On Bullying

I’ve been trying to get away from posting about The Devouring Mother, if for no other reason than to avoid sounding like a broken record. Last week’s Djokovic fiasco, however, was too perfect to avoid, especially as I live in Melbourne. This week has provided another topic that I want to address as it’s one of themes I decided to leave out of my book on the subject. But, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s central to the dynamic with particular reference to the acquiescent children aka The Orphan archetype.

The idea occurred to me on seeing this video which has been doing the rounds on the internet the last few days. It shows a couple of children, perhaps twelve years old, on some television show in Canada encouraging setting the police onto the unvaccinated and, in the words of the young girl, pressuring the unvaccinated until they “submit”. The presenters of the show and the audience appear delighted with the children, one even referring to them as “future politicians”.

The video felt to me like another one of those microcosm-macrocosm symbolic moments that have occurred so much in the last two years. What the children are advocating for in the video is bullying. Of course, the bullying of the unvaccinated is precisely what has been happening for about the last six months and it’s been intensifying recently. These young children picked up on the zeitgeist and knew what the adults in the room wanted to hear. Look at the big smiles as they get rewarded by the adults.

The quip about the children being “future politicians” is kind of fitting. Bullying is part of the job description of a politician. Most of the time, the politicians are bullying each other or some hapless public servant and that’s all part of the game. What has happened in the last six months is that we have had the spectacle of politicians bullying the public, specifically the unvaccinated. That’s problematic because in a democratic society a politician is supposed to be a public servant. We pay their salaries and last time I checked we weren’t paying for the service of being gaslit, scapegoated and pilloried. The unvaccinated are still required to pay full taxes despite being banned from a number of public services. There’s even been talk of banning them from health care. None of that makes sense on a logical level. But, we know that what is going on is not logical but archetypal. Bullying is a core trait of The Devouring Mother. That is why our politicians have been bullying the public and that is what the youngsters of Canadian television intuited. It’s open season on bullying the unvaccinated. Step right up, folks, and take a turn.

The sight of young children joining in the scapegoating would be distasteful enough at the best of times. But what makes it symbolically poignant for corona is the fact that bullying has become a hot button issue in the last decade or so. Like the idea of “hate” and the entire subject of biological gender, bullying is a taboo subject. The Victorian department of education and training has a whole website on bullying where it says that bullying is “never okay”. Really? The Premier of the State of Victoria has been giving us a daily masterclass in bullying for almost two years now. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration, in fact, to say that corona has been the greatest display of bullying in history. Certainly it’s the greatest display of bullying of supposedly democratic leaders towards the public. I’m sure none of the people who work in the education bureaucracy have noticed, though, because taboo subjects, of which bullying is now one, inevitably give rise to psychological complexes and that in turn leads to projecting the shadow. A stereotypical case is the raging homophobe who is really a closet homosexual. But it’s the same psychology that leads the people who rail against “hate” to behave the most hatefully and the people who rail against bullying to be the biggest bullies. It’s all just projecting the shadow. In the case our political leaders, they are projecting the shadow which is The Devouring Mother; the societal shadow. That is why they have been behaving as the opposite of public servants.

Bullying is at the heart of The Devouring Mother concept. With all bullying, there is a bully and a victim. Where the mother is the bully, the victim is the acquiescent child aka The Orphan archetype. The rebellious children have learned to deal with the mother’s bullying, almost always by removing themselves from the relationship. Thus, the subject of bullying turns out to be a core dynamic at the heart of the archetype and has something interesting to tell us in particular about the rise of The Orphan archetype.   

To return to the Victorian government’s website, they state that bullying is “not a normal part of growing up.” This is, pardon my French, complete bullshit. Practically everybody experiences bullying when going through school. Almost every story or movie in the coming-of-age genre features bullying as a major theme. Let’s take just one example: the movie Back to the Future and its sequels. The hero of the story, Marty McFly, must learn to deal with the school bully, Biff Tannen. The dynamic between the two is literally the core of the story and drove the movie to be one of the most popular of the 80s. The reason it was so popular is because the theme of bullying is as good as a universal of society.

The universality of bullying extends beyond humans to almost every animal species with a dominance hierarchy. That’s why chickens have a pecking order. The pecking is the bullying. Same goes for dogs, gorillas or what have you. Another coincidence here is that it was Jordan Peterson who introduced the dominance hierarchy to our modern discourse. In doing so, he did nothing more than state the obvious but stating the obvious is necessary these days when you have governments proclaiming blatant falsehoods. Of course, Peterson is a leader of the rebellious children and he became the bete noire of the kinds of people who run the Victorian education bureaucracy who want to insist that bullying is “not natural”.

Another way to think about bullying is that it’s part of the process of forming dominance hierarchies. Justin Trudeau, or Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews are at the top of their respective dominance hierarchies. So, they are really good at bullying. Just ask any of their colleagues, although they’ll probably use a less polite word to describe them than “bully”. The movie Back to the Future explores the correspondence between bullying and dominance hierarchies in great detail because it shows alternative timelines. In one timeline, we see what happens when McFly doesn’t learn to deal with the bully. He ends up in a crappy job with low self-esteem. In the other timeline, McFly gets it right and becomes successful, confident and rich. He even has Biff working for him.

In nature, the dominance hierarchy forms mostly around physical superiority but even then there is room for non-physical factors. Ask any chicken owner and they will tell you the top chook is not necessarily the largest. Even with chickens, the concept of “spirit” plays a role. You could say the most spirited chicken is at the top rather than the physically largest. In Back to the Future, Biff is physically bigger than McFly, but that doesn’t stop McFly from rising higher than him in the hierarchy as long as he learns how to deal with the bully.

