflicted by the same visions and values that we possess. I used to think that the absence of a god – any god – is so obvious that those who lead major religions must be privy to the secret that there is no such deity, because the church is an organ for control just as much as any government is and its leaders must be wiser than those they lead. But that’s a tough act to maintain and the simpler explanation is that archbishops actually do – despite the daily and overwhelming absence of any evidence whatsoever – believe in ‘His’ existence. But no, instead theologians construct narratives to explain this absence from our lives and strengthen their faith in the process.

This is you... not me. 😏

The reality for most people is that post-Brexit, most people will hardly be affected materially. We routinely adjust to the loss of jobs, bereavements, natural disasters, lucky breaks and great successes. We generally advance through life; gaining wealth, building families, businesses, influence, but we also slide back. Sometimes our fate is in our hands, sometimes it lies with others, but it is always up to us how we deal with it. If we have to have one big belief we can all go along with, why not make it that? 


  1. Having once been a fervent Europhile (before I became a fervent Eurosceptic) belief in the rightness of the EU was an unconscious permanent presence. When Germany reunited, for instance, my automatic response was that it was more important than ever for the rest of Europe to unite more strongly to contain her. The difference between the two states of belief is that my Euroscepticism is based on reason and I now always question any assertion about the EU, whether positive or negative.

  2. Corbyns dislike of the EU is bound upon his desire to create a UK based Marxist Utopia. Despite the EU's socialist and progressive credentials he knows that they would stop him from doing so.