Let's begin this series of musings with a set of propositions. I don't intend to defend these at present - that will come in future blogposts. My main aim here is to explain in preliminary terms what I mean by the propositions, and set out my stall.
1. The single biggest obstacle to a new and better era in the West is belief that there is such a thing as truth in politics. Not religion, nor social unrest nor even poverty. All of these raise ongoing problems. But all attempts to answer them founder on the total inadequacy of politics to bring beneficial change. We must realise that this situation is permanent. Politics - as we know it - cannot, and never could do any better.
2. There should be no job called "politician". It is an archaic throwback to the tribal chieftain or warlord, the charismatic or dominant patriarch. Some politicians are good people, but their role should be separated from the business of Government. And Government should be separated from all existing political and economic theories.
3. There is no "political science" in existence that truly enables leaders to do good to their community. And even if there were, our politicians and political parties would not use them. Because both politicians and the public are fundamentally emotional and pragmatic. People generally want advantage to themselves and their tribe - which can also include the people they value. The politician's job is to tell the people that their gut instincts are right, that people who disagree with them are wrong, and that their feelings about how life should be are what matters in casting their vote.
4. The single greatest change that needs to come into our collective decision making is that it becomes communitarian and bottom-up, particularly economically. This is not identical to communism, in fact it is the exact opposite. The real harbingers of a sustainable future are the Trade Unions, Workers' Co-ops and all mutualist pioneers.
5. Centrist political organisation, by contrast, suits warmongers, control freaks, careerists and demagogues. But the whole way of thinking in which current political discourse is framed is intrinsically theoretical and centrist. The politician aims to seize power "at the centre" and impose their reforms from the top-down, through their party and through society. Tragically, even the Left usually have no better idea than to use the strategy of the violent coup and more central control. They believe control is ok as long as it is "their" control, the "good control". It is even necessary to lie to the public so that they make "the right decision". And after all, the other side is lying too!! There is no hope for change while this mentality persists.
6. The best politicians are benign pragmatists. Whichever party they work in, they apply common sense and moderation, focusing on community needs. They do not follow grandiose systems or theories, like Neoliberalism or Marxism. They are often much loved and respected local MPs. And their lack of fanatical adherence to the slogans of theorists often prevent them from attaining power at the centre of their party machinery.
7. The reason I called political and economic theories "mind viruses" is that they are - literally - pseudosciences. They ape the theoretical clarity and explanatory of science. But it should be obvious that to claim that "trickle-down economics" is a genuine phenomenon, or that austerity is obviously good for an indebted economy, or that centralised communist system is inevitably the best way of creating and distributing resources, is closer to "woo" than to science. Firstly, these theories were invented by biased people who wanted them to be believed, for their own personal reasons. Secondly, they cannot validly be tested like a scientific theory. And thirdly, the attempt to test political and economic theories on society has led to disaster and misery, time and time again.
8. Our whole celebrity non-entity culture is a classic use of "bread and circuses" to distract the public. Most people know this, deep down, but such as apathy that few care enough to change it. In such times, people look to comedians, rock stars and other cheap entertainers for enlightenment - tragically, they may be more likely to find it from such people than from the appointed leaders.
9. The media, and the group mind, are obsessed with "passion" and with the spectacle of confrontation. One of the great lost opportunities of British culture was Richard Dawkins' failure to fulfil his role as an advocate of science and rationality to the public. Although I personally hold some spiritual beliefs, I acknowledge that atheism may turn out to be true in the long run, or at least closer to the truth than old-time religions. Instead Dawkins was most commonly seen to be talking about religion - a subject about which he understands little but seems emotionally preoccupied to the point of ranting and making personal attacks on his "opponents".
10. To be fair to Dawkins, who I respect greatly as an author, passion, sincerity, utter self-belief and lack of emotional control are seen as virtues in our cultural and political leaders. The ham actor with pretentious to being a rock star, Churchill or Stalin is the idol of our entertainment driven society. It is no surprise that Tony Blair was as "successful" as he was.
11. In summary. No political credo is true – or can ever be proved to be true, because political and economic theories are by definition unverifiable. The closest thing we have to knowledge is science. There are many parts of society and culture where we do not (yet?) have knowledge, but we do have culture, the humanities, self-awareness, ethical codes. Many of these are non scientific, but that is fine because they do not NEED to be. By contrast politics and economics are pseudo-sciences, which are used to maintain the dying order by those whom it interests. And everyone who wants their self-centred biases reinforced by an apparently sincere demagogue is a client to the old system. We need to ground politics in collective discussions on community needs, but this is opposite to the theoretical model of political textbooks or business schools, serviced by the ministrations of spin doctors.
12. There are other social, political, cultural and even spiritual templates for a different way. From timeless tribal structures, to ancient monasteries to medieval communes, to the Saxon village, to workers cooperatives, to the prophets of a New Age of the Spirit, almost all of the ideas are there. But until the current belief in ideology rather than collective decision making is swept away, the New Age will remain an ungrounded idea, floating above the crumbling cities of the Old Dispensation.
JN 10 Oct 2018