27 July 2009

The Killing Fields

Watching, as usual, the least offensive thing I could find on the TV while I used my exercise machine, I found myself seeing The Killing Fields, about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Everyone in this film was risking, and trying to avoid, torture and death at short notice, as murderously inclined collections of people washed around the country, and other people tried to guess where they would go next and what would be the best direction in which to run.

Now the effects of the Khmer Rouge were obviously terrible in one sense, and (like other instances of communist revolution) destructive towards the more middle and upper-class elements of society. However, such a condition of society would seem to select against some relatively dysfunctional genes. And it seems very reminiscent of the gang warfare now prevalent in many inner cities, as one hears.

So perhaps it is the case that, whenever relieved of immediate pressures of any other kind, such as the need to work in some way to keep alive, human beings are programmed to form up in groups to start fighting one another. Like mating rituals, this clearly serves a function in selecting against unfavourable genes, and selecting in favour of intelligence sufficient to guess accurately who is likely to want to kill one, provided it is combined with an ability to run fast. Both very low intelligence and weak legs are being selected against.

However unpleasant, this may be an inevitable feature of human society. Perhaps civilisation is intrinsically unstable, because it tends to produce forces that promote certain changes in the gene pool, these changes being of a kind perceived as dangerous because they are potentially maladaptive for survival, and this produces a hardwired backlash in favour of more primitive conditions.

24 July 2009

1850: the watershed

The rise of individualism prior to 1945 was not a simple matter. Probably the factors that would lead to its downfall were present from an early stage, and certainly so by the time the Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882.

Herbert Spencer identified a watershed at about 1850. Society, as he saw it, was always in a state of conflict between collectivism and individualism. Up to 1850, individualism was gaining ground; after it, the balance turned the other way and individual freedom declined in favour of collectivism.

Prior to the 19th century, there had been many monopolies. For example, Queen Elizabeth I had granted an exclusive right to print music to Tallis and Byrd (1575). No one could have their music printed by anyone else if they happened to have fallen out with Tallis and Byrd. And the guilds were as monopolistic as the modern medical profession. No one could make and sell candles, for example, unless they had been apprenticed and become a member of the candlemakers’ guild. As the monopolies were abolished, commercial freedom gave rise to intellectual freedom.

After 1850, we may suppose, the consequences of the earlier legislation in favour of free trade and against monopolies continued to bear fruit in the expanding activities of the intellectual upper class, but also in the psychological reactions of some of them against the enjoyment of this freedom by others, even if they had benefitted from it themselves.

In 1794 Prussia was the first European country to bring in state education, wishing to have an educated and indoctrinated population which would provide competent and compliant soldiers for its armies. It also brought in universal conscription in 1862. Prussia won the Franco-Prussian war; other countries thought that the universal education had provided Prussia with an advantage, and followed suit.

My suppressed independent university has a suppressed History Department as well as one in Philosophy, which needs only funding and status to be contributing significantly to the intellectual life of its time.

21 July 2009

Picking one's way through the debris

copy of a letter to a person who came to one of my seminars

You seemed to understand why what I say in my books, and my outlook in general, arouses such hostility and makes me an Outsider. If I meet you again I hope you might explain it to me because, however odd it seems to you, I do not actually see anything outrageous in it. I am just, as I always was, a perfectly respectable bourgeois capitalist, and since my official ‘education’ left me excluded from an academic career, it seemed to me obvious and inevitable that I would proceed to try to build up an academic institution (an independent university) around myself. But, of course, by now I am familiar with the fact that this arouses extreme hostility.

Nowadays, practically everyone takes socialism for granted and discussions proceed within that context, so my views are regarded as ‘extreme’ although they are more or less what everybody else took for granted before the socialist ideology became dominant. A crucial date was 1945, when the ‘Welfare State’ (the Oppressive State) was initiated, which was also when I started attending the Ursuline High School, aged 10.