The reason bullying features in practically all coming-of-age stories is because learning how to deal with the dominance hierarchy is a core feature of becoming an adult. But learning how to deal with bullying also seems to function as a nexus of a number of important psychological lessons too. The age old advice that you should “stand up to a bully” really means that you must not be intimidated by the bully. Because bullying is part of our animal nature, becoming intimidated is natural when we are confronted with somebody who is or appears stronger. By learning to overcome that natural reaction, you are learning to control your emotions through exercising you will power. You learn to control your instincts rather than have them control you. You subordinate your unconscious to your will. That is a powerful lesson to learn.

You also learn something about the appearance of strength versus the underlying reality. This is another trick used by animals. A male duck or chicken, for example, will put on a show of aggression even to a much larger animal like a human but immediately back down when challenged. Their bark is worse than their bite, as the saying goes. Same with bullies. Almost all bullies back down when challenged. By standing up for yourself you learn that lesson too. In doing so, you learn something about bullying as a phenomena; namely, that is almost always a cover for insecurity. It is precisely the people who lack self-esteem who engage in bullying as a way to compensate. (Note: this is also the underlying driver of The Devouring Mother’s bullying behaviour. She is terrified of her children becoming independent).

So, by learning not to be intimidated by a bully you condense a number of important life lessons into one. You learn how to control your emotions, how to exercise your will power, how to navigate a dominance hierarchy and something about the psychology of the bully.

If all this is true, what can we make of the “war on bullying” that is currently taking place in schools in the West? This is where we have to again differentiate between the ostensible concerns and the unconscious drivers. The ostensible concerns are obvious. Bullying can result in violence and can be traumatic for those who fail to learn how to deal with it. We want to avoid those outcomes wherever possible. The change in “philosophy” that has occurred, however, is the move away from tough love. Tough love knows full well the difficulties involved in confronting a bully but allows it to happen anyway on the understanding that it’s better in the long run. Behind this is the understanding that one way to reduce bullying is to let kids learn how to deal with it. Once enough kids learn to stand up to a bully, the bullying goes away because there’s nobody left to prey on. If the goal is to reduce bullying, letting kids deal with it themselves is a viable, in fact the best, strategy.

Note that this process is almost identical to respiratory viral infection. Learning to deal with bullying is like becoming naturally immune to a virus. That doesn’t mean it goes away entirely. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with bullying ever again. Bullying, like cold and flu viruses, is a natural fact of life. Any place where there is a dominance hierarchy of human beings, there is a potential for bullying. By learning to deal with bullying, you learn to recognise it and also recognise your own response to it. Those of us who haven’t completely lost our minds in the last two years have seen as clear as day the bullying behaviour by our leaders and have been better able to formulate a response. We also know that bullying behaviour comes from weakness. The outbreak of bullying reveals the underlying weakness of our society in spiritual-psychological, political and economic terms.

What if we had never learned how to deal with bullying?

This is the outcome that is being pursued at the moment in our education system. The goal is not to expose children to bullying at all on the assumption that is it “not natural” and “never okay”. But the child who has not learned how to deal with bullying has no “natural immunity”. In addition, we can infer that they have missed out on the other lessons to be learned from bullying i.e. how to control their emotions, how to exercise their willpower, how to deal with a dominance hierarchy. This sounds like a very good description of the millennial generation. It’s also a very good description of The Orphan archetype whose primary trait exactly is that they missed out on stages of development; stages of development like learning how to deal with a bully.

Viewed in this way, the desire not to expose children to bullying is the desire to prevent them learning the developmental lessons involved. But stifling development of the child is exactly what The Devouring Mother does. The archetype that results is The Orphan.

None of the bureaucrats in the education department would be conscious of the fact that the system they are running is set up precisely to produce archetypal Orphans. Our modern school system doesn’t consciously produce any type of person and the whole idea that it should is anathema to it. This is very unusual by historical standards and formed one of the critiques of the modern education system by thinkers as far back as G.K. Chesterton. The old British public school system, for example, was deftly configured to produce the type of the English gentleman. The educators in that system were accutely aware that that was what they were doing. The education provided was about producing a type of person. As such, it was as much about learning manners and dress sense as about book learning. You had to learn how to behave as a gentleman. The same idea held for Catholic schools and even the old trade schools although they were producing a different type of person.

Our modern schools aim to produce no specific type of person and yet they clearly are producing a psychological type: The Orphan.

This reminds me of another line from Chesterton who said that the problem with the person who stops believing in God is not that they believe nothing but that they believe anything. I think we can translate this into psychological terms as follows: if you don’t act consciously, you will act unconsciously. It’s not that the you will believe anything, it’s that whatever your profess to believe is irrelevant because your psyche is now being run by the subconscious. That is, of course, what is going on right now in western society and especially in Australia and Canada. It’s for that reason that the behaviour in the last two years has been so incredibly uniform and has coalesced around the archetypes of The Devouring Mother and The Orphan.

If that’s true, then the number one task to redress the problem is to return to consciousness and to ask the question: who are we and what are we doing? There’s going to need to be an awful lot of soul searching in the years ahead.

The Socio-Politics of Truth

Whatever the truth is in its truthness – perhaps an attunement to the ground on which the revealing of a concealing manifests as the disclosing of an unfolding (sorry, just channelling my inner Heidegger) – there is an inevitable socio-political aspect to truth. One of my favourite examples of this, which I have mentioned on this blog before, is a study done where they invited test subjects into a room to complete a number of very easy tasks. The subjects came into the room with about twenty others who they were led to believe were also subjects in the experiment but who were in fact paid actors whose job it was to give an incorrect answer to a very simple question “which line is the shortest” in relation to three lines that had been drawn on the board at the front of the room. The lengths of the lines were such that nobody with functional eyesight could fail to see that the one on top was longest and the one at the bottom was the shortest. The correct answer was thus C. The trick was that the paid actors would all be called on first to give their answer while the test subject went last. Put yourself in the test subject’s shoes. You’re in a room full of strangers who all answer that Line B is the shortest even though you know for sure that the correct answer is Line C. Nineteen people go before you and answer B. Your turn comes around and you are asked to answer verbally for all to hear. Do you speak the truth and say Line C or do you just copy the others and say Line B is the shortest? It turns out that a majority of people will copy others rather than speak the truth.

Now you might argue that this is a trivial experiment in which the test subject doesn’t have any skin in the game and is just giving the easiest answer. But that’s the whole point. The extent to which truth is spoken is not just a function of truth. Other factors play a role. This is an uncontroversial statement. People lie when it suits their interests just as they stay silent or follow the group when it suits their interests too. But it gives rise to a field of study which I have seen called the Epidemiology of Truth: the study in how the truth, or lack thereof, spreads through society. One of the factors governing the spread of truth or lies is socio-political and that is what the line length experiment reveals.

This is no mere academic indulgence, however. It is of real-world importance. I recall an example from my working life where the truth should have mattered. I was working on a project where tens of millions of dollars were being spent by a corporation. Several high-ranking managers in the organisation were directly involved in the project. On most projects I have worked on, the high-level managers show up at the beginning to give a pep talk and aren’t seen again until the party at the end. This was the first time in my career I had worked in the same room with such people.

There’s always a period at the start of a new project where things don’t make a lot of sense because you lack the context for understanding. In my experience, it takes about two to four weeks for the fog of confusion to lift. Thus, it was at about the fourth week of this project where I first suspected that one particular high-level manager we were working with was a complete moron. It took me a further month or so to confirm my hypothesis. This particular person would speak nonsense. Not complete nonsense, mind you. It was clear the words coming out of their mouth were elements of more or less grammatical sentences of the English language. Scam artists use this trick all the time. They make the language sound legit but at the end of it you don’t understand what was said and this is where it gets interesting because your decision on where to look for the cause of the misunderstanding is partly determined by the socio-political context. In the context in which I was in, there was a senior manager of a large and successful corporation. That is to say, a powerful person. Somebody who could, if they had wanted, have me fired. Humans are social animals and we arrange ourselves into dominance hierarchies. This happens by default. There is also a meritocracy assumption that we bring to the table. We assume that the people at the top of dominance hierarchies got there by merit. Therefore, we assume a senior manager in a successful company is not a complete moron and when we receive evidence that they are a complete moron we discount that evidence in favour of some other explanation. The most common explanation is “I don’t understand”. In other words, the problem lies with me.

Consider an alternative situation. You could transcribe the exact words of the senior manager and have them read out by a shabbily dressed drunk on the street or an ultra-sleazy used car salesman. In those cases, you wouldn’t assume that “I didn’t understand”. You would assume the drunk was drunk and that the used car salesman was trying to baffle you with nonsense as a sales tactic. Same words, different socio-political context. With the drunk or the salesman, you just walk away. What do you do when you have to work with the senior manager? Again, socio-politics determines the course of action. Let’s say you’re in a meeting and the senior manager is talking nonsense. One thing you can do is ask for clarification perhaps using language that you do understand to try and lead the meeting away from the coral reefs of hogwash and towards the calm seas of meaningful discourse. You ask a question. The answer makes no sense. Can you ask again for clarification? Maybe you can get away with a second attempt. But three times and you’re out of luck. Three times and it is you who is starting to sound like the problem. Why? Because nobody else in the meeting is asking questions. Like the test subject in the room calling Line B the shortest, they just go with the flow. Most people elect to call Line B the shortest and most people in meetings do not ask questions even if they have no idea what is going on. The dominance hierarchy dictates this when dealing with a senior manager. Politeness dictates it when dealing with a colleague. Either way, there are barriers in the way to speaking the truth.

These socio-political issues tie in with individual psychology. At a certain age, young children will believe whatever they are told by somebody higher in the dominance hierarchy than they are i.e. any adult. This normally starts to change in the teenage years when children first start to realise that their parents and teachers are not right about everything which can often turn into the idea that because they are not right about everything they must be wrong about everything. Young people might be disillusioned about their parents but as they join the workforce they still hold the meritocracy assumption. I remember getting a summer job as a teenager in a small manufacturing company. On my first morning, the boss was busy so he told me to go and help another worker, who we’ll call Bill. Bill was a middle-aged man who seemed to know what he was doing. I went over and started to copy him. That was alright until after lunch when the boss came over to check up on me and noticed that we had been doing it wrong all morning. Turned out that Bill didn’t know what he was doing either. It was the blind leading the blind. I remember being very surprised that such a thing could happen but it happens all the time. Of course, nobody is perfect; even the boss. At some point in your career you get enough experience and enough self-confidence to contradict the boss. That works well in functional organisations and it’s the sign of a well-run company when the boss not only allows themselves to be contradicted but wants to be contradicted as long as the contradiction is done with good intention and as long as the truth is revealed by doing so. In my experience, this is almost always the case in smaller companies and almost never the case in larger ones. To return to the senior manager moron from earlier, you did not contradict this person. They had that combination of narcissism and stupidity that is very dangerous for those lower in the pecking order; the kind of person who cannot be reasoned with. The more informal the pecking order, as in smaller groups, the less this kind of person is a problem.

The interesting thing is that many people who work in such large organisations are not even aware that their manager is dumber than a second coat of paint. The reason comes back to the default assumption about dominance hierarchies being meritocracies. That is an assumption we must learn to overcome just as we must learn that our parents are not infallible. But many do not overcome it. For many people, those higher in the pecking order are right and, when there is a miscommunication, it is their fault. They say “I don’t understand” and not “The boss doesn’t understand”. The primary antidote to this is to work in a technical field where things must be made to work. In such fields, bad ideas lead to bad outcomes. The same is not true in corporations where tens of millions of dollars can be spent on some big complex project which achieves no result but nobody knows or cares because it’s not their money. Complexity protects the managers in such corporations. There are too many moving parts to know what the true cause of failure is and most of the time failure is simply swept under the rug and forgotten about. What made the project I was working on interesting was that it was small and self-contained enough to realise who the problem was. It was the senior manager.