You say that I said in some book that existential psychology is optimistic. That is a very vague statement, especially as there is so little existential psychology around, and it is probably only true at all of a fairly advanced sort of psychology with considerable awareness of the existential situation.

So it is more meaningful to say what is the case so far as I personally am concerned. I certainly have no optimism at all about developments in the society around me, or about my chances of making any progress that depends on any response or feedback from the social environment, which becomes ever more hostile and unfavourable to my efforts to improve my position and become intellectually productive. And leaving myself out of it, the global future appears unsavoury and uninteresting, wiping out the advantages of the recent brief period of Western civilisation. The world appears to be ‘progressing’ towards a type of global communism, via terrorism and street riots, so far as I can tell from the French television news.

Nevertheless, it is true that I have an underlying optimism which enables me to keep going, and to keep hoping that I can pick my way through the falling debris of society, and even hope to find ways of improving my position by trying (among other things) to appeal to outsiders for financial support. The deterioration of society around us makes it even more difficult for us to progress, and thus even more urgent for us to appeal as widely as possible for the financial support we need, as well as for people to come and work here, and for moral support of all kinds.

19 July 2009

Adler and modern society

If there were any principle of permitting expression of all valid points of view, then we would have a claim on financial support and social recognition for our squashed and suppressed philosophy department.

But why should one expect that to be the case? Neither Nazi Germany nor Marxist Russia permitted the expression of views critical of their ideology, so why should socialist Britain? In fact socialist America and Europe as well. We have never had any interest taken by any overseas university in the possibility of setting us up properly with funding and status.

Why should a state-financed system have any interest at all in providing opportunity for intellectual activity of any kind? Both Nazi Germany and communist Russia successfully eliminated contributions to culture from relatively high-IQ sections of the population and reduced them in numbers. This was not explicitly stated as the real object of the exercise, but should one expect any ideological movement openly to state its real aims and objects?

As Adler said (but it applies more precisely to the users of public money – freedom confiscated from individuals – than to the individuals who may be left with very limited resources) what someone is aiming at in life may be more realistically inferred from the situations he consistently brings about than from his verbal protestations.

Accepting that the society in which I live is aiming to destroy people like me, which seems the only realistic conclusion, it is no surprise that my life is still so bad.

17 July 2009

Vulnerable to doctors

Another terrible development which has not yet come about, but soon will, and which as usual we are prevented from speaking out against by lack of social status and financial support. Discussing different plans to computerise medical records in a recent Daily Mail:

Patients’ medical records could be transferred to Google under plans being considered by the Tories ... But campaigners and doctors claim patient information could be vulnerable to hackers.

And there are also concerns it could put lives in danger because it would be harder for doctors to access vital medical information in an emergency than under Labour’s rival NHS computer scheme. *

Campaigners claim that the medical records of victims might be ‘vulnerable to hackers’. But it seems no one is complaining that they would be vulnerable to doctors which is – or ought to be – the most serious concern. ‘Patient confidentiality’ now means that not only the socially authorised sadist you have consulted will be free to record his opinions about your problems, but that these opinions are accessible to all members of the medical Mafia. Which makes a mockery of the idea of seeking a second (or third) opinion and starting from scratch with another doctor, difficult though that is anyway already, and almost impossible without the ‘permission’ of the doctor first consulted, and without the second doctor knowing that he had a predecessor.

* 7 July 2009

15 July 2009

The genius of the proletariat

I think that statusful agents of the collective should want to visit the least fortunate members of society to hear how they experience the difficulties of their position. But I know that this is an old-fashioned idea which seems natural to me because I remember pre-Marxist society, and it has no applicability within the current quasi-Marxist society in which everyone, even those old enough and middle-class enough to remember society before the revolution, has converted to the new religion and regards themselves as agents of it.

The idea that innate ability is to be done down and suppressed has always been intrinsic to communist ideology. This is a quotation from a book about Marxism which shows that Trotsky had this idea.