The low-level jobs in such corporations are usually bullshit jobs where you spend most of your time trying to deal with the failings of the organisation structure itself. Such failings are almost always communication problems caused by the fact that somebody didn’t tell somebody else what needed to be done which then caused somebody else to screw up. In bullshit jobs, the problem is rarely if ever a technical problem and therefore something with an objective solution. It’s almost always a people-problem and thus a political problem. The cool thing about technical problems is that you can talk about them objectively without anybody getting upset. The same is not true of people-problems. This is one of the reasons that bullshit jobs are psychologically traumatic.

The other cool thing about technical problems is that you realise that nobody has a monopoly on truth and that in order for technical problems to be solved at all there must be an absence of our ingrained dominance hierarchy assumption that just because somebody is higher in the pecking order they must be right. For this reason, the more experienced people at the top of technical dominance hierarchies are usually very humble and happy to be corrected when they are in error. Outside of technical domains, dominance hierarchies become an end in themselves and those who fight their way to the top are often not the best at all. In fact, a combination of narcissism and stupidity can often be a bonus in such situations since it keeps potential rivals and subordinates off balance and once nonsense has been accepted for any length of time it becomes a political impossibility to overturn it. Easier to let the fool rise through the ranks c.f. The Peter Principle and The Dilbert Principle.

What all this boils down to is that truth by itself is not enough. One must encourage the conditions in which truth can prosper. At the societal level, all else being equal, a society of smaller organisations where people work in technical jobs producing things that “work” would be far more likely to be able to deal with truth than a society of large corporations filled with bullshit jobs. The former would feature people who are aware that nobody has a monopoly on truth and that true meritocracies are ones in which it is acknowledged that anybody can contribute to the truth as long as they have the right intentions and good will. The latter would feature people who think truth is whatever those in power say it is and that the cool thing about climbing the ranks is so that you get to be the one to say how it is for a little while. I’ll leave it to the reader to answer the question which of these best describes our society at the moment.

Twilight of The Narrative

Recently, I was visiting a friend’s house when a Michael Jackson song came on the radio and my friend said something interesting that I hadn’t really thought about before. He noted that, at the peak of Jackson’s fame, the releasing of one of his albums was a global event with a coordinated marketing campaign which meant that pretty much everybody in the western world and many parts of the non-western world would have known when a Michael Jackson album was released whether they liked his music or not. This is something the young people these days wouldn’t comprehend as they each have their own social media influencer or Youtube celebrity or whatever that they follow in much smaller sub-cultures than before. Even the most popular pop stars of today are only known to a subset of the population never the whole population like Jackson was. This observation got me thinking about a subject that I have been pondering for a while which is the impact of the internet on our culture. It seems to me this impact is not really discussed much anymore even though it is directly contributing to our current woes. One of the main changes wrought by the internet is the shattering of “grand narratives”. A Michael Jackson album release is one. But the pattern extends into other areas of the public discourse where its effects are far more important such as the narratives that hold countries together. As the corona event drags on interminably, there are those in the dissenter camp who still think the “narrative is about to crack” any day now and the “truth” will be revealed. This mindset from the old, pre-internet world is no longer valid in the world we live. There is no unifying narrative any more that is going to crack and be replaced by a better, more truthful narrative. Rather, there are now just a seemingly infinite number of sub-narratives with a dominant narrative imposed on top of the them. The dominant narrative is not necessarily truthful, just dominant. The emergence of the “conspiracy theory” label alongside the daily censorship that now happens on social media platforms are among a number of tactics that are now used to try and subdue alternative narratives in the hope of allowing a centralised narrative to form. But it never does for the simple reason that you cannot coerce people into believing a narrative. Narratives must evolve organically with a feedback loop between top-down and bottom-up. The increasing use of censorious tactics in the last couple of years reveals the underlying weakness of the dominant narrative. The powers that be have gone all out in attempting to hold together a narrative that itself doesn’t make sense as it is changed willy-nilly according to purely political considerations. It’s tempting to think the politicians are doing it on purpose with some larger objective in mind. But what if there is no larger objective? What if these tactics are simply what is required now to create any type of dominant narrative at all? What if these tactics are now the price you pay to create a narrative? If so, that price has gone through the roof. We can usefully call this narrative inflation. If you increase the supply of money, you get monetary inflation. If you increase the supply of narratives, you get narrative inflation. The price to create a dominant narrative has gone up for a number of reasons but one is that the internet opened the floodgates on the flow of information and allowed multiple alternative narratives to be created. This has created its own dynamic independent of the political and economic considerations that are also driving the trend. It may turn out that one of the consequences of allowing free and instant information is to destroy centralised narratives. There are good sociological and psychological reasons why this would be the case.

Eyewitness testimony has long been problematic for police trying to investigate an incident or crime. Even for something relatively straightforward like a car accident, where the eyewitnesses themselves have no personal stake in the story, accounts can diverge radically. Ten people witnessing a car accident can give you ten different stories of the crash. These problems are greatly exacerbated when the individuals involved have a vested interest in the case as often happens in criminal investigations. This eternal problem has been dealt with in numerous fiction and non-fiction works. The best non-fiction work I have seen about the subject is the documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” in which a school teacher is found to have child pornography in his home which leads to a series of events including him pleading guilty to sexually abusing some of his students. The documentary follows the motivations of those involved as rumour of the crime spreads in the local community creating its own dynamic as gossip and innuendo put enormous pressure of the family at the centre of the case. By the end of the documentary, we don’t know whether any of the official story is true as the lies and deceits create second and third order effects that distort the whole picture. This real-life account mirrors one of the best fictional representation of the problem, Akira Kurosawa’s movie “Rashomon”, in which a murder occurs in the forest but we hear radically different versions of the event told by the people involved (including, dramatically, the deceased). The philosophical question raised by both films is whether or not there can be found an objective standard of truth. This is a problem philosophers have wrestled with for millennia but it becomes a practical problem in cases involving crime where we want to see justice served and yet we have multiple, irreconcilable accounts about reality and seemingly no way to choose between them. At the end of the process, the system gives a verdict of guilty-not guilty and this is taken as the “truth” but is it really the truth?

With the internet, we have seen the same psychology applied to the public discourse and this has created practical problems for politics. Politicians love to divide the public where it suits their interest but it’s also true that they need to appeal to a foundation which unites the public. The process is similar to the justice system. Although there is disagreement and competition within the system, everybody must agree to play by the rules. The system itself is the thing people believe in. The public discourse which existed prior to the internet was facilitated through a system in which the media was known as the “fourth estate”. Its job was to hold government to account. Of course, this was not a perfect system but, as the saying goes, it seems it was better than all the others. It was certainly better than the system we have now where the media does not hold government to account at all and is little more than a public relations branch of the government. Recently in the New Zealand parliament, Jacinda Ardern was questioned about $55 million her government gave to media with certain conditions attached about what could be reported on. In Australia, the government waived the usual licence fee for the mainstream media channels back in March 2020. This amounted to around $44 million in subsidies. The theory was that this was needed because covid was expected to reduce advertising revenue, a strange claim given that the whole population was about to be locked at home with every incentive to watch the news. That measure came after the Australian government famously held Facebook and other big tech players to ransom and forced them to pay money to Australian media companies for content. Whatever the ethical dimensions of these issues, what lies beneath is the fact that the media companies are no longer viable businesses capable of existing without government support. Because they are now reliant on government money, their function as the fourth estate that holds government to account has also all but disappeared. That’s a problem for them but it’s also a problem for the government. The “official narrative” is transmitted through the legacy media. If the legacy media goes away, so does the narrative. Governments know that if the media disappeared, so would a large chunk of their power. The government needs the media as much as the media needs the government.

I would argue that the public also needs the media. It needs the media to act as its representative. That was the whole point of the Fourth Estate arrangement. The public paid for the media and that meant the media had an incentive to represents the readership’s interests. But that is all gone now. Some people think the public doesn’t really need the media. For almost any event, we are able to watch live video online now. Once upon a time we needed the newspaper to tell us the facts, but we simply don’t need that anymore. You might think that’s a good thing. We remove the middle man and allow the public to see events for themselves. But that introduces the same problem you have with eyewitness accounts which is that you get as many versions of the “truth” as there are people. The discourse becomes fragmented and the checks and balances that once held disappear. It’s a bit like having a crime investigation without a detective. “The system” can no longer control the discourse the way it previously could. This is not a trivial matter. It leads us back to one of Plato’s most dangerous ideas which is the Noble Lie. The idea goes that society cannot exist and justice cannot be served unless there are a number of lies which bind society together. Lie is, of course, a very strong word. We could soften it by calling them myths or ideals but the effect is the same. The myths and ideals are the glue that holds things together and, according to Plato, without them society will disintegrate.

Our post-internet public discourse provides some evidence for this assertion. It has become completely detached from reality or, to put it another way, it represents only one version of reality: the one that comes from the top-down. This process is especially advanced in the US. It hit a fever pitch with the Trump presidency and has not relaxed since. There are now at least two mutually incompatible narratives going on in the US meaning that agreement about the fundamentals which hold society together is called into question on an almost daily basis. It’s quite common to hear somebody on either side of the debate label somebody on the other side as “crazy” or “insane” and that is one manifestation of the problem. Within this new world, the idea that the “narrative is about to crack” doesn’t make sense. The dominant narrative is held in place by power, not by truth. By definition, the only thing that can “crack” it is another source of power. This was Trump’s genius. He hijacked the entire machinery that generates the narrative and turned it to his own purposes. But I think Trump was the end of the road. They got rid of him but in doing so they removed any last pretence that the narrative was “fair” or “truthful”. You can’t just delete the sitting President and then go back to normal as if nothing happened. As a result, a large proportion of the population no longer has any faith whatsoever in the system. That holds true no matter who is in power. The dominant narrative is now nothing more than the story told by those in power.

In Australia and much of Europe and Canada, we are just now catching up with the US. Here in Melbourne, more than a hundred thousand people marched against the government last weekend. The Premier’s response was to write them off as “thugs” and “extremists”. It reminded me an awful lot of Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” moment. When politicians no longer feel like they need to accommodate the interests and opinions of a substantial proportion of the population you know the narrative is already fractured. Andrews may or may not get away with that politically for now but the protestors represent a new group in Australian public life; the ones excluded from the narrative. The same goes for the demonstrators in Europe who are simply ignored by the mainstream media. Because the public discourse no longer pretends to reflect reality, nobody really believes in it including the people who nominally go along with it. Deep down they also must know that it is fake. We are entering a time when even the idea of a centralised narrative is no longer believed in. If Plato was right, this fact alone is an existential threat to the state and it is understandable that the state would strive to fix the problem. But it’s almost certainly too late. All of the censorship and victimisation in the world won’t put humpty dumpty together again. Going forward I expect we’ll still have an “official narrative” but nobody will really believe it. That’s what is implied by the falling revenue numbers of the mainstream media channels. Will that lead to the disintegration of the state? Plato would have said yes. We may be about to test that theory.