The proletariat, [Trotsky] argued, could not produce any culture at the present time because it was not educated, and, as for the future, socialist society would not create a class culture of any sort but would raise the whole of human culture to new levels. The dictatorship of the proletariat was only a short, transient phase after which the glorious classless society would set in – a society of supermen, any one of whom could become the intellectual equal of Aristotle, Goethe, or Marx. *

What such ideas mean in practice, in Britain today and for at least the last 60 years, is that those who have shown any signs of the sort of ability that makes them potential geniuses (i.e. who might do something noticeable if not prevented from doing so) are thrown down and out, and kept down and out.

* L. Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism, Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, 1978, p 52.

10 July 2009

The outsider-hero in children’s fiction, then and now

The look in her eyes was exactly the look which Miss Minchin most disliked. She would not have it; she was quite near her, and was so enraged that she actually flew at her and boxed her ears …
It made Sara start. She wakened from her dream at the shock, and, catching her breath, stood still a second. Then, not knowing she was going to do it, she broke into a little laugh.
'What are you laughing at, you bold, impudent child?' Miss Minchin exclaimed.
It took Sara a few seconds to control herself sufficiently to remember that she was a princess. Her cheeks were red and smarting from the blows she had received.
'I was thinking,' she answered.
'Beg my pardon immediately,' said Miss Minchin.
Sara hesitated a second before she replied.
'I will beg your pardon for laughing, if it was rude,' she said then, 'but I won't beg your pardon for thinking.'
'What were you thinking?' demanded Miss Minchin. 'How dare you think?'
‘… I was thinking what would happen if I were a princess and you boxed my ears – what I should do to you. And I was thinking that if I were one, you would never dare to do it, whatever I said or did …'
'Go to your room,' cried Miss Minchin breathlessly, 'this instant! Leave the schoolroom! Attend to your lessons, young ladies!'
Sara made a little bow.
'Excuse me for laughing if it was impolite' …
(Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Little Princess)

Narcissa Malfoy strolled out from behind the clothes rack.
'Put those away,' she said coldly to Harry and Ron. 'If you attack my son again, I shall ensure that it is the last thing you ever do.'
'Really?' said Harry, taking a step forwards and gazing into the smoothly arrogant face that, for all its pallor, still resembled her sister's. He was as tall as she was now. 'Going to get a few Death Eater pals to do us in, are you?'
Madam Malkin squealed and clutched at her heart.
'Really, you shouldn't accuse – dangerous thing to say – wands away, please!'
But Harry did not lower his wand. Narcissa Malfoy smiled unpleasantly.
'I see that being Dumbledore's favourite has given you a false sense of security, Harry Potter. But Dumbledore won't always be there to protect you.'
Harry looked mockingly all around the shop.
'Wow ... look at that ... he's not here now! So why not have a go? They might be able to find you a double cell in Azkaban with your loser of a husband!'
(J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)

07 July 2009

Tories: honouring a commitment is ‘far too expensive’

I have commented previously on the victimisation of pensioners. They are suitable objects for victimisation because they tend to be relatively middle class. The fact that middle class people are able to live longer, through a combination of forethought, intelligence and prior capital accumulation, is taken as a reason for penalising them. According to the prevailing ideology, it ought not to be possible for them to benefit from these factors compared to other people, because it is unfair.

One of the most appalling features of the anti-pensioner policy programme is means-testing, which I have discussed before. A prior contract between individuals and the state – that they were guaranteed to benefit from contributions they made towards the state retirement fund – has been cavalierly rescinded. Some people, like myself, even made voluntary contributions on this understanding, which is now revealed to have been entirely conditional. More and more of the state pension will be contingent on people having no savings, once again penalising those with forethought, intelligence, etc. The excuse for this is to target increasingly scarce resources at those ‘with the greatest need’.

This ‘need’ argument seems to be becoming the excuse for penalising the majority of potential recipients of state benefits and handouts, with only the alleged ‘underclass’ or ‘underprivileged’ being the approved targets for state spending – though whether even these people truly benefit from any of the ‘services’ designed with them in mind may be doubted.