Beyond the Fear of Death

Stephen Jenkinson is an author that’s been on my to-read list for a while. Until last week, I didn’t know anything about him other than he wrote extensively on the subject of the death phobia of modern western culture. As my reading list is long and getting longer and as the subject came up last week, I decided to check out this interview with Jenkinson where he speaks at length on the problem of death in the west. I had touched on this problem myself back at the start of the coronapocalypse series of posts and so it was fascinating to hear those themes talked about in more detail from somebody with real world experience (Jenkinson’s take on the subject comes from years of work as a grief counsellor). But Jenkinson also touched many of the other themes I explored in my two books on corona. After watching the video I decided to check out his website. Its title? Orphan Wisdom. But The Orphan is one element of the Devouring Mother – Orphan archetype that I stumbled across earlier this year. Synchronicity much? Clearly I’m going to have to spend a lot more time exploring Jenksinson’s ideas. From quick reading of his site, it seems that his approach is that we need to accept our orphanhood and find a way to build something on it. This seems like a promising idea. In a Jungian sense, we are currently manifesting the shadow side of The Orphan. We need to find the positive side. That idea warrants some future posts. For now, I just wanted to post my main notes from watching the Jenkinson video.

The denial of death as heroism

Jenkinson tells a story from his experience about a woman dying of a terminal illness who had only months to live but said she “didn’t let it be a big part of her life”. This was a pattern he had seen time and again when somebody was facing imminent death. Our culture views this attitude as a kind of heroism. That is, it is seen to be heroic to deny death; to not let it get you down even when you are staring it in the face. That same faux-heroism drives our desire to eliminate death (through medicine, vaccines, lockdowns) and, when all else is lost, to allow ourselves the easy way out that is euthanasia. We must die on our own terms even if that means simply ignoring our death as it approaches. To do otherwise is to “fail” and failure is not heroic.

I mentioned in one of my coronapocalypse posts the weird use of the heroism concept as a propaganda tool during corona. I can now see from Jenkinson’s story why this resonates with the public. It is heroic to do whatever you can to avoid death. But this follows from our phobia of death and our fear of not being in control. For those of us who do not share these phobias, the behaviour looks psychotic and dissociative. Of course, needless death should be avoided where we have the means to do so. But the ultimate judge of those means are whether they work and it is clear by now that lockdowns, masks and corona vaccines do not work. However, the true believers are not looking for something that works. They are acting a part required by our culture; the part of “heroism”. It is for this reason that leaders during corona have needed to be seen to do everything to “fight death” even when it means trashing all the other institutions of society. Of course, those institutions are all subject to the same cultural expectation and acquiesced in the same way. That’s why every single institution now has a “covid safe” plan. All this is demanded by the general culture and it’s for this reason that the corona measures still enjoy general public support. The couching of the whole issue in terms of “heroism” e.g. clapping for the NHS at a certain time of the day, is part of the hero-culture that is really just a denial of death.

Elders, parents and culture

It’s not just that we don’t respect our elders anymore, it’s that we don’t have any elders. It’s not hard to see why. Elders acquire their position through the vague and ambiguous machinations of culture. There is a process to go through to become an elder. I touched on this when explaining the rise of Jordan Peterson, who became an elder in an organic fashion. Our modern faith in “experts” is in some sense the opposite of elderhood. Wisdom is not required for expertise, only knowledge. Elders must be wise but there is no way to attain wisdom through education.

Although not synonymous, grandparents were once well placed to become elders, at least to their grandchildren. However, in the post-WW2 period, we have progressively loaded parents with the whole responsibility of raising children (although, I would argue that parents also desired that responsibility). The relationship of the child with its grandparents is now mediated through the parents and the grandparents have very little say on the raising of the children. In fact, it is a very common source of family argument when grandparents try to intervene and are put in their place by the parents. Having removed grandparents from the “elder” role, there was nobody else to fill the gap. The breakdown of this familial arrangement went side by side with the breakdown of the traditional neighbourhood structure where elders from outside the family might have arisen. The result: we are without elders.

What role have elders played traditionally in society? According to Jenkinson it’s “to ensure cultural sanity”. Given the current state of our culture, this diagnosis seems spot on. We got rid of elders and cultural insanity followed. This ties back to Jung’s point about the destruction of tradition. Elders are there to pass on tradition but we explicitly scorn tradition nowadays. Having foregrounded the parent role at the expense of the grandparent/elder role, it’s no surprise that The Devouring Mother archetype has ascended. She is a parent archetype who represents, among other things, the complete control parents now have over the development of their children independent of elders and any wider cultural network. In practice, this means we have loaded up the parent role with all kinds of expectations and obligations that the average parent cannot fulfil and it’s quite likely that the increasing divorce rates in western countries are at least partly a result of this. In any case, the child’s development is now entirely at the parents’ instigation and management. Will to power. The Devouring Mother’s desire to control everything.

In the meantime, what do we do with grandparents? Having removed their traditional role in family life, they have no economic or social place left when they hit retirement. We send them away to nursing homes. Out of sight, out of mind. The desire to “save them” during corona is part guilt at our complicity in this state of affairs and part control trip.

The Tyranny of Hope

Around this time last year I remember seeing the then Health Minister in Britain, Matt Hancock, give a speech to parliament announcing the government was looking forward to “injecting hope” into the arms of Britons. He was referring, of course, to the vaccine. I involuntarily interpreted his metaphor as one of drug addiction. Who is this drug pusher wanting to inject people? And who are the people who wanted to be injected with hope? Are we addicted to hopium in modern society?

Jenkinson calls hope “tyrannical”. Hope is dissociative. It requires you to ignore the present circumstances which are, by definition, bad, and look forward to an improvement later. Sometimes hope is warranted. If you are trapped in the mountains with a broken leg and have reason to believe a search party is looking for you, you can hope that they find you. But hope in general is debilitating and often comes out of a failure to face facts. We see this deception everywhere in modern society. “They’ll think of something,” we say about how to get out of our energy and pollution predicaments. “Just listen to the experts” is just another way of having hope that the experts will make everything right.

What has led to this state of affairs is not just political and economic trends but our death phobia. If we can deceive ourselves into ignoring even our own imminent death, we can deceive ourselves about anything. The addiction to hope means also the constant dissociation from reality and we have no shortage of that in the modern world through endless entertainment, 24/7 news broadcasts, Netflix, computer games, alcohol, drugs, porn. The list goes on. What if all of this is not the cause but the effect? What if the real cause is cultural: our fear of death. If we can’t face the most fundamental fact of life, how can we face the less fundamental ones?

Grieving as the flipside of Loving

It is often said of modern society that it has no heart. Nevertheless, a great deal of our public discourse is supposedly about caring about the feelings of others. Jenkinson notes that this falls out from our control junkie culture. Death couldn’t give a damn about our feelings. Thus, its presence is an insult to our ethic of control. It also challenges our feelings. We don’t want to hurt the feelings of others because we don’t want our feelings hurt. What is implied is that we do not know how to control our feelings and any unleashing of those feelings threatens our psychic equilibrium. This also implies a psyche that is out of balance and weak. The emotions are a great servant but a terrible master. One should not bottle up the emotions but one also should never let the emotions dictate one’s state of being. But that is where we are as a culture. Everything must be “personal” and few things are more personal than your feelings. This also explains our need to dissociate from death because the torrent of feelings that might be unleashed threatens to overwhelm not just ourselves but our family and friends. We grit through it to protect them too. If nobody can process emotions properly, it’s safer to dissociate altogether and “not let it dominate you”.

Grief is not a feeling. Grief should not be mistaken for despair or depression and, unlike feelings, grief is not transitory in nature. Grief is an exercise. One becomes a practitioner of grief or, in our society, one does not become a practitioner of grief because we have forgotten how to grieve. There is a flipside to this problem according to Jenkinson: “If you’re in love, grief will be part of the deal”. Grief and love are two sides of the same coin. “Grief is a way of loving that which has slipped from view” and “love is a way of grieving that which has not yet slipped from view.” It follows that if one cannot grieve, one cannot love in the fullest sense of the word where that love includes the recognition that the thing that is loved is temporary. And that brings us back to death because death is the ultimate recognition of the temporal nature of things. Death, love and grief are all related. A death-phobic culture cannot grieve but it also cannot love in the truest sense and this is why modern society has no heart.

In one of Neil Oliver’s best editorials on corona he noted that he realised that he was grieving for a way of life that has now gone. That implies that he loved that way of life and so did some of the rest of us. But it’s equally true that many did not. The ease with which we tossed into the bin all of those principles we thought were fundamental to our society implies a lack of love towards that society. That it was done in the name of desperately avoiding death is not a coincidence. We avoid death so that we don’t have to grieve so that we don’t have to acknowledge that we don’t love. There is a giant void at the centre of it all.

This brings me to a point I have been pondering recently and which is touched upon in Jenkinson’s idea of Orphan Wisdom. If many people have no love for the current state of the world, perhaps corona can usher in a new era where there is something to love. I admit this seems extraordinarily unlikely. The Great Reset and the totalitarian direction that we are now lurching towards is the opposite of anything that could be loved. But if corona can have any positive effect it would be this: that a society or a way of life could emerge that is worth loving. This need not involve throwing away everything and starting again. It may be that we must rediscover what was worth loving about our society in the first place. Such a love would only be one part of the story, however. It would have to come alongside learning how to grieve and it seems to me that this is where Jenkinson’s ideas could have found their time. We need to become practitioners of grieving and in doing so we would have to face our death phobia. All that would need to be achieved in the face of powerful forces who are using our fear of death for their own purposes (hello, Devouring Mother). If that fear of death was confronted, it would lose its power. What sort of leader, people or movements that could make that happen is something to watch out for. Aren’t we due for the second coming of a guy who taught about love?

The Spectre of Globalism

Recently I was watching this interesting speech by Ernst Wolff titled The Fourth Industrial Revolution. (Thanks to Roland for the link). The video is in German and is well worth watching for those who speak the language. Wolff outlines the political dimensions of our current woes with a focus on how our would-be globalist overlords see the world. Several things occurred to me while watching the video and I’ll be unpacking those in the next few posts. I think the concept is the fourth industrial revolution is flawed and it’s flawed in exactly the same way the modern Plague Story is flawed in that it takes a historical reality that is foundational to modern life and then tacks on a fairy tale ending which has no basis in reality. This kind of thing has been a hallmark of academic elites since time immemorial and seems to have a particular attraction to left-leaning elites hence the ongoing power of Marxism which followed the pattern to a tee. But there is a dynamic going on with the globalist elites that I think is new, at least in modern history. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is related to the concept of the Great Reset about which there is a book in print and regular forums where those ideas are discussed. And yet, in public discourse when somebody raises ideas about the Great Reset, it’s very common to hear the idea written off as a “conspiracy”. How can that be? How can a concept which is right out there in the open be thought of as a conspiracy theory by the average person on the street?

To answer this question, we must acknowledge a couple of things. Firstly, there is the fact that most people most of the time think in literal terms or what I called left brain thinking or L-mode in a previous post. That is, people think in terms of the dictionary meaning of a word rather than the concept that the word represents. To take a current example, most people think the corona “vaccine” will stop the spread of covid because that’s what vaccines do. The fact that this vaccine does not do that simply doesn’t register even though it is now an acknowledged fact by the most mainstream corona “experts” and politicians that the vaccine doesn’t prevent infection or transmission of the virus. The average person thinks it does because that’s what the word “vaccine” implies. Thus, there was a case recently where a gym owner in Sydney was astonished that fifteen clients in his facility tested positive to covid even though only vaccinated people were allowed into the gym. According to his understanding of the word “vaccine”, that shouldn’t have been possible.