The Conservative Party, which might have been expected to take a different line on all this, shows little sign of recognising the principle involved. Once upon a time the principle of not reneging on contracts would have formed a natural part of the ethos in this country, and various politicians and spokespersons, particularly from the conservative end of the political spectrum, could have been expected to make reference to it in defence of maintaining (e.g.) the originally planned system of state pensions. No longer, it seems.

David Cameron, the current Conservative Party leader, has some strange priorities. He has said that:

One of the greatest unfairnesses for the elderly [is] that those who [have] worked hard, saved up and done the right thing [have] to pay the full cost of their care home place.

Thus, so long as a pensioner is willing to surrender his independence completely by going into a home, he may be allowed to retain his savings. On the other hand, says Mr Cameron, the Conservatives ‘would not abolish means testing altogether because it would be far too expensive’.

It seems odd that reversing the reneging on a prior contract by the government should be regarded as ‘too expensive’, while all kinds of other schemes to (supposedly) increase ‘social welfare’ are not regarded as too expensive.

What is needed is a return to a situation in which people can, by forethought, avoid becoming dependent on the state, and where they are not penalised for this avoidance either at the time, or later in life. A Conservative government should make this its top priority.

‘The question of ethics with regard to pension policy is one of the issues on which Oxford Forum could be producing fundamental critical analyses if it were provided with adequate funding. We appeal for £2m as initial funding to enable us to write and publish on this and similar issues, which are currently only discussed in the context of pro-collectivist arguments.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil

02 July 2009

Eastern Orthodox marriage as joint coronation

The Eastern Orthodox Church seems to be closer to the Gnostic traditions of early Christianity than the Western is. In particular, it seems to be the only form of Christianity that incorporates into its rituals a recognition of the importance of royalty (i.e. of centralisation) as a psychological concept.

The Eastern Orthodox marriage ceremony takes the form of a joint coronation of the new husband and wife, thus indicating that centralisation is, at least in principle, accessible to both sexes. Either wreaths of flowers or ‘real’ red and gold crowns are used in the ceremony.

Transposing the idea of centralisation to the idea of the territory or realm of a household within which children are to be brought up is not an idea that would necessarily have appealed much to the Gnostic outlook. The Cathars regarded celibacy as the ideal state, not wishing to draw more souls or consciousnesses into involvement in the material world.

In non-Eastern Christianity, the assertions about kings and kingdoms seem only to be ascribing a peculiar status to Christ himself, rather than a recognition of a generally applicable piece of psychology.

The bride and groom are handed candles which they hold throughout the service. The candles are like the lamps of the five wise maidens of the Bible, who because they had enough oil in them, were able to receive the Bridegroom, Christ, when He came in the darkness of the night ...

The crowns are signs of the glory and honour with which God crowns them during the Mystery. The groom and the bride are crowned as the king and queen of their own little kingdom, the home – domestic church ... When the crowning takes place the priest, taking the crowns and holding them above the couple, says: "The servants of God, [names], are crowned in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The crowns used in the Orthodox wedding service refer to the crowns of martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides.

The concepts of kings and servants are about equally anathema to the modern ideology. Those who might have been servants and done things useful to others have become social workers, doctors, and so forth, intruding on people’s lives and imposing restrictions on their liberty.

The couple return to their places and the priest, blessing the groom, says, "Be thou magnified, O bridegroom, as Abraham" ... And blessing the bride he says, "And thou, O bride, be thou magnified as Sarah ..."

Note references to honour, glory and being magnified, as reflecting the self-glorification which is eliminated from most traditions.

During [the] walk around the table, a hymn is sung to the Holy Martyrs, reminding the newly married couple of the sacrificial love they are to have for each other in marriage – a love that seeks not its own but is willing to sacrifice its all for the one loved.

(Extracts taken from www.orthodox.net)