The second thing to bear in mind is that the word “conspiracy theorist” has been weaponised in recent times by the propaganda machine. With dreary regularity you can bet that anybody who questions the narrative will be labelled a conspiracy theorist or a “far right agitator” or what have you. But it’s here that the modern “conspiracy” gets interesting. Let’s say you question the narrative and point out that the things that are happening are exactly what the global elites have been saying in their books and at their conferences. You get labelled a conspiracy theorist often by an average person who is not in any way linked to the propaganda machine. The reason for this is that the meaning of the word conspiracy is that there is a secret agreement and the label conspiracy theorist in the modern world means that you are attributing the course of events to actors pursuing their own interests through such a secret agreement. The Great Reset, however, is not a secret. It is right out there in the open. By definition, it cannot be a conspiracy and because the average person thinks in definitional terms they believe it is not a conspiracy. It’s also true that the average person never hears their national politicians and media talk about The Great Reset or any of the other ideas that get discussed in the globalist forums. Therefore, they don’t believe that those ideas are being pursued in their country. That is factually incorrect in the same way that it’s factually incorrect to say that the corona vaccines prevent infection.

Why the average person has it so wrong is due to a dynamic that has arisen in the last few decades as we transitioned into the modern version of globalism. I’m just old enough to remember the time before that change. It was a time when politicians in Australia actually had a vision for the country that they were able to articulate to the public. Even as a young teenager, I knew more or less which direction the Hawke-Keating government was trying to steer the nation. These days, I have no idea what the vision of our government is for the country. As far as I can tell, there is no vision and there hasn’t been one since the Hawke-Keating years. If I’m reading other countries’ politics correctly, the same seems to be true in most western countries. That lack of vision coincides with the onset of modern globalisation. The globalists, of course, do have a vision for the future and The Great Reset is part of that. Thus, in the last few decades, the ideas and visions for the future in the west no longer occur at the nation state level but at the globalist level. Those ideas, however, are never communicated back to the public directly. The nation state politicians have become the conduit for those ideas; nothing more than second-hand car salesmen whose job it is to dress up notions that would be radically unpopular if presented to the voting public in their original form. I think of this dynamic as follows:-

At the top are the various globalists institutions which include both government and non-government organisations and the various forums they run. In the middle is the national government apparatus whose interaction with the globalist institutions has greatly increased in the recent decades. This apparatus no longer interacts with its own public like it used to and no longer presents a vision for the nation. Rather, it has become a conduit for the ideas that circulate in the globalist forums. Whichever of those ideas that might be palatable to the general public flow through but most don’t because they are not palatable. Try winning an election on “you will own nothing and you will be happy” or telling people they must swap their steaks and sausages for bug salad. It’s for that reason that the average person on the street in Australia or Canada or Europe has never heard of the Great Reset. The whole book reads like a dystopian sci-fi novel and no politician in their right mind would present it to the public. Nevertheless, some of those globalist ideas do flow through. When they do, they tend to be stunningly unpopular. In Australia, one recent government was toppled largely due to legislation ostensibly aimed at tackling climate change. For those who believe in such summits and the global institutions that host them, this has been incredibly frustrating and the propaganda machine has gone into overdrive trying, through fear, to convince the general public of various nation states to acquiesce to the globalist agenda.

This leads us into 2020 when something finally got done. What got done, of course, had already been discussed at the globalist meetings. There was one in 2019, in fact, which even simulated a coronavirus outbreak. Just like the other globalist meetings, the general public had no idea what was being discussed at that meeting but we found out in March 2020. A big part of the shellshock that we are still in is because of the unprecedented and unthinkable nature of what has happened. Most of the ideas that are discussed at the globalist shindigs are never presented to the national publics because politicians know that they would have almost no support. If the government had come out in 2019 and declared a pandemic policy that consisted of what Australia did in the last year and a half there would have been mass protests against the idea. Yet, it did happen. It took the threat of a global pandemic for the globalists to finally achieve their goal of getting national governments to take action and they have not hidden their delight at this fact. We have heard how corona has opened a “window of opportunity” to make other things happen. Having finally got national governments to override the will of the public, the globalists now want to continue the trend and ram a bunch of other unpopular measures through. You will own nothing and you’ll eat bug salads instead of steaks. Sound good? That’s what they have in mind.

This dynamic has been in play now for a couple of decades and the fear and hysteria has been ramping up in recent years. Partly this is because of the lack of results and partly because globalisation is falling apart of its own momentum and the people involved are getting desperate. At the national level, the effect of all this has been dire. Our national political leaders have no vision for our countries because they are serving two masters. Their unenviable position is as mediator between the globalists and the national public. As a result, the public discourse has become dissociated from everyday reality. The world that the globalists envisage is anathema to the average citizen of western society. Without any way to sell those ideas to the pubic in a form that would win support, they have fallen back to the only tool that gets any traction: fear. In 2020, the fear levels were turned up to 11. It worked. Sort of. But I doubt it will work again. Organic systems tend to recalibrate to protect themselves from outward attack. It’s also the case that the political field in any western nation is wide open to any politician who can articulate a meaningful vision for the country. That’s what Trump did and that’s what Brexit also represented. Logically, such politicians should win easily in the years ahead. But it’s also true that the globalists aren’t going away in the short term, unless the whole system collapses. They will continue to function like an evil spirit spreading doom and fear. It’s for that reason that there is a new spectre haunting Europe (and the rest of the West). The spectre of failing globalism